President Russell M. Nelson and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put the focus on Jesus Christ from the first talk of the day to the final address by President Nelson announcing that the year 2020 will be celebrated as a bicentennial year marking 200 years since the start of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

“In spite of everything else this conference tradition may offer us, it will mean little or nothing unless we find Jesus at the center of it all,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as Saturday’s three, two-hour sessions of the 189th Semiannual General Conference got underway.

189th Semiannual General Conference talk summaries, photo galleries

The church announced curriculum changes, children and youth program changes, organizational changes and adjustments to worthiness questions to enter any of the church’s temples.

Here are the highlights:

  • President Nelson reaffirmed last week’s announcement that women may serve as official witnesses during two of the faith’s core saving ordinances, baptisms and temple sealings. Baptized children and youth also will be able to serve as witnesses at baptisms and, with a limited-use temple recommend, to proxy baptisms in the temple.
  • Young men presidencies at the ward level will be discontinued. A bishopric is currently the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward, which is the organization for young men in the church. Bishoprics will also have closer association with the young women of the church.
  • The youth changes reiterate President Nelson’s teachings that “(the bishop’s) first and foremost responsibility is to care for the young men and young women of his ward.”
  • A new “Young Women theme” was introduced to help all young women “gain unshakable faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ,” according to Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president. It puts the focus on each individual’s relationship as a daughter of heavenly parents and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. (See accompanying story).
  • Class structure changes for young women were announced. The names of Beehive, Mia Maid and Laurel as class descriptors will be discontinued and classes will be established by age and referred to simply as young women classes. Different age groups can be combined if there are few young women as there is great flexibility for wards (congregations) to meet the needs of young women around the world.
  • No matter how young women are organized into classes, each class will have a class presidency.
  • Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies, the adult organizations of the church, will have greater responsibility for missionary work, temple and family history work and in ministering to ward members under the direction of the bishop.
  • Relief Society presidents and Elders Quorum presidents may take a greater role in counseling adult members. Young Women presidents may take a greater role in counseling young women. A bishop maintains his role as a “common judge” on ecclesiastical matters and the organization leaders work under his direction.
  • Church stakes (a stake is a group of congregations) will have Young Men presidencies. Young Men presidents will now be a part of the stake’s high council, a group of 12 advisers to the stake presidency. The Stake Sunday School president will also be a member of the high council.
  • The word “mutual” will be retired and replaced by simple references to Young Women activities, Aaronic Priesthood quorum activities, or youth activities that will be held weekly where possible.
  • The term “auxiliary” will also be retired in favor of a more generic term, organization.
  • Changes will be made by Jan 1, 2020.

Here is the new Young Women theme:

“I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name. I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.

“As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.”

New Temples announced

President Russell M. Nelson said temples will be built in the following locations:

  • Freetown, Sierra Leone
  • Orem, Utah
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Bacolod, Philippines
  • McAllen, Texas
  • Cobán, Guatemala
  • Taylorsville, Utah

Temple recommend questions

President Nelson introduced revised temple recommend questions in the Sunday afternoon session. These questions will be asked of each church member by a member of their bishopric and stake presidency:

1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?

2. Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of his role as your Savior and Redeemer?

3. Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

4. Do you sustain the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer and revelator and as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators? Do you sustain the other general authorities and local leaders of the church?

5. The Lord has said that all things are to be “done in cleanliness” before him (Doctrine and Covenants 42:41). Do you strive for moral cleanliness in your thoughts and behavior? Do you obey the law of chastity?

6. Do you follow the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?

7. Do you support or promote any teachings, practices or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

8. Do you strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church; attend your meetings; prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament; and live your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?

9. Do you strive to be honest in all that you do?

10. Are you a full-tithe payer?

11. Do you understand and obey the Word of Wisdom?

12. Do you have any financial or other obligations to a former spouse or to children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?

13. Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple, including wearing the temple garment as instructed in the endowment?

14. Are there serious sins in your life that need to be resolved with priesthood authorities as part of your repentance?

15. Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?

Preparing for general conference in April 2020

President Nelson said 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. “General conference next April will be different from any previous conference. In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.”

The year 2020 marks 200 years since Joseph Smith said he received a vision of God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, marking the onset of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.