The events that shaped the decade for Latter-day Saints

Gatherings in Rome, Italy, act as bookends

Two significant international events were bookends for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the past decade.

The first took place Oct. 23, 2010, when President Thomas S. Monson turned the first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Rome Italy Temple.

“I cannot adequately convey to you the joy I feel on this historic occasion,” President Monson told a crowd of 500 people. “As I contemplate our warm welcome here in this city which is so rich in history — including the history of Christianity — my heart is filled with gratitude.”

Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed for an iconic photograph in Rome, Italy, on Monday, March 11, 2019. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Nine years later in March 2019, President Russell M. Nelson presided at the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple. The trip included a formal audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican and an unprecedented gathering of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles outside of the United States, which included a one-of-a-kind photograph of the church leaders with the Christus and statues of the first apostles as a backdrop.

Related
Pope Francis meets with President Nelson in the Vatican
President Nelson refers to apostles Peter, Paul during Rome Temple dedication

“This is a hinge point in the history of the church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace, of which this is a part,” President Nelson said on that occasion. “The church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled; we’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”

These pivotal events, along with a host of others in between, have shaped the last decade for members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

2010

  • Statistical report: The First Presidency issued the following statistical report in the Saturday afternoon session of April general conference, recorded as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Total church membership: 13.8 million

Missions: 344

Full-time missionaries: 51,736

Temples in operation: 130

  • From tabernacle to temple: On the night of Dec. 17, 2010, the Provo Tabernacle caught fire and burned, leaving the community disheartened by the loss. One year later, President Monson announced the remains of the tabernacle would be converted into the city’s second temple. The Provo City Center Temple, described as “a literal phoenix rising from the ashes while maintaining the pioneer legacy,” was dedicated on March 20, 2016, and became the church’s 150th operating temple.

2011

  • Bible videos: The church built a replica Jerusalem movie set in rural Utah County to produce a scriptural library of Bible videos for members.
  • Religious freedom: Years before he was called to serve in the First Presidency, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a speech at Chapman University School of Law titled “Preserving Religious Freedom.” Months later, Elder Quentin L. Cook, also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke on “The Restoration of Morality and Religious Freedom.” In the coming years, church leaders called for laws to protect religious freedom. In 2016, the church created a website to help members better understand principles of religious freedom.
  • Book of Mormon: In 2011, the church published its 150 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon.

2012

  • The ‘Mormon Moment’: Momentum for Latter-day Saint Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign started in 2011 and ended with a loss to President Barack Obama in 2012. Another church member, Jon Huntsman Jr., also ran for president. Their campaigns generated a great deal of media focus on the church, including its history, culture and beliefs. It was referred to as the “Mormon Moment.” Around the same time, a new Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” along with the increased involvement by Latter-day Saints in reality television and other aspects of mainstream culture, led Pew Research Center to produce a study, “Mormons in America.
Mitt Romney listens at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, during the official launch of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. | Deseret News Archives
  • ‘I’m a Mormon’ campaign: Under that national spotlight, the church launched a campaign featuring the diverse and unique lives of Latter-day Saints through television ads, billboards, and video vignettes.
  • Missionary age change: In October general conference, President Monson announced a major change to the missionary program, allowing young men to be recommended for service at age 18 and young women at 19.

2013

  • Missionary surge: In the months following the missionary age change announcement, the number of full-time missionaries rose to more than 82,000, according to Newsroom. The church created 58 new missions and transformed Benemerito de Las Americas high school in Mexico City into a new missionary training center for any full-time missionaries going to serve in Mexico or Latin America.
Sister Tania Hernandez, left, and Sister Eva Lima stand outside the entrance of the Mexico City MTC. The “B” placed prominently on the mountainside remains a nod to the campus’ rich Benemerito history. | Deseret News

2014

  • Church leaders on social media: Elder M. Russell Ballard (now acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) was the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to tweet. Other leaders soon followed.
  • Face to Face: In 2014, Latter-day Saints David Archuleta, Lindsey Stirling and the Piano Guys were among the first invited to participate in the church-sponsored Face to Face online events for youth. In the following years, church leaders hosted similar events.
David Archuleta, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, performs the 2020 youth theme song at the Face to Face for youth and children event held on Nov. 17, 2019. | Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
  • ‘Flood the earth’: Speaking to an audience at BYU Campus Education Week, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urged church members to “flood the earth” with gospel messages on social media.
  • ‘Meet the Mormons’: The church produced a new full-length film featuring the stories of six Latter-day Saints. “Meet the Mormons” received a theatrical release, and the amount of $1.8 million in net proceeds was later donated to the American Red Cross.
Director Blair Treu is interviewed with the international cast and crew members of the film “Meet the Mormons” in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. | Deseret News
  • Interfaith gathering: President Henry B. Eyring, Elder L. Tom Perry and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the church’s Presiding Bishopric participated in a three-day interfaith gathering at the Vatican.
  • Ogden Temple: President Monson rededicated the Ogden Utah Temple after extensive renovation.

2015

  • Apostle deaths: Church members were saddened by the deaths of three senior apostles in 2015. The church said farewell to Elder L. Tom Perry in May, President Boyd K. Packer in July and Elder Richard G. Scott in September.
  • Leadership changes: The three vacancies were filled by Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Dale G. Renlund, who were called as new apostles at October general conference as the 98th, 99th and 100th apostles since the quorum’s creation in 1835. Then-Elder Nelson was also set apart as the new president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, at right, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, center, and Elder Dale G. Renlund, newly called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wave to the crowd after the priesthood session of the 185th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Salt Lake City. | Tom Smart, Deseret News
  • Sabbath Day: Church leaders encouraged members to place greater emphasis on Sabbath Day worship.
  • Women join key leading councils: The church announced that the presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women and primary organizations would join main governing committees, giving women “significant, permanent, official voices in church leadership.”
  • Same-sex marriage policy: After same-sex marriages became legal in the United States, the church updated policies in its handbook of instructions for leaders regarding same-sex couples and their children. The policies were later revised in 2019, as President Nelson described the process in a BYU devotional.

2016

2017

The Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. | Jeffrey Allred, Deseret News
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and President M. Russell Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, accompany President Donald Trump on a tour of the LDS Church’s Welfare Square in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. At right are Joel Moriyama, manager of the Bishops’ Central Storehouse at Welfare Square, and Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse. | Deseret News Archives
  • President visit: Nearly a full year after the Tabernacle Choir sang “America the Beautiful” at his inauguration ceremony, President Donald Trump visited church leaders in Utah and toured Welfare Square.

2018

  • President Monson dies: President Monson, 16th president of the church, died at age 90 on Jan. 2, after 54 years of service as an apostle and more than three decades in the First Presidency.
  • New First Presidency: A short time after President Monson’s funeral, President Nelson, President Oaks and President Eyring were introduced as the new First Presidency in a live broadcast from the Salt Lake Temple, followed by a press conference. The First Presidency was sustained in a historic solemn assembly during general conference in April.
President Russell M. Nelson, the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sits with his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor, right, at a press conference in Salt Lake City Utah on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
  • Two new apostles: Elder Gerrit W. Gong, the first Asian American apostle, and Elder Ulisses Soares, the first Latin American apostle, were sustained as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 2018.
Elder Ulisses Soares and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answer questions during an interview in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 28, 2018. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News
  • Scouting: The church announced it will discontinue its 105-year partnership with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of 2019 and implement a new global program.
  • ‘Be One’ celebration: In June, the church celebrated the anniversary of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood with a special program in the Conference Center.
LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson speaks at the “Be One” event at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 1, 2018. The event celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1978 revelation ending the church’s racial restriction. | Deseret News
  • ‘Saints’: The church released the first book of a multi-volume series that gives an easy-to-read narrative of Latter-day Saint history.

2019

  • President Nelson: Since becoming the president of the church, President Nelson has visited and built bridges of friendship with many government, community and faith leaders in 32 countries and territories. In addition to meeting with Pope Francis, the 95-year-old church leader was a featured speaker at the national NAACP convention in July. He wrote an op-ed for the Arizona Republic.
  • Rome Temple: With the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve present, President Nelson dedicated the Rome Italy Temple, located in one of the most influential cities in the history of the world and in the history of Christianity, the Church News reported. While there, the church leaders stood for historic photos in front of the Christus and statues of the original apostles.
  • More changes: In 2019, the church implemented changes that enabled women to serve as witnesses for baptisms and temple sealings; a revised list of temple recommend interview questions; and a change that permits members who marry in a civil ceremony to not have to wait a year to be sealed in the temple.
  • Children and youth: Church leaders introduced many aspects of the new Children and Youth program. As part of the new home-centered, church-supported direction, the church shifted the seminary curriculum to align with the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. Ward Young Men presidencies were discontinued to allow bishops to work more directly with young men and women.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints broadcasts a live Face to Face event for children, youth, parents, and leaders on Nov. 17, 2019, from the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. | Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
  •  Missionaries: The First Presidency changed guidelines to allow full-time missionaries to call or communicate online with their families once a week, in addition to letters and emails. The church released a series of safety videos for missionaries in March, and in June, announced the first mission cost increase in 17 years.
  • First African American general authority: In April, Elder Peter M. Johnson became the first African American to be called as a general authority. In October, he spoke in general conference.
  • Invitation to pray: During a visit to Boston, President Ballard invited the audience to “join a movement” by praying for the United States, its leaders and families.
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves to attendees upon entering the stake center in Boston on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Book of Mormon videos: After years of filming, the church began releasing videos depicting scenes and teachings from the Book of Mormon to help members bring the scriptures to life.
Work on production of the Book of Mormon Videos Series continues in Provo at the LDS Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Total church membership: 16.3 million

Missions: 407

Full-time missionaries: 65,137

Temples in operation: 166

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified the date of the Rome Italy Temple groundbreaking. The correct date is Oct. 23, 2010.