Every month can feel like a whirlwind of revelation, insights, and adjustments in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—both in our personal lives and in the worldwide Church. And that's the way we should feel as members of a Church who believe in a living God, a living Savior, and ongoing revelation.
As President Nelson testified in his first general conference as prophet:
"I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that 'if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.'
"Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, 'To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!'"
Here are 14 ways we have witnessed this principle in action since last general conference as the Church and our leaders continue to change, grow, and receive revelation.
1. We've become a more "home-centered church."
During the Saturday morning session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference, President Nelson spoke of how Church leaders have "wrestled with a fundamental question" in recent years. They have been trying to focus on the “simple purity” of the gospel and implement policies with "eternal efficacy to all of God's children," he said.
This wrestling led to a change in our meeting schedules and Church curriculum, which was announced last general conference. "It is time for home-centered church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings,” President Nelson announced. Since conference, Church members across the world have engaged in the new Come, Follow Me curriculum as they've deepened their testimonies and grown closer to the Savior.
2. The Church closed four pageants worldwide.
Image of the Hill Cumorah Pageant from LDS Living.
As an extension of the Church's focus on gospel learning in the home, the Church announced that they would be closing four of their pageants worldwide: the Hill Cumorah Pageant (which will end in 2020), the Manti Pageant (which will end in 2019), the Castle Valley Pageant (which has been discontinued), and the Clarkston Pageant (which has been discontinued). Three Church pageants will continue: the Nauvoo Pageant, the Mesa Pageant, and the British Pageant.
"The goal of every activity in the Church should be to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to share His gospel message throughout the world. Local celebrations of culture and history may be appropriate," Newsroom says. "Larger productions, such as pageants, are discouraged."
3. The Church changed the recommendation process for missionaries.
On January 2, 2019, all prospective missionaries in the United States and Canada began using the same online recommendation process, which includes forms, interviews, and medical evaluations. "Under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, each prospective missionary who qualifies will receive a call that best suits him or her," a letter from the Church states. Included among those mission calls is the opportunity to serve the Lord as a service missionary. The letter continues: "Additionally, missionaries who return home early from a proselyting mission for long-term health reasons may be reassigned to serve the Lord as a service missionary. Some other candidates may, with our appreciation for their desire to serve, be honorably excused from any formal missionary service."
“This is serving the Lord as a missionary and bringing to pass God’s work,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund. “Service missionaries bring great blessings to themselves, but more importantly, as they are doing this work, they’re blessing Heavenly Father’s children in unique ways.”
In addition, the Church released a new online tool to help young men and young women better prepare for and plan their missions.
4. Youth now advance from Primary and are eligible for ordination at the beginning of the year.
Image from Newsroom.
"We desire to strengthen our beloved children and youth through increased faith in Jesus Christ, deeper understanding of His gospel, and greater unity with His Church and its members," a letter from the First Presidency states. "To that end, we are pleased to announce that in January 2019 children will complete Primary and begin attending Sunday School and Young Women or Aaronic Priesthood quorums as age-groups at the beginning of January in the year they turn 12." In addition, young men and young women will advance in their classes and quorums as age-groups at the start of the years they turn 14 and 16. Eligibility for priesthood ordination or limited-use temple recommends will also begin in January of the year they turn 12, 14, or 16.
5. Sister missionaries can now wear dress pants.
“Adjustment to the missionary dress and grooming standards have changed over time since the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in 1830 and will continue to do so in the future,” said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf after the Church announced that sister missionaries can now wear dress pants. “As we adapt these standards, we always carefully consider the dignity of the missionary calling to represent Jesus Christ, the safety, security, and health of our beloved missionaries, and the cultural sensitivities of the places where they serve.”
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon added that these measures are to help protect sister missionaries against disease and mosquito-borne illness. “Sister missionaries are amazing people,” said Sister Cordon. “We want to make sure that they’re protected.”
6. The First Presidency released a statement on temples and changes to ordinances over time.
Image from Newsroom.
In January 2019, the First Presidency issued a statement about the sacred nature of temples and how ordinances have been adjusted over time:
"Whenever the Lord has had a people on the earth who will obey His word, they have been commanded to build temples. Scriptures document patterns of temple worship from the times of Adam and Eve, Moses, Solomon, Nephi, and others.
"With the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, temple worship has also been restored to bless the lives of people across the world and on the other side of the veil as well.
"Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.
"A dedicated temple is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Its ordinances are sacred and are not discussed outside a holy temple."
7. The Church adjusted burial guidelines for endowed women.
In January 2019, the Church adjusted its guidelines regarding burying deceased endowed women. "Veiling an endowed woman's face prior to burial is optional," a letter from the First Presidency reads. "This may be done if the sister expressed such a desire while she was living. In cases where the wishes of the deceased sister on this matter are not known, her family should be consulted."
Previously, deceased endowed women could be unveiled "until time to close the casket, at which time it is drawn over the face by someone who is approved by the bishop," according to the Church's "Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments."
8. President Nelson spoke at an NFL stadium.
Image from President Nelson's Facebook page.
An estimated 68,000 people gathered in an NFL stadium on February 10—not to watch football players go head-to-head in an adrenaline-pumping game but to listen to a 94-year-old prophet of God speak. About this gathering, which is believed to be the largest Latter-day Saint gathering in Arizona's history, Arizona Central's BrieAnna J. Frank and Mackenzie Shuman wrote, "The leader of [T]he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday reminded a massive gathering of church members in Glendale to follow the covenants to unlock God's promises and reminded them about the important role that church members will play in preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ."
This is only one example of President Nelson's incredible worldwide ministry, which has continued uninterrupted since he became our prophet. Leading up to the event, President Nelson penned an exquisite op-ed for azcentral.com, in which he testified, “It is my conviction that our Savior can strengthen and enable us to reach our highest highs and be able to cope with our lowest lows. . . . He will infuse your life with meaning and fill your heart with hope that transcends anything the world can offer.”
9. The Church closed four MTCs around the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed missionary training centers in Spain, Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. But, as the Church News' Scott Taylor notes, "More missionaries have been trained outside of the flagship Provo Missionary Training Center for several years — and that trend is expected to increase this year and in years to come." While some international MTCs may be closing, others, such as the Manila, Ghana, and Mexico MTCs, are growing at an incredible rate. Elder Brent H. Nielson notes that these closures are "not only saving costs, it’s making us more efficient in training the missionaries. . . . It’s been a good change.”
10. Missionaries can now call home more than twice per year.
In February 2019, the First Presidency announced that missionaries can now connect with their families weekly on their preparation day via text messages, online messaging, phone calls, and video chat in addition to the standard letters and emails. “Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” said the First Presidency in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
11. We no longer have lds.org or mormonnewsroom.org.
“Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power,” President Russell M. Nelson said, directing members to focus on the full name of the Church. Church websites and social media channels have updated their names to place more focus on Jesus Christ and the true name of the Church. For example, lds.org is now ChurchofJesusChrist.org and mormonnewsroom.org is now Newsroom.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Learn about more of these changes here.
12. The Church made adjustments to temple policies.
On March 1, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a letter explaining adjustments to temple-related policies that were approved by the First Presidency. The letter explains, "These modifications are to simplify service in the temple and better meet the needs of members and leaders and are effective immediately."
These changes include that "mothers with dependent children and brethren serving in certain callings may now serve as ordinance workers." In addition, there will no longer be a veil worker calling. And lastly, cell phones and electronic devices can now be used in temple offices for "Family Ordinance Requests and family name cards."
13. The Pope and President Nelson met and all of the Apostles went to Rome for a historic temple dedication.
The Lord stands at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As modern-day Apostles of Jesus Christ, the message we share today is the same that Apostles shared long ago—that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. pic.twitter.com/1fTyrRDl3I— Russell M. Nelson (@NelsonRussellM) March 11, 2019
"This is a hinge point in the history of the Church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace, of which this is a part," President Nelson said of the dedication of the first temple in Italy. "The Church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled; we're just building up to what's ahead now." Leading up to the dedication, President Nelson had an audience with Pope Francis in a historic meeting.
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Standing in Rome, the "Eternal City"—a place where ancient and modern Christianity intersect—the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood united together to testify, "The Lord stands at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As modern-day Apostles of Jesus Christ, the message we share today is the same that Apostles shared long ago—that God lives and Jesus is the Christ."
14. The seminary curriculum will change in 2020.
Starting in January 2020, seminary students will begin studying the same book of scripture used in the Come, Follow Me curriculum. In 2020, that book of scripture will be the Book of Mormon. Historically, the seminary curriculum is organized by school year, but now the curriculum will be based on the calendar year. About this change, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We hope that they [seminary students] will have a great experience on Sunday at the meetinghouse, we hope that they will go home and have an experience with their family on Sunday, and we hope that through the week they will have a great experience in seminary studying the Book of Mormon."
15. The First Presidency announced new policies regarding LGBTQ members and their children.
On April 4, the First Presidency announced that, effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may be baptized if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism. In addition, "a nonmember parent or parents (including LGBT parents) can request that their baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder," an article from Newsroom states. And lastly, the Church's Handbook will no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. The article on Newsroom clarifies, "While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline." The First Presidency declared, "These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters."