SALT LAKE CITY — The all-virtual 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got underway Saturday, with 96-year-old President Russell M. Nelson declaring that the “work of the Lord is steadily moving forward” despite a global pandemic that has halted Sunday services, disrupted missionary work and temporarily closed temples.
Nelson addressed believers — watching online or on TV — from a theater in downtown Salt Lake City’s massive Conference Center, which is usually packed with 20,000 worshippers during these sessions.
For the second time, though, conference is an all-virtual event, with no public attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first one was in April.
Some especially significant speakers and topics included Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who acknowledged the suffering caused by the pandemic, then echoed Nelson’s optimism about the future.
Apostle Gerrit W. Gong, the faith’s first Asian American apostle, spoke Saturday afternoon about the church expanding across the world in a prerecorded address because he was “potentially exposed” to COVID-19.
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson explored the idea: What does it take to sustain a flourishing society, “one that promotes happiness, progress, peace and well-being among its members?” adding that the institutions of family and religion are “crucial."
In a sermon about loving your enemies, Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency and a former Utah Supreme Court justice, called out racism in the church and in the United States as a whole. Oaks urged church members and non-members alike to "do better to help root out racism."
Discussing the tensions over race this summer, Oaks supported peaceful protests, while condemning violence and looting, as well the need for obeying laws. And he condemned the threatened rejection of the results this year’s U.S. election.
Apostle Quentin L. Cook also addressed modern-day polarization and the need for unity amid racial and political divisions.
Conference talks can also be read in full and sessions streamed live on the church's website.
Sessions continue Saturday night from 6-8 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m.
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