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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Some Thoughts on President Nelson's Remarkable Statement About the October 2019 General Conference

Hello again, everyone! While we wait for coverage to be provided on the Port-au-Prince Haiti Youth Devotional, I wanted to post my take on the remarkable statement President Nelson made in relation to the October 2019 General Conference. First of all, let's review the statement in question. In an article covering the devotional at which he, his wife, Elder Cook, his wife, and Brazil Area President Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis and his wife, addressed all missionaries serving throughout Brazil (with the broadcast originating from Brasilia and being carried to missionaries serving throughout the nation), the Newsroom quoted President Nelson as saying the following to news media:

“There are exciting things ahead. This work is moving forward at an accelerated pace. I can just hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning and see what the day will bring. We invite all people to come unto Christ, to become more like Him, to experience the joyous blessings of the Holy Temple and to have eternal life,”  He then went on to say that more temples and other announcements were coming for the October General Conference.

A few takeaways from that statement. In the first two General Conferences in which President Nelson became Church President, he announced quite a few changes. In April 2018, the restructuring of priesthood quorums (with High Priest groups being discontinued at the ward level and the membership thereof being merged into the Elders' Quorum,. and the Stake High Priests' Quorum now comprised of current Stake Presidency members, the current members of the Stake High Council, and current Ward Bishopric members) and the retirement of home and visiting teaching programs in favor of ministering were announced.

In October last year, the Church saw the introduction of the Come Follow Me expanded curriculum (which would implemented a home-centered, Church-supported study program) resulted in the transition from the 3-hour Church block to a consolidated 2-hour Church block, with Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society being held alternately. And throughout 2018, President Nelson announced a whopping 19 new temples, 7 in April and 12 more in October, which was an unprecedented number of temples to be announced within the first year of a new Church President's prophetic administration.

With all that had been heard about President Nelson's ambitious temple-building plans, many people (myself included) went into the April 2019 General Conference convinced that more changes were coming, including President Nelson detailing the extent and timing of his temple-expansion plans in full, and announcing a mass number of new temples to accomplish his intended goal (which, as verified by most of his apostolic colleagues, is apparently a ten-fold increase in the number of temples).

Although 8 more temples were announced, no other major announcements were made, and instead, the transformative announcements were made between the October 2018 and April 2019 General Conferences, and last General Conference instead represented constancy in the midst of great change. the opportunity for the Church to take the proverbial deep breath and focus instead on the important gospel topics which were covered therein.

So that brings us to the upcoming October 2019 General Conference, and President Nelson's remarkable statement about it. What stood out to me most about what he said was that, in addition to more new temples, other announcements would be made. In other words, the term is not singular, but plural. That said, let me go officially on record as stating that, in my personal opinion, I do not see a massive number of new temples being announced, nor do I anticipate that President Nelson will detail the extent and timing of his plans to expand the number of temples tenfold.

To be perfectly transparent, I would be elated if he does explain his plans and announce dozens of new temples in the process. But I know that there were some who were disappointed when only 8 new temples were announced last April, and I certainly wouldn't want to build up hype for a mass number of announcements in that respect, only to have some be disappointed if and when a considerably lesser number of temples are announced. That is why I have advanced the mertis of 14-16 new temples as being a more reasonable estimate.

Depending on what is actually announced, there will need to be some focus on those announcements, rather than just solely having a focus on his temple expansion plans. So what might be ahead for the future, if not a massive change affecting the temple construction program of the Church? Let's look at that next. To begin with, Matthew Martinich, widely respected as an expert on matters relating to the growth of the Church, noted on his blog earlier this afternoon that he was anticipating some type of change in the missionary program to be announced as well, based on the recent release of a new missionary handbook.

He had previously provided extensive analysis regarding the kind of reforms he was specifically anticipating, based on the reports he had received of wide-spread issues with various aspects of that program and those efforts as they currently exist, stand, and are established. I would certainly anticipate that such an announcement will be made, because Matt usually knows what he is talking about when it comes to issues such as that. At the same time, given the pluralization of the term announcements, I am not entirely convinced at this time that only new temples and changes to the missionary program are on the immediate horizon. So what else could be coming down the pike? I have some theories on that. There could potentially be updates on the process and anticipated timing for the publication of the revised and unified editions of the hymnbook and children's songbook.

But given the announcement earlier this year that the Africa Southeast Area would be divided beginning next August, I think it is possible there could be further area changes announced in General Conference. But above and beyond that, it would not shock me at all to see some type of restructuring of the Area Seventies Quorums as presently constituted. Without knowing exactly how the releases of any current Area Seventies may impact the numbers in each of those Quorums, here's what I know in that respect: When the number of North American areas were consolidated effective August 1 of this year, one change was that the Idaho Area was merged into the North America Central Area.

And as a result of that change, all Area Seventies serving in Idaho were subsequently reassigned from the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy to the Sixth Quorum thereof. With that in mind, effective August 1, the area-by-area composition of the Third-Eighth Quorums was as follows: The Third Quorum of the Seventy is comprised of all area seventies serving in the 3 current Africa Areas (Africa Southeast, Africa West, and Middle East/Africa North) and the two Europe Areas (Europe and Europe East). Next August, once the Africa Southeast Area division goes into effect, the Africa Central and Africa South Areas will replace it.\

The current Fourth Quorum is comprised of those serving in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America Northwest Areas. With the North American Areas being consolidated from 10 down to 6, the Firth Quorum is now comprised of those serving in the North America West and Utah Areas, while the Sixth is comprised of those serving in the North America Central, North America Northeast, North America Southeast, and North America Southwest Areas. Those serving in the Brazil and South America South Areas are part of the current Seventh Quorum, while those serving in the Asia, Asia North, Pacific, and Philippines Areas comprise the current Eighth Quorum of the Seventy.

And I also have an area-by-area and Quorum-by-Quorum running total tracked as well. Also effective August 1 of this year, those numbers broke down as follows:
Quorum
Totals within each Area
Quorum Total
Running Total
Third
15+15+16+5+1
52
52
Fourth
6+15+22+21
64
116
Fifth
16+30
46
162
Sixth
17+13+7+18
55
217
Seventh
23+21
44
261
Eighth
9+12+12+13
48
309

According to doctrinal provisions practiced by the Church, once any Seventies Quorum reaches more than 70 members, it should be split. Therefore, without taking into account the releases of any current area seventies, the Fourth Quorum as presently constituted is within 6 members of being at the maximum. And the Third and Sixth Quorums are currently within 18 and 15 members, respectively, of 70.

So I could see the Church either adding a Quorum or adjusting the current parameters of each Quorum to be more geographically convenient, especially since there will be another area added to the current Third Quorum once the Africa Central Area becomes fully operational. Above and beyond these things, I am not sure what exactly to expect going into the October 2019 General Conference.  But with a focus on reducing and simplifying programs and procedures for the Church and the workload of members while enacting measures to more fully unify the entire Church membership on a global scale, anything may be possible.

So my best recommendation as I close out this analysis is that we buckle up, pray in advance that we will be prepared for what is to come in General Conference and that our individual needs may be met and questions answered by what will be said and whatever may be announced. If we are thus prepared for General Conference, we will likewise be able to have the instantaneous assurance from the Spirit that whatever is said or announced is in harmony with the will of the Lord for His Church at this time. And I hope we will be content therewith.

That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.