Mormon presidential candidates, unprecedented media exposure and celebrating the 75th anniversary of the church welfare program were among the list of noteworthy Latter-day Saint-related events of 2011. The bright spotlight on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including scrutiny of presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr., "The Book of Mormon" Broadway musical and the "I'm a Mormon" campaign, placed the church in a new, unique position. Also notable was news of the church's 75th anniversary of the welfare program and service outreach.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been in more conversations and received more attention from national and international media, in part because of Latter-day Saint Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. The church, however, issued its standard political neutrality statement this past summer. "The church's mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians," the statement said.
The name of the church has been a constant in conversations outside the political arena, as well.
The church launched its "I'm a Mormon" campaign in New York City and spread it to 12 additional U.S. cities, as well as Brisbane, Australia, in hopes of overcoming negative stereotypes. Killers frontman Brandon Flowers and Australian rugby star Will Hopoate participated in the campaign.
In response to news media requests regarding "The Book of Mormon Musical" and its success on Broadway, the church issued a simple statement: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."
Michael Otterson, managing director of the church's public affairs department, and Richard Bushman, a professor, author and historian, both echoed the church's position.
April's 181st Annual General Conference marked the 75th anniversary of the church's welfare program. Church leaders spoke about the history of the inspired program and emphasized self-reliance as a way of life, including education, health, employment, family home production and storage, financial planning and spiritual strength.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, invited church members worldwide to commit to rendering service in their communities for a day.
In June, the church issued a statement on immigration. The church discouraged illegal immigration, supported an approach in which undocumented immigrants could "square themselves with the law" and stated "the bedrock moral issue … is how we treat each other as children of God." The church said the issue is one that ultimately must be resolved by the federal government.
The church continued to build temples in 2011.
Temples were dedicated in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and San Salvador, El Salvador. The Atlanta temple was rededicated.
New temples were announced for Fort Collins, Colo.; Meridian, Idaho; Star Valley, Wyo.; Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Kinshasa, Belgian Congo; Durban, South Africa; and Barranquilla, Colombia; and it was announced that plans to build a temple in Paris were moving forward. It was also announced that the burned Provo Tabernacle would be rebuilt and become a temple.
Renovation on temples in Boise; Ogden; and Buenos Aries, Argentina, began in 2011.
Ground was broken for new temples in Philadelphia; Payson; Phoenix; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Sapporo, Japan; Trujillo, Peru; and Fortaleza, Brazil.
During 2011, the LDS Church provided humanitarian assistance and emergency response to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
In January, torrential rains resulted in extensive flooding, massive mudslides and hundreds of fatalities in Brazil and Colombia. Church leaders sent large quantities of tarps, blankets, basic food, hygiene kits and clean drinking water.
The church donated $25,000 to help victims of a magnitude-6.3 earthquake that shook Christchurch, New Zealand, killed more than 100 people and left others entrapped in rubble.
The church provided more than 135,000 pounds of food, water and supplies, 10,000 liters of fuel and 15,000 blankets to assist the Japanese people suffering from the effects of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, a powerful tsunami and radiation last spring.
A string of tornadoes swept through the Midwest in late May. The hardest-hit area was Joplin, Mo. Local leaders organized more than 550 church members to help clean up the community.
More than 4,000 homes and businesses in Minot, N.D., were displaced when the Souris River overflowed its banks last spring.
In response to two typhoons that hit the Philippines in late September, causing massive flooding, the Church Welfare Department joined with local non-government organizations and the Philippine Army in distributing goods and hygiene kits to the affected cities and villages. The church provided basic survival supplies to approximately 25,000 families.
Hundreds of LDS volunteers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming and stakes from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Cardston in Alberta, Canada, dressed in the familiar yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts and provided cleanup assistance.
It's been a memorable year for Brigham Young University.
"Jimmermania" swept the nation as BYU guard and Latter-day Saint Jimmer Fredette was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, became one of the most prolific scorers in the country, was named college basketball's player of the year and led the Cougars to the Sweet 16.
Because of the spotlight on Jimmer, coverage of teammate Brandon Davies' suspension from the BYU basketball team in March for violating the school's honor code was extensive, drawing both praise and criticism. Davies returned to the team for the 2011-12 season.
BYU joined the world of satellite radio when BYU Radio was launched on Sirius XM (Ch. 143) on July 1.
With its new state-of-the-art broadcast building, new programming was launched for BYUtv. One highlight was the release of "Fires of Faith," a three-part documentary that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the coming forth of the King James Bible.
In recognition of the Relief Society, the First Presidency directed the production and publication of a book titled "Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society."
The teachings, stories and examples in the book are intended to help guide female members in establishing priorities and practices that will increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and help those in need.
Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, said the book is more than just a history. It is a "witness of women's divine identity and roles," she said.
The first stakes in Indonesia and Russia were created in 2011.
In May, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve organized the Jakarta Indonesia Stake. The church, which has had a presence in Indonesia for 41 years, has nearly 7,000 members in a country of more than 220 million people.
The LDS Church's first stake in Russia — its second in the former Soviet Union — was created by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve in June.
The church counts more than 21,000 members in Russia, spread throughout 116 congregations in the country.
The church continued to use the Internet and technology to spread the gospel message.
In September, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson shared spiritual lessons he gained from the 9/11 terrorists attacks in the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog.
The subject #ldsconf was the top trend on Twitter during both April and October general conferences. During an April conference message, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, said, "Perhaps the Lord's encouragement to 'open (your) mouths' might today include 'use your hands' to blog and text message the gospel to all the world."
During his remarks in the October general conference, Elder Bednar said it was no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies.
"Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord — not just to communicate quickly with your friends," Elder Bednar said. "The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation."
In February, the church's family history website, FamilySearch.org, reached 15 billion hits since its launch in 1999.
With the 181st anniversary of the publication of the Book of Mormon in March came another milestone — the distribution of its 150 millionth copy.
Less than 60 years after forming "student" wards at BYU, the church decided to eliminate student congregations in June, now forming "young single adult" wards and stakes throughout Utah for single members ages 18-30.
It was also in June that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approved changes in the policies regarding length of senior missionary service and missionary housing to encourage more couples to serve full-time missions and to improve their missionary experience.
In an emotional announcement at a December concert, David Archuleta, a singer and celebrity who turned 21 on Dec. 28, announced that he plans to serve a full-time mission.