Concern for refugees, the survival of four missionaries in an airport bombing and dedicating the 150th temple were among the top news stories for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2016.
In the past 12 months, the LDS Church has implemented teaching councils; dedicated eight new temples; launched several new websites; responded to leaked videos; commemorated anniversaries and historic events; contributed to family history projects; continued to speak out for religious freedom; and donated relief supplies to countries affected by natural disasters, among many other worthwhile efforts.
The following items, listed in no particular order, include some of the more significant events in 2016 relevant to Latter-day Saints.
In her remarks during the General Women's Session of the church's 186th Annual General Conference in April, Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton asked Mormon women to help refugees in their "neighborhoods and communities," the Deseret News reported.
A week after Sister Burton, Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy spoke on the same topic and titled his remarks "Refuge from the Storm."
"The Savior knows how it feels to be a refugee — he was one," Elder Kearon said.
The campaign to aid refugees started with a letter issued by the First Presidency in October 2015.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, expressed his deep sympathy for refugees by recalling his experience as a child in war-torn Germany after World War II and again at the beginning of the Cold War, according to Mormon Newsroom.
On the morning of March 22, four LDS missionaries serving in the Paris France Mission were injured when a bomb exploded at the Brussels airport.
Elder Richard Norby, 66, of Lehi, was with Elder Mason Wells, 19, of Sandy; Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, 20, of Santa Clara, Washington County; and Sister Fanny Clain, 20, of Reunion Island, France, as Sister Clain was departing for her mission in the United States. Each one received burns and other injuries that required recovery time. Sister Clain eventually continued her mission in Ohio.
In other missionary news, a new Russian law designed to combat terrorism but also restricts religious organizations resulted in elders and sisters being known as "volunteers" instead of missionaries, the Deseret News reported. In September, the LDS Church changed the assignments of 30 of 77 volunteers who had been learning Russian in the Missionary Training Center.
In May, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced a new dress code policy designed to protect the health of missionaries in 230 of more than 400 missions worldwide. The new policy allows sister missionaries serving in countries threatened by mosquito-borne diseases to wear ankle-length dresses and full-length slacks on a geographical and seasonal basis.
Earlier this month, the church announced that what had been known as the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission would now be known as the Utah Salt Lake City Headquarters Mission and that it would have the most missionaries of any mission in the church.
Temple No. 150 and counting
The LDS Church dedicated the Provo City Center Temple on March 20, making it the 150th operating temple in the world. The event was also significant because the temple was rebuilt from the ashes of the burned-out historic Provo Tabernacle.
Additionally, LDS Church leaders dedicated temples in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Sapporo, Japan; Star Valley, Wyoming; Fort Collins, Colorado andHartford, Connecticut, and rededicated temples in Freiberg, Germany, and Suva, Fiji.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build four more temples in Harare, Zimbabwe; Quito, Ecuador; Belém, Brazil; and Lima, Peru (the second temple in that city) during the Sunday morning session of April's general conference.
In May, LDS Church leaders continued to focus on improved church teaching and learning with a new program called "Teaching the Savior's Way." The program encouraged each congregation to hold a teacher council meeting once a month during regular meetings.
"As fellow teachers, we can help each other succeed," said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in an LDS.org video.
The new program is said to be part of a "revolution of teaching" within the LDS Church, according to a BYU Education Week presenter in a Deseret News article. A worldwide teacher council training broadcast featuring Elder Holland and other leaders was held in November.
The church's seminary program also experienced a significant shift as Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve introduced a new initiative called "Doctrinal Mastery," a program designed to facilitate deeper gospel learning for students. Doctrinal Mastery is connected to the youth curriculum, "Come, Follow Me," and replaced Scripture Mastery, which encouraged LDS youths to memorize specific verses in the standard works, according to the LDS Church News.
Technology and digital outreach
In 2016, the LDS Church launched several websites to help members and leaders in dealing with several issues.
"The 'Mormon and Gay' title makes clear that someone can be both Mormon and feel same-sex attraction or identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Mormon and gay," said Elder L. Whitney Clayton, the senior president of the Quorums of the Seventy.
During the same month, a series of seven videos released by the church offered counsel on diversity, love and inclusion.
In the film department, "Meet the Mormons," a series of documentary-style vignettes featuring a diverse group of Latter-day Saints, was re-introduced with added new footage, faces and stories at Temple Square's Legacy Theatre and other LDS visitors centers around the world.
First Presidency letters
Leading up to the November elections, the LDS Church's First Presidency spoke out on a few topics. The church issued its standard statement on political neutrality in supporting or endorsing candidates and also encouraging members to vote. As issues of doctor-assisted suicide and recreational marijuana use were on ballots in several states, the church also asked members to oppose bills that would legalize them.
Following the election, church leaders released a statement congratulating President-elect Donald Trump and asking members to pray for those in public office.
LDS leaders condemned all sexual assault in a statement issued in May as Brigham Young University reviewed the way it responds to such cases. Some students had complained that honor code consequences kept some sexual assaults from being reported. The statement called for respect and sensitivity for all survivors.
Earlier this month, the church issued a strong statement on religious freedom and pluralism as a debate raged in American politics regarding Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Earlier this month, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presented a flash drive with a newly indexed database of African-American slaves freed after the Civil War to the Smithsonian's new National African Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. It was the culmination of a massive nationwide effort over the last year to index nearly half of the 4 million people freed at the war's end. The Freedman Bureau Project involved more than 25,000 volunteers.
"For the first time in history, African-Americans can now bridge the gap between freedom and slavery and reunite their families — on paper — that were once torn apart by slavery," Elder Christofferson said.
In November, FamilySearch celebrated its 10th anniversary of its web-based, volunteer-driven indexing initiative in conjunction with its observance of International Volunteer Day. Indexing is the process of creating digital files of handwritten documents.
As October general conference drew to a close, news broke that 15 unauthorized videos of internal meetings involving high-ranking church leaders recorded between 2007 and 2012 had been leaked online by an anonymous source. The videos, typically an hour or less in length, showed church leaders being briefed by experts on political, social and financial issues to stay abreast of current trends and events.
LDS Church history
One of the major volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers series — "Administrative Records: Council of Fifty Minutes, March 1844-January 1846" — was released in September. Kept by the First Presidency since the pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley, the Council of Fifty minutes offer a candid view of how early church leaders handled temporal affairs and provide a rich and detailed history of a unique era in church history.
In a historic ceremony in May, government leaders in Vietnam granted official recognition to the LDS Church.
In June, Manti's Mormon Miracle Pageant celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In October, Elder Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joined Joseph Lieberman and other prominent Jewish leaders at the Mount of Olives to commemorate the 175th anniversary of apostle Orson Hyde's 1841 mission to Jerusalem to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews.
"We believe the work of Elder Orson Hyde has played a key role in God choosing Jerusalem again," Elder Holland said.
Church leader moments
In March, Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, was invited to New York City to speak with a panel at the United Nations on fostering leadership in young women.
A few weeks ago, Elder Christofferson participated in two American institutions: He offered the morning prayer in the U.S. Senate, then spoke at the Library of Congress about the legacy of the Book of Mormon, which had been part of an exhibit there.
• In February, LDS Church leaders hosted a visit from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and presented him with his family history.
• A historic mansion belonging to the University of Utah was named after President Monson in August. Two Boy Scout buildings — a leadership complex in West Virginia and a lodge in Kamas, Utah — were also named for President Monson during the year.
• Humanitarian efforts continue to be a high priority for the LDS Church. In 2016, the church assisted victims of a cyclone in Fiji and those affected by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Ecuador; published a review of how it helps sex abuse victims and made a donation; responded to flood victims in West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina (Hurricane Matthew); and donated funds to charities assisting refugees and fighting global hunger, among others.