Over the past decade — since President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, became the First Presidency March 12, 1995, the Church has moved forward on many fronts, including:
Emphasis on the family: During the annual General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 23, 1995, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a Proclamation to the World on the Family, reaffirming that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” Since that time the document has been presented to civic and government leaders around the world. Responding to the proclamation’s call to preserve the family, Church members and leaders participated in the United Nations World Congress of Families in 1997 and 1999, and has continued their involvement.
Temples: On Oct. 4, 1997, President Hinckley announced a plan for the Church to construct smaller temples in distant areas of the Church that have small Latter-day Saint populations. The plan transformed temple construction as leaders announced, constructed and dedicated dozens of temples since the first — the Monticello Utah Temple — was dedicated on July 26, 1998.
The Church's 100th operating temple — the Boston Massachusetts Temple — was dedicated Oct. 1, 2000. During the past decade temples have been dedicated also on Church historic sites, including the Palmyra New York Temple, dedicated April 6, 2000; the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, dedicated June 27, 2002; and the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple, dedicated April 22, 2001.
When the temples that have been announced are completed the Church will have 130 operating temples — including two in West Africa.
Reaching out to members through travel and the Church satellite system: During the last decade members of the First Presidency have traveled the globe, ministering to members in large and small countries. In 1996, President Hinckley became the first Church president to visit mainland China and, two years later, the first president to visit West Africa.
Church leaders have reached out to members through electronic means. On Jan. 11, 2003, the first global leadership training meeting was held for priesthood leaders and transmitted by satellite in 56 languages to more than 97 percent of the Church's priesthood leaders. And the first satellite broadcast for children commemorated the 125th anniversary of the Primary organization Feb. 8, 2003.
In addition, members worldwide participated in the dedications of Palmyra New York, the Nauvoo Illinois, and the Winter Quarters Nebraska temples via the Church satellite system. Today, members of the First Presidency participate in stake and regional conferences throughout the world via satellite broadcasts.
Emphasis on Jesus Christ: On Dec. 20, 1995, Church leaders released a new logo that emphasizes the central position of the Savior in the Church’s theology. Five years later, on Jan. 1, 2000, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve issued their testimonies of the Savior in a document titled “The Living Christ.” In addition, on Feb. 15, 2001, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve approved a series of guidelines to reaffirm the centrality of the Savior in the name of the Church. Church members, news organizations and others were asked to use the full and correct name of the Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and to avoid use of the term “Mormon Church.”
Family history: Church leaders released the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service May 24, 1999, which has proven to be the greatest boon to family history research since the invention of microfilm. The Freedman’s Bank Records, an important genealogical database for linking African-Americans to their ancestors, was released by the Church on CD-ROM in 2001. Today, as the result of these and other efforts, the Church family history database online has surpassed 1 billion names.
Media/Church coming out of obscurity: Since the First Presidency took office in 1995, the Church has received unprecedented media attention. Much of this attention can be credited to the 1997 sesquicentennial of the Mormon pioneers’ journey west and a commemorative wagon train recreating the event; the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City; 75 years of continual network broadcasting of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Music and the Spoken Word in 2004; and numerous media interviews with Church leaders — especially President Hinckley.In December of 1995, for example, President Hinckley was interviewed by CBS television host Mike Wallace on the show 60 Minutes. The show was broadcast in April 1996.
Other events during the last decade also illustrate a shift in public perception of the Church and its members. On April 1, 2004, for example, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution of regret for the forced expulsion of early Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo.
Book of Mormon: The 100 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon, since it was first published in 1830, was printed in early 2000. Another milestone was reached in 2000 when the Book of Mormon was printed in its 100th language. The Book of Mormon was also recently included as one of the 20 most influential books ever published in America and in 2004 the Church joined hands with a commercial publisher, Doubleday, to enlarge the distribution of the sacred volume.
President Hinckley announced on March 31, 2001, a worldwide Perpetual Education Fund, based on principles similar to those underlying the Perpetual Emigration Fund of the 1800s, that will help young returned missionaries in developing countries gain an education and then use it to serve their families, communities and the Church. Church leaders also announced five years ago this June that Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, would be renamed Brigham Young University-Idaho and became a four-year university — increasing the number of young Latter-day Saints who can gain an education at Church institutions. On Oct. 8, 2003, Church leaders announced plans to expand LDS Business College and BYU’s Salt Lake Center, relocating both to a new campus in downtown Salt Lake City.
Since 1995, the Church has provided more than half a billion dollars in material assistance to those in need in more than 150 countries throughout the world. An estimated 45,000 tons of food, 58,000 tons of clothing, and 10,000 tons of educational and medical supplies have been shipped to six continents, benefiting millions of people. In a short period in recent years, the Church has become known as one of the most trustworthy and effective charitable agencies.
Milestones and growth: During the last decade the Church has reached numerous milestones. As of Feb. 28, 1996, more Church members lived outside the United States than within. In January of 1997, the 100,000th member in Africa was baptized. The Church reached 10 million members in November 1997, 11 million members in September of 2000 and 12 million members in January of 2004. And as of September 2000, the Church had more non-English-speaking members than English-speaking.
During their tenure, the First Presidency has looked to the future needs of the Church, dedicating a new 21,000-seat Conference Center in 2000. At the same time, they have worked to preserve the past, making dramatic improvements to Church historic sites in Palmyra, N.Y.; Kirkland, Ohio; Nauvoo, Ill.; Omaha, Neb.; and in the Salt Lake Valley.
But perhaps the greatest work the First Presidency has accomplished in the last ten years cannot be measured in milestones, buildings, or numbers — but in the lives of Church members. After becoming president of the Church, President Hinckley asked every Latter-day Saint to reach out to new members. In the April 2004 General Conference, President Hinckley reported that the Church continues to grow and retain its membership.
"We have made a very long journey in reaching out to the nations of the world," he said. "There is much more yet to be done, but what has been accomplished is truly phenomenal. It is a fact that we lose some — far too many. Every organization of which I am aware does so. But I am satisfied that we retain and keep active a higher percentage of our members than does any other major church of which I know.
"Everywhere there is great activity and great enthusiasm. We have strong and able leaders across the world who give of their time and means to move the work forward."