SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson read a new proclamation to millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the Sunday morning session of a global general conference, then led them in a Hosanna Shout during a special solemn assembly to commemorate the First Vision.
The proclamation declared that the church is “Christ’s New Testament church restored.”
President Nelson introduced the proclamation by presenting a video filmed previously in the Sacred Grove, the site of the appearance in the spring of 1820 of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York.
The document is the sixth proclamation in church history and is titled, “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.” It was authored by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We solemnly proclaim that God loves His children in every nation of the world. God the Father has given us the divine birth, the incomparable life, and the infinite atoning sacrifice of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. By the power of the Father, Jesus rose again and gained the victory over death. He is our Savior, our Exemplar, and our Redeemer.
Two hundred years ago, on a beautiful spring morning in 1820, young Joseph Smith, seeking to know which church to join, went into the woods to pray near his home in upstate New York, USA. He had questions regarding the salvation of his soul and trusted that God would direct him.
In humility, we declare that in answer to his prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph and inaugurated the restitution of all things as foretold in the Bible. In this vision, he learned that following the death of the original Apostles, Christ’s New Testament Church was lost from the earth. Joseph would be instrumental in its return.
We affirm that under the direction of the Father and the Son, heavenly messengers came to instruct Joseph and re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ. The resurrected John the Baptist restored the authority to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. Three of the original twelve Apostles — Peter, James and John — restored the apostleship and keys of priesthood authority. Others came as well, including Elijah, who restored the authority to join families together forever in eternal relationships that transcend death.
We further witness that Joseph Smith was given the gift and power of God to translate an ancient record: the Book of Mormon — Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Pages of this sacred text include an account of the personal ministry of Jesus Christ among people in the Western Hemisphere soon after His Resurrection. It teaches of life’s purpose and explains the doctrine of Christ, which is central to that purpose. As a companion scripture to the Bible, the Book of Mormon testifies that all human beings are sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven, that He has a divine plan for our lives, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, speaks today as well as in days of old.
We declare that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized on April 6, 1830, is Christ’s New Testament Church restored. This Church is anchored in the perfect life of its chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and in His infinite Atonement and literal Resurrection. Jesus Christ has once again called Apostles and has given them priesthood authority. He invites all of us to come unto Him and His Church, to receive the Holy Ghost, the ordinances of salvation, and to gain enduring joy.
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.
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.’
With reverence and gratitude, we as His Apostles invite all to know — as we do — that the heavens are open. We affirm that God is making known His will for His beloved sons and daughters. We testify that those who prayerfully study the message of the Restoration and act in faith will be blessed to gain their own witness of its divinity and of its purpose to prepare the world for the promised Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
President Nelson said the recent turmoil caused by earthquakes, fires, floods and plagues have created upheaval that makes the gospel truth even more important.
“The increasing darkness that accompanies tribulation makes the light of Jesus Christ shine even brighter,” he said. “Just think of the good we can each do during this time of global upheaval.”
He asked members to study the proclamation “privately and with your family members and friends. Ponder the truths and think of the impact those truths will have on your life if you will hear them, hearken to them, and heed the commandments and covenants that accompany them.”
Every speaker in the morning session focused on the First Vision and the Restoration.
Ancient prophets prophesied about the Restoration of Christ’s full gospel in the latter days, and Joseph Smith said it “fired the souls” of those early seers, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He quoted prophecies of Daniel, Joseph of Egypt, Malachi, the Apostle Paul and John the Revelator.
“We live in that time prophesied,” he said. “We are the people charged with ushering in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We are to gather God’s children, those who will hear and embrace the truths, covenants and promises of the everlasting gospel.”
The coronavirus pandemic transformed the conference. On its 20th anniversary, the 21,000-seat Conference Center sat empty. The speakers instead addressed millions of Latter-day Saints from an auditorium in the Church Office Building tower east of the Salt Lake Temple. They, the First Presidency and those who prayed were the only ones in the room.
One Latter-day Saint apostle said he and his wife spent the past six months preparing for this conference’s celebration of the Restoration by imagining themselves in 1820 and looking at the beliefs of the day.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said he and Sister Patricia Holland found they would have wanted a truer concept of God, evidence of another testament of Jesus Christ like the Book of Mormon, someone with true priesthood authority and temples established again, “with the Spirit, the ordinances, the power and the authority to teach eternal truths, heal personal wounds and bind families together forever,” he said.
“I would have looked anywhere and everywhere to find someone authorized to say to me and my beloved Patricia that our marriage in such a setting was sealed for time and all eternity, never to hear or have imposed on us the haunting curse ‘until death do you part,’” he added.
He noted that President Nelson had invited members to look ahead to conference by looking back at the majesty of the Restoration. Elder Holland said there is much to look forward to beyond conference.
“I testify that the future is going to be as miracle-filled and bountifully blessed as the past has been,” he said. “We have every reason to hope for blessings even greater than those we have already received, because this is the work of Almighty God, this is the church of continuing revelation, this is the gospel of unlimited grace and benevolence.”
Both Elder Holland and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, the Young Women general president, spoke about the light that appeared in the Sacred Grove when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820.
“Their light drove back the spiritual darkness that covered the earth and pointed the way forward for Joseph Smith,” Sister Cordon said.
“The Lord’s invitation to let our light so shine is not just about randomly waving a beam of light and making the world generally brighter,” she added. “It is about focusing our light so others may see the way to Christ. It is gathering Israel on this side of the veil. Helping others see the next step forward in making and keeping covenants with God.”
She encouraged members to use the gospel’s light to help others.
“You and I have enough light to share right now,” Sister Cordon said. “We can light the next step to help someone draw nearer to Jesus Christ, and then the next step, and the next. Ask yourself, ‘who needs the light you have to find the path they need but cannot see?’”
Elder Holland added, “If so many of our 1820 hopes could begin to be fulfilled with a flash of divine light to a mere boy kneeling in a patch of trees in upstate New York, why should we not hope that righteous desires and Christlike yearnings can still be marvelously, miraculously answered by the God of all hope? We all need to believe that what we desire in righteousness can someday, someway, somehow yet be ours.”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve spoke of the restoration of temples and temple ordinances like the sealing authority Elder Holland mentioned.
“The restoration of the sealing authority by Elijah in 1836 was necessary to prepare the world for the Savior’s Second Coming and initiated a greatly increased and worldwide interest in family history research,” he said.
Temple worship is essential to God’s plan to develop his children, he added.
“The essence of the Lord’s work is changing, turning and purifying hearts through gospel covenants and priesthood ordinances,” he said, adding, “We do not build or enter holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, the covenants received and the ordinances performed in temples are essential to the sanctifying of our hearts and for the ultimate exaltation of God’s sons and daughters.”
He also said, “We do not come to the temple to hide from or escape the evils of the world. Rather, we come to the temple to conquer the world of evil.”
He said the church will break ground on 18 new temples in 2020.
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the session.
“We’re pleased to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, a unique event that has shaped the lives of children of God throughout the world, as it initiated the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square provided prerecorded music for the session. The hymns included “Truth Eternal,” “How Firm a Foundation,” “This Is My Beloved Son,” “Now Let Us Rejoice,” “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling” and “The Spirit of God.”
Two General Authority Seventies, Elder Brook P. Hales and Elder Peter M. Johnson, provided the prayers.