SALT LAKE CITY — During The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ October general conference, church President Russell M. Nelson promised April’s conference would be unforgettable and unlike any other.
That proved true as coronavirus swept the world and forced the conference to be held “via technology only” with prerecorded music, as those asked to speak and pray congregated in a small auditorium on Temple Square instead of in the Conference Center.
Here are six takeaways from the 190th Annual General Conference:
President Nelson originally said the conference would be unforgettable because the event would mark the 200th anniversary of the First Vision — when the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, said he saw God and Jesus Christ.
A foundational moment in the church’s history, the First Vision began what Latter-day Saints call the Restoration, or the time period when the church Jesus Christ established during his lifetime was restored on the earth. Members believe this is an ongoing process and continues today.
But as President Nelson ended the conference, he affirmed the 10-hour event could be summed up in two words: Hear Him. While all the speakers focused, to different degrees, on the message of the Restoration, many of them noted that one of the most important ways members can contribute to that important work is by learning how God speaks to them — or how they can “hear Him.”
The church also launched a new initiative at hearhim.org to help members and nonmembers alike learn ways to listen for His voice.
Two of the three women who spoke during the conference focused their messages on women’s roles, and how they relate to those around them.
Sister Joy D. Jones, the church’s Primary general president, spoke of the founding of the Relief Society — the church’s organization for women, and one of the largest women’s organizations in the world. She noted that women have critical roles to play during the Restoration and a “distinctive place” in God’s plan.
Sister Jean B. Bingham, the Relief Society general president, spoke of the difference between men’s and women’s roles and the importance of an equal partnership between the two. Women must have the courage and vision to unite with men to bring souls to Christ, she said. And “men need to become true partners rather than assume they are solely responsible or act as ‘pretend’ partners while women carry out much of the work.”
During the Saturday evening session of the conference, two teenagers addressed the audience from the pulpit, joining just a small group of other speakers who have spoken in general conference without being a general authority or general officer of the church, the church reported.
Laudy Kaouk, 17, and Enzo Petelo, 15, spoke about how youth are blessed by the priesthood — or what faithful Latter-day Saints believe to be the power and authority to act in the name of God.
Several youth spoke in general conference during the '80s, the last of which was Peter Vidmar in 1985, a participant in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, according to the church.
Worldwide fast and symbol change
President Nelson first invited the church to join in a worldwide fast to ask for relief from the coronavirus pandemic on March 29. On Saturday, he again invited church members and nonmembers alike to join in another fast on Friday, or Good Friday, to plead for relief from COVID-19.
Members generally fast on the first Sunday of every month by abstaining from food for two meals or 24 hours. They then donate the money they would have spent on the meals to the church’s fast offering fund, which is used to help those in congregations across the world with basic needs.
President Nelson explained that a fast normally lasts two meals or 24 hours, but that those fasting should decide what constitutes a sacrifice for them.
“Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world. Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us,” he said.
Shortly before announcing the fast, President Nelson also announced a symbol change for the church. The new symbol emphasizes the name of Jesus Christ and is contained in a rectangle that represents a cornerstone, according to the church. On top, is an image of the Christus — a famous statue of Jesus Christ by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen — within an arch.
A new proclamation and solemn assembly
On Sunday morning, President Nelson announced that the church would issue its first proclamation in 25 years as the church celebrated the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. The church leader read the proclamation in a prerecorded message at the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York, where Joseph Smith said God and Jesus Christ first appeared to him.
The proclamation, officially titled “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World,” focuses on Joseph Smith’s vision — a foundational moment for the church.
"Two hundred years have now elapsed since this Restoration was initiated by God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Millions throughout the world have embraced a knowledge of these prophesied events," the proclamation reads. "We gladly declare that the promised Restoration goes forward through continuing revelation. The earth will never again be the same, as God will 'gather together in one all things in Christ.'"
The proclamation is the church’s sixth, and its first since 1995.
The announcement was followed by a solemn assembly and a Hosanna Shout, typically performed at ceremonies like temple dedications.
President Nelson announced eight new temples:
- Bahía Blanca, Argentina
- Tallahassee, Florida
- Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Benin City, Nigeria
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
- Syracuse, Utah
Prior to Sunday's announcement, the church had 168 operating temples, with 49 more under construction or announced.