Photo: Cheryl Taylor/The Church News

What a week in news, and as you might expect, a large chunk of if is COVID-19 related. But this week is especially notable because we’ve finally arrived at our lower-scale General Conference, and Kurt Francom of Leading Saints is with us after his global fast to fight coronavirus to break it all down.

Will there be more temples announces or will President Nelson hold off because of how serious coronavirus is? We talk both in our temple predictions, to which you can both read and listen.

Our biggest story came right before recording. The Church has announced new options for the bevy of missionaries forced to come home early for an indefinite period of time because of COVID-19. They will face two choices: 1) wait out COVID-19 and return to the field when it is safe, perhaps in a different location, and then finish their missions at the originally planned date; 2) stay home for a year or so and reenter the field at a later date, moving the completion date. In both cases, the missionaries are to be temporarily released, which is a huge bummer, because it would have been amazing to see a bunch of set-apart missionaries living at home, with nothing to do.

Those missionaries also make the upcoming US census complicated, especially in Latter-day Saint-rich areas like Utah. The undercounting of Utah’s population due to missionaries in the field has even resulted in being denied a seat in the US House of Representatives. Utah went to court over it 10 years ago!

Hopefully none of you missed this video of families ignoring social distancing protocol for the sake of receiving inbound missionaries at Salt Lake City International Airport.

There are also many missionaries who’ve yet to enter the field, or the physical missionary training center, for that matter. Those missionaries have gone online with their training and study, and the Church published a piece providing a pretty cool window into the new world of virtual MTCs. Also, the Church must be spending a ton of money on Zoom.

Let’s move to General Conference, a weekend that is supposed to focus on the bicentennial of the Restoration, but now has coroanvirus rampaging through it. This one is tough to predict! Will the First Presidency sit six feet apart? Will speakers be scattered all over the studio? Will some messages be surreptitiously prerecorded? When did TabCATS prerecord its music?

Robert Kirby, of the Salt Lake Tribune, wrote what appears to be a normal news article about how the Spanish Flu of 1918 affected General Conference proceedings and the Church at large. Arguably the largest impact was an eventual permanent move away from a shared sacrament cup into the use of the individual cups we use today. Might we see another change to the sacrament 100 years later, since passing those trays around isn’t the most hygienic, either?

So about that Restoration. Many Latter-day Saints are unfamiliar with the multiple accounts of the First Vision, or the fact that the First Vision was not a core tenet of missionary messaging for the first 80 or so years of the Church. Peggy Fletcher Stack provides a breakdown of some of those versions and what they mean to us today. Worth a read.

Assorted news: City Creek shopping center, co-owned by the Church, will continue to charge rent despite stores being unable to produce any, you know, money; the new General Handbook of Instruction receives some updates on youth classes and primary, as promised; notable man of business, faith, and government, Bob Garff, dies from COVID-19, and Utah mourns; and all temples closed.

Lastly, Some Good News!

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