SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church has altered the name and program for its annual Christmas devotional.
Known at least since the early 1970s as the "First Presidency Christmas Devotional," the event traditionally has featured a talk from each of the three members of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as Christmas songs performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
“While we anticipate that a member of the First Presidency will participate in the program, it has been decided to give other church leaders the opportunity to speak at the annual Christmas devotional," church spokesman Cody Craynor said.
The devotionals began decades ago as a way to honor church employees. The church eventually began to broadcast the devotionals and later moved them to the 21,000-seat Conference Center.
Since 1994, all three members of the church's First Presidency have spoken at each devotional.
In 1993, the church's president, Ezra Taft Benson, who was 94, was unable to attend for health reasons. Neither was his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, who was ill.
"Somehow, I made it," joked President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the first counselor in the First Presidency.
President Hinckley and then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke.
President Benson died in spring 1994. Since then, the entire First Presidency has spoken at each devotional, including a talk every year by President Monson, who became the church's president in 2008.
The talks by President Monson and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, from last year's devotional and the songs performed by the choir can be seen now at lds.org.
The first public hint of a change appeared about a month ago when tickets to the event were distributed with the new title "Christmas Devotional."
As usual, free tickets to Sunday's hour-long event at the Conference Center are "sold out," but the devotional will be broadcast live nationally at 6 p.m. MT on BYUtv. The event also is available live online at mormonchannel.org and in 16 languages at broadcast.lds.org.
The devotional will also be broadcast or rebroadcast over the church satellite system in more than 50 languages. Check with local leaders for more details.
Last month, the church announced a change to its semiannual meetings for women and girls. A general women's meeting will be held on the Saturdays before the April and October general conferences of the church for all women and girls ages 8 and above.
Since 1993, a general Relief Society meeting had been held the Saturday before October general conference and a general Young Women meeting on the Saturday before April conference.