Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Changes and Announcements during President Nelson's Presidency

President Nelson has made an unusually large number of announcements and changes since he became President of the Church. See below for a list of announcements or changes that are significant or alter previous policies, traditions, or organizational structure in the Church:
Some themes I have noticed with these changes/announcements include:
  • Emphasis on the internationalization of the Church
  • Redistribution of church resources from less productive areas for growth to more productive areas for growth
  • Simplification of organizational structure
  • Efforts to revitalize and strengthen a sense of community in the Church
  • Methods to reverse slowing LDS growth trends while conserving resources
I predict that we will see more announcements and changes in the coming months, especially given that the frequency of these announcements/changes has shown no recent signs of slowing down. See below for some potential changes/announcements that I believe are likely. These predictions are solely based on my own opinion and analysis of the data, and were not obtained from any unauthorized sources. I take full responsibility for these predictions.
  • Revision of the Church Handbook of Instructions (both volumes)
  • Change to the missionary program in regards to the missionary lessons, proselytism tactics, prebaptismal preparation, and post-baptismal fellowship
  • Change in the structure of the missionary program organization to help reconcile disconnect between mission leadership and local leadership
  • Women playing more of an administrative role in the Church outside of the Relief Society, Young Women's, and Primary organizations such as in regards to missionary work and temple/family history work
  • Additional temple announcements
  • Continued redistribution of mission resources from the global north to the global south (i.e. additional mission closures and new missions being created)
  • Expansion of the LDS canon to include official proclamations
  • Revision of the LDS hymnal


Executive Secretary said...

He also approved a pretty significant change to bishop's interviews, allowing a parent to be present for youth interviews, and firmed up the two-deep teaching policy.

Rolf said...

“Change in the structure of the missionary program organization to help reconcile disconnect between mission leadership and local leadership” – I have been waiting over 30 years for this change to come. I would love to see it happen – at present we are not “one” with regards to missionary work. There should only be one line of “command” and that should go through the local leadership. I have had many comprehensive discussions with local leaders from many European countries and I have yet to find one that agrees with the current program. What they often see is inactive (non committed) investigators, that are baptized and then become inactive members. The result over time is that they distant themselves from the missionary work because they really have no say.

James said...

Hey, Matt. Great list, and thanks for sharing it. A couple of clarifications: the Concepción Chile and Barranquilla Colombia Temple dedications were also announced after President Nelson's ordinationordination.

Also, although the wording on the Mormon Newsroom release implies that the areas in the US & Canada are being consolidated from 10 areas to 6, the Church News noted that 2 presidencies will oversee 2 areas each, while the designated Utah presidency will oversee the 3 areas here in Utah. Thanks again.

brycen said...

On the list of new Area Presidencies, Elder Craig C Christensen will oversee Utah, which currently is definitely 3 separate Areas, and Elder Lynn G Robbins will be Area President for North America Southwest. These are the same areas they currently supervise as members of the Presidency of the Seventy. Under the old system being ended in August, we already have only 6 Presidents over 10 Areas, so it can't be proof that the Areas for the US and Canada are being combined. Maybe they are, but I didn't see anything that explicitly stated that in the official statements.

One other possible announcement not listed by Matt - the current hymnal came out in 1985, 33 years ago (the same year President Ballard was called as an apostle). There are some songs in there that hardly ever get used, and there are a few songs commonly used by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other choirs in the Church on a regular basis that are not in the hymnbook. I would suggest that a new revised hymnbook may be forthcoming soon. The previous one was from 1948, so it was a 37 year gap prior to the current one.

One thing related to this deals with the internationalization of the Church. The patriotic songs at the end of the hymnbook. When I attended Church in Canada (the ward was half US and half Canadian) we had to put in an insert for Hymn #342,
"O Canada", the national anthem of Canada. I know on my mission in Brazil I saw a couple of hymns in the Portuguese version that were patriotic songs for Brazil, and I was not familiar with them. Although the order of the songs was very different, and I think it may have been based on the 1948 hymnal and not the 1985 English one where songs on the same topic are grouped together.

One possibility I am suggesting would be this: with the internationalization of the Church, just having patriotic songs for the US seems inappropriate. They would either have to include national anthems for all English-speaking countries that have Church members, or to exclude the national anthem / patriotic category altogether. What do you think?

Ray said...

On today's CDOL there was a report of one branch discontinued in Brazil and an increase of one ward and one branch in the US. GA had a new branch and NC a new ward; both are in the NA Southeast Church Area.

James Anderson said...

I have heard from some at CHQ regarding the hymnbook, we will not likely see a new one, many hymns are not available in more than a few languages yet. Only one hymn is in 85 languages, and the typical emerging area has about 45 hymns, mostly very well0known ones here, in any language. About 20-30 have a hymnbook that has just over 50 percent of what we have plus a few from the local area and even a few that were discarded when the English book was first printed.

The handbooks have been revised regularly, changes made in 2015 and 2017 already exist in the online version, that is the fastest way they make changes to that and since many have a smartphone or tablet, Gospel Library has Handbook 2 and we can all see them when they are published. They are still making the changes due to the Confernce announcements, so those will be a few weeks in coming. But a printed version will likely be forthcoming because of those and a document on abuse that came one week before Conference, which outlined some other things, that is on mormonnewsroom.org

Bunko said...

Here's what I would like to see happen:

Stateside missionary numbers are significantly reduced to where there is no more than 1 companionship per stake. This would help enable missionaries to ONLY teach referrals and do no inefficient finding whatsoever. Ward and stake missionaries would have to step up their game to compensate, but missionaries would be significantly more effective and productive. Convert baptisms in the US would probably drop overall but convert baptisms per companionship in the US would significantly increase.

All of those extra missionaries would be sent to areas of great need, with the highest growth and retention rates in the world. Namely, Africa.

What might happen to our convert baptisms if this were to happen? I'd love to see some numbers crunched. I would see this freeing up ~20,000 missionaries to be sent to areas where they'd be a lot more effective. I would think it would help us get hundreds of thousands more baptisms per year. But visa limitations may hinder that effort.

Thoughts? Is this too pie in the sky and simplistic?

twinnumerouno said...

The only two foreign-language versions of the hymnal with which I am familiar, Spanish and French, both appear to be based on the 1985 English hymnal. The hymns appear to be largely in the same order as in English, though both exclude a large number of hymns and add in a few that are traditional to that language/country. The one I remember best is the Christmas carol, Noel Nouvelet, in the French hymnal.

Cory Ward said...

There is seven, maybe eight hymns in the Spanish hymnbook, not in the English. Most are sang often. One is has been sung at General Conference and also in the Funeral of President Monson: "If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not." My mission president told us "Oíd el toque del clarín" was too associated with the Civil War to be in the English Hymnbook. Spanish speaking members could appreciate some additions, especially "If you could hie to Kolob," as it has many unofficial translations.

I personally believe the mission organizations and policies need revamped. Preach My Gospel needs a revision to better reflect its original purpose. What we've learned about Home Teaching is that it is natural human nature that our actions reflect what is being reported. The Key indicators that missionary companionship report have a great tendency to do the same. The Key indicators in Preach My Gospel are outdated and some can be interpreted differently depending on circumstances and leaders. I think they need to strike a balance between indicating results and efforts. Little results can make companionships and leaders think poorly on their efforts. Although other Chapters of Preach My Gospel teach against this fallacy, these principles are not yet fully applied in all situations and in all missions. My mission first expanded the key indicators, then cut them to only to the ones that area and church headquarters collected. However, I think it changed little because they still relied heavily on the agency of an investigator, namely church assistance, baptismal dates, and baptism.

Although church and mission have emphasized the requirements in D&C 20:37, in my experience the many still only seek the minimum requirements of the Baptismal interview and whatever arbitrary church assistance number that the mission president and/or area president sets. In my experience this number can be more of a suggestion that is not at all enforced. While there are certainly plenty of good missionaries that do well preparing investigators, there are many others who "Do their home teaching on the 30th of the month." Meaning, the vast majority of baptisms are preformed on the 5th and 6th week of the transfer. Nearly every Bishop that I spoke to on my mission had this general distrust of missionaries from past experience. One thing that could help at this is promote allowing investigators to choose their own baptismal date, without pressure for anyone else, rather than as a commitment that is sprung on to them the first lesson. Also the teaching record could be reviewed by the interviewer and ward leaders. I know there exists a difference in the keys that a mission and a ward hold and exercise, but as we've recently seen, these responsibilities can be "significantly restructured."

The law of the Harvest book on Cumorah.com is a great resource and has some ideas worth debating:

MainTour said...

Your list misses the major church letter of March 26th announcing change in Bishop's Interviews. (That was big news in the media.) At the same time there was a change in General Handbook #1 to clarify Bishop's interviews.

Hymns: The older portuguese hymnbook was similar to the US with a few exceptions. I really marveled how it had "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" which they sang in church frequently.

David S. said...

Just as a historical tidbit, women used to be able to serve as what we now call assistant ward clerks: "He [the ward clerk] should hold the priesthood and be exemplary. Where circumstances may require, he may be assisted by a woman." (1928 Church handbook)

John Pack Lambert said...

David S, on my mission I knew a woman whose husband had ran off with the woman who served as assistant ward clerk. Incidents likd this may in part be why such a position is no longer filled by women.

On the other hand the physical facilities reps and the Presiding Bishops office with fulltime employees now do many things ward clerks used to do.

Nothing I read indicates the areas are merged. Joint area presidencies is not the same as joint areas. Some other positions may still be seperated by area, such as family history advisor etc.

The new First Presidency directives on interviews and abuse seem to have been neglected. I am not sure how much that was changes and how much it was reiterarions.

John Pack Lambert said...

I can see go reason to re move patriotic songs, although the current hymnal does also have God Save the Queen, so not all patriotic songs are US based.

Some also want to remove The Battle Hymn of the Republic but I think that is workable still.

On the other hand "Our Mountain Home So Dear" is a direct offense to us Michiganders and makes us feel we live in a Utah expatriate Church. "The Winter Day descending to a close" is worse.

The best indicarion I have seen is that the Church is not currently seeking a new hymnbook. Even the 1985 one was not as international as had been sought in the 1970s.

I think we are unlikely to see a new hymnbook before 2020 at the absolute earliest.

James Anderson said...

There are, although not a new hymnbook, developments in Church music that for most members simply go unnoticed because most are never in a music calling where they have to look up music to use.

But there is a massive treasure trove of music posted on lds.org, over 700 pieces, with as many as 40 more added every year. Sheet music, and about 40 recordings, that can be downloaded and the music is cleared for use in sacrament and other meetings as choir and other special numbers

Look for the images of piano keys and the first five are sheet music, the sixth one is texts only. There are other groupings shown of the same material.


There is an annual submission, and it is rolling and this year's deadline has passed, it is March 31 of every year, those chosen are announced in late June or early July, and show up a few months later on the same page.

A contemporary youth category was added this year and so was a foreign language categoy. Until the late 90s, the winners were announced in the Ensign.

John Pack Lambert said...

Missionary structyre is more coherent now than it was when I was a missionary in 2000-2002 with the ward mission leader called by the bishop not the stake president.

The number of times that local brethren are called to be mission president seems to be on the rise. The new president of the Netherlands mission is called from within that mission for example.

brycen said...

They have the melody for "God Save the Queen" but actually use the words "My Country Tis of Thee".

I rather enjoy the Utah-centric songs in the hymnal. Besides the two you mentioned there is also "For the Strength of the Hills" and I think there is another one in the men's choir section. I just think back in the history and imagine when the Church was just in Utah, in terms of where people gathered. I especially enjoy "The Wintry Day". But that's just me, I did have ancestors living in Utah at the times those were written. I can see why that would bother some people, though.

2020 is not that far away.

Anyway, I enjoyed seeing the list of possible announcements.

James said...

Regarding what I said above about the US areas not being combined or consolidated, the links below shows the official articles published on the Church News website and on the news section for LDS.org.



It is interesting to me that, of those six area presidencies for the ten North American Areas, 3 of the newly-called presidents are those men that supervised those exact same areas while they served in the Presidency of the Seventy,

On another note, I wanted to mention that I was surprised to learn during General Conference that Elder Uceda was one of the three men who will be released from the Presidency of the Seventy as of August 1. He will have only been in the Presidency for a year at the time of his release, which is unusual. That said, it is awesome to see that he has been assigned as the new president of the Central America Area, which, if memory serves, is an area in which he has had extensive experience.

I could say more in terms of additional reactions to what Matt said in his post, but for the moment, I will forbear. Thanks.

twinnumerouno said...

"My Country 'Tis of Thee" is number 339, "God Save the King" is no. 341 (both with the same melody). The latter was obviously put in for members not in the U.S., I don't know if they would have expected that to cover all of the British Commonwealth but I'm guessing many of those countries are not as close to the UK as they used to be. I wonder if there were any other inserts besides "O Canada" for that purpose.

The men's choir hymn is #337, O Home Beloved. And I would add another to the list, #34, O Ye Mountains High.

Personally, these songs don't bother me as I see them as a reflection on Church history, as brycen has said, and also on the sacrifices made by missionaries when they leave their homes to preach the gospel. My understanding is that that is the story behind "The Wintry Day." I also like the fact that it was written by a future apostle (as was O Ye Mountains High).

That said, I'm not sure I would have used those songs when I lived in Maine and New York. I wonder how much they're used even in the mountain West. I think For the Strength of the Hills is somewhat well-known.

I also note that a couple of the frequently-used songs in the Men's section make references to gathering people to Zion and are at least implying their leaving their homes to go to Utah. (I guess many people interpret that spiritually instead of literally now.) I believe there used to be a lot more songs like this but as the hymnbook has had various revisions they were left out.

It also occurs to me that Hymn #30, Come, Come Ye Saints, makes clear reference to "the place, which God for us prepared, far away, in the west." It is a briefer reference than most of the others and also has a definite spiritual component, perhaps that makes it more generally applicable.

In my current calling as ward organist (for the last 15 months) I have been trying to incorporate some of the hymns that are lesser known especially when the lyrics seem to be a close match to the topic for the meeting. For example, we have had 3 different sacrament meetings on temples- I believe a couple of the hymns I selected were not known by very many. (There are actually very few hymns about temples and at least 3-4 of them seem to be unknown to many.)

I also had a goal to use all of the sacrament hymns, and finally achieved it this past Sunday.

I am sure there are hymns I will never choose (though I will try to use them all in prelude/postlude music, except for maybe some of the men's/women's songs in the back), and I try not to have more than 1 or 2 unfamiliar ones at a time.

David Todd said...

None of my family have ever lived in Utah, aside from brief times at BYU but The Wintry Day Descending to its Close is by far my favorite song in the hymn book.

Matt said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone - I updated the post to include these points.

John Pack Lambert said...

Unless you live in a flat place like Michigan and have a ward plagued with Utah expats who never tire of whining about a lack of mountains, you probably do not understand why I despise "Our Mountain Home So Dear". "For the Strength Of the Hills" has origins in Italy and does not invoke the mountains in the same way.

My ancestors were the ones who built the Church through their sweat and work outside the center places, so I have strong feelings about some of this.

We need to include hymns that will better speak to the thousands of English speaking Mormons in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

John Pack Lambert said...

Since the 3 Utah areas for example had one general authority presiding over them before, they will exist as much after the changes in August as they did before those changes.

In fact the only direct changes from what will hapoen in August is that the number of general authorities assigned to area presidencies in the US goes from 7 to 18. However some general authorities had previouly been assigned as assistants for specific areas in the US so the change is really not even clearly that much.

I have to admit I still think they should have the area presidents in the US reside in their areas instead of having them all operate out of Salt Lake City.

ScottS said...

A change I have wanted to see for many years is for the Proclamation on the Family added to the scriptures as D&C 139 and the Living Christ as Official Declaration 3.

David Todd said...

John, I lived in Michigan and never met anyone with an issue with any of those hymns. I have grown to love them by studying the history of the pioneers who wrote the songs and how important the land of refuge in Utah was for the saints.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to admit I also think hymns should have a clear message of Christian devotion. For this reason I see no reason to have "They the Builders of a Nation" in the hymnbook. It has no mention of God at all.

I am also one of those people tired of the flawed dicotomizing of the mission field and not mission field. With 3 missions based in just Salt Lake City and 8 in Utah, not counting SLC's 2 non-regular missions, one would think the thought of this dicotomy is over.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to admit that my favorite part of general conference was when President Nelson pointed out the last four speakers had been natives of North America, Central America, South America and Europe. I wish the conducting interjections were included in the Ensign.

General Conference has not always only consisted of general authorities and general officers speaking. In the 1930s they had all mission presidents in the US speak at general conference. In 1971 James O. Mason, who would not be a general authority until 1994, spoke. At the time he was the director of Health for the church, both over the hospitals the Church ran, and more to the point of his actual talk he was announcing the health missionary initiative.

brycen said...

Devin G Durrant, now in the Sunday School Presidency, spoke in General Conference in April 1984, and BYU football coach Lavell Edwards in October of that year (the same 2 conferences in which Elders Russell M Nelson and Dallin H Oaks gave their first conference talks as apostles). Peter Vidmar, an LDS athlete in the 1984 Olympics, spoke in conference in April 1985. For some reason I was thinking there were multiple athletes speaking in the conference, but I found only one.

It also used to be the case, in the early 1970s that every single General Authority spoke in each General Conference (except for a few who were too ill). The conference lasted longer than 2 days back then. It's quite interesting to go back to the older conferences, which the church has posted back to 1971.

brycen said...

I also don't know when it was, but I recall a man from the Boy Scouts of America coming to conference to present an award to Thomas S Monson. I don't know if it would show up as a speaker for the church's conference archives.

Ray said...


Nice to know that as ward organist you have the authority to select hymns for the congregation to sing. As my ward organist for many years I have not had that privilege.

The ward music director always makes those selections, but on rare occasions I am able to make suggestions. There are literally dozens of marvelous hymns that I grew up singing that are rarely, if ever, sung in my ward (although I play them as prelude and postlude).

Ray said...


Nice to know that as ward organist you have the authority to select hymns for the congregation to sing. As my ward organist for many years I have not had that privilege.

The ward music director always makes those selections, but on rare occasions I am able to make suggestions. There are literally dozens of marvelous hymns that I grew up singing that are rarely, if ever, sung in my ward (although I play them as prelude and postlude).

John Pack Lambert said...

I was once ward chorister in a ward where our bishop explicitly told us to only choose well known songs.

On the other end I had a bishop who asked the ward chorister to always sing all verses in hymns. I generally dont mind this but there is one sacrament hymn that the last two verses are meant for a baptismal service so I always shut my hymnal and do not sing along for the last two verses.

Back in 2004 President Nelson did a 5 nation tour through Africa during which he dedicated Ethiopia for the preaching of the gospel.

During that tour he was one of 5 general authorities to speak at the Accra Ghana Christiansborg Stake conference. At the meeting h e mentioned having attended the adjacent temple the day before and that all the temple workers he interacted with there were Ghanaians.

The point I was actually thinking of was that at that stake conference the closing hymn sung was one with at least words by President Nelson.

I am not sure if that is the same hymn that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang after President Nelson's talk in general conference in 2001 or so.

There clearly are reasons to revise the hymnbook. On the other hand it is in many ways an under utilized resource at present.

twinnumerouno said...

Yes, it has been nice to have that much freedom in selecting hymns. I don't remember what I said to the bishop when I was called but I think he understood that there are some hymns I have a hard time playing. (As for the "less familiar" hymns, I try to have no more than one or two of those per meeting and so far no one has complained, at least not to me!)

On two occasions since I was called as organist, my ward has had a "musical" sacrament meeting with no assigned speakers, anyone who wanted to could come to the pulpit and say what they liked about a particular hymn, and then we sang it. The first time, the bishop had made prior arrangements with a former organist to be ready to play the ones I couldn't. I think she ended up playing half of the hymns selected, although I could have done at least two of those.

The second time we didn't have any prior arrangement; I was just hoping no one would select one I couldn't play, and got lucky.

twinnumerouno said...

John, I was curious about your reference to Pres. Nelson's writing a hymn, so I did a search and found it at the end of his talk in April 2003. He wrote new words for an existing hymn, which the footnotes show as #337, O Home Beloved, and gave it the title "Our Prayer to Thee." The talk gives the lyrics he wrote but does not have a footnote to the actual music. However, I was able to pull it up by going to the table of contents for the May 2003 Ensign. I think I am going to print it so I can learn to play it.

Ben Hunt said...

Another possible future change:

-The Liahona and the Ensign combined into one magazine.