What major changes happened in the Church in 2021? Take a look back at these announcements

Temple Square in Salt Lake City before the Saturday morning session of October 2021 general conference.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A lot has happened in the Church this past year, and between the announcements, callings, and changes due to COVID it’s hard to keep track of them all. Can’t remember what happened last week, let alone in January 2021?

Here’s a look at some of the announcements and other events that have taken place in the Church over the past 12 months.


Church Handbook Update Offers Guidance on Receiving Endowment

An update to the Church Handbook in section 27.2.2 states, “The decision to receive the endowment is personal and should be made prayerfully.” The handbook also lists four conditions members should meet if they choose to receive the endowment, which are as follows:

  • They are at least 18 years old.
  • They have completed or are no longer attending high school, secondary school, or the equivalent.
  • One full year has passed since their confirmation.
  • They feel a desire to receive and honor sacred temple covenants throughout their lives.

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First Presidency Releases Statement on Importance of Vaccines

In January, the First Presidency and Apostles and their wives over the age of 70 received the COVID-19 vaccine. The First Presidency also released a statement saying the Church has supported vaccines for generations. They encouraged others to safeguard themselves through immunization as well.

“As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs,” the statement reads.

Read the full statement on Newsroom.

Opportunities for Service Missionaries Expanded

The Temple Department in the US and Canada announced new opportunities for service missionaries in a January 29, 2021, notice. Some of the most notable were long-term volunteer positions becoming service missionary opportunities, including administration (office), youth center, clothing or laundry, custodial, facilities maintenance, grounds, and security. Callings in the baptistry and ordinance support continue to be made by the temple president.

Read more about the notice at Church News.

Find out more about senior missionary opportunities at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

First Friend to Friend Event Held

In February, the Church had its first-ever Friend to Friend event. The broadcast included music and activities, with two Primary children hosting and two children as “field reporters” who learned about covenants from Elder Ulisses Soares. Primary General President Joy D. Jones also shared a message of love and encouraged Primary children to serve others. The broadcast concluded with a message from President Nelson.

► You may also like: 3 lessons one young mother was reminded of while watching the Friend to Friend event


Hill Cumorah Pageant Canceled

Originally planned to have a final run in 2021, the Hill Cumorah Pageant was canceled due to the pandemic. The pageant had been held yearly since 1937 for a total of 84 years and was one of “the largest outdoor theater productions in the United States,” a Newsroom press release stated.

A devotional with Elder D. Todd Christofferson and a broadcast of the pageant was held on July 9, 2021. Watch the Hill Cumorah Pageant at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Read about plans for the Nauvoo Pageant, the British Pageant, and the Mesa Pageant at Newsroom.

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International Area Organization Adviser Position Created

The First Presidency approved a new position, international area organization adviser, in March 2021. These volunteer advisers give training for local leaders of Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary outside of the US and Canada. They also participate in councils with men and women in the areas where they’re called, serving under the direction of Area Presidencies for three to five years.

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, and the Area Presidency determine the need for the advisers. Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary General Presidencies also provide them with support and instruction.

Read about the position at Newsroom.

First Deseret Industries Outside of Western US Opened

A new Deseret Industries building was dedicated in Houston, Texas, by Elder Sean Douglas of the Seventy on March 24, 2021. The 65,000-square-foot store is located at Cypress Creek Parkway in Houston, just 15 minutes away from the Houston Texas Temple. It also houses the Church’s Development Counseling Services and Employment Services. In total, the Church has 45 stores throughout Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, California, Washington, Oregon, and Texas.

Read more about the Deseret Industries in Houston at Newsroom.

Live Sessions Discontinued in Salt Lake Temple

A message from the First Presidency announced that live sessions in the Salt Lake Temple would be discontinued when renovations are complete. This would allow for sessions to be available in more than 80 languages, whereas previously it has only been available in English. It would also allow for more sessions to be held each day.

Additional instruction rooms, more sealing ordinance rooms, and a second baptistry were announced in the same statement, and a cafeteria would not be included. These changes would increase capacity in the temple.

Read the statement from the First Presidency and see renderings of the renovated Salt Lake Temple at LDS Living.


Primary General Presidency Released

The Primary General Presidency was released during April 2021 general conference. Some of the changes that impacted children during their service included a revision to the Children’s Songbook, adjustments to Primary Sunday meeting schedule, and youth entering Young Men and Young Women classes at the beginning of the year they turn 12. In 2019, the Church also launched an online training course for all adults interacting with children and youth.

“We take Jesus Christ’s teachings about children and youth very seriously,” President Jones said in a Newsroom press release. “He welcomed them into His presence and gave stern warnings against abusing, bullying, or hurting them in any way. Jesus said of children, ‘Of such is the kingdom of God’ (Mark 10:14). His deep concern for children and youth must continue to be our deep concern.”

Learn more about how the Primary General Presidency’s service impacted the children of the Church at LDS Living.

President Nelson Announces Total of 34 New Temples

In April 2021 general conference, President Nelson announced 20 temples worldwide. Just one month later, he announced the Ephraim Utah Temple.

During October 2021 general conference, the prophet announced 13 temples, bringing the total number of temples announced this year to 34. Since April 2018 general conference, President Nelson has announced 83 temples.

During his Sunday afternoon remarks in October 2021 general conference, President Nelson spoke about the importance of temples, saying, “As I emphasized this morning, please make time for the Lord in His holy house. Nothing will strengthen your spiritual foundation like temple service and temple worship.”

Read more about the temple announcements at LDS Living.

Church Membership Grows to 16,663,663

The statistical report in April 2021 general conference announced growth in Church membership by just under 100,000. In 2019, there were 16,565,036 members, and in 2018 there were 16,313,735.

See the full statistical report at LDS Living.

Callings Announced at April 2021 General Conference

New members of the Presidency of the Seventy, eight new General Authorities, and 77 new area seventies were announced during the Saturday afternoon session of the April 2021 general conference. Read more about who was called here.

Missionaries Encouraged to Receive Vaccine

The missionary department encouraged all missionaries and prospective missionaries to safeguard themselves by being vaccinated. Those missionaries who “choose not to receive the required immunizations, which will now include the COVID-19 vaccination, will be assigned to a mission in their home country in accordance with existing Church policies.”

Read the announcement at Newsroom.


Church Historic Sites Reopen

A phased reopening of Church historic sites was approved by the First Presidency in May 2021. The reopening of these sites has been determined by local conditions, government guidelines, and missionary staffing availability.

“We’re thrilled that the Church’s historic sites will be open to visitors this summer,” Church Historian and Recorder Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. of the Seventy told Newsroom. “We know people are anxious to visit and the missionaries are eager to welcome them. Visiting the sites is a great way for individuals and families to enhance their understanding of Church history.”

See a list of historic sites on Newsroom.

► You may also like: What I learned about the limitless power of the Spirit during my virtual vacation to Church historic sites

Senior Service Mission Opportunities Expanded Worldwide

A First Presidency letter announced opportunities for senior service missionaries around the world. Previously, senior service mission assignments were available only to members living in the US and Canada. Senior service missionaries live at home and serve for a minimum of six months for eight to 40 hours a week. Their stake president is their ecclesiastical leader.

Those who wish to apply as a senior service missionary or as a senior missionary can do so at SeniorMissionary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Learn more about senior service missionary opportunities at Newsroom.

Time-Only Marriages Discontinued in Temples

In a May 24 letter, the First Presidency announced time-only marriages would no longer be performed in the temple. The letter was addressed to General Authorities, General Officers, Area Seventies, stake, mission, district and temple presidents, and bishops and branch presidents.

“Because of the eternal nature of the temple and the work that takes place there, it has been decided that time-only marriages in the temple will no longer be performed. In the case where a couple desires to be married civilly and where a sealing is not contemplated or possible, the couple is encouraged to invite their bishop or stake president—where it is legal—to officiate at the marriage ceremony,” the letter reads.

Read more about the announcement at Church News.


Temple Square Phased Reopening Begins

The Conference Center reopened to the public for tours on June 14. The Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, Family History Library, and Church History Library also began reopening this summer in July, followed by the Beehive House and Church History Museum in August.
Read about the announcement on Newsroom.

FSY Conferences Slated to Resume in 2022

For the Strength of Youth conferences were postponed during the pandemic but will begin again in 2022 and 2023. Congregations in the US and Canada will be able to participate every other year. Youth ages 14–18 are eligible to attend.

According to a Newsroom press release, FSY conferences include activities, devotionals, and classes that help youth strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. In July, a groundbreaking was also held in the Philippines for the first FSY camp in Asia.

Learn more about FSY conferences at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Missionaries Return to Provo MTC

This summer, missionaries arrived at the Provo MTC for the first time since the pandemic. The missionaries received a week of online instruction from home before their in-person training.

“I think that we've noticed that relationships have already been built because they're seeing the members of their district here,” said President Benson L. Porter, president of the Provo MTC. “I think some of the anxiety that they may have felt before where everything was new, is gone. Now they have some friends, they have a district.”

See photos of the missionaries arriving at the Provo MTC at LDS Living.

New Civil Marriage Guidelines for Church Leaders Announced

A letter signed by the First Presidency was sent on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, regarding civil marriage. The letter outlines requirements for mission presidents, stake presidents, district presidents, bishops, and branch presidents officiating in the marriage. Those requirements include the following:

  • At least one of the couple—either the bride or groom—is a member of the Church.
  • Either the bride’s or the groom’s membership record is assigned to the unit over which the Church officer presides.
  • The Church officer is legally authorized to perform a civil marriage in the jurisdiction where the marriage will take place. Not all jurisdictions recognize civil marriages performed by local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read more about the announcement at Church News.


New Gospel for Kids App Released

The new Gospel for Kids App has four sections: Scripture Stories, Coloring Books, Sing-Along, and More Activities. Project manager Joshua Rich told Newsroom, “Our hope is that this app provides an opportunity for kids to really step up and be able to learn and explore, and in some instances, even teach their families. It is a step forward to having more resources that are child-centric.”

Learn more about the app on Newsroom.


Michael O. Leavitt Called as President of The Tabernacle Choir

On August 6, Mike Leavitt was called as president of The Tabernacle Choir. Leavitt, who served three terms as Utah governor, succeeded Ron Jarrett in the role.

“I think the three primary objectives will be focusing on first [is] the idea that the global church needs a global choir, and that means seeking larger, more global audiences. I think the second area is expanding the reach of our social media and digitization. And the third is assuring that the efforts [and] activities of the Choir align with the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those are the three categories that I have in my mind right now,” Leavitt told LDS Living in an interview.

For the first time, the volunteer position of president includes a companion, and so Leavitt is joined by his wife and Utah’s former first lady Jacalyn Leavitt. He also has two counselors, L. Whitney Clayton and Gary B. Porter.

Read more about Leavitt’s call at LDS Living.


Tabernacle Choir Returns to Practice

In September, The Tabernacle Choir returned to the Conference Center to rehearse for the first time in 18 months.

“I’m overjoyed,” James Sutherland, a choir member and committee member who helped organize the choir’s safe return to singing, told Deseret News. “It’s been a long 18 months apart. I think every person in this organization is just so very much looking forward to being back together.

”The Choir also sang live music at the October 2021 general conference and resumed its live broadcast of Music & the Spoken Word. While unable to hold its yearly Christmas concert, the Choir and Orchestra taped a Christmas special for 2022 with special guests Megan Hilty and Neal McDonough. The Choir, Orchestra, and Bells on Temple Square are tested for COVID-19 every time they rehearse.

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Pocatello Idaho Temple Open House Held

The public open house of the Pocatello Idaho Temple began on September 18. Prior to the open house, media and invited guests toured the building, including 15 members of other faiths.

“I felt the light of the Lord,” Kristen Johnson, of Pocatello’s Trinity Episcopal Church, told Deseret News. “I did not expect the overall reverence that you feel just when you walk in the door. It’s very moving. I don’t know how anyone could take a tour of this temple and not be moved by the presence of God in Christ. I’ve been an Episcopalian for 55 years. Today I feel like I’ve experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”

Read more reactions from the tour at Deseret News.

First Presidency Asks Members to Wear Face Masks in Temples

In an effort to keep temples open, the First Presidency asked members to wear face masks in the temple.

“As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open. Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple. These safety protocols are temporary, based on COVID-19 conditions, and will be rescinded as soon as circumstances permit,” a letter from the First Presidency reads.

See the full statement on Newsroom.

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First Senior Church Leader Travels on International Assignment Since Pandemic

Elder David A. Bednar addressed Latter-day Saints in Italy and Germany in September, making him the first senior Church leader to travel on assignment internationally since the pandemic.

“The opportunity to gather and the power associated with gathering was very evident,” Elder Bednar told Church News. “We live at a time when there is increasing commotion and chaos in the world, and that will continue.”

Read about Elder Bednar’s visit at Church News.


Six General Authority Seventies Released

President Henry B. Eyring announced the release of six General Authority Seventies during October 2021 general conference. Each had turned 70 years old and was granted emeritus status. President Eyring also noted the death of Elder Dean M. Davies, who had served as General Authority for one year and in the Presiding Bishopric for eight years.

Find the names of the General Authority Seventies who were released at Newsroom.

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First Temple Dedicated in 20 Months

The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple was dedicated in October, making it the first temple to be dedicated in over a year and a half. Elder Gerrit W. Gong presided at the dedicatory sessions. The last temple to be dedicated before the pandemic was the Durban South Africa Temple, which Elder Ronald A. Rasband presided over on February 16, 2020.

Read about the dedication at Church News.

Renovation of the Manti Utah Temple Begins

In October, the 133-year-old Manti Utah Temple began undergoing renovations. These renovations include safety improvements and filmed presentations of temple ceremonies, increasing the number of languages sessions in which they are available. Murals in the temple by Minerva Teichert are also being preserved.

“As we have continued to seek the direction of the Lord on this matter,” President Nelson said, “we have been impressed to modify our earlier plans for the Manti Utah Temple so that the pioneer craftsmanship, artwork, and character will be preserved, including the painted murals loved by so many. We will leave those murals where they are located now—inside the Manti Utah Temple.”

The prophet continued by saying that the renovations and a temple in Ephraim “will expand future opportunities for members in this temple district to participate in sacred temple ordinances and, at the same time, allow us to preserve the unique classical character and useful life of the historic Manti Utah Temple.”

Read more about the Ephraim Utah Temple and the Manti Utah Temple at Newsroom.


Mesa Arizona Temple Rededicated

President Dallin H. Oaks rededicated the Mesa Arizona Temple on December 12, 2021. The 94-year-old temple had been extensively renovated over the past few years. The grounds were also enhanced and renovated.

“We were astonished, impressed, gratified with what has been done to hold with the pioneer ancestry of this traditional great temple and house of the Lord to bring it into current technology and needs and configuration of rooms, all of which is essential for it to perform its service for decades to come,” said President Oaks.

Read more about the dedication at Newsroom.

New Completion Date for Temple Square Renovations Announced

On December 13, the First Presidency released the following regarding the completion date for the Salt Lake Temple renovation project:

“The seismic strengthening of the Salt Lake Temple and the extensive remodel of the Temple and surrounding area are sacred and significant undertakings. As the project has progressed, we have learned a great deal about the condition of the temple and its surroundings. The work is truly remarkable and is being guided by the First Presidency. Inspired modifications and additions to the project and scope have been made so the temple and Temple Square can serve many generations yet to come. It is anticipated that the temple and its surroundings will be completed in 2025. We look forward to welcoming the world at that time to visit, tour, and learn about this sacred temple and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

► You may also like: See photos of the Temple Square renovation progress in December

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