2013 was a remarkable year of growth for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from the expansion of the missionary program to the membership milestone of 15 million Latter-day Saints worldwide. Milestones were celebrated from the 50th year of service for President Thomas S. Monson as an apostle to the anniversaries of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, Deseret Industries and the Scouting program. The Church provided relief and humanitarian efforts in many parts of the world, and among them were the Philippines, Haiti and Oklahoma. Strides were made in the past year in the expansion of printed and online Church publications.
Thousands More Latter-day Saints Enter Missionary Service
The announcement by Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the October 2012 general conference forever impacted missionary work worldwide.
Since the historic news lowering the age for full-time missionary service, the number of young men and women now sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as full-time missionaries has steadily risen from 58,500 in October 2012 to more than 82,000 near the end of the year.
To accommodate more missionaries, Church leaders have had to increase capacity of the missionary training centers (MTCs) and adjust schedules, add new missions and improve the process of receiving and sending out missionaries. One of the major changes was remodeling a private Church school in Mexico City following an early June graduation and converting it to the Mexico City MTC by the end of the month. On the 26th of June, the MTC opened, ready to handle as many as 1,000 missionaries.
Philippine’s Typhoon Haiyan
The Church was very active in helping to provide relief to survivors from Typhoon Haiyan in November. More than 10,000 Filipinos found refuge with 4,000 of their Mormon neighbors in 200 Latter-day Saint chapels. Church humanitarian services were used to purchase immediate supplies such as water, hygiene kits and many other items.
Seven of the 11 Philippine-area missions were affected by the storm, and all missionaries were reported safe and have been transferred to the other Philippine missions.
Church Membership Grows Beyond 15 Million
Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now exceeds 15 million people, said Church President Thomas S. Monson at the opening session of the October 2013 general conference.
“The Church continues to grow steadily and to change the lives of more and more people every year,” President Monson said. “It is spreading across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth.”
President Monson’s 50 Years of Church Service as an Apostle
The calling came on 4 October 1963. A 36-year-old Thomas S. Monson was sustained as the youngest man in 53 years to serve as a Church apostle. President Monson is the first general authority since Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) to serve for 50 years.
President Monson served first as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then as a counselor to three Church presidents and, for the last five years, as the 16th president.
Sister Frances J. Monson Passes Away
Frances J. Monson, wife of President Thomas S. Monson, who had been hospitalized for several weeks, passed away on 17 May 2013.
Sister Monson, recognized by her husband and family as an anchor of love, compassion and service, lived a Christ-centered life in word and deed. She will be remembered for a lifetime of quiet, unflagging support of her husband in his Church assignments.
New Chinese Website
A new website, mormonsandchina.org, provides information to Chinese citizens who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living or studying in other countries and have now returned to their homeland. The website addresses questions about Church activity and offers encouragement in support of laws in the People’s Republic of China.
Deseret Industries 75th Anniversary
Deseret Industries celebrated 75 years of operation with the opening of its newest store in Sandy, Utah, in August of 2013. Though much has changed in the thrift stores over the years, their purpose and mission have remained constant.
Following the Great Depression, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established a welfare program to help provide food and fuel to those in need. A few years later, the first Deseret Industries, an operation to provide both jobs and low-cost goods, opened in downtown Salt Lake City.
Deseret Industries currently maintains 42 thrift stores throughout the western United States.
Change in Young Women Leaders
The First Presidency announced new leaders for the Church’s Young Women General Presidency at the April annual general conference. Bonnie L. Oscarson was sustained as the Young Women general president. Her counselors are Sister Carol F. McConkie (first counselor) and Sister Neill F. Marriott (second counselor). The three women lead the program for young women ages 12 to 17. The new presidency began serving in April 2013.
New General Women’s Meeting
Women and girls over the age of eight will participate in semiannual meetings on the Saturday before the Church’s general conference. The presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary will conduct the meetings under the direction of the First Presidency.
The new semiannual meetings were announced by the First Presidency. Previously separate meetings were held for adult and teenage women.
2013 Edition of Scriptures Released
The Church published an updated edition of its English-language scriptures — the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
The 2013 version took nearly eight years to complete and includes improvements in study aids, new photos and maps, changes to chapter and section headings and many other improvements.
As part of an effort to emphasize the importance of religious freedom and the place of religion in the public square, the Church released a series of resources aimed to bolster understanding and involvement. These new resources include a unique animated video and other videos that stress the importance of preserving freedom of religion, a “Support Religious Freedom” Facebook page that provides news and information about religious freedom, and a topic page that lays out the principles of religious freedom and suggests ways to engage this issue.
An introductory video features Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who emphasizes that the “essential freedoms of conscience, embedded in religious liberty, must be diligently preserved and protected.”
A new version of FamilySearch.org, launched this year, makes family history research more interactive and conveniently collaborative, with added social media, photo and story elements that create a more personal family history experience for each user.
The site’s enhancements seek to broaden family history’s appeal to those who don’t consider themselves researchers or genealogists, especially youth who are masters of digital realms such as social media.
Church Patriarch Dies at 106
Eldred G. Smith, the Church patriarch from 1947 to 1979, died at the age of 106 on 5 April 2013. Patriarch Smith is also the great-great-grandson of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum.
President Thomas S. Monson said Patriarch Smith was a man who lived a Christ-centered life as he faithfully served as patriarch to the Church.
Joseph Smith Papers
The Joseph Smith Papers project published its first two volumes in the Documents series and the eighth and ninth books in the collection overall. The project was created to publish every document related to the founding of the Church and the historical events of that period. The first volume was released in 2008.
“This new Documents series will publish, in chronological order, all the early historical documents associated with the Restoration of the Church,” said Elder Steven E. Snow, Church historian and recorder. “Together, these texts provide unparalleled insight into the life and prophetic thought of Joseph Smith, one of the most important figures in American religious history.”
Oklahoma Tornado Cleanup Calls on Church’s Helping Hands
A devastating EF 5 tornado swept through parts of Oklahoma in May, killing 24 people and decimating the town of Moore. Mormon Helping Hands along with Church Welfare Services and missionaries worked with community leaders to help clean up through the Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
One Moore, Oklahoma, resident said she was amazed that people would have so much compassion and love for total strangers. “I look at them and I just cry. … I thank God … for sending these people to help me.” Her home was totally destroyed by the tornado.
Tree Planting in Haiti
More than 1,800 Mormon volunteers participated in Haiti’s national holiday, Agriculture Day, to plant some 25,000 trees as a part of a reforestation project. The planting, a part of the Church’s ongoing commitment to assist in rebuilding Haiti after the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, will result in a total of 400,000 trees planted by the conclusion of the project. Local Church leaders organized the project that took place in six cities and three townships across the country.
Central America Temple Dedicated
The Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple was dedicated 17 March 2013 by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. The temple marks the 141st in the Church and the sixth in Central America.
A three-week open house prior to the dedication provided an opportunity for people of all faiths to tour the temple. The night before the Sunday dedication Latter-day Saints staged a program of ancestral song and dance showing the beauty and culture of the country as well as the building of the new temple.
Provo City Center Temple on Stilts
With the implementation of an innovative engineering feat, the contractors reconstructing the Provo Utah Tabernacle elevated the entire brick structure on 40-foot steel stilts. The process allowed the contractors to excavate for the basement of the remodeled building. The tabernacle, nearly all destroyed by fire in December 2010, will be repurposed as a second temple in the city of Provo.
100 Year Church/BSA Partnership
In October the Church celebrated 100 years of Scouting in a program at the Conference Center jointly sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America.
Called “A Century of Scouting,” the event celebrated the decades-long relationship between the two organizations and included a message from Church President Thomas S. Monson.
“If there was ever a time when the principles of Scouting were vitally needed, that time is now,” said President Monson.
Midwestern Tabernacle Choir Tour
In June the Mormon Tabernacle Choir completed a ten-day, six-city tour of the upper Midwestern United States. The 600-plus members of the volunteer choir and support staff performed a broad repertoire of classical, spiritual, folk and show tunes in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
An additional mini-concert in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, honored Mormon pioneers who, in the 1840s, harvested timber in that village for construction of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple and other settlement buildings.
Education at Heart of the Polynesian Cultural Center
It began in 1963 as a field of taro roots and continues as an educational resource some 50 years later. The field was converted into the Polynesian Cultural Center on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and depicts the varied cultural traditions of the Polynesian people while providing an opportunity for students from around the world to gain an education at the adjoining campus of Brigham Young University-Hawaii.
“The whole reason for the Polynesian Cultural Center is to enable students to gain an education,” explained Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who attended the anniversary celebrations.
Bible Videos Online
Filming wrapped up 22 May 2013 on a series of 49 biblical videos produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stories from the King James Version of the New Testament have come to life, utilizing unique sets crafted to represent ancient Jerusalem but constructed near the town of Goshen in central Utah.
The filmed depictions are easily accessible online for public use, not only by Church members but also by members of other faiths. The set will be used for future productions.
Mormons at a Glance
In response to public requests, a series of introductory videos explains The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with its members, organizations and programs. The segments, from four to ten minutes, in length, serve as a resource to those who have questions about the Church and are available as downloadable files online.
“I’m a Mormon” Campaign Successful in the British Isles
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched an “I’m a Mormon” campaign in the UK and Ireland in April of this year. By June, visitors to the mormon.org.uk site increased 250 percent. There were similar increases in people requesting a copy of the Church’s Book of Mormon or expressing interest in having missionaries visit them.
Go to World Report on Mormon Newsroom to see other stories about the Church.