SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened the faith’s 190th Annual General Conference Saturday morning by asking church members to take part in a “solemn assembly” Sunday.
Speaking to an empty auditorium, President Nelson noted the differences in this spring’s general conference sessions from the many that came before it. But the spirit behind it remains the same, he said.
“The purpose of this and every general conference is to help us to hear [Jesus Christ],” he said, inviting church members to “commence a lifelong quest to hear him” while also observing the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
A different kind of general conference
President Nelson acknowledged the change from typical church gatherings, noting the closure of the church’s temples and moves to bring missionaries home.
“Little did I know when I promised you at the October 2019 general conference that this April conference would be memorable and unforgettable, that speaking to a visible congregation of fewer than 10 people would make this conference so memorable and unforgettable for me,” President Nelson remarked.
But he added, scripture counsels the faithful to be prepared rather than fear.
“Of course we can store our own reserves of food, water and savings,” he said, “but equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth and testimony.”
The solemn assembly and Hosanna shout
President Nelson described the call for a solemn assembly Sunday morning as a spiritual highlight for Latter-day Saints. He called on members of the church to join him in a “Hosanna shout” in order to “express in global unison our profound gratitude to God the Father and his Beloved Son by praising them in this unique way.”
According to a news release from the church, “Solemn assemblies are special, sacred meetings held for a variety of holy purposes.” Hosanna shouts, the release continued, represents the crowd’s reaction to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for Passover.
At various times in church history, members have similar cried out, “Hosanna.” Notably, this took place after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, and at the 1892 capstone ceremony of the Salt Lake Temple. At that event, members waved white handkerchiefs. Sunday, President Nelson said, a wave of the hand could replace the handkerchief if you do not have one.
In the past, the church has held solemn assemblies for events such as sustaining a new church president or dedicating a temple.
“We have prayed, and invite you to pray, that the Spirit of the Lord will be with us in such rich abundance that you can hear the messages that the Savior has especially for you—messages that will bring peace to your soul,” President Nelson said.
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