Members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have seen several changes in policy and procedure in the church over the past few years. From the end of the church's relationship with the Boy Scouts to the end of the church's historic pageants, there have been many changes.
Here are 10 of the most far-reaching changes church members have seen.
1. Church meeting time changes
Rumors circulated for several months that the church would reduce the time spent in Sunday meetings by going to a two-hour format rather than three hours.
An announcement by the church during the October 2018 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 were adjusted and now 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.
2. Discontinuation of Boy Scout program
On May 8, 2018, church officials made the announcement that as of Dec. 31, 2019, the church would eliminate its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America for all scouting programs.
The church also announced it would be replacing all activity programs for children and youth of both sexes starting in 2020.
The change was a huge shift for the two groups who had been partners since 1913. The Boy Scouts program had been the official activity program for young men in the church since 1928 and the Cub Scouting program had been a part of the church for young boys since 1952.
3. Changes made to temple marriage policies
In an announcement made in May 2019, the church said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry civilly outside of the temple could now be married immediately in the church’s temples. The announcement changed the church’s policy that couples married outside of the temple had to wait for a year to be sealed inside the temples.
The new policy was implemented worldwide, and was already in practice in countries throughout the world where couples are required by law to marry civilly first.
Also, in January 2019, rumors circulated that changes had been made to the endowment ceremonies performed at temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church issued the following statement:
“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.”
Church officials did not make public details of what exact changes would be made.
4. Changes to youth programs
After the church's departure from the Boy Scouts program, new youth programs were implemented.
The church announced in December 2018 that 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.
Also, as part of the changes in the youth programs, the church announced in July 2019 it would incorporate the U.S. and Canada into its global For the Strength of Youth program.
The FSY program has been operating outside the United States for more than a decade under the direction of area presidencies and area leaders, according to a church press release. The new program is modeled after the Especially For Youth program, which has been operating for more than 40 years.
In October 2019, the church announced changes to its youth programs for both Young Men's and Young Women's organizations, including a new young women’s theme, changes to the organization of classes in the Young Women’s program and the dissolving of Young Men’s presidencies. Young Men’s organizations would be directly overseen by the bishopric.
The new Children and Youth program, replacing Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Primary Activity Days and Mutual programs, was implemented on Jan. 1, 2020.
The program allows the youth to set goals in the areas of spiritual, intellectual, physical and social areas.
5. Adjustment on baptism policy for members of LGBT families
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April that effective immediately, children of LGBT couples could be baptized without needing approval from the First Presidency.
In November 2015, the church’s handbook for bishops and stake presidents, congregational leaders, was updated to ban children of same-sex couples from being baptized until the age of 18.
6. Retirement of Home and Visiting Teaching programs
During the second day of the April general conference in 2018, Nelson announced that the church was retiring the home teaching and visiting teaching programs and replacing them with a new ministering program.
“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 near the beginning of the Sunday afternoon session. “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.’”
7. Priesthood structure changes and dissolving of high priest groups
In the priesthood session of the April General Conference in 2018, Nelson announced a historic change to the structure of priesthood quorums in wards and stakes. It was announced that the elders quorum and the high priests groups of each ward would be combined as one quorum, rather than meeting separately.
The historic announcement significantly changed the priesthood makeup of wards and branches, completely dissolving ward high priest groups and high priest group ward leadership.
8. Missionary communication changes
Two different changes in communication methods were made, which both made a big impact on members serving missions and their families.
The church announced in September 2018 that by the end of the year, nearly all missionaries around the world with reliable internet access would receive their calls online to serve in one of the Church’s 407 missions in more than 150 countries. Previously, prospective missionaries waited longer periods of time for a packet to be delivered via mail.
Then, in February 2019, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that missionaries could communicate with family weekly via phone or video, rather than twice a year during their missions.
Before, missionaries could only speak by phone or video twice a year — on Mother’s Day and Christmas.
9. Policy change for who can serve as witnesses
In Oct. 2019, the church announced more inclusion pertaining to witnessing ordinances performed both in and outside of the church’s temples.
The announcement stated that any baptized member of the church may serve as a witness of the baptism of a living person. Baptisms for the dead inside the temple may be witnessed by anyone holding a current temple recommend, including a limited-use recommend. And any member of the church who has received their endowment ordinances may serve as a witness to the sealing ordinance, both as a living ordinance for couples and as proxy for ordinances for the dead.
10. Discontinuation of pageants
On Oct. 27, 2018, church officials announced that pageants produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be scaled back, and some would be discontinued all together. It was later announced that the Nauvoo Pageant would continue with support from church headquarters, the Mesa Pageant would continue in 2021 and the British Pageant would continue every four years. The Hill Comorah Pageant, on the other hand, will end in 2020, the Manti Pageant will end in 2019 and two pageants — the Castle Valley Pageant and Clarkston Pageant — were discontinued.