Some highlights from his time in role:
- Lowered the mission age for women from 21 to 19 and for men from 19 to 18, resulting in a big increase in the number of missionaries serving.
- Added a 4th mission to the church, resulting in a substantial increase in welfare spending.
- The publication of Mormon essays providing more information on Heavenly Mother, polygamy, the priesthood ban, and multiple first vision accounts to name a few.
- The publication of the Joseph Smith Papers, ushering in more transparency.
- Reducing church commitment to his beloved Boy Scouts.
- In the last few years, he frequently ended conference meetings early, a trend we can only hope will continue.
His presidency also had some bumps:
- The legalization of gay marriage and the church’s often mixed and chaotic response to it that has hurt many families with gay members. There were some positive efforts in the creation of mormonandgay.com website, and the church’s push for discrimination-free housing for gay people, but these were overshadowed by the church’s financial support of Prop 8 in California and the Nov 5 policy to exclude children of gays from baptism as well as labeling gays in committed monogamous relationships as apostate.
- The Ordain Women movement and accompanying church backlash, along with some half-hearted steps to include more women in councils (adding the word “family” to explain their presence) and visibly showing their pictures in the conference center.
- The continued challenge of dealing with ready access to information in a digital age, which often contradicted church manuals or CES instructors’ versions.
- Schisms as some fundamentalists in the church broke off to form new religious groups.
- The Book of Mormon musical mocked missionary work, and the church’s PR spin “You’ve seen the play, now read the book” was a pretty ingenious response.
- Romney & Huntsman ran for president, adding scrutiny to the church.
There were other minor shifts that occurred during his tenure:
- Dress codes were relaxed in the church office building for women.
- Caffeinated beverages began to be sold on BYU campus.
- BYU, in response to backlash over honor code investigations of victims, formed a new Title IX committee to improve the university’s approach.
- New parental leave policies were instituted for employees of BYU’s schools.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the contribution of a man who was beloved by many, whose focus on humanitarian efforts has made a lasting difference for many and the church as a whole, and someone whose folksy storytelling has touched a lot of hearts over the decades.
You will be missed, Pres. Monson.