The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending all worship services around the world due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it said in a statement on Thursday night.
The Salt Lake City, Utah-based group made the decision just hours after the state’s governor recommended against all group gatherings of more than 100 people for at least two weeks.
“Beginning immediately, all public gatherings of Church members are being temporarily suspended worldwide until further notice,” the Mormon church wrote in a statement. That includes conferences and large gatherings, public church services, and branch activities.
“Where possible, please conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology. Specific questions may be referred to local priesthood leaders. Further direction related to other matters will be provided,” the church wrote, adding: “Bishops should counsel with their stake president to determine how to make the sacrament available to members at least once a month.”
The move comes one day after the church announced it would hold a large conference in April without any attendees.
The church has more than 16 million members around the world and about six million in the United States. It means that it’s the largest religious organization in the country to suspend worship services amid the viral outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, late last month.
Around the nation, the Catholic archdiocese in Seattle said it would cancel all public events, while the Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and Virginia said it would hold no in-person services.
And pastor Joel Osteen announced that its Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, would not hold service this week.
“We will continue to monitor the situation week by week and hope to resume the assembly in the very near future,” the church announced Wednesday.