Following their closure in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw all activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cease, historic sites maintained by the Church started reopening in May 2021. Today, the Church quietly updated its coronavirus status page to indicate that all Church historic sites “have returned to normal operations.”
Most sites have had reduced operating hours along with masking and social distancing requirements since the phases reopening started last year. With COVID-19 numbers dropping precipitously (apparently marking the end of the pandemic?), the Church notes that every site is fully open to the public with no disclosed restrictions.
If you were in Palmyra and wanted to visit the Grandin Building, for example—the location where the Book of Mormon was published—large tour groups are now permitted, and social distancing and face masks are not required. This guidance aligns with what appears to be happening across the United States in regular Sunday worship, including a note to “respect individuals who choose to still wear a face covering,” overlooking the fact that a face covering is a proactive measure to protect others from oneself, not generally a way to protect yourself from others.
Most Church historic sites are in rural areas where the chance of transmission of COVID-19 has been comparatively low to begin with. Nevertheless, for fun, we looked up whether the Church history sites fall under the “Low” category on the CDC’s wonderful new “COVID by County” tool, or if we’ve eased restrictions even in “High” counties.
|California||Mormon Battalion Center||San Diego||High|
|Iowa||Mount Pisgah Monument||Union||Low|
|Missouri||Independence Visitors' Center||Jackson||High|
|Missouri||Far West Temple Site||Caldwell||High|
|Nebraska||Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters||Douglas||Medium|
|New York||Grandin Building: Book of Mormon Publication Site||Wayne||High|
|New York||Hill Cumorah||Ontario||High|
|New York||Sacred Grove||Wayne||High|
|New York||Whitmer Farm: Church Organization Site||Seneca||High|
|Pennsylvania||Priesthood Restoration Site||Susquehanna||High|
|Utah||Brigham Young Winter Home and Office||Washington||Medium|
|Utah||St. George Tabernacle||Washington||Low|
|Utah||Beehive House||Salt Lake||Medium|
|Vermont||Joseph Smith Birthplace||Windsor||Medium|
|Wyoming||Martin's Cove: Mormon Trail Site||Natrona||High|
|Wyoming||Sixth Crossing: Mormon Trail Site||Fremont||High|
|Wyoming||Rock Creek Hollow: Mormon Trail Site||Fremont||High|
For context, counties rated “Low” require little to no additional measures to protect against COVID-19. “Medium” countries apply the same criteria, but encourage individuals to be thoughtful about consulting with their healthcare provider about whether they should wear a mask or take other precautions. “High” counties are encouraged to wear masks indoors in public. The Church appears to have moved on from its policy of following CDC guidelines from the past two years at its history sites, and presumably also in its meetinghouses.
The Church has invested heavily in recent years to revitalize or alter the course of historic sites and practices. Following last March’s announcement that the Hill Cumorah Pageant would not return from its COVID-induced hiatus, the Church announced a major revitalization effort for the sacred hill, including reforestation and a series of historic trail walks.