April 2020 General Conference speakers focus on Restoration, First Vision in honor of 200th anniversary

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From left, Elder Neil L. Anderson, President M. Russell Ballard, President Dallin H. Oaks, President Russell M. Nelson and President Henry B. Eyring sit in a nearly empty auditorium, the location for the 190th annual General Conference. (Church Newsroom)

The 190th annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was historic not only because of the current global circumstances but also for the event it commemorated.

As promised by President Nelson six months ago, the conference was focused around commemorating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision of the prophet Joseph Smith, and the subsequent Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Several speakers throughout the five sessions addressed aspects of and bore testimony of the Restoration.

“This year, we commemorate the 200th anniversary of one of the most significant events in the history of the world, namely, the appearance of God the Father and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith,” President Nelson said.

During the Sunday morning session, President Nelson introduced a new proclamation, titled “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.”

Following the reading of the proclamation, the prophet led members worldwide in a sacred “Hosanna Shout” by waving white handkerchiefs.

President Nelson leads Latter-day Saints worldwide in a Hosanna Shout during the Sunday morning session of General Conference. (Church Newsroom)

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, talked about the significance of Joseph’s and Hyrum’s sacrifices.

“As we celebrate this joyous occasion, the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, we should always remember the price Joseph and Hyrum Smith paid, along with so many other faithful men, women and children, to establish the Church so you and I could have and enjoy the many blessings and all these revealed truths we have today,” he said.

Several speakers addressed the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, a crowning event of the Restoration.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the miraculous events that took place to bring about the book.

“As we study the coming forth of this holy book of scripture in these latter days, we come to realize that the entire undertaking was miraculous — from the Prophet Joseph receiving the gold plates from a holy angel to its translation by the gift and power of God, its preservation and publication by the hand of the Lord,” he said.

Elder Soares said those who seek to receive a witness of the book can have an experience “as glorious and sacred for you as Joseph Smith’s experiences were for him.”

Gérald Caussé, the presiding bishop of the Church, touched on how the Book of Mormon is a testament of the living Christ.

Bishop Caussé noted that Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue, which is now the image of the Church’s new symbol, was sculpted in 1820 — the same year as the First Vision. He said this statue reminds members of the Book of Mormon description of the Savior’s appearance on the American continent, as found in 3 Nephi 11.

“This sublime scene is the climax of the Book of Mormon,” he said. “The entire ‘good news’ of the gospel is contained in this image of the Savior tenderly extending His ‘arms of mercy’ to invite each individual to come unto Him and receive the blessings of His Atonement.”

Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai of the Seventy said the Book of Mormon is “a powerful tool to aid in conversion.”

“The Book of Mormon provides spiritual nutrition, prescribes a plan of action and connects us with the Holy Spirit. Written for us, it contains the word of God in plainness and tells us of our identity, purpose and destiny,” he said.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also defined the Book of Mormon as a tool for conversion. “When you share the Book of Mormon, you share the Restoration.”

President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks wave at the camera. (Church Newsroom)

At the close of the conference, President Nelson announced eight new temples to be built in various locations, including Dubai and Shanghai, and emphasized the role of temples in the Restoration.

“Temples are a crowning part of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “In God’s goodness and generosity, He is bringing the blessings of the temple closer to His children everywhere.”

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