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Saturday afternoon session: Leaders focus on foundations and fundamental milestones of the Restoration

Trees cast shadows on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center in Salt Lake City before the start of the 190th Annual General Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Book of Mormon was a fundamental milestone in a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is ongoing, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Saturday afternoon during the second session of the faith’s 190th Annual General Conference.

“Following the First Vision, the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon is the second fundamental milestone of the unfolding restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this dispensation,” said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He noted that the story of the appearance of the Book of Mormon was the product of additional visions Joseph Smith had with the ancient prophet Moroni. So was the work of the translation of the book revered by Latter-day Saints as scripture and another testament of Jesus Christ.

“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,” Elder Soares said.

He said it is the keystone of his personal faith.

Bishop Gérald Caussé noted that 1820, the year of the First Vision, is also the year that Bertel Thorvaldsen sculpted the Christus statue, an image of the resurrected Jesus Christ loved and frequently displayed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The reason is that it “presents the living Christ, who gained victory over death and, with open arms, invites all to come unto him.”

“The climax of the Book of Mormon ... 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 Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged members and families to take an introspective look at their lives and practices during the Salt Lake Temple renovation, which began in January and is scheduled to end in 2024.

“How could this extensive renewal of the Salt Lake Temple inspire us to undergo our own spiritual renewal, reconstruction, rebirth, revitalization or restoration?”

He suggested members consider their personal foundations, the cornerstones on which their testimonies rest.

“What are the foundational elements of my spiritual and emotional character that will allow me and my family to remain steadfast and immovable, even to withstand the earthshaking and tumultuous seismic events that will surely take place in our lives?” he said.

Latter-day Saints are intended to work on transforming themselves into having a new heart that follows Jesus Christ more fully, said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said Christ taught that the transformation begins by being drawn to him.

“What does it take for you to be drawn to the Savior?” Elder Renlund asked. “Consider Jesus Christ’s submission to his Father’s will, his victory over death, his taking upon himself your sins and mistakes, his receiving power from the Father to make intercession for you, and his ultimate redemption of you. Are these things not sufficient to draw you to him? They are for me.”

He noted that new hearts still may be prone to wander and told members they need to reflect daily on the gifts God has given them: “Let your consideration of their goodness more firmly bind your wandering heart to them.”

Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai, a General Authority Seventy, spoke about conversion and likened it to a doctor’s physical exam. Jesus Christ is the master physician, he said, and can lead each person through a spiritual examination.

“Through his Atonement, he binds up our wounds, takes upon himself our infirmities, and heals our broken hearts,” Elder Tai said. “Through his grace, our weakness can become strong.”

He said the Lord’s action plan for people is exercising faith, repenting daily, making and keeping covenants, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.

The session was broadcast from the main floor auditorium of the Church Office Building tower east of the Salt Lake Temple and was conducted by President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, who noted that the conference is designed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision and the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder John A. McCune, a General Authority Seventy, also spoke.

“In these latter-days, Christ’s church was restored in order to help Christ’s covenant children stay on his covenant path,” he said.

Church members sustained the church’s general authorities, area seventies and general officers. President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, announced nine new General Authority Seventies. He also announced a new Young Men general presidency and 57 new area seventies.

The annual auditing report was provided by Kevin R. Jergensen of the Church Auditing Department.

The church also released a statistical report that showed church membership has grown to 16,565,036.

Some of the music for this conference was prerecorded in March by the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square after its weekly broadcasts of “Music & the Spoken Word.” Other hymns are previous recordings of the choir.

The hymns for this session included a new recording of “High on the Mountain Top” and an October 2019 recording of “As I Search the Holy Scriptures.” Other hymns included “Redeemer of Israel” and “Rejoice the Lord is King.”

The opening prayer was provided by Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. Elder Rubén V. Alliaud, a General Authority Seventy gave the closing prayer.