2017 was a busy year for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The international presence of the church alone took leaders to China, India, and Mexico and from the halls of homes and buildings damaged by natural disasters, to the halls of Parliament.
The Daily Herald has reviewed the following as the top five issues this past year which now becomes a part of LDS history.
5. Local temple announced
In April, a frail President Thomas S. Monson announced at general conference that Saratoga Springs in Utah County would be home to a new temple. The audible squeals of excitement were noticeable as the prophet made the announcement in the LDS Conference Center.
The church has yet to start building the temple, but does have approximately 2,000 acres in a prominent place in the community.
Along with the continual building and opening of new temples in 2017, the LDS Church changed some of its policies regarding who could participate in temple service.
In the summer, the church announced divorced men over 30 could now officiate in temple ordinances.
In December, the church announced that worthy young men who are priests in the Aaronic priesthood from ages 16-18 could now perform and be witnesses to proxy baptisms in the temple, a service that heretofore was designated for Melchizedek priesthood men.
Likewise, young women ages 12-18 were invited to participate and help female volunteer temple workers in their assignments in the baptistery.
4. LDS and LGBTQ issues
At a Tuesday devotional at Brigham Young University in November, Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, took time to speak about the LGBTQ community.
“I want anyone who is a member of the church who is gay or lesbian to know you have a place in the kingdom, and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s church, but you do,” Ballard said.
That bold statement followed a summer of outreach by the church when for the first time, other than for the church’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it came out in support of a special concert.
Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds created the LOVELOUD festival, which was meant to “help ignite the relevant and vital conversation of what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support LGBTQ+ youth in an effort to keep families together,” according to the festival’s Facebook page.
The festival was held Aug. 26 at Utah Valley University to a near-capacity crowd.
In response to the event, the following statement was released from the LDS Church:
“We applaud the LOVELOUD Festival for LGBTQ Youth’s aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God’s children. We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe.”
Conversely, earlier in the year, the LDS Church became a “friend of the court” in the case of the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
By the end of the year, the Supreme Court had yet to make a ruling on the case. According to the Washington Post, the Supreme Court is divided over the case, named Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Baker Jack Phillips said he would sell the gay couple other kinds of cakes, but he could not in good conscience sell them a wedding cake, since same-sex weddings violate his religious beliefs, according to the Washington Post report.
In another realm, on Jan. 30, the Boy Scouts of America announced they would allow transgender boys into Scouting, reversing a decades-old rule. The LDS Church, one of the largest supporters of the BSA, made the statement, “The Church is studying the announcement made yesterday by Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts has assured its religious chartering organizations that, as in the past, they will be able to organize their troops in a way fully consistent with their religious beliefs.
“In recent years the Church has made several changes to its programs for youth, and continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide.”
3. BSA changes
In May, the LDS Church announced that young men ages 14-18 in the United States and Canada will no longer participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts in Canada.
According to information provided by the LDS Church, it said it will continue to use Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys ages 8-13. The church maintains that these programs currently meet the development program needs of boys.
“In every discussion with the Boy Scouts of America, they have expressed a shared desire to do what is best for young men,” the church statement said. “We are grateful for their continued support with this new change and look forward to continuing our strong relationship in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.”
However, by October, against the wishes of the Girl Scouts of America, the BSA announced that it would welcome girls into its Cub Scouting program and that older girls will be eligible to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
In response, the LDS Church said that the announcement would not change the young girl’s Activity Days program and that the church has the right and intends to maintain the current program.
2. Apostle’s death
Elder Robert D. Hales, 85, died at 12:15 p.m. between sessions of the Sunday, Oct. 1 general conference of the church. He was in the hospital for causes incident to age, although his health had been deteriorating over the past several years.
Robert Dean Hales was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1932. He was a graduate of the University of Utah and held a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot. He married Mary Crandall, and they have two sons.
Hales was sustained on April 2, 1994, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
1. Prophet turns 90
The final session of the April general conference will most likely be the last time the general membership of the church will see or hear their beloved President Thomas S. Monson at general conference, or other meetings.
Just a day after the April conference ended, Monson was admitted to the hospital with fatigue and other medical concerns.
According to statements by the Church Public Affairs Office on May 23, Monson would no longer be handling the day-to-day work of the church or attend meetings at the church offices in downtown Salt Lake City. His counselors meet with him as needed to update him on what is happening.
Monson has devoted most of his life to serving in various capacities in the church. He was called at age 22 to be bishop of a ward that spanned two ward areas and had several widows that he cared for. By age 32, he was called to serve as a mission president in the Canada Toronto Mission.
Monson was ordained an apostle on Oct. 10, 1963, at the age of 36. He has served as the 16th president of the church since Feb. 3, 2008.
It would an understatement to say the LDS Church membership and the church’s Humanitarian Aid organization saved or helped thousands of lives throughout 2017 as famine, war, and natural disasters covered the earth.
Millions of dollars in aid and food were sent to various worldwide locations to help in these efforts. In the U.S., members of the church in Helping Hands T-shirts pitched in day after day to clean up after three major hurricanes.
The church gets many visitors who tour its Welfare Square buildings, distribution center, and Humanitarian Aid offices. In November, leaders of the church hosted President Donald Trump on a tour of the square and gave him the opportunity to push a grocery cart at the Bishop’s Storehouse.
On Aug. 8, in a rare action taken by the senior leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a disciplinary council was held for General Authority Seventy James J. Hamula, and he was excommunicated from the LDS Church.
“This morning James J. Hamula was released as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following church disciplinary action by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” said Eric Hawkins, church spokesman, in a prepared statement.
While not an official statement, information surrounding the case indicates the disciplinary action was not taken because of disillusionment or apostasy. The last general authority to be excommunicated was former Seventy George P. Lee, who was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1989.