SALT LAKE CITY — It has been an eventful six months for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Since last April's general conference, three senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have passed away; several temples have been announced, started or dedicated; women leaders have been added to the church's general councils; and the First Presidency has asked Mormons to make the Sabbath day a more meaningful experience — among many noteworthy items.
Here is a review of some of the more significant events related to the LDS Church in the last six months.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles died at the age of 92 on May 30, less than six weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. At that time he was the oldest living apostle. His funeral was held the following week in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square and attended by thousands, including President Thomas S. Monson and several high-ranking church leaders.
President Boyd K. Packer, who had served as president or acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve since 1994, died July 3 at the age of 90 after more than 50 years as a senior leader of the church. His funeral, held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, was also attended by thousands.
The third apostle to pass away was Elder Richard G. Scott. He died at home on Sept. 22, surrounded by his family. He was 86 years old. Elder Scott served as an apostle for 27 years and was fourth in seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve at the time of his death.
Shortly after President Packer's death, Elder Russell M. Nelson was set apart by President Monson as the new president of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Two former general authorities, Elder John Sonnenberg and Elder Keith K. Hilbig, also passed away in recent months. Elder Sonnenberg, a former member of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, died at age 93 on July 1. Elder Hilbig, who served in the Quorums of the Seventy for more than a decade in various assignments around the world, died Aug. 22 at the age of 73.
One noteworthy milestone was that President Monson turned 88 years old on Aug. 21.
From turning shovels of dirt to open houses and dedications, the past six months have produced a flurry of activity regarding LDS temples.
In the Sunday morning session of last April's conference, President Monson announced temples will be built in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand.
Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy turned the first shovelful of soil and offered the dedicatory prayer at the groundbreaking of the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in April.
In May, the First Presidency announced that the open house, cultural celebration and rededication for the Montreal Quebec Temple will take place in November.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Cordoba Argentina Temple on May 18, making it the second operating temple in that South American country.
One month later, President Uchtdorf traveled to Peru to dedicate the temple in Trujillo, making it the second temple in that country.
Thousands toured the Payson Utah Temple before it was dedicated by President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, on June 7.
The Indianapolis Indiana Temple hosted more than 90,000 visitors at an open house before it was dedicated by President Eyring in August.
The First Presidency announced the Provo City Center Temple will host an open house in January and be dedicated in March. Following renovation work, the Suva Fiji Temple will be rededicated on Feb. 21, 2016.
The Mexico City Mexico Temple was rededicated Sept. 13 by President Eyring.
An angel Moroni statue was placed on the Fort Collins Colorado Temple despite recent vandalism to construction equipment and parts of the temple's exterior.
In mid-April, the LDS Church collaborated with 18 other religious organizations in requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court rule against same-sex marriage.
When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in late June, the church initially responded with a statement saying it would "continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman." The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also sent out a letter asking local leaders to hold a meeting with adult and youth members to read a statement that included background information if members wanted to ask questions.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve releasing "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," reaffirming gospel standards, doctrines and principles related to the family. The proclamation was originally presented by President Gordon B. Hinckley at the General Relief Society meeting Sept. 23, 1995.
In July, the BSA National Executive Board voted to end a ban on gay adult leaders, although the change would still allow church-sponsored BSA units to select their own leaders.
The LDS Church responded by saying it was "deeply troubled" by the decision and it would need to re-examine its longtime association with Scouting.
About a month later, the church announced in a statement from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve that it will continue its association with the Boy Scouts of America.
"BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values 'in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program,' " the statement said.
In August, the LDS Church, working jointly with the Community of Christ, published the original printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon in its latest installment of the Joseph Smith Papers project, "Revelations and Translations Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2." The volumes, announced at a press conference in the Church History Library, included images of a seer stone for the first time ever.
Two significant events relating to the church occurred earlier this month.
First, President Nelson presided at the dedication of the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Pennsylvania. The three-year project preserves the location where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, where Joseph translated most of the Book of Mormon, and where portions of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price were received by the Prophet as revelations.
Second, the church celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the publication of "Jesus the Christ," a classic in church literature, by Elder James E. Talmage. The book was commissioned by the First Presidency, written in the Salt Lake Temple and is one of the best-selling doctrinal works in church history. The church recognized the book's milestone with a temporary exhibit in the Church History Library featuring pages from the original handwritten manuscript, a first-edition copy and other copies in foreign languages.
Technology and outreach
Over the past six months, the LDS Church has continued to use technology to share gospel messages and assist people in doing family history work.
After a successful pilot program, the church announced in April that members can now pay their tithing and other charitable donations through a new online system.
In May, Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve and his wife, Susan, hosted a live "Face to Face" event with Latter-day Saint youths. During the online event, the Bednars answered questions from young people around the globe, including classroom groups in the Philippines and Guatemala.
During the same month, lds.org, the church's main website, introduced a new menu navigation and other improvements designed to make the website more personalized and easier to use.
In July, the church reported on previous Christmas and Easter awareness campaigns celebrating the life of Jesus Christ, including the "Because He Lives" Easter videos that were extensively promoted online. At that point, the video had been viewed nearly 30 million times.
In recent weeks, in conjunction with National Addiction Recovery Month, the church released 12 videos highlighting each of the 12 steps of the addiction recovery program. The videos feature the stories of 12 individuals and their personal experiences with addiction and recovery.
There have been several announcements related to family history work.
In June, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve was in Los Angeles to announce that the church's family history website, FamilySearch.org, had partnered with several African-American history organizations to launch the Freedmen's Bureau Project, a collaborative effort to digitize 1.5 million handwritten records about former slaves that would be made available for genealogy purposes.
In mid-August, the church broke ground for a first-of-its-kind family history library in St. George, a block south of the St. George LDS Temple. The center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.
A new Family Discovery Center, similar to the one in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, opened in Bellevue, Washington, on Sept. 3.
As in past years, the church has been active in helping countries dealing with natural disasters.
Following destruction by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu last spring, the First Presidency and Presiding Bishopric worked with the Pacific Area Presidency to send tents, food, supplies and other provisions. Church members from Samoa and Tonga also offered assistance.
The church sent similar relief supplies to Kathmandu, Nepal, to help in recovery from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in May.
On April 28, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, the LDS Church's Primary general president, along with other church leaders, delivered a check for $100,000 to the Avenues Children's Justice Center in Salt Lake City to help children who have been sexually abused.
When a massive storm caused flooding in Houston and parts of Oklahoma in late May and early June, Houston's mayor appreciated the help of LDS missionaries and Mormon Helping Hands, volunteer groups that contributed more than 560 volunteers who served for more than 14,000 hours in the cleanup effort.
The church also sent aid to Peru (deadly frigid weather), Myanmar (flooding), the Caribbean island of Dominca (flooding and mudslides), Yemen (civil war) and Idaho (wildfires).
Unfortunately, ongoing drought conditions continue to impact several church farms, ranches and agricultural enterprises that provide food for the welfare programs. They have called on members to petition the Lord "through fasting and prayer" for more moisture.
In a historic announcement on Aug. 18, the church added women leaders to three major governing committees to give women a more official voice in church leadership. Church leaders changed the name of the faith's Priesthood Executive Council to the Priesthood and Family Executive Council and invited the church's Relief Society general president, Sister Linda K. Burton, to sit on the council. The general Young Women president, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, will join the Missionary Executive Council; and the general Primary president, Sister Wixom, will be on the Temple and Family History Executive Council.
Other important events
On April 2, President Barack Obama stepped off Air Force One and made his first official visit to Utah as president of the United States. As part of his visit, the president met with LDS Church leaders at the Sheraton Hotel, including President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, and Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
During the same month, Clark Gilbert left his post as CEO and president of the Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media to become the 16th president at Brigham Young University-Idaho, taking over for Kim B. Clark. Gilbert's inauguration took place on Sept. 15.
John S. Tanner was named the new president of BYU-Hawaii in May.
In July, church leaders encouraged members to place a greater emphasis on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. A video depicting an interview with church leaders addressed questions and stressed the relevance of the new initiative.
During the summer, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir toured the Atlantic Coast, performing in Maryland, Boston and New York City, including at the site of Woodstock, a New York Yankees baseball game and Carnegie Hall. Shortly after its return, the choir announced it will make its first tour beyond North America in almost two decades, with a trip to Europe in summer 2016.
President Eyring announced the publication of the Latter-day Saint edition of the Holy Bible in Portuguese, calling it "a great blessing" for nearly 1.4 million members who speak that language.
Earlier this month, Lynn R. Madsen of Orem, serving as president of the Mexico Oaxaca Mission, was shot in the legs during an armed robbery at a Subway restaurant. Fortunately his wounds were not serious and he is expected to make a full recovery, a church spokesman said.
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