In case you missed it: First Presidency announces area leadership assignments, missionaries encouraged to be vaccinated and 7 more stories

During the week of April 18-24, the First Presidency announced the 2021-2022 area leadership assignments, and in a letter to Church leaders in the United States, the Missionary Department encouraged missionaries and prospective missionaries “to safeguard themselves and others by being vaccinated.” The Church also announced that 22 historic sites have been approved for a phased reopening beginning in May.

In a new Church News video titled “Back to the Future,” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared an important lesson about missionary work, learned during the pandemic. Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged more than 6,200 BYU graduates to “build with gratitude on a firm BYU foundation.” And in the latest Church News podcast, Sister Rosemary Thackeray gave a preview of the upcoming BYU Women’s Conference.

Graduates of BYU, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii and Ensign College discussed how they — and their schools — are honoring their accomplishments, despite the pandemic. Brother Craig B. Ballard of the Young Men general advisory council shared a lesson he learned about missionary work from his father, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Sunday School general presidency now have Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Find links and read summaries of these nine articles below.

1. First Presidency announces 2021-2022 area leadership assignments

President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency participate in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar, transmitted worldwide via technology on June 26, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency participate in the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar, transmitted worldwide via technology on June 26, 2020. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced changes in the Church’s area leadership assignments, which will become effective on Aug. 1. The changes affect the Presidency of the Seventy and area presidencies. 

All members of area presidencies are General Authority Seventies or Area Seventies.

There are currently 22 areas in the Church — six that span the United States and Canada, with 16 more outside those two countries.

See who is serving where

2. Missionary Department encourages missionaries to be vaccinated

Registered nurse Seth Christensen fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Registered nurse Seth Christensen fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The Missionary Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is encouraging missionaries and prospective missionaries “to safeguard themselves and others by being vaccinated.” Missionaries choosing not to be vaccinated will be assigned to serve in their home countries.

Church leaders in the United States received the latest vaccination directive in an April 23 letter from the Missionary Department.

According to the letter, as vaccinations become more widely available in other countries, missionaries and prospective missionaries outside the United States will be asked to be vaccinated before leaving their home countries.

The Missionary Department letter also references the Jan. 19 statement by the First Presidency: “Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination.”

Learn more about the latest vaccination directive

3. 22 Church historic sites reopening to the public in May

Carthage Jail in Nauvoo, Illinois, is one of several historic sites scheduled to reopen on May 1.
Carthage Jail in Nauvoo, Illinois, is one of several historic sites scheduled to reopen on May 1. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved a May 2021 phased reopening of 22 Church historic sites across the United States, all of which have been closed to the public since last spring due to COVID-19.

Site reopenings will be based on local conditions, government guidelines, staffing availability and the unique features of each historic site.

Find out more about the reopening schedule

4. Elder Uchtdorf says missionary work should move ‘back to the future’ after pandemic

In this Church News video, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says missionary work should incorporate the lessons and skills learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this Church News video, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says missionary work should incorporate the lessons and skills learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Screenshot, YouTube.com

In a new Church News video, titled “Back to the Future,” Elder Uchtdorf shares an important lesson about missionary work, learned during the pandemic: “Don’t focus on the things you cannot do, focus on the things you can do.”

When the pandemic ends, missionary work cannot move back to the old ways, Elder Uchtdorf said. “We need to move back to the future.”

Watch the Church News video with Elder Uchtdorf

5. Elder Gong shares how an education provides BYU graduates with a ‘firm foundation’

Elder Gerrit W. Gong gives his commencement address during BYU’s graduation ceremony at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the graduation ceremony was broadcast and held virtually.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong gives his commencement address during BYU’s graduation ceremony at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the graduation ceremony was broadcast and held virtually. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In his commencement address that was broadcast from the Marriott Center on the Provo, Utah, campus, Elder Gong repeatedly encouraged graduates to “build with gratitude on a firm BYU foundation.”

Part of that endeavor is seeking every opportunity to improve and do better, Elder Gong explained. “Please continue to be good, so you can do the most good, whatever your circumstance, wherever you are.”

As a BYU alumnus himself, Elder Gong began his remarks by expressing gratitude for the firm foundation on which BYU is established and the firm foundation BYU helps to establish in the lives of students.

Read more about BYU commencement and Elder Gong’s counsel to graduates

6. BYU Women’s Conference chair on the virtual event: ‘I am a Child of God’

In Episode 27 of the Church News podcast, host Sarah Jane Weaver and Sydney Walker talk to Rosemary Thackeray about the upcoming BYU Women’s Conference.
In Episode 27 of the Church News podcast, host Sarah Jane Weaver and Sydney Walker talk to Rosemary Thackeray about the upcoming BYU Women’s Conference. Credit: Church News

This May marks the 45th anniversary of BYU Women’s Conference, co-sponsored by the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Church News. The conference, this year held entirely online and beginning April 29, will focus on the theme “I am a Child of God, His Promises are Sure.” 

This digital event will include free sessions and paid packages, and also have content in Spanish and Portuguese. This episode of the Church News podcast celebrates women’s conference and features the conference chair, Sister Rosemary Thackeray. 

Listen to this week’s podcast that discusses the power of gathering, in-person or virtually

7. How Church schools are seeking to honor graduates despite COVID-19 restrictions

Sarah Lukov from Hawaii graduated from BYU–Hawaii on April 17, 2021, following a year of the pandemic.
Sarah Lukov from Hawaii graduated from BYU–Hawaii on April 17, 2021, following a year of the pandemic. Credit: Photo by Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Leaders at BYUBYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii and Ensign College have been working to help celebrate and honor their graduates, in new, mostly virtual ways. 

Brett Sampson, BYU–Idaho’s public affairs director, said the entire campus has worked to “do what we can” within the established health parameters to provide a sense of normalcy to graduates.

“We want the graduates … to feel a sense of their great accomplishments and know how proud we are to have them as alumni,” Sampson said.

Learn more about how graduates and their schools are celebrating their accomplishments

8. What President M. Russell Ballard taught his son about being a ‘diligent missionary’

Craig B. Ballard of the Young Men General Advisory Council remains inspired by a timely letter he received, years ago, from his father, President M. Russell Ballard, during a difficult moment on his mission.
Craig B. Ballard of the Young Men General Advisory Council remains inspired by a timely letter he received, years ago, from his father, President M. Russell Ballard, during a difficult moment on his mission. Credit: Shutterstock

Brother Craig B. Ballard of the Young Men General Advisory Council remains inspired by a timely letter he received, years ago, from his father, President M. Russell Ballard, during a difficult moment on his mission.

Discover what he learned about what it means to be a diligent missionary

9. The Sunday School general presidency is now on Instagram and Facebook

Sunday School general presidency (left to right) Milton Camargo, first counselor; Mark L. Pace, president; and Jan E. Newman, second counselor.
Sunday School general presidency (left to right) Milton Camargo, first counselor; Mark L. Pace, president; and Jan E. Newman, second counselor. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

To better engage with and learn from Latter-day Saints around the world implementing home-centered gospel learning, members of the Sunday School general presidency now have authorized Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

President Mark L. Pace — along with his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman — published their first posts on Thursday, April 22. Each shared a little bit about themselves, pictures of their families and their testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ. 

Find links to their Facebook and Instagram accounts