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Unique General Conference celebrates First Vision and the Restoration

Speakers practicing social distancing for the April 2020 General Conference sit in chairs in a conference room on the grounds of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The April 2020 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4-5 proved to be memorable, according to students. The conference celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the subsequent Restoration, which was an overarching theme in the conference.

According to Manduhai Mendsaikhan, a freshman from Mongolia majoring in TESOL, “Almost every speaker addressed the Restoration. It helped me to understand how important the Restoration was of the gospel for our salvation. A 14-year-old boy’s sincere prayer brought such a marvelous gift for this dispensation.”

General Conference speakers expanded upon the topic by talking about restorations in different aspects of the gospel. According to Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the First Vision and the coming of the Book of Mormon were the most important events, with Joseph Smith serving as a messenger to the people.

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, cited the Prophet Joseph Smith as an example of how to pray with faith and grow stronger during hard times. “He asked in child-like faith what the Lord would have him do. His answer changed the history of the world,” he said.

President Russell M. Nelson emphasized women’s involvement in the Restoration. He said Joseph Smith went to the Sacred Grove to pray because his mother used to go there to pray. He also added how Emma Smith was the first transcriber of the Book of Mormon’s translation.

Bishop Gérald Jean Caussé, the presiding bishop of the Church, said the Christus, the statue of the resurrected Christ, now a part of the Church’s new logo, was sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen in the same year as the First Vision happened.

“Thorvaldsen’s work presents the living Christ who gave victory over death and with open arms invites all to come unto Him. Only the prints of the nails in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side, testify of the indescribable agony he endured to save all mankind.”

Justin Ioane, a senior from Samoa double majoring in accounting and marketing, said, “I don’t think it was just a coincidence. It was planned by God to be our Church logo in these last days.”

Enzo S. Petelo, a youth speaker at the conference, talked about the restoration of the priesthood. Ioane shared of his talk, “This amazing young man’s words reached my heart deeply. I learned that when men exercise their priesthood righteously, their priesthood power will be strengthened, and the Holy Ghost will be their loyal companion.”

Another common topic at the conference was the COVID-19 global pandemic. Leslie Harper, a freshman from Canada majoring in supply chain management, said, “Apostles and general authorities kept addressing the topic and showed a wonderful example of following the right protocols of safety to its millions of members who watched. They were very positive about the global pandemic, which helped me to be more peaceful and hopeful, even in the midst of this turmoil.

“Right now we are in the middle of an economic recession, but the prophet announced eight new temples in unexpected locations. I was in tears when the temples were announced and overwhelmed by the boldness and the confidence of our leaders.

“I was assured that God’s work is moving forward, and nothing can stop it. It was the best conference I have been a part of.”

Mendsaikhan said it was a very special conference for her, not because it was the first online-only conference or happened during a global pandemic, but because of its spiritually uplifting messages and changes in the Church.

She said the message “Hear Him” resonated throughout the conference and stood out to her. She said, “We heard it millions of times before, but from this conference, I learned how important it is to hear the Savior and receive personal revelation from Him. Without this discerning ability, we may not be able to stand firm against the adversary’s temptations in these last days.”

She also shared how participating in the solemn assembly was a very special moment for her. “Professor [Perry] Christensen taught that a solemn assembly happens during temple dedications or priesthood conferences, but I attended a worldwide solemn assembly with a Hosanna Shout for the first time in my life. When President Nelson explained how to do it, it was so amazing. It made me cry because I felt the Spirit and His love so strong.”

According to President Nelson, the first recorded Hosanna Shout in this dispensation took place at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836. He said, “It is now given at the dedication of each temple. It is a sacred tribute to the Father and the Son, symbolizing the reaction of the multitude when the Savior made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.”

Harper said celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the Restoration with the Hosanna Shout was a very spiritual experience for him. “During this weekend, the Spirit was so strong. I am sure that Lucifer was sad during these two days.”

Another repeated theme was the Atonement of Jesus Christ and sharing the gospel. Mendsaikhan said, “I understood that we really have to deepen our understanding of the Atonement and be purer because the end is near and hard times are ahead of us.

“We need to be courageous and share the gospel with others to prepare the world for the Savior’s Second Coming. When Elder Ronald A. Rasband [said] that almost every prophecy that was foretold was fulfilled, it made me feel that the Second Coming is very near.”

Harper said even when the world is falling apart, people can have peace through His Atonement and turn to Him despite their shortfalls.