Top five LDS stories in a year full of changes

December 31, 2018
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Mourners approach LDS Church president Thomas S. Monson's casket during viewing services Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 inside the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Monson died Jan. 2 due to causes incident to aging.

It would be an understatement to say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had more than just five or 10 momentous pieces of news this year.

From separating ties with the Boy Scouts of America to joining in friendship with the NAACP, it has been a year of many changes in the church.

We identified the following as some of the most impactful stories to those in our area of Utah.

5. Age change for advancements and ordinations into the Young Men and Young Women organizations

As of 2019, children will complete Primary and begin attending Sunday School and Young Women groups or Aaronic Priesthood quorums at the beginning of January in the year they turn 12.

Young men will be eligible for ordination to the appropriate priesthood office in January of the year they turn 12, 14, and 16, meaning 11-year-old young men can be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. Ordained young men and young women will be eligible for limited-use temple recommends beginning in January of the year they turn 12.

Young women and young men will progress between classes at the beginning of January in the year they turn 14 and 16.

This age change will also change the look of Primary as the Valiant 11 class, the oldest class, will be discontinued. Also 7-year-old girls in the U.S. and 7-year-old girls and boys in other countries will now be included in the Activity Days program beginning in January of the year they turn 8.

4. Melchizedek Priesthood changes

Under the First Presidency’s direction in March, it was announced that the elders quorum and the high priests groups of each ward will be combined as one quorum, rather than meeting separately.

The historic announcement made by the church’s President Russell M. Nelson, during April’s Priesthood Session of general conference significantly changed the priesthood makeup of wards and branches, completely dissolving ward high priest groups and high priest group ward leadership.

Elders D. Todd Christofferson and Ronald A. Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, used their talks to answer potential questions about the change and why it was made.

“I devoutly hope that we will no longer speak in terms of being ‘advanced’ to another office in the Melchizedek Priesthood,” Christofferson said, explaining terminology that was used to describe an elder being called to the office of high priest.

Christofferson assured members of the priesthood that the modifications had been under consideration for months.

Rasband also clarified a few things with the tremendous announcement. Elders will be called to high priests when they are called to be in bishoprics, stake presidencies, stake high councils and functioning stake patriarchs.

3. Ministering replaces Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching

The Sunday, April 1, afternoon session of the 188th annual General Conference of the LDS Church continued a weekend full of changes to its policies.

Nelson announced the organization is retiring its home teaching and visiting teaching programs for members.

“For months, we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way,” Nelson said. “We have made the decision to retire ‘home teaching’ and ‘visiting teaching’ as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering.’”

According to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, all members who have listed email addresses would receive information via a document explaining and answering questions about the changes. The changes included fewer reports and flexibility to minister outside the home.

“Most of our ministry effort will be in places other than the home,” Holland said.

In addition to scheduled visits that can still take place, Holland suggested it could be supplemented with phone calls, texts, emails, conversations at church meetings or social activities.

“This expansive new view does not include the sorry statement I recently saw on an automobile sticker, ‘If I honk, you’ve been home taught,’” Holland said.

2. Sunday church moves to 2 hours; adds home-centered study

Rumors circulated for several months that the LDS Church would reduce the time spent on Sunday meetings by going to a two-hour format rather than three hours.

An announcement by the church during the October General Conference made it official.

“For many years, church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship,” said Nelson.

Beginning Sunday, Jan. 6 meeting schedules will be adjusted and consist of a 60-minute sacrament meeting and a 50-minute class alternating each Sunday between Sunday School, Priesthood quorums, Relief Society and youth meetings.

Sunday School will be held on the first and third Sundays, while priesthood quorums, Relief Society and Young Women meetings will be held on the second and fourth Sundays, and fifth Sundays will be under the direction of local leaders. Primary, a program for children, will be held each week.

1. New prophet, First Presidency and two new apostles

Nelson, 93, was called and set apart by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the 17th president of the LDS Church on Sunday, Jan. 14. Members of the church sustained him in a special “solemn assembly” held during the April general conference. The solemn assembly is a unique part of the church’s general conference meeting where the leadership of the church is sustained.

As the senior apostle, Nelson followed tradition of becoming the next president of the LDS Church. Nelson succeeded President Thomas S. Monson, who passed away Jan. 2.

Reorganization of the church’s First Presidency was announced by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in the annex of the Salt Lake Temple. The First Presidency was to now include President Dallin H. Oaks, 85, as the newly called first counselor and President Henry B. Eyring, 84, serving as second counselor. Eyring served as first counselor with Monson.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, no longer in the First Presidency, continued to serve in church leadership as an apostle. M. Russell Ballard, 89, serves as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Oaks would have been the president if not selected to be in the First Presidency.

Two new apostles were called during the church’s 188th annual General Conference, as part of the Solemn Assembly.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares were named as new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, following the deaths of Monson and Elder Robert D. Hales.

Gong, although born in the United States, has strong ties to Asia and particularly China. He served for a time as the assistant to the U.S. Ambassador in Bejing.

Soares, was born and lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil and is the first apostle from South America.

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