Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are preparing for more changes as they gather in Utah for a twice-yearly conference to hear from the faith’s top leaders.
Church President Russell M. Nelson has implemented a host of changes in his first year at the helm, including the surprising repeal Thursday of policies that banned baptisms for children of gay parents and labeled people in same-sex marriages as sinners eligible for expulsion.
Nelson and other church leaders are expected to speak at the two-day conference that begins Saturday in Salt Lake City. It brings nearly 100,000 people to watch five sessions in person and millions more watch live broadcasts and livestreams.
Nelson, 94, ascended to the presidency in January 2018 after nearly three decades in a governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve that helps the president lead the faith.
He has already launched a campaign calling on people to stop using the shorthand names “Mormon” and “LDS,” severed the faith’s ties with the Boy Scouts of America after a century, revised how leaders handle closed-door interviews with young people and changed rules to allow missionaries to speak with their families more often.
Church leaders don’t always announce new initiatives or make church news at the conference, but Nelson’s busy tenure so far has members and onlookers on high alert.
Nelson has made several changes to church operations designed to improve the religious experience for an increasingly global membership that has more than half of its 16 million members outside of the U.S.
He shortened Sunday worship by one hour— two hours instead of three — and shifted the emphasis to home-based worship. The switch was a significant one for Mormons, who since 1980 had been expected to attend all three hours each Sunday to be considered active members of the faith.
He also has ordered a new hymn book, made structural changes to how local congregations function and revised a sacred temple ceremony to give women a more prominent role.