Two years ago this week, President Russell M. Nelson was announced as the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His first two years have been marked by changes and travels.
Here are some of the biggest moments of Nelson's first two years as president of the Church.
January 16, 2018 - Russell M. Nelson was named 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Following the death of former church president Thomas S. Monson, Nelson was named the 17th president of the church.
With the announcement of the new church president came reorganization of the church’s First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Dallin H. Oaks was named as the First Counselor in the First Presidency and Henry B. Eyring was named as the Second Counselor.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who was no longer in the First Presidency, continued to serve in church leadership as an apostle, and M. Russell Ballard was chosen to serve as the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve.
March 31, 2018 - Two new apostles were named and a Solemn Assembly was held.
At the first session of the church’s annual general conference, two new members of the Quorum of the Twelve were announced. The two new apostles — Elder Garrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares — replaced Nelson, who took over as the newest president of the church, and previous member Robert D. Hales, who died in October 2017.
At the same meeting was the Solemn Assembly, a sacred moment where Latter-day Saints throughout the world stand, by priesthood quorums and general membership, and raise their hand to sustain their new prophet and other general authorities of the church.
March 31, 2018 - Changes were made to the priesthood structure of the church.
In the priesthood session of the April General Conference, 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.
April 1, 2018 - Nelson announced the retirement of the home and visiting teaching programs.
During the second day of the April general conference, 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.’”
April 1, 2018 - Seven new temples were announced, including one in Russia.
At the end of a momentous general conference weekend, which included several changes for members, Nelson announced plans to construct seven more temples. The new temples will be in the following locations: Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru, India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia and a major city yet to be determined in Russia.
April 10-23, 2018 - Russell M. Nelson goes on an 11-day global ministry tour.
At the age of 93, Nelson and his wife Wendy Nelson, along with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia, met with Latter-day Saints in eight cities over 11 days during a tour on the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, ending their trip with a stop in Hawaii.
May 8, 2018 - Announcement made that the Church will split from the Boy Scouts.
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.
May 17, 2018 - Church leadership met with NAACP.
Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People officially met for the first time in May, calling for more civility and respect in society.
Nelson and NAACP President Derrick Johnson spoke briefly to the media after historic meetings between officials from the two organizations.
Both leaders asked for civility and respect around the nation and the world, and pledged to work together toward common goals — including addressing disparities in education, issues of poverty and hunger.
June 18, 2018 - The church announced plans for new hymn books and children’s songbooks.
In June, the church announced that it would be making significant changes to the church “Hymns” book and “Children’s Songbook” used in worship services.
Hymn selections will include core hymns and songs that teach the doctrines of the gospel and reflect the needs of members around the world.
For instance, patriotic songs and national anthems such as “God Save the King,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” will be removed from the new hymnal.
The Children’s Songbook will also reflect the global needs and nature of the children of the church.
The change will take several years to implement.
Aug. 16, 2018 - Church officials emphasized the use of the full name of the church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes concerning when and how the name of the church should be referenced.
The church encouraged members and the media to refer to the church by its full name or by the terms “the Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ.” They discouraged the use of the abbreviations abbreviation “LDS” or “Mormon” as substitutes.
The stylebook also indicates that when referring to church members, the terms “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” or “Latter-day Saints” are preferred.
Aug. 17-19, 2018 - Nelson visited members in Canada.
Nelson, with his wife Wendy, visited church members in the Winnipeg, Manitoba; Montreal; and Hamilton, Ontario areas in Canada. His wife is originally from Raymond, Alberta.
They traveled with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Kathy.
Sept. 5, 2018 - All future missionary calls will come online.
The church announced in September that by the end of 2018, 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.
Sept. 15-16, 2018 - Nelson visited members in Seattle and British Columbia.
Days after his 94th birthday, Nelson; his wife, Wendy; and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency; visited Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Nelson spoke to a crowd of 49,000 at Safeco Field in Seattle.
Oct. 6, 2018 - Time change announced for church services.
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 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.
Oct. 7, 2018 - Nelson announced 12 new temples.
On the second day of the church’s semiannual general conference, Nelson announced 12 new temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be built around the world in Mendoza, Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Washington County, Utah.
Oct. 19-28, 2018 - Russell M. Nelson traveled on South American ministry tour.
Nelson, along with Elder Gary E. Stevenson visited Latter-day Saints in five countries as part of a nine-day tour in South America in October. They visited Latter-day Saints in Lima, Peru; El Alto, Bolivia; Asuncion, Paraguay; Montevideo, Uraguay and Concepcion, Chile.
Oct. 27, 2018 - Announcement made that pageants would be discontinued.
On Oct. 27, 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.
Oct. 28, 2018 - Nelson dedicated the Concepcion Chile Temple.
On Oct. 28, Nelson finished his South American ministry tour by dedicating the new temple in Concepcion, Chile. The temple is the second in Chile and was the first dedicated since Nelson became president of the church.
Nov. 16, 2018 - Church announced procedure changes for proselyting, service missions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in November revisions to its procedures for young men and women seeking to be missionaries.
As of Jan. 2, all young men and women in the U.S. and Canada will use the same online recommendation process, regardless of whether they will serve a proselyting mission or are unable to due to medical reasons. They will then complete the same recommendation forms, complete interviews with local ecclesiastical leaders and receive medical evaluations before receiving a mission call from the president of the church to serve either a proselyting or service mission.
Dec. 9, 2018 - Temple dedicated in Colombia.
The second temple of Nelson's time as president was dedicated by President Dallin H. Oaks on Dec. 9. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple became the church's 161st active temple.
Dec. 20, 2018 - Dress standards changed for sister missionaries serving in the church.
On Dec. 20, the church announced that female missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now allowed to wear dress slacks.
Dec. 20, 2018 - Changes made for youth progression, ordination.
The church announced in December 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.
Jan. 2, 2019 - Church reportedly made adjustments to temple endowment ceremony.
After 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.
Feb. 10, 2019- Nelson speaks in Arizona
Nelson spoke to more than 60,000 Latter-day Saints from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Feb. 15, 2019 - First Presidency announced changes to missionary communication
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that missionaries may now 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.
March 9 , 2019 - President Russell M. Nelson meets the Pope.
Pope Francis met with leadership of the church, including President Russell M. Nelson, for the first time on the eve of the Rome Italy Temple dedication.
March 10, 2019 - Rome Italy Temple dedicated.
The Rome Italy Temple was dedicated, with all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles present — the first time all 15 have been together outside the U.S.
March 22, 2019 - Curriculum, study schedule changed for Latter-day Saint seminary program.
Course curriculum and study schedules for the seminary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will change in 2020.
Starting in January 2020, the curriculum will follow the calendar year, rather than the school year. The curriculum will also follow the study from the “Come Follow Me” study, which will coincide with learning in other church courses.
April 4, 2019 - LDS Church announces reversal in baptism policy for children of LGBT couples
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.
April 7, 2019 - Eight new temples announced.
At its 189th annual general conference, the LDS Church announced the construction of eight new temples.
The new temples will be located in Pago Pago, American Samoa; Okinawa City, Okinawa; Neiafu, Tonga; Tooele Valley, Utah; Moses Lake, Washington; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Antofagasta, Chile; and Budapest, Hungary.
Nelson also announced that a number of pioneer-era temples will “soon undergo a period of renewal and refreshing, and, for some, a major restoration.”
Among those to be restored are the temples in Salt Lake City, St. George, Manti and Logan.
May 6, 2019 - Church announces policy change for civil and temple marriages
In an announcement made in May, the church said embers 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 been in practice in countries throughout the world where couples are required by law to marry civilly first.
May 16-25, 2019 - Nelson travels for Pacific Ministry Tour
Nelson, along with his wife Wendy, left in mid-May on a Pacific tour that included seven stops. The Nelsons traveled with Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Susan.
The tour included stops in Hawaii, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Tahiti.
July 19, 2019 - Church announces new global youth conference initiative.
As a part of the changes in the youth programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church announced in July 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.
July 22, 2019 - Nelson speaks at NAACP convention
In July, Nelson spoke at the convention of the NAACP. Nelson said in Detroit that everyone has a God-given responsibility to help make life better for those around them. He pointed to a passage from the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, that says, “all are alike unto God.”
Aug. 15, 2018 - Church clarifies Word of Wisdom
On Aug. 15, the church issued an update/clarification on things pertaining to the Word of Wisdom, the health code established in the early days of the church. This code not only purports what is good for the body, but indicates that hot drinks – interpreted as coffee and tea – are not good. Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are not to be taken by members as well.
Aug. 25-Sept. 1 - Nelson travels on Latin American Ministry Tour
Nelson, his wife Wendy Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Mary Cook, traveled on a Latin American Ministry Tour to five countries — Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.
Sept. 6, 2019 - Nelson celebrates 95th birthday
The church’s president celebrated his birthday with a broadcast event that was viewed in eight languages around the world.
Sept. 17, 2019 - Nelson speaks at BYU devotional
The speech marked Nelson’s first time speaking at the university since becoming president of the church.
Oct. 2, 2019 - LDS Church announces women can serve as witnesses in ordinances
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.
Oct. 5, 2019 - Church announces organizational changes for youth programs
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.
Oct. 5, 2019 - Eight new temples announced.
At its semiannual general conference, the church announced the construction of eight new temples, including one in Orem.
The other temples will also be located in Taylorsville, Utah; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Bentonville, Arkansas; Bacolod, Philippines; McAllen, Texas and Cobán, Guatemala.
Oct. 6, 2019 - Church announces bicentennial celebration
To end its semiannual general conference, Nelson announced that the conference in April 2020 would be part of a bicentennial celebration of the First Vision of Joseph Smith in 1820. Nelson said the conference will be “difference from any previous conference.”
Nov. 17-21, 2019 - Nelson embarks on Asian Ministry Tour
Nelson continued his travels abroad with an Asian Ministry Tour, joined by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The tour took them to Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Dec. 29, 2019 - Salt Lake Temple closes for renovation
The Salt Lake Temple officially closed for a four-year renovation process.
Jan. 1, 2020 - New Children and Youth program implemented
The new Children and Youth program, replacing Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Primary Activity Days and Mutual programs, was implemented on Jan. 1.
The program allows the youth to set goals in the areas of spiritual, intellectual, physical and social areas.