The year 2023 has been eventful for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here were the ten largest stories of the year.
Changes to the Temple Endowment
In January, the Church of Jesus Christ introduced significant changes to its temple endowment ceremonies, marking a continued evolution in these sacred rituals. These modifications are part of the Church’s continuous effort to refine and enhance these sacred rituals, making them more meaningful and accessible to its members.
New Abuse Research
In June, the most extensive research to date was conducted on abuse rates within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints compared to other religious organizations. The recent Boy Scout of America abuse settlement provided a trove of data for researchers to scour. The Church of Jesus Christ had a 75% lower abuse rate than average, leading to an increase in attention to the effective solutions the Church has implemented in this area.
New Apostle Called
In December, Patrick Kearon was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second most senior leadership body in the Church of Jesus Christ. Kearon will be the second current quorum member to be born in Europe after German-born Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He will also be the only quorum member without a college degree. Kearon is an adult convert to the Church and speaks Arabic.
Kearon replaces M. Russell Ballard, who passed away in November after serving as an apostle since 1985.
The Church of Jesus Christ continued its massive outlays in Humanitarian Aid spending. In March, a report was released stating the Church spent more than $1 billion in expenditures related to humanitarian aid in 2022—more than the governments of countries such as Great Britain, France, Canada, and Norway. Humanitarian aid in 2023 included relief for the conflict in the Middle East, funds to help solve malnutrition, improving schools’ electricity infrastructure in Uganda, and disaster relief efforts in countries such as Mexico and Turkey.
SEC Investigation Ends
In 2019, much news was written about the investment arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year, the matter was resolved with the Securities and Exchange Commission levying a below-average fine for a filing error. The SEC fines about 5% of funds in its jurisdiction each year. This is the first fine in the fund’s twenty-three-year history.
Opposition to SUU Jeffrey Holland Commencement
In March, Southern Utah University invited Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ, to deliver its commencement address. Many students protested the invitation because of Holland’s perceived bigotry against the LGBT+ community. SUU never rescinded the invitation, but Holland ultimately declined because of health concerns.
Abuse Investigation Sputters
An extensive AP report in 2022 alleged the Church of Jesus Christ acted improperly in regard to an Arizona abuse case. In November of this year, the Arizona court cleared the Church of all wrongdoing. After continuing to investigate abuse related to the church for more than a year, the author of the AP piece released his second story about abuse, which occurred more than twenty years ago and resulted in the perpetrator’s excommunication.
Tim Ballard Falls from Grace
Popular Latter-day Saint influencer and founder of anti-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad, Tim Ballard, faced multiple accusations over several months this year. He was accused of fraudulently representing the work of his organization, falsely claiming support from the Church of Jesus Christ, and sexually assaulting women in his organization. In September, the Church took the unusual step of releasing a statement that Tim Ballard was involved in “activity regarded as morally unacceptable.” It was later reported Ballard was excommunicated.
Gandhi-King-Mandella Peace Prize
Morehouse College, a historically black college, instituted the Ghandi-King-Mandella Peace Prize in 2023 to recognize extraordinary efforts in helping establish peace. Russell M. Nelson, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ, received the inaugural award in April. The citation praised Nelson for continuing the legacy of Joseph Smith in “affirming racial and ethnic equality” and working “tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than create walls of segregation.”
This year, it was announced that the total number of missionaries serving for the Church of Jesus Christ had reached 72,000, the most missionaries serving since the COVID-19 pandemic limited opportunities for missionary service. In conjunction with this, 36 new “missions” or geographic organizational units for missionaries were announced, meaning there are now 450 missions across the world, the most in the Church’s history. The Church’s tenth Missionary Training Center campus will open next month in Bangkok, Thailand.