2018 The Year that Was

It’s that time of year when everyone does their year in review columns. He’s mine with a more Church focus. I don’t claim this is comprehensive but it’s the major stories I saw over the last year.

The year started with a new prophet (the 17th) and press conferences. A small pseudo-scandal was the release of Elder Uchtdorf from the First Presidency. Some, looking back to the 60’s, saw this as a slight of a very popular Apostle. More likely Pres. Nelson given his age wanted consistency in the First Presidency and brought his expected successor, Dalin H. Oaks, in as counselor. Elder Eyring was maintained.

Unlike basically any other new First Presidency though, Pres. Nelson quickly made major changes in church structure and organization. The last year saw age changes for young women and the Aaronic Priesthood, the merging of High Priest and Elders into one group, the replacement of Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching, the reduction of Church to two hours, a whole new teaching program, a new hymnal announced, alternating Women’s and Priesthood sessions at conference, a strong emphasis on using the full name of the Church, pants for sister missionaries and statements suggesting all this was just the beginning. I think expectations are high that this is just setting things up for the real big changes. April may prove to be quite interesting. Next year we’re expecting the replacement for Scouts and there are strong rumors of major changes to the temple. I’d argued that we’ve not really seen anything like this since at least the days of Heber J. Grant. The only change that comes close in my lifetime was Pres. Kimball’s revelation on blacks and the priesthood. But that came well into his Presidency.

Adding fuel to all the expectations was Sis. Nelson saying, “he’s free to follow through with things he’s been concerned about but could never do. Now that he’s president of [the Church], he can do those things.”

While not akin to the so-called September Six of 1993, there were many prominent church courts. Gina Colvin, a prominent figure in Mormon Studies who has been a constant critic of many aspects of the church faced a court but wasn’t excommunicated. (She attends a non-Mormon church) Sam Young of Texas was excommunicated presumably for his PR war trying to end bishop interviews of the young. Including a hunger strike. (The Church, possibly due to public concern, now allows a second person into such interviews) Podcaster Bill Reel was also excommunicated after his podcast pretty well had turned into criticizing the Church regularly.

Nationally in politics members made news with Mitt Romney becoming the new junior Senator from Utah. Given his prominence nationally and as a former Presidential candidate he’s expected to play a much larger role in the Senate. Some expect him to be a potential foil for Donald Trump in the expected hearings in Congress on Trump as well as once news of the Mueller probe results are released. While no longer Mormon, Kirsten Sinema replaced Jeff Flake as Senator from Arizona. Sinema is a BYU graduate but left the Church shortly after graduating at 18.

The other big news in politics was Rob Porter a staffer for Donald Trump and previously for Orin Hatch, had physically and emotionally abused both of his ex wives. It appeared that in at least one case the Bishop may have put Porter’s career above supporting the abused women. This led to discussions of improving Bishop training and paying attention to reports women give of abuse.

Saints, the new history book by the Church targeting regular members was released in September. It received great praise for breezy prose and injecting more focus on women in the church into the history. Some criticized some controversies such as polyandry or Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage not getting enough coverage. However overall it received glowing reviews. It was a new era for authorized Church history. This first volume just covered the era of Joseph Smith. Forthcoming volume will cover the rest of the 19th and 20th century.

In other history news the Church published the long anticipated book on the Book of Abraham and papyri materials. By making the materials widely available that scholars could only dream of in the 90’s, I suspect we’ll see a resurgence of work on the Book of Abraham.

Other history news was a study from BYU showing that Joseph Smith made use of Clarke’s Bible Commentary for portions of the JST work. This was exciting work that helps illuminate how Joseph saw the revision of the Bible as well as understanding his methodology.

Comedian David Cross raised hackles when he made a tweet for his University of Utah show wearing garments.

Missionary numbers continued to drop as changes to mission programs proceeded including ease of getting into non-proselytizing missions. According to the Deseret News the Church had out 63,597 missionaries in 407 missions. The pre-surge (2012) numbers were 58,?990. There were also stories we discussed here of as many as ? of all missionaries coming home early – often for health (including mental health) reasons. The converts per missionary has been flat after a substantial drop during the surge. In particular the number of converts the past few years has been down substantially over pre-2014 numbers not seen since the early naughts. (See this old discussion for some of the statistics) This has led to some to question the age drop to 18 as well as various other changes in missionary work over the last 10 years.

The biggest story of the year was charges by McKenna Denson that the former MTC President, Joseph Bishop, had raped her while she was at the MTC. She went to a Fast and Testimony meeting in Bishop’s ward in California at disrupted the service taking over the microphone. Controversy erupted over the ward Bishop’s decision to put his hand on her to direct her away from the pulpit. Many thought the appropriate thing to have done was cut off the mic and close the service. Controversy continues on the story. The court decision of her lawsuit against the Church has yet to be decided.

I know I’m missing some stories. So feel free to chime in with the stories I missed.

26 comments for “2018 The Year that Was

  1. A couple minor corrections:

    – The McKenna Denson disruption was in Arizona (in my building, but not ward)
    – It was a counselor in the Stake Presidency, not the Bishop, who guided her off the podium

  2. Nigeria passes the UK and Canada in total Stakes, now the #8 country as far as Stakes go.
    Continued growth in Africa.

    Consolidation of many stakes in Mexico.


    Temple expansion seems to be speeding up again.

    Completion of Latter Day prophets manuals.

    The internet experience of hot news often differs from the lived experience of most observant members, especially outside the Western US.

  3. RL has the number of active members in the Mexico City region dropped or is this just utilizing building better as you suggested in your post? I was surprised that they combined the Quebec and Halifax missions in Eastern Canada. I’d have thought if they were going to combine missions they’d move back to the old New England mission from when I was a kid.

  4. Jim most of the rumors are big changes but no one is sure what they are. The rumors about what’s happening are streaming of the ceremony and removing more masonic elements and elements some see as sexist and having temples open on Sunday. But who knows what really will happen. There are enough rumor with people claiming to have heard things directly from GAs for there to be some fire behind the smoke. I suspect we’ll find out come April.

    Thanks RL.

  5. The instructor for priesthood meeting last Sunday asked us to name changes in church administration since Russell Nelson became president. Our list was 21 items; the 21st was ward mission leader becoming an optional calling. Going through the various changes that people remembered left me feeling that it really had been a busy year.

  6. Clark, thanks for this. On the topic of changes to the endowment ceremony, I find it interesting that President Nelson would be considering more changes to the temple ceremony. I say this based on his brief comment at the end of the last General Conference session on the ancient character of the temple rites which, to him, also serve as evidence of their authenticity. As he has seen significant change in the endowment ceremony in his lifetime, I can only wonder what he meant by that statement (and, assuming changes are coming it makes one wonder how much a ceremony can change before it ceases to be the same thing).

    I was expecting this statement to have been tackled in the Bloggernacle by now, but, at least on the blogs I read, it hasn’t been covered.

  7. Apparently the temple changes are out. They sound about as rumored and include revisions to the film. Some are saying that there’s a recorded message at the beginning to not talk about the details of the changes online. I’ve not been so I don’t know if that’s true. But I’m hearing that from various places. From what little I’ve gleaned this is more akin to the changes in the early 90’s removing some remnants of masonic stuff as well as modifying some phrasings that made women uncomfortable largely arising out of the Pauline epistles. That’s been expected for quite some time. Some were surprised that it wasn’t included in the 90’s revisions. Given there are reports of that message not to go into the details, I’ll leave things rather vague here.

    No word on the other rumor of temples opening on Sunday to make it easier to attend for those who work and have kids. (Especially for those who live a ways away from the temple) I’d expect that if that change happens that it’d happen in April.

    Edit: Here’s the Church’s statement that was just released.

    Regarding the reported introductory request, it’s possible that this is just a more explicit version of the old warning. Some had been interpreting the old warning as meaning you could talk about anything except the signs and tokens. The new warning apparently requests that no detail be discussed – which was how most of us interpreted the old warning.

  8. Prez Nelson doubling down on LGBTQ+ and PoX by implying Church actions were revelation was certainly a milestone. As was stating that minor doctrinal changes were revealed. This sort of cheapened the meaning of revelation for many.

    Even though I disagree with the application, the highlighting of service missions was an important step.

    The replacement of Prez Uchtdorf with Prez Oaks was more than a “small pseudo-scandal.” You are underestimating it’s importance. It replaced a charismatic European with a conservative Utah ideologue. Progressive members lost one of their favorites. Why didn’t they replace Prez Eyring and keep Uchtdorf? I suspect because they didn’t want too much diversity of opinion. Eyring seems to be a non-player.

  9. Why do revealed minor changes cheapen revelation? If I pray to find something and get a prompting where I should look that doesn’t seem to cheapen revelation. Rather it’s helping me learn to utilize it. Further we’re told to pray over all things. (Alma 37:37) So I don’t quite understand that critique.

    It would seem to me that major changes, precisely require more care to ensure one has correctly interpretation the revelation and received the revelation in a clearer less ambiguous fashion. That’s because the consequences of error are much higher. So expecting major revelations the first year seems quite unreasonable. (IMO)

    I’d also disagree over Uchtdorf. I think it was significant just because, as you noted, he was a favorite of progressives. I see no indication this was akin to what happened in the 60’s as claimed. Nor, honestly, that he was opposed to Elder Nelson’s policies.

  10. Clark, Some will remain quite unconvinced that the statement “Its ordinances are sacred and are not discussed outside a holy temple” constitutes a request “that no detail [of what happens in the temple] be discussed” outside the temple. I will honor your interpretation by not going into some matters here that, in some views, are not the “ordinances” referred to. It should be noted, however, that it is the very thorough silence maintained by many about some things that contributes to a rather large number of very negative first experiences in the temple. This is part of what has long been wholly inadequate temple preparation for many — for initiatories, endowment, and sealings. I wish it were not so. Of course, there may be significant variation in understanding of what constitutes a “detail” or an “ordinance.” Members certainly do talk openly outside the temple of what happens in the baptistry and have for a long time. Do you think such discussion is supposed to be one of the temple ordinances not to be discussed outside the temple?

  11. JR, that’s been the most common interpretation. Not having heard the revision yet I can’t comment on what it makes explicit. However I’m hearing from many sources that it now says we shouldn’t talk about any aspect outside of the temple. So regardless of whether my interpretation of the old introduction is correct, it sure sounds like it’s the new introduction and is quite explicit. It’s reportedly about two minutes long unlike the old one which is just a few sentences.

    There are widely available now explicit detailing of the changes. Most I won’t comment on beyond that they were places many people, especially women, had troubles with. Those were widely expected to be changed although one is more major and a bit surprising. Some that I would feel comfortable relating are that most of the live action scenes have been removed and the length has been reduced by around 20 minutes. There’s one other major change I won’t comment on, but relates to clothing. That was quite surprising.

  12. I totally get wanting to be respectful about the temple if we’ve specifically been asked not to talk about it. But as one of the women who hasn’t attended in nearly 15 years because the old ceremony always left me feeling spiritually bruised, the lack of information is frustrating. I’ve had too many bad experiences to just trust that everything hurtful is now gone. So finger’s crossed someone somewhere on the internet will open up (which someone somewhere is likely to do eventually). And even more finger’s crossed that the themes I find so horrible are all fixed/gone.

  13. After carefully considering Clark’s post and the responses, I am left wondering if an important question needs to be asked. Is President Nelson speaking for the Lord, or is he speaking of himself?

    I could even broaden this not only to President Nelson but what other Prophets have said in the past including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. There is one sure test to determine this which was a question posed by the Saviour. Jesus said, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God , or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17).

    Joseph warned us that whenever to fullness of the gospel has been dispensed from Heaven, the adversary is also actively dispensing his agenda, which is basically “believe it not”. The fullness of the gospel was taught to Adam and Eve following which they were commanded to teach it to their posterity. After doing this we are told that Satan came amongst them saying “believe it not, and they believed it not” (Moses 5:12-13). This has been the tactic Satan has used throughout recorded history, even in the days of the Saviour’s ministry we read:-

    “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back , and walked no more with him. (John 6:65-66)

    Unfortunately we see the same devilish tactic in our own dispensation. We see Satan sowing tares amongst the wheat again preaching “believe it not”.

    I believe the harvest as promised by the Saviour has began when the tares are being separated from the wheat, with the unwary being seduced into questioning the words of the living Prophets, many of them leaving the Church. President Heber C. Kimball, speaking about this matter, said this:

    “We think we are secure here in the chambers of the everlasting hills, where we can close those few doors of the canyons against mobs and persecutors, the wicked and the vile, who have always beset us with violence and robbery, but I want to say to you, my brethren, the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. [Mark well that statement!] Then, brethren, look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a test, a TEST coming, and who will be able to stand? . . .

    “Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of the work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand. Remember these sayings, for many of you will live to see them fulfilled. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself.”

    Brethren and Sisters be not deceived.

  14. Jeffrey, to clarify, are you saying President Nelson is deceiving us? If so, how and what is he saying or doing that is deceitful? Please be specific.

  15. I think his point was Nelson was speaking for the Lord but many people think he isn’t. That is they say the things they like are inspired but the things they don’t aren’t.

  16. Calling ‘revelation” on minor changes is liking crying “wolf” a few too many times. After a while it loses its impact and meaning.

    Besides, it’s difficult for me to conceptualize a God that deals in trivialities. We are here to learn from our successes and failures. And that applies to LDS leaders as well as ordinary members. If they call their eventual failures “revelation,” what does that do for their credibility.

    As the changes continue to come, leaders need to not oversell their changes.

  17. Not all revelations are equal, nor will they have an equal effect on individual behavior or the people who hear them. For example, I was quite unimpressed by the family proclamation when it first came out, since there was no doctrine in it I wasn’t already familiar with. But then a young lady I shared it with on my mission was so struck by the beauty of the words (her description) that she started coming back to church and her whole family got a spiritual boost in the process.

    Remember what comes from small and simple things.

  18. Roger, I honestly can’t fathom a God who ignores the small things. It’s just that primarily he acts by inspiring others. And others frequently don’t listen. But when they do listen, they start to develop the ability to feel and recognize the spirit which is what ultimately makes religion more than a series of ethical guidelines. To me not trying to follow the spirit in the small stuff makes me question if they could in the big stuff.

    Eric, great point.

  19. rogerdhansen. I read your comments just before leaving to travel to the Preston Temple, so this is the first opportunity to reply. I am amazed that you think that anything the Lord says is of no consequence or even trivial. Scripture teaches us that we should live by every word the proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt 4:4). Especially so when the Lord says in D&C 21:5 speaking of the Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church:- “For his word ye shall receive , as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

    And as for accusing the Prophet of “crying wolf” because he claims that the changes have come by revelation come very close to breaking the covenant we enter into to not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. Shame on you.

    Furthermore please give chapter and verse of revelation from the Lord that you class as failure. Failure only comes from those who are not prepared to live the counsel of the Lord given through His Prophet.

  20. RogerDHansen. I only read your comment just as I was leaving to travel to the Preston Temple so this is the first opportunity to respond. I am amazed that class anything the Lord says as trivial or not worthy of attention. The Lord has said that we should live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. (Matt 4:4)

    The Lord has also said speaking of His Prophet Seer and Revelator :- “For his word ye shall receive , as if from my own mouth, in all patience and Faith.” D&C 21:5

    As for accusing President Nelson of “crying wolf” by claiming that all the recent changes came by revelation from God is shameful

  21. Sorry for the repetition when I attempted to post them I was told Times and Season were unobtainable.

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