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Mormons hold conference virtually for third straight time

Mormons hold conference virtually for third straight time

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — For the third consecutive time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold its signature conference this weekend without attendees in person as the faith continues to take precautions amid the pandemic.

Members of the Utah-based faith will instead watch on TVs, computers and tablets from their homes around the world Saturday morning to hear spiritual guidance from the religion's top leaders, who will be delivering the speeches in Salt Lake City.

Before the pandemic, the two-day conference would bring about 100,000 people to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City to listen to five sessions over two days. The first time the conference had to be held virtually in April 2020 marked the first time that occurred in more than 70 years.

The conference comes as people around the world get COVID-19 vaccines and cases decline. Church leaders this week reiterated the faith's support for vaccinations in an update of the church handbook.

“Members of the church are encouraged to safeguard themselves, their children, and their communities through vaccination,” the section says.

Church President Russell M. Nelson, now in his third year leading the faith, traveled extensively around the world to visit church members before the pandemic grounded him. He said this week during leadership meetings that during the pandemic he and his wife “learned that we do not have to get on airplanes for our testimonies to encircle the globe," according to a church news release.

Leaders from the faith normally focus their speeches on underscoring the faith's doctrine, often providing instructions about how members can navigate modern life and still follow church teachings. They sometimes announce new initiatives or rules.

At the last conference in October, leaders urged members to root out racism and make the faith an “oasis of unity” while also decrying violence at recent racial injustice protests they said amounted to anarchy.