LDS General Conference recap: Day 1

FOX 13 News
FOX 13 News

The fourth straight all-virtual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started Saturday with President Russell M. Nelson noting that the world is “still dealing with the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants.”

“We thank you,” the 97-year-old church leader said, “for following our counsel and the advice of medical experts and government officials in your own communities.”

Nelson, a former heart surgeon , and the faith’s top brass consistently have urged members to be vaccinated against COVID-19, assuring them that the shots have proved “ safe and effective .”

Some Latter-day Saints have pushed back against that call — although vaccination rates did rise briefly in Utah after the church’s latest plea in August. A survey from Public Religion Research Institute this past summer showed that 65% of Latter-day Saints were classified as vaccine acceptors.

Meanwhile, apostle Jeffrey R. Holland gave his first public sermon since his controversial talk at church-owned Brigham Young University in August, encouraging members to “take up the cross of Christ, however demanding it may be, regardless of the issue and regardless of the cost.”

General authority Seventy Erich W. Kopischke offered a deeply personal address about people who face mental health challenges. His remarks were the most extensive at a conference on the subject since Reyna Aburto , second counselor in the women’s Relief Society general presidency, and Holland, tackled the tender topic in 2019 and 2013 , respectively.

On Saturday morning, for the first time since October 2019, a session featured live performances by a scaled-back Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (music for the three previous conferences came from recordings).

Church leaders, including Nelson , all wore masks while seated. The authorities, also limited in their numbers, delivered their speeches from the familiar Conference Center Auditorium, as opposed to the downtown Salt Lake City facility’s much smaller theater that hosted previous pandemic broadcasts.

The 21,000 seats in the massive meeting hall, however, were mostly empty due to COVID-19, with only several hundred seeing the proceedings in person. Members of the 16.6 million-member global faith tuned in to the sessions via the internet, television or radio.

Henry B. Eyring, Nelson’s second counselor in the governing First Presidency, noted that the choir members had been vaccinated and tested for the virus. Their numbers were greatly reduced to provide social distancing.

A multicultural choir of members from northern Utah sang at the afternoon gathering, followed by a troupe from BYU in the evening session. All these performers also had been vaccinated and tested, and were spaced apart in the Conference Center.

Click here to read The Salt Lake Tribune's full recap of Saturday's conference sessions.

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