SALT LAKE CITY — Speaking about future changes in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson told members during his South American tour, "Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It's going to be exciting."
The statement left church members wondering what else might be coming given all that happened the past year.
Since President Thomas S. Monson died in January, his successor has ushered in significant, even historic "adjustments" to Sunday worship services, priesthood quorums, Young Men and Young Women organizations, sister missionary dress standards, among others. The church also announced its withdrawal from the Boy Scouts of America.
But perhaps most attention-getting was President Nelson in August re-emphasizing the full name of the Utah-based faith and discouraging the use of longtime nicknames "Mormon" and "LDS," prompting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to change its name to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Deseret News editors named the changes in the church, including the passing of President Monson last January, as the top Utah news story for 2018.
President Monson died at age 90 on Jan. 2, 2018, after nearly a decade at the head of the church. During his time as one of the longest-serving apostles in church history, membership grew from 2.1 million members to 15.9 million. The number of temples went from 12 to 159.
Two weeks later, President Nelson was named the next leader of the church. His impact was felt immediately.
At his first general conference in April, President Nelson replaced home and visiting teaching with "ministering" as the way for church members in local congregations to care for others. He also restructured Melchizedek Priesthood quorums by combining high priests and elders into a single elders quorum in each ward.
In May, the church announced it would sever its longstanding partnership with the Boy Scouts at the end of 2019 in favor of its own program for children ages 8 to 18.
October general conference brought more changes. Saying it's time for a "home-centered church," President Nelson announced that Sunday services would be cut from three hours to two hours starting in 2019.
The church finished out the year announcing in December that Latter-day Saint youths would complete Primary and move into the Young Women and Young Men programs as a group instead of on the individual's 12th birthday. That was followed by giving sister missionaries the option to wear pants in all missions around the world.
2. Goodbye Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch, 84, decided to retire from the U.S. Senate on his own terms as the longest-serving Republican senator in history. More than 800 of his bills became law over his 42-year career. He said he hopes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act most defines his legacy, which also includes championing the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hatch handpicked his successor, urging former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for his seat. Though Republican delegates forced him into a primary election, Romney easily won in June and then cruised to victory in the November general election over Democrat Jenny Wilson.
The former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts governor heads to Washington with instant credibility, though he won't wield near the power of the venerable Hatch. Romney identified balancing the federal budget, immigration reform and returning power to the states among his priorities.
3. Proposition 2
Intense debate over a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana dominated headlines for months.
As voters considered Proposition 2, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, brought the Utah Patients Coalition and Libertas Institute, both of which supported the initiative, together with influential anti-Proposition 2 groups the Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints together for private talks about a compromise.
Utahns eventually passed Proposition 2, but the Utah Legislature quickly replaced it with the compromise legislation during a one-day special session.
The Utah patients group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, which did not participate in the talks, and the Epilepsy Association of Utah sued the state just days after the compromise bill passed.
Wildfires in Utah drove hundreds of residents from their homes and destroyed hundreds of structures, while a Utah firefighter died in one of the devastating California fires over the summer.
In all, fires consumed more than 500,000 acres in Utah — one of the worst wildfire seasons ever. More than 400 structures burned down, including 87 homes, mostly in the Dollar Ridge Fire near Strawberry Reservoir.
The Bald Mountain Fire and the nearby Pole Creek Fire in Utah County burned more than 120,000 acres combined. Many residents were evacuated for more than two weeks.
Draper Fire Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett died in California when thousands of gallons of flame-retardant were dropped on him from a Boeing 747 mistakenly flying only 100 feet above the treetops.
5. Love v. McAdams
Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams ousted two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love in one of the nastiest, most hard-fought political races in state history. The candidates and outside groups spent more than $10 million combined, much of it on negative TV ads.
After the campaign feathers settled, the outcome hung in the balance for two weeks as the votes were counted. Both candidates teetered on the edge of winning or losing. In the final tally, McAdams eked out a 694-vote victory in the 4th Congressional District. Love said afterward that Democrats targeted her because of her race. She was the first black Republican woman elected to Congress.
McAdams, who will resign as county mayor on Jan. 2, goes to Congress as the only Democrat in Utah's six-member federal delegation. He said voters sent a message that they're tired of a dysfunctional Washington.
6. Jon Huntsman Sr.
Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr. died Feb. 2 at the age of 80. He had been in declining health. He also served as an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Huntsman made his fortune buying distressed chemical assets at bargain prices and was for decades the chairman and CEO of the Huntsman group of companies, including Huntsman Chemical Corp.
A four-time cancer survivor, Huntsman and his wife, Karen, started the Huntsman Cancer Institute in 1995. In 2016, Forbes wrote that the Huntsmans were America's second-most generous philanthropists, having given away $1.55 billion in their lifetimes.
Huntsman's name graces buildings at the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University. Huntsman was active politically and made a brief run for Utah governor in 1988.
7. Josh Holt freed
Riverton resident Josh Holt returned home to a hero’s welcome on Memorial Day weekend with his wife, Thamy, ending a two-year ordeal in a Venezuelan prison on what U.S. officials and his family said were false charges.
The Venezuelan government unexpectedly released the Holts after Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, met with Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, were among those who worked to secure the couple's freedom.
Josh and Thamy Holt met online, married in Caracas and were arrested a short time later. Holt spent nearly two years behind bars, while his family in Riverton desperately pleaded for help to get him released.
8. Another Olympics?
The U.S. Olympic Committee chose Salt Lake City as the bid city for a future Winter Games, potentially in 2030. State and city leaders and Olympic supporters hailed the decision and said Utah is ready, willing and able to host another Games.
Salt Lake City, the host of the 2002 Winter Games, beat out Denver after Reno-Tahoe dropped out of the running. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in 2023. Other cities in the running include Sapporo, Japan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The USOC stopped short of committing to a 2030 bid.
9. Lauren McCluskey
The murder of University of Utah track athlete Lauren McCluskey in October raised questions about campus police and Utah Adult Probation and Parole procedures.
McCluskey, 21, was shot and killed in a campus parking lot by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, a man she had dated for about a month before she discovered he was a convicted sex offender who had been paroled from prison three times. Her death followed extortion attempts by Rowland. McCluskey had made several reports to U. police in the days leading up to her death.
An independent report found U. police are understaffed but that McCluskey's murder may not have been preventable. McCluskey's parents, Matthew and Jill McCluskey, blasted the report and said police failed their daughter. They called for officers to be held accountable and disciplined for neglecting her attempts to seek help.
10. High tech boom
A prognostication by Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith at a packed Silicon Slopes summit in January turned out to be a spot-on foreshadowing of one of the biggest years in Utah tech.
In May, tech education leader Pluralsight outpaced expectations when it raised $310 million in a public stock offering. Business analytics pioneer Domo recovered from a bevy of harsh takedowns after questionable business practices were revealed in a pre-IPO filing and raised $193 million when it went public in June. Virtually on the eve of its own stock offering, Qualtrics became the newest holding of European software giant SAP in a whopping $8 billion all-cash deal.
Utah also attracted big investments from some of the best known technology brands with Amazon opening a distribution center in Salt Lake City and Facebook a new data center near Eagle Mountain.
Contributing: Art Raymond