As the clouds of war lifted in 1945, Church leaders and members, unfettered by restrictions and precautions, immediately began to reintensify the work of the kingdom.
In September 1945, the Salt Lake Tabernacle was opened to the general public for the first time since March 1942. (Deseret News 1995-96 Church Almanac, p. 382.)A major event in the Tabernacle was a religious mass service of thanksgiving for peace on Sept. 4, which involved all churches of Salt Lake City. The service drew more than 6,000 people and was broadcast by radio.
Representing the Church, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the service. Also speaking were Utah Gov. Herbert B. Maw and leaders of several religious denominations.
In a spirit of mercy and reconciliation, President Clark spoke of the peoples whose national governments had been defeated in battle and whose fate was in the hands of the victorious allies:
"We are to assume, for better or worse, the responsibility for the economic, cultural, intellectual and spiritual welfare of a hundred-odd millions of people, whose very existence indeed lies in our hands. Behind each of these peoples lies ages of traditions and conventions that are part of themselves. Some people seem to contemplate that we shall coerce the minds and spirits of these peoples. But God Himself does not do that. We must come to them with the law of brotherhood of men, and with mercy, justice, and the love of peace. For peace will not come to the earth while a hundred-odd millions of people seethe with hate and vengeance in their hearts. They must be led, not driven, to peace."
With the Tabernacle opened, the way was paved for the first general, unrestricted conference of the Church in the Tabernacle in four years. The conference convened from Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5-7. During the war, in-person attendance at conference had been limited to general, stake and ward priesthood leaders, although sessions were broadcast over radio.
This, the 116th Semi-annual conference, was memorable for another reason. It was the first conference at which President George Albert Smith presided. He had been set apart to his calling May 21, one week following the death of President Heber J. Grant. At a solemn assembly in the Tabernacle, President Smith, his counselors and other General Authorities were sustained by the membership of the Church.
Two weeks previously, the Idaho Falls Temple, the eighth current temple in the Church, was dedicated during three services Sept. 23-25. President Smith officiated at the dedication, assisted by his counselors, Presidents Clark and David O. McKay. Such an event likely would not have been possible during the war years, with restrictions on large gatherings.
In addition to general conference, general auxiliary conferences for the Relief Society, Sunday School, Primary and Mutual Improvement Associations were also resumed, having been discontinued during the war years.
A limitation on automotive travel, in effect since Jan. 17, 1942, was lifted by the First Presidency in a July 16, 1945, letter. Monthly meetings, institutes and conventions of Church auxiliary organizations had been discontinued because of the travel restrictions. Later, the U.S. government itself had placed a limitation on assemblies throughout the entire country.
"We commend the local officers and teachers upon their willingness, ability and increased effort to guide and instruct the members of their respective organizations during this critical war-time period," the First Presidency wrote. "It is gratifying, indeed, to note how efficiently the quorums and auxiliary organizations have functioned notwithstanding the limitations and difficulties under which they have had to labor."
Easing of gasoline rationing prompted Church leaders to "authorize the holding of monthly priesthood leadership meetings, . . . monthly priesthood meetings, auxiliary regional meetings and monthly union meetings where any such meetings may be held without violating the restrictions regarding the use of gasoline and rubber," the letter said.
The First Presidency noted in the letter that visits of stake board members to wards had produced "even better results than having local officers and teachers travel to a central place for a monthly union meeting." That realization might have encouraged, in subsequent years, a greater inclination toward visits by stake auxiliary leaders to wards, a practice that became more common than stake auxiliary meetings.
Close personal contact by leaders with the youth of the Church was enjoined in the First Presidency letter in light of the easing of restrictions.
The necessity of involving returning servicemen in Church activity and social functions of priesthood quorums was a concern as reflected in a Church News article of the period.
At the general conference Elder S. Dilworth Young of the First Council of the Seventy encouraged young returning servicemen to prepare themselves to serve missions for the Church. So did Elder Stephen L Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve, who remarked: "Here, then, in the respite from the ravages of war, is a new day for the proclamation of the word of God. New and more extended opportunities are forthcoming. New methods of transportation and communication are available, and I cannot but think that hundreds and thousands of our gallant boys who have contributed so much to the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world will find a kindlier reception than our missionaries have ever heretofore enjoyed."