SALT LAKE CITY – As Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Russell M. Nelson gears up for the Church’s April semi-annual conference, many have wondered what other changes Nelson and the leaders of the church may implement.
Rumors are running rampant about plans and have included everything from the church providing for a “Floating Temple” to young women passing the Sacrament to allowing members to drink coffee and tea.
Change has become routine since President Nelson was called to be the Prophet in 2017. Some might say that’s the understatement of the year and possibly the entire 21st century.
In his two years since being called to serve as the Church Prophet, President Nelson has played a role in the shortened Sunday Church worship services from three to two hours. The hope was that members would instead use that extra hour with their families studying the new “Come Follow Me” curriculum.
“The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. This means allowing Christ to change our hearts, our views, our actions and our very natures,” said the Church in a news release regarding the “Come Follow Me” program.
Nelson also announced that seminary students would also follow that program while studying the various standard works during their four years of seminary.
Another change during President Nelson’s time as president of the church included allowing missionaries to contact their families once a week via phone, Skype or whatever method of communication is available. Such proved a stunning change as traditionally, the church only allowed missionaries to call their families on Christmas and Mother’s Day.
“Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” said the First Presidency in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
President Nelson and church leaders have also been instrumental in transforming the traditional “Home Teaching” and “Visiting Teaching” callings to “Ministering,” changed how priesthood quorums are formed by having the High Priests and Elders meeting together, and placing a re-emphasis on the name of the Church as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Nelson asked all media to reframe from using the decade’s old reference of “Mormon Church” stating that it’s not the ancient “Book of Mormon” Prophet Mormon’s Church, but is instead Jesus Christ’s Church.
The most recent change occurred on Thursday where the Church will allow the children of LGBTQ children to be blessed as infants and to later be baptized as eight year olds thus allowing for opportunities for full service and activity in the Church.
Among the greater changes include updates to the Church’s Temple ceremony. The Church has declined to say what those changes are saying that such are sacred and not discussed outside the temple.
Nelson has also announced the building of more temples.
“In the five years preceding his sustaining as church president, the church announced 12 new temples. Last October, he announced 12 in a single day. That list included a first temple in Cambodia, six months after he announced the first temples for Russia and India,” reported the Deseret News.
Despite being 94-years-old, Nelson has traveled extensively since being called in 2018. The Church Newsroom cites Nelson traveling 55,000 air miles to five continents. He recently returned from the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple.
“He spoke to enormous crowds in an American professional football stadium, a professional baseball stadium, an NBA stadium and at other arenas and convention centers and meetinghouses in 16 countries,” stated the Deseret News.
With only two days until the semi-annual conference starts, the Deseret News reports that Church members are anxious to see what the church plans to change or modify this conference.
“As (Nelson) and church members prepare for the first general conference of the second year of his prophetic role as church president, some may be trying to catch their breath,” wrote the newspaper.
Once again that would be the understatement of the entire 21st century.
Nelson has repeatedly promised that members may expect more changes in the Church. In the Church News published on March 29, it even asked, “What’s changing next?”
Citing a “whirlwind year of changes,” the Church News quoted President Nelson while he attended the Rome Italy Temple dedication ceremony.
“This is a hinge point in the history of the Church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace. … The Church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now,” he said.
Just what does President Nelson mean by “unprecedented” and “unparalleled?”
“It’s individuals over institution. When you think of it that way, the responsibility is clear. Our future, as disciples of Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled. This is a hinge point in history when, as individuals, we need to build up the Savior’s Church for what’s ahead — when He returns again,” the Church News said.
President Nelson has repeatedly mentioned the ongoing revelation he receives. The Church News noted Nelson’s first General Conference talk after being called to serve as prophet.
“Only three months into his calling, he talked about how the Spirit had repeatedly impressed upon him ‘How willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.’ Not just to him, God’s prophet, but to each of us as God’s children,” it said. “President Nelson called receiving revelation a privilege and one of God’s greatest gifts to His children.
The Church News stated that Jesus was all about changing people’s thoughts and attitudes.
“He was changing culture. Many people didn’t like it. His gospel brought hope. But it also brought disruption. He offered a new vision. But for those strict to observe what they already knew and had received from God, Jesus’ vision was one they just could not see,” it said.
The Church News reported President Nelson saying the promised changes would be exciting. Just what will be those changes?
While Church members have been guessing, the rumor mill has been in overdrive over some of what may be happening. Prior to the October 2018 conference, a rumor floated around that church leaders planned to shorten church services by one hour. Such proved correct.
A list of rumors gathered by Jana Riess of the Religion News Service was published, appropriately, on April 1, in the Salt Lake Tribune recently.
“The point is that I’ve been 100 percent wrong before, so you should take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt,” she said.
One of the rumors Reiss noted was that Nelson will lift the ban on drinking coffee and tea. In the Church’s Word of Wisdom, it requires church members to abstain from addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea and other harmful drugs.
“I think this rumor is, at best, wishful thinking on the part of people who would like to gulp down a guilt-free Frappuccino,” Riess said.
The webpage thisweekinmormons.com noted on Tuesday that Nelson’s announcements have become the norm for Church members.
Thisweekinmormons also noted that there might be changes to the Word of Wisdom. Such may be a result of coffee beans being the only nourishments that church members in developing countries receive.
“Compliance with the Word of Wisdom will no longer be part of the temple recommend questions,” it suggested.
Another rumor thisweekinmormons addresses are that men’s missions will be shortened to 18 months or that women’s missions will be lengthened to 24 months – the same amount of time elders currently serve.
The webpage also speculated that the Church would end the time required between a civil marriage and a temple sealing in all countries. The United States is one of a handful of countries that allows couples to be married both civilly and religiously in the temple. It also suggested that President Nelson would announce the building of 500 temples to be built within the next five years.
Thisweekinmormons included a rumor allowing for baptisms for the dead in meetinghouses that have a baptismal font. The webpage noted that baptisms for the dead were routinely held outside of the temple during the church’s beginnings, but such was a result of no access to temples at the time. The webpage stated that with the change in allowing for younger church members to do baptisms, that doing so inside churches might be possible.
The webpage noted that churches often don’t provide the same spiritual experience as do temples.
“Our meetinghouses, as wonderful as they are, do not have the same sacred air and attention to detail as a temple,” the webpage noted.
Thisweekinmormons also speculated that the Church would only require members to wear their temple garments while in the Temple. The webpage didn’t put much stock in that rumor, as “the point of the garment is to have a reminder of temple covenants with us when we are away from the temple.”
Other rumors included limiting those who would speak during the Church’s monthly Fast and Testimony meeting. It would be up to ward bishops to decide who spoke – in other words, possibly allowing for more than the normal amount of speakers during Sacrament meeting to give prepared talks. No more winging it on Fast and Testimony Sunday apparently, as the rumor implies.
The webpage was also suggested that more responsibility would be given to the Elders Quorum and the Relief Society organizations to give the bishop more time to focus on the ward’s youth.
“Were the Sunday school president to be placed under the charge of counselors in Relief Society and Elders Quorum, it would leave the presidents of those two organizations, plus Primary and youth leaders as the reps in ward council outside of the bishopric. It makes more sense as you think about it,” said thisweekinmormons.
The webpage said that such might instead happen on the ward level via a letter from the First Presidency instead of during General Conference.
Thisweekinmormoms.com also suggested that stake high councils would be made up equally of both men and women.
“While we know that women serve in callings under the direction of the priesthood and with priesthood power, we also know that because of the April 2018 shift, the stake high priests quorum is now an irregular body comprising the stake presidency, the high council, and bishoprics, if that,” it said.
The webpage reports another rumor that would allow girls to pass the sacrament along with their male counterparts.
Other speculation suggests allowing women – possibly the bishop’s wife – to participate in worthiness interviews. Another rumor says that women will participate in and possibly give blessings and women may also fill callings currently held by men. It was also suggested that Nelson might give more information on Heavenly Mother. The Church for unspecified reasons has ever given very little information about her.
There has also been a rumor about a “Temple Boat “that would provide temple services to those living in outlying islands far from a traditional temple.
There may also be changes to the Office of Patriarch and that a new Church Handbook may be released.
As mentioned, it’s anyone’s guess what changes Nelson will make this weekend. Conference may be followed on television as well as on the Internet. For more information on the upcoming conference, visit mormonnewsroom.com.