In a year dominated by news and announcements related to COVID-19, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only made announcements and adjustments related to the current pandemic but also announcements and adjustments related to other aspects of worship, administration, and policy.
The year 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, and throughout the past 12 months, Latter-day Saints continued to see the importance of a living prophet as well as continuing revelation.
Here is a look at just 28 of the changes and announcements made by the Church in 2020 unrelated to the pandemic. Note: Changes are listed in chronological order and some links may require you to log into your Church account to see the full announcement.
1. Adjustments to Temple Ceremonial Clothing
In January 2020, the First Presidency announced adjustments to temple ceremonial clothing, stating, “These clothing adjustments do not change temple doctrine or symbolism but are designed to enhance members’ experience in the temple and make the ceremonial clothing easier to put on, care for, and afford.”
Changes detailed in the Liahona included a simpler design for the veil and robe, removing the tie of the cap and veil, and using a more durable material for the robe, cap, and sash.
When the pandemic hit, Beehive Clothing paused production on the new temple ceremonial clothing, originally scheduled to be released on March 31, and instead answered a call to produce gowns and masks for frontline workers. Beehive Clothing has since resumed production of ceremonial clothing.
2. A New Twitter Handle
At the start of the year, the Church’s official Twitter account became @Ch_JesusChrist. The account handle had previously been @ChurchNewsroom.
“This change better emphasizes the name of Jesus Christ, the Church’s central object of worship,” a press release from Newsroom read. “The adjustment also helps Twitter users mention the Church more clearly in tweets and personal profiles.”
3. A New General Handbook
An announcement in January signaled that an upcoming General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would replace both Handbook 1 and Handbook 2. The new handbook, released in February, contains 38 chapters, with additional updates released in March 2020, July 2020, December 2020, and more updates to come in 2021, according to Newsroom.
“This new handbook is a part of the ongoing Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that began 200 years ago,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in a Newsroom press release. “This Restoration has been and will continue to be a process of learning how to minister as Jesus would to a richly diverse world. We pray this new handbook will help Church leaders use their God-given gifts to continue to bless lives in their ministry. We know there is room in this Church for everyone.”
4. First Presidency Letter on Parents’ Role to Protect Children from the Effects of Pornography
The First Presidency sent a letter addressed to all members of the Church on Wednesday, January 29, about protecting children from the effects of pornography.
“Today, pornography is pervasive and easily available,” the letter re. “Unfortunately, many children are exposed to pornography, which in some cases has led them to develop unrighteous patterns and habits. To protect family members from the evils of pornography, we invite parents to have family discussions to develop guidelines about how to use media and technology in positive and safe ways. These conversations will provide opportunities for parents to teach that the powers associated with creating families are sacred and central to God's plan.”
Resources to help prevent the use of pornography are available at AddressingPornography.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
5. Pilot Nutrition Program
A new nutrition program was piloted in the Philippines earlier this year, and one of the things that made the program unique? It wasn’t sent from Church headquarters.
“The leaders sat down and counseled together,” Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham said in a press release from Newsroom. “They created a marvelous program that was really beneficial to the members here [in the Philippines]. That sense of partnership, loving your brothers and sisters, was just marvelous.”
The program helps address the problem of malnutrition and has a focus on self-reliance by providing training on vegetable gardening, cattle raising, and other skills.
“Once we can figure out how to address this problem here, that can be replicated in any area of the world that has that challenge,” President Bingham said. “I’m just really excited for the future of the children of the Church when this goes forward.”
6. Highly-anticipated Gospel Living App Released
The New Era detailed some of the app’s features, including a Discover feed with inspiring articles, videos, audio, and images; a “My Life” dashboard to organize thoughts impressions, and photos; and a “Circles” feature to connect family, classes, and quorums.
“This technology can help bless your life and help you stay close to your parents, leaders, and the Lord,” Elder Gong said during the November Face to Face.
7. Presiding Bishopric Gives Rare Interview Explaining Church’s Financial Reserves
After reports from news organizations about the Church’s use of Financial Reserves, the Presiding Bishopric sat down with Deseret News and Church News and gave insight into the Church's financial operations.
“It’s no surprise we are talking about billions of dollars,” Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop, told Deseret News. “Nobody should be surprised, given the number of members, millions of members, 16 million members in so many countries. This is a Church that has become quite large, and so there’s a large budget, and we are grateful for that because that’s an opportunity to expand the reach of all the good that the Church can do around the world.”
8. An Update to the Church Educational System Honor Code
After the release of the new Church general handbook, the Church Educational System updated its honor code. According to BYU News, “With the recently released general handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church Educational System has updated the CES Honor Code to be in alignment with the doctrine and policies of the Church.” Additions included avoiding profane and vulgar language, abstaining from vaping, and more.
The removal of a section on homosexual behavior was later clarified through a letter from Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System.
9. The End of Pioneer47
In February, the Church announced that the Wi-Fi network for meetinghouses would soon change from “LDSAccess” to “Liahona,” and that the password “Pioneer47” would be updated to “alma3738.”
The password for the new network is the only reference in the Book of Mormon to the name of the “Liahona,” the compass used by Lehi and his family to guide them to the promised land.
10. Season 3 of the Book of Mormon Videos Is Released
Readers of the Book of Mormon now have a new way to explore the teachings of the sacred text. Season 3 of the Book of Mormon videos started in March 2020, covering teachings from Mosiah through Alma. Videos include highlights like Alma’s teachings on faith as a seed and the story of Ammon protecting King Lamoni's sheep.
A special episode was also released in September, showing how the plates were transferred from Moroni to Joseph Smith.
11. New Young Men General Presidency
President Dallin H. Oaks announced the calls of a new Young Men General Presidency as well as new General Authority Seventies and Area Seventies in the April general conference.
12. Membership Grows to 16,565,036 Members
The statistical report for 2019, released in the April 2020 general conference, showed a growing Church membership from 16,313,735 in 2018 to 16,565,036 in 2019. Six temples were also dedicated in 2019 and seven temples were rededicated.
13. Youth Make a Comeback as General Conference Speakers
During the special Saturday evening session of April general conference, Sister Laudy R. Kaouk, 17, and Brother Enzo S. Petelo, 15, gave general conference addresses. However, this isn’t the first time youth have spoken in general conference. Thirty-seven years ago, now-Elder Matthew S. Holland of the Seventy spoke in conference as a 16-year-old.
14. President Nelson Announces New Church Symbol
As part of the Saturday evening session of April general conference, President Nelson announced a new symbol for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elements include the name of the Church contained within a cornerstone, a representation of Thorvaldsen’s marble statue the Christus, and an arch reminding us of the Savior emerging from the tomb on the third day following His Crucifixion.
“The symbol will now be used as a visual identifier for official literature, news, and events of the Church,” President Nelson said. “It will remind all that this is the Savior’s Church and that all we do, as members of His Church, centers on Jesus Christ and His gospel.”
15. A New Proclamation
During the Sunday morning session, the prophet introduced a new proclamation, “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” which was prerecorded in the Sacred Grove. President Nelson then led a Hosanna Shout during the worldwide solemn assembly, which marked the 200th anniversary of the First Vision.
16. 8 Temples Announced in April General Conference
At the conclusion of April general conference, President Nelson announced eight new temples to be built in the following locations:
- Bahía Blanca, Argentina
- Tallahassee, Florida
- Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Benin City, Nigeria
- Syracuse, Utah
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
“These eight new temples will bless the lives of many people on both sides of the veil of death,” President Nelson said. “Temples are a crowning part of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In God’s goodness and generosity, He is bringing the blessings of the temple closer to His children everywhere.”
17. The Tabernacle Choir Gets a New Look
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir became The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in October 2018, after President Russell M. Nelson released a statement in August of that year encouraging the use of the full and proper name of the Church worldwide.
In April 2020, the choir got a new logo to go along with their new name.
Symbolism in the new logo includes seven pipes, representing the concept of being “whole” or “complete,” as well as a curved line representing the iconic domed shape of the Tabernacle.
“The organ pipes thrust upward so that you can focus all of our music toward bringing people to look to the divine for musical strength and support,” Choir president Ron Jarrett said. “The design helps us to point ourselves and expand our media opportunities to being more digital, but yet still hanging on to our past.”
18. A Call for More Christ-Focused Art in Meetinghouses
In May, the First Presidency issued a call to make Jesus Christ not only the center of our worship but the center of our places of worship.
A letter from the First Presidency asked local leaders to work with facilities managers to assess the placement and to ensure unobstructed display of Christ-focused art in foyers and main entries. It also encouraged leaders to remove distractions from foyers, such as display cases, bulletin boards, tables, easels, and damaged furniture.
19. A Native Hawaiian Becomes the 11th President of BYU–Hawaii
On May 12, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland announced the next president of BYU–Hawaii, John S.K. “Keoni” Kauwe III.
As part of the announcement, made during a BYU–Hawaii devotional, Elder Holland said, “‘God moves in . . . mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.’ To help perform some of them, He has brought a native son back to the very origins of the restored Church in the Pacific.”
20. Blue Shirts and No Ties
The First Presidency gave Area Presidencies the ability to adjust missionary attire in specific locations to “improve and maintain missionary dignity, safety, effectiveness, approachability, and cultural sensitivity while properly representing the Lord and His Church,” according to a press release from Newsroom in June.
While standard missionary attire typically includes a white shirt and tie, and in some areas, a suit coat, Area Presidencies can make exceptions that allow missionaries to wear a white or plain blue dress shirt without a tie. These exceptions do not apply when attending the temple, Sunday worship services, leadership and zone conferences, missionary training centers, baptismal services, and other church meetings.
21. 17 Historic Church Sites Renamed
Of the 26 Church historic sites, 17 received an updated name in June 2020 in order to “place greater emphasis on the Restoration of the gospel,” Church News reported.
Some changes include:
- Carthage Jail (previously Historic Carthage Jail and Visitors’ Center)
- Cove Fort (previously Historic Cove Fort)
- Grandin Building: Book of Mormon Publication Site (previously Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site)
- Joseph Smith Birthplace (previously Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial)
- Martin’s Cove: Mormon Trail Site (previously Mormon Handcart Historic Site: Martin’s Cove)
Find out other updated names at Church News.
22. Alexa and Google Get a ‘Gospel Voice’
In a year where video calls became even more of a regular form of communication, the Church debuted new advancements to its technology.
Gospel Voice, a new feature for smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, enables users to listen to scriptures, music, general conference, and more with simple phrases like, “Alexa, ask Gospel Voice to play the latest talk by President Nelson.”
In a press release from Newsroom, Elder Randy D. Funk of the Seventy noted, “Gospel Voice can infuse additional power into the gospel-centered home. We are especially mindful of those with limited vision and all others of different ages and abilities who will benefit from greater access to core gospel materials in this new channel.”
23. Farewell Ensign and New Era
In August, the First Presidency announced that beginning January 2021, the four current Church magazines would be replaced with three global magazines: The Liahona for adults, For the Strength of Youth for young men and young women, and The Friend for children.
“It is exciting to think of Church magazines for adults, youth, and children being available all over the world,” President Bingham said in a press release from Newsroom. “More members can now have these blessings at their fingertips—from scripture activity pages for children to stories from youth around the world to articles about gospel principles for adults. And all of it with the intended outcome of increasing faith in God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are delighted that the First Presidency has been inspired to make this great gift available to more of God’s children!”
24. New Online System for Temple Prayer Rolls
In August the First Presidency announced a new online system for temple prayer rolls.
“It is a common practice among many people of faith to pray for loved ones when they face illness, afflictions or other challenges,” stated a press release from Newsroom. “In many faith traditions, this includes praying collectively for those with specific needs. The scriptures record multiple examples when Jesus Christ prayed in groups and admonished those present to also pray.”
Members around the world are now able to place names on temple prayer rolls by visiting any temple’s information page and clicking the prayer roll link. Requests can also be made through the “Temples” section of the Member Tools mobile app.
25. New Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
During the October 2020 general conference, President Henry B. Eyring announced a new counselor in the member of the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop L. Todd Budge. Bishop Dean M. Davies was called as a General Authority Seventy.
“Bishop Davies has been dealing with a significant health challenge for more than a year, though his current prognosis is positive,” said Church spokesman Eric Hawkins. “We are grateful that he will be able to continue to serve in this new role as a General Authority Seventy.”
A new member of the Presidency of the Seventy and four Area Seventies were also called. Learn more about them here.
25. 6 Temples Announced in October General Conference
In the Sunday afternoon session of October general conference, President Nelson announced six new temples in the following locations:
- Tarawa, Kiribati
- Port Vila, Vanuatu
- Lindon, Utah
- Greater Guatemala City, Guatemala
- São Paulo East, Brazil
- Santa Cruz, Bolivia
“As we build and maintain these temples, we pray that each of you will build and maintain yourself so you can be worthy to enter the holy temple,” President Nelson said.
27. 21 Temples Start Construction
In April general conference, Elder David A. Bednar said 18 temples would start construction in 2020. By the end of the year, 21 temples started construction, marking 2020 as the second-biggest year of temples starting construction in Church history.
28. Changes announced for seminary in 2021
At the end of the year, the Church announced that starting in January 2021, seminary students would study Come, Follow Me for the entire year rather than following a nine-month study course. The reading requirement was also updated to 75 percent of the semester calendar days in the current year’s book of scripture to receive course completion.