Significant Anniversaries

The First Presidency circulated a letter dated January 24, 2017 that reads as follows:

To: General Authorities; General Auxiliary Presidencies; Area Seventies, Stake, Mission, and District Presidencies; Bishops and Branch Presidents; Stake and Ward Auxiliary Presidencies, and Managing Directors

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

During the next few years, the Church will enter a period of significant anniversaries of major Church history events. The Church will not be commemorating these anniversaries at the general level. However, stake and ward leaders may choose to commemorate some of them at the local level.

We ask that any local commemorations not place undue burdens on leaders and members.

Sincerely yours,

/s/The First Presidency

I appreciate the concern that local leaders not unduly burden the members with putting on such celebrations.

I was puzzled, however, about just what it is we might be locally celebrating. The letter just assumes it’s obvious and so doesn’t go into detail, but it’s not obvious to me.

The first thing I thought of was the First Vision. But assuming the canonical dating in the spring of 1820, that’s still over three years away. (Talk about advanced planning!) And it might be hard to celebrate that in a formal way, since we don’t have an actual date for it, and focusing on the anniversary of it might raise the uncomfortable (to some) issues about whether the experience should be dated several years later.

One of my blogmates helpfully pointed out that this October 27 will be 75 years after Helmuth Huebener was executed by the Nazis. Could that be one of the unspoken referents?

So I’m going to open it up to you. What are some of the upcoming significant anniversaries of major Church history events local church leaders should be thinking about celebrating? (Feel free to provide either serious answers or humorous ones, or both).



  1. 175 years since the founding of the Relief Society.

  2. 125th anniversary of the formation of the Relief Society.

  3. Oops, sorry, meant 175. Too early for math!

  4. Probably up first is the Relief Society Anniversary. As it’s a bit problematic to celebrate it as 175 years of RS (because there were some years where it was disbanded) maybe that’s one of the reasons they aren’t really celebrating it. If you look up the 175 anniversary on the website, you’ll notice that the leaders are asking for it to be more of a reflection than an event: “Rather than being an ‘event,’ we hope that each individual sister will reflect upon and prayerfully seek ways to honor and remember this special milestone, keeping the following principles in mind…”

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Great observations about RS! They used the plural, so what else we got?

  6. The 100th anniversary of the Oct. 3, 1918 revelation that became D&C 138 is coming up in just shy of two years. But, again, that seems really far off.

  7. 160th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre
    170th anniversary of “This is the right place”
    180th anniversary of the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society
    200th anniversary of the revival in the Burned Over District
    500th anniversary of Martin Luther publishing 95 Theses.

    Yeah, I’m reaching. I got nothing.

  8. Is it common for these letters to be addressed to auxiliary presidents, and thus to “brothers and sisters” and not just “brethren”? Because that’s what caught my eye. Really, all letters should be addressed that way. But if they aren’t, and this one is exception, that would lend credence to the comments above.

    It might also be why the church didn’t name the upcoming anniversary. It would look bad to say, “we’re not going to acknowledge the RS anniversary.” Especially since many stakes celebrate priesthood restoration every May by timing their fathers/sons campouts to coincide with it.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s a guide of 25 year intervals from 2017 that might be helpful in trying to think this through:

    25 1992
    50 1967
    75 1942
    100 1917
    125 1892
    150 1867
    175 1842
    200 1817

    Do any of those years ring a bell in Church history for you?

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Or was the plural just used to further obfuscate the intended RS allusion?

  11. Salt Lake Tabernacle Completed – 10-6-1867
    Relief Society Re-organized – 12-8-1867
    Retrenchment Society Organized – 2-10-1870
    Joseph F. Smith – Vision of the Redemption of the Dead – 10-3-1918
    First temple outside continental US – Hawaii – 11-27-1919
    First Regional Representative of the Twelve called – 9-29-1967
    First Stake in Asia – Toyko, Japan – 3/15/1970
    First Stake in Africa – Transvall, South Africa – 3-22-1970
    Ensign, New Era, Friend first published – 1-1-1971
    Automatic enrollment in Relief Society – 9-1-1971

  12. 150 years since Brigham Young was charged with Polygamy?

  13. The September Six next year? ;)

  14. June 8, 1978 – Revelation on blacks and the priesthood

  15. APM: Too soon.


  16. John Mansfield says:

    From the Church News in April 22, 1995:

    Efforts are proceeding “along the trail” to the Church’s Pioneer Sesquicentennial Celebration that begins in two years.

    Individuals, families, wards and branches, and stakes are being encouraged to begin early to plan events locally that will make the observance meaningful.”Planning has to start now,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, who chairs the sesquicentennial committee. Elder Robert L. Backman, an emeritus General Authority, is vice chairman of the committee.

    “It is important to start now,” said Elder Ballard, “so plans can be made by individuals and families as well as Church units, and there will be sufficient time to carry out those plans in time for the sesquicentennial.”

    Elder Ballard’s comments reflect a statement in a Jan. 20, 1995, letter from the First Presidency to priesthood leaders: “We are giving advance notice of activities and events scheduled for 1997 to help you plan early to allocate local resources and funds for sesquicentennial activities.”

    Accompanying the letter was a two-page set of guidelines, which Elder Ballard called a “menu” of suggestions, for observing the sesquicentennial locally. The suggested guidelines are summarized on pages 8 and 9 of this issue.

    So, in 1995 a First Presidency letter went out two years and six months before July 24, 1997. My guess is the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s first vision, spring 2020, three years hence, is the main anniversary being contemplated in this new letter, and then the several bicentennials that will follow that over the next decade.

  17. Allison Flynn says:

    Is it possible the church wants to show it cares about its women (quietly) at the same time not get caught up in the women’s movement right now that is against the present national misogynist agenda?

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    John Mansfield, that letter is indeed enlightening, both because it was focused on local observances and because of the two-year advance time line. Of course that letter was specific on what was being observed, and this one isn’t, which still strikes me as quite odd. But it’s true that we are getting close to reaching a point where we’ll be continually reaching 200-year milestones (2020 1V, 2023 Moroni’s visit, and on and on throughout the century).

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    If we take that two-year notice period as a model, then perhaps there is something to John F.’s guess of the 100-year anniversary of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead in D&C 138.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Loursat, the two-year precedent also suggests to me your guess of the 40-year anniversary of the 1978 Revelation is a worthy suggestion.

  21. Totally wild speculation, but the lack of specificity (which to me hints at ‘never again’, for a central Church celebration), and yesterday’s statement regarding Quebec City by the *Canadian* Leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the (IMO disappointingly) generic statement about refugees of last Saturday, and broad criticism of the Tabernace Choir at the recent U.S. inauguration, are all jumbled together in a melange that says “we’re getting real about being a worldwide Church and no more with the Utah- and U.S.-centric declarations and celebrations.”

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    christiankimball, fascinating take.

  23. I think you’re all overthinking. Yes, they’re a few years out, but the bicentennials of the First Vision, the events associated with the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the organization of the Church are far more obvious, I think. And when you remember the 1997 extravaganza of the pioneer trek, it’s not surprising to me that some members might expect anniversary events that would take years to plan and stage for a world-wide Church.

    What I wonder is what if President Monson’s successor feels differently?

  24. While all of the 200 year anniversaries coming up may be what they are talking about, what about all of the more consequential 100 year anniversaries coming up?

    October 1917: The Church Administration Building is completed.
    May 1918: Relief Society announces arrangements to sell its wheat storage to the US government to cover military food shortages.
    1921: Young Men and Women are names M-Men and Gleaners.
    1922: Silent British anti-mormon film “Trapped by the Mormons” is released.

    I will be pushing for local celebration of these events.

  25. There was a hardcore punk band in L.A. called Trapped by Mormons. Not sure what’s up with them lately.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Ardis, that was my original thought, but the time gap is just so extreme. I guess I can kind of see 1V at three years out, but first visit of Moroni is six and a half years out, and the biggies, publication of the BoM and organization of the Church, are 14 years out. If that’s what they meant, I wonder why they felt the need to tell us so very far in advance. And if that’s what they intended, given the time gap I wonder why they didn’t give us more of a clue. It’s not as obvious (to me, at least) as they obviously thought it was.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    *13, not 14.

  28. 40th anniversary of Priesthood holders wishing that the Priesthood worked more like the Force.

  29. Good thoughts. I am guessing a combination of blacks and the priesthood and First Vision. Given the “controversial” nature of these topics there is likely a desire to avoid publicity in areas where it might not be well-received. The gospel topics essays are enough, why call attention to multiple accounts of the First Vision or the racism of the priesthood ban to those that might not otherwise encounter it. I think the letter draws a contrast with the pioneer trek celebrations in 1997 which were generally more of a positive public relations celebratory type of event. This is just avoiding bad publicity, but allowing for local events. And to Ardis I’m sure this was a group decision from the FP/Q12 so I wouldn’t expect a significant change no matter who is the prophet in the coming years.

  30. Bryan Buchanan says:
  31. @Brian Buchanan

    these are not the droids you’re looking for

  32. 2018: 175th anniversary of the polygamy revelation. Just saying.

  33. From the OP: “focusing on the anniversary of it might raise the uncomfortable (to some) issues.”

    This could be key with any CH anniversary celebration going forward. If ‘the dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained’* then we can’t hang our testimonies on it. My guess is the church doesn’t want to encourage people to research things.

    *Richard Bushman, author of Rough Stone Rolling, spoken July 2016

  34. whizzbang says:

    Well, April 1892 is when they did the capstone ceremony for the Salt Lake Temple, that was 125 years ago.

  35. whizzbang says:

    @christiankimball-As a Canadian it was odd to hear about “Canadian leadership”! I have never seen any of those men before except one and he came here twice. Once he talked about how his family made a million dollars in the oil field in Calgary. He didn’t say his grandpa was Pres. Tanner and so he had some money coming his way. We had a Temple groundbreaking here and none of the Canadian leadership came out. I don’t care one way or the other but it’s weird to think they are supposed to be over us but where are they?, oh well!

  36. In a tangent, I’m oddly comforted by the fact I’m not the only one who stinks at math.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    Bryan, great find! That Deseret News list appeared just under three weeks before the 1P letter; I’m really curious whether that was the proximate inspiration behind the letter, although I suppose there’s really no way to know for sure.

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    WVS, the polygamy revelation, but of course. That’s gotta be it!

  39. “2018: 175th anniversary of the polygamy revelation. Just saying.”

    Yes. This. And according to Wikipedia, Joseph married a lot of girls/women (including two 14 year-olds and two 17 year-olds) in 1842-3.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    In my defense for my math mistake, I just had a “checkbook” moment and thought it was still 2016!

  41. Left Field says:

    My reading would have been that “during the next few years” (i.e., starting in 2020), the church will enter a period of significant anniversaries (i.e., the period of bicentennials of everything imaginable extending through 2047 or so).

    But the church made such a deal out of the 1980 sesquicentennial and the Pioneer sesquicentennial (and if I recall my history, the corresponding centennials), it is a bit surprising that they aren’t going to “commemorate” (whatever that means) the bicentennials. (Like, at all? No Ensign articles? No mention in general conference?) I seem to remember a whole year of prescribed pioneer talks in sacrament meeting. (Everybody was using the same source material. I think I heard five different speakers tell the same story–something about somebody eating meat off the back of a wagon.)

    But in 2030 when it comes time to commemorate the founding of the church, are all those future bishops and stake presidents really going to remember this 2017 letter so they don’t unduly burden the members? For that matter, are all those future apostles and first presidency going to remember this letter so they know they’re not supposed to commemorate the bicentennial? When the time comes, are they going to be able to resist having a pageant or a proclamation or something, or talking it up in the Ensign or general conference?

    Maybe they got wind of some stakes planning super elaborate productions, and this is a directive to scale things back?

  42. 200th Anniversary of Joseph’s finding of his seer/peep stones…

    Joseph Smith Jr. used three seer-stones during his divining years. He apparently found the first of these, described as “a whitish opaque stone,” in September 1819, by borrowing Sally Chase’s green glass; he found his favorite stone, a brown one, while he and his brothers were digging a well for the Chases in 1822. Sometime after 1825, while in the Susquehanna Valley, he was given a green stone by one Jack Belcher, a diviner and salt digger. (Quinn, Early Mormonism, 38-41)

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