What Church leaders had to say about COVID-19 during General Conference

The 190th Annual General Conference of the Church being streamed and broadcast live from a mostly empty auditorium in the Church Office Building at Temple Square due to COVID-19, Saturday, April 4, 2020. (Church Newsroom)

Leer en español: Lo que los líderes de la Iglesia dijeron sobre el COVID-19 durante la Conferencia General

The April 2020 General Conference was greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t fail to bring up that fact.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the speakers addressed an almost empty auditorium, unlike regular sessions in which the Conference Center is filled with thousands of people.

“Little did I know, when I promised you at the October 2019 general conference that this April conference would be ‘memorable and unforgettable,’ that speaking to a visible congregation of fewer than 10 people would make this conference so memorable and unforgettable for me!” President Nelson said.

President Russell M. Nelson began the Saturday morning session of conference by acknowledging this session’s different circumstances, specifically that attendance was limited.

“This virus has had a major impact throughout the world. It has also altered our Church meetings, missionary service, and temple work for awhile. Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus, life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic,” he said.

President Nelson addresses members during the Sunday morning session of General Conference (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via YouTube).

That evening, President Nelson again brought up the outbreak.

“As followers of Jesus Christ, living in a day when the COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in commotion, let us not just talk of Christ or preach of Christ or employ a symbol representing Christ,” he said. “Let us put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ into action!”

It was just a week ago that President Nelson asked members to fast to be relieved of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. His message on Saturday night was very similar. “So tonight, my dear brothers and sisters, in the spirit of the sons of Mosiah who gave themselves to much fasting and prayer, and as part of our April 2020 general conference, I am calling for another worldwide fast,” he said.

This time, his invitation was a little more specific than the last. “I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened and life normalized.”

During the Sunday morning session, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also addressed the pandemic.

“Even as we speak, we are waging an ‘all hands on deck’ war with COVID-19, a solemn reminder that a virus 1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand can bring entire populations and global economies to their knees,” Elder Holland said. “We pray for those who have lost loved ones to this modern plague, as well as for those currently infected.”

Elder Holland, whose talk focused on hope, spoke about what the world should expect after the pandemic is under control.

“When we have conquered it — and we will — may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught — not terrified they will be shot —and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic or religious prejudice,” he said.

During the same session, President Nelson also said the pandemic will come to an end. “When these temporary COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, please schedule regular time to worship and serve in the temple,” he said.

President Nelson closed the conference Sunday afternoon by reminding members of next week’s fast. “We have called for a global day of fasting and prayer, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized,” he said. “This fast will be held on Good Friday, April 10. And what a great Friday that will be!”

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