During the October 2019 General Conference President Russell M. Nelson invited the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to prepare for the April conference that will commemorate the bicentennial of the First Vision.
In that occasion, President Nelson counseled us to “immerse … in the glorious light of the Restoration.” And he gave us this promise: “As you do, general conference next April will be not only memorable; it will be unforgettable.”
We couldn’t have imagined five months ago how the logistic of General Conference would be impacted by the spreading of the new health threat, the COVID-19 (coronavirus).
“Sessions (of the General Conference) will be done virtually; members will not gather at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City or at stake centers or meetinghouses in areas where COVID-19 is active.”
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published on the Church News their decision and explained:
“We are deeply concerned about the global spreading of illness caused by COVID-19. We have counseled with worldwide governmental, ecclesiastical, and medical leaders and have prayerfully considered the current circumstances. We want to be good global citizens and do what we can to control this contagious illness…
To help control this problem, we feel it wise to limit attendance at the upcoming April 2020 General Conference. We plan to conduct all five sessions of that conference at the Conference Center. General authorities, general officers and their spouses, musicians, choirs, technicians, and others will participate as assigned. But, proceedings of the conference will be distributed throughout the world via technology only. The public will not be admitted in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, or in stake centers or meetinghouses in areas where contagion is a concern.”
While what is happening is unfortunate, even if not necessarily unexpected, there is at least one positive side in all of this, as the statement from church leaders observes:
“We live in a remarkable age. The Lord has blessed us with the technology and capacity to participate in and receive messages from Church leaders in all parts of the world.”
After all, out of 16 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not more than 20,000 can gather at the Conference Center in person in each session. So, for most church members it won’t make any difference that the “proceedings of the conference will be distributed throughout the world via technology only.”
What is important is that
“This special conference will commemorate the bicentennial of the First Vision and the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.”
“We invite all to continue to prepare for this conference. As we do, we will be blessed to hear the word of the Lord and participate in a general conference experience that will remain not only memorable, but unforgettable.”
This April 2020 General Conference was already supposed to be memorable, but COVID-19 may help focus even more our attention in those important messages from church leaders. It’s another reminder that we are in the last days, and that 200 years have already passed since the Restoration of the Gospel began with the First Vision of Joseph Smith. The Second Coming of the Savior cannot be too far away. And we know that before that day,
…nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:7)
But the Lord has said,
“If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
“Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” (D&C 87:8).