The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen a remarkable number of historic changes since President Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the 17th prophet and president of the Church on Jan. 14, 2018.
“Wait until next year, and then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It’s going to be exciting,” President Nelson said during an interview while on one of his global ministry tours in 2018.
President Nelson has kept members worldwide on their toes by regularly announcing notable changes to Church policies, programs and temples. According to some members on social media, these changes have been preparing members of the Church for their current circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facebook user Tiffany Barker posted a list that has gone around different social media platforms that compares some of the changes with recent events and announcements related to the pandemic, such as the move to home-centered learning and the cancellation of church meetings worldwide.
“We are so blessed to have the prophet leading and guiding us in these last days. I know he is led by our loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,” Barker said in the post.
Children and Youth program
In May 2018, the Church announced a new “Children and Youth” initiative to replace the previous programs, including Scouting, Personal Progress, Duty to God and Faith in God. The decision also led to the conclusion of the Church’s extensive relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. The Children and Youth program launched in January and is designed to help strengthen faith in Jesus Christ.
Home-centered gospel study
During the opening session of the October 2018 General Conference, President Nelson announced a new home-centered teaching initiative in an effort to balance gospel instruction at home and at church. Part of this initiative included the change from a three-hour to a two-hour Sunday church block and the implementation of the “Come, Follow Me” lesson manuals for home study.
President Nelson announced during the April 2018 General Conference that the home and visiting teaching programs would be replaced with a “newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others.”
“Effective ministering efforts are enabled by the innate gifts of the sisters and by the incomparable power of the priesthood. We all need such protection from the cunning wiles of the adversary,” President Nelson said following the announcement.
In February 2019, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced that full-time missionaries worldwide could communicate with their families weekly via phone call, text message and video chat in addition to letters and email.
During the leadership session of the April 2019 General Conference, the First Presidency announced that children of LGBT parents may be baptized without First Presidency approval. Five months later, President Nelson spoke to thousands during a BYU devotional at the Marriott Center. During his address, the prophet explained the motives behind the 2015 and 2019 Church policy changes regarding LGBT individuals.
“Though it may not have looked this way to some, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love — the love of our Heavenly Father for His children and the love of the Brethren for those whom we serve,” President Nelson said during his address. “Because we feel the depth of God’s love for His children, we care deeply about every child of God, regardless of age, personal circumstances, gender, sexual orientation or other unique challenges.”
There were additional significant Church policy changes made in 2019. The First Presidency announced in May 2019 that couples no longer have to wait one year to be sealed in a temple after being married civilly.
“We anticipate that this change will provide more opportunities for families to come together in love and unity during the special time of marriage and sealing of a man and woman,” the First Presidency said in a letter regarding the policy change.
The prophet also announced a momentous change just a few days before the October 2019 General Conference that allows women and children to act as witnesses for Church ordinances such as baptisms and temple sealings.
During his tenure, President Nelson has announced 35 new temples will be built in various locations around the world, and a few pioneer-era temples will undergo renovation, including the Salt Lake, St. George, Manti and Logan temples.
During the closing session of the October 2019 General Conference, President Nelson announced revisions to the temple recommend questions.
Quorums and auxiliary groups
During the priesthood session of the April 2018 General Conference, President Nelson announced that the elders and high priests quorums would be combined.
President Nelson and other Church leaders also announced changes to the Young Men’s and Young Women’s programs during the October 2019 General Conference. Those changes included dissolving the Young Men’s presidencies at the ward level to allow for a closer tie between the Young Men and the Bishop, reorganizing Young Women’s classes and revising the theme. Sister Bonnie Cordon, general president of the Young Women’s organization, announced the retirement of the names “Beehive,” “Mia Maid,” and “Laurel” for different age groups of youth to shift to the unified name of “Young Women.”