SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday that its members in China will be able to live their religion openly and comfortably while keeping their lives in accordance with Chinese law.
Officials used the term "regularized" to explain new procedures and agreements that will be put in place, but did not provide further details.
A local church official had a positive reaction to the news.
"China is a growing and developing nation, and for the church to have a relationship with China so the church can grow and flower there is wonderful," said Elder Donald Keyes, of Uintah, an Area Seventy for the church.
A statement from the First Presidency of the Church disclosed Monday that the highest-ranking representative from Beijing to meet with church leaders had visited with the First Presidency.
That meeting was in Salt Lake City on Aug. 24 and followed meetings in February and May in Beijing, attended by church Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Donald L. Hallstrom.
Oaks, a member of the Twelve Apostles, and Hallstrom, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, are responsible for overseeing the church in Asia. These meetings were initiated by the Chinese representative, the church said.
"It is important to understand what the term regularizing means, and what it does not mean," church spokesman Michael Otterson said.
"It does not mean that we anticipate sending missionaries to China. That issue is not even under consideration.
"The church deeply appreciates the courtesy of the Chinese leadership in opening up a way to better define how the church and its members can proceed with daily activities, all in harmony with Chinese law."
Otterson said that many details need to be worked out in further discussions. He said the pending developments were the result of 30 years of building mutual trust with the Chinese.
Otterson said that given the importance of understanding and complying with various Chinese laws and the need for ongoing cooperative efforts, the church does not plan to comment further on the discussions at this time.
"At the conclusion of the meeting in Salt Lake City, it was agreed that it would be appropriate for this information to be announced publicly," Otterson said.