Numerous international participants, messages coming from afar, and the increasing availability of television and radio broadcasts worldwide made the Easter Sunday session of the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints April 2021 an event truly global.
President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the First Presidency to conduct the session, acknowledged that President Russell M. Nelson had instructed speakers from all over the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Sunday morning session.
Said President Nelson: This morning, we have heard from Church leaders coming from every continent populated on Earth. Indeed, the blessings of the gospel are for every race, language, and people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global Church. Jesus Christ is our Leader.
It coincided with the emphasis and efforts of the Churches to send a global invitation to all to hear the messages of the gospel of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and His Resurrection on the holy day of Christianity.
Opportunities caused by the pandemic
For the third consecutive General Conference of the Churches, the limitations and protocols of the COVID-19 pandemics excluded public meetings at the Salt Lake City Conference Center and the Seventy General Authority’s trip to Church headquarters from designated service locations throughout globin.
Also, members around the world were largely unable to gather in Church meeting houses to watch or listen to sessions when they were unable to access conference messages in person through digital technology such as the Internet or smartphone.
However, the same pandemic constraints resulted in some significant moments and increases for the messages and music of the April 2021 general conference recorded from around the world and an increasing number of national and regional television and radio stations broadcasting conference sessions.
Read more: Music selections during the Easter morning conference session represent the global Church, its members
Sunday morning session is filled with Easter-themed messages about the Lord’s love for His children, and the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ provided a list of speakers with the Church’s heritage, language, and current duties representing an expanse of the globe.
- Elder Ulisses S. Soares, born in So Paulo, Brazil, who as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles helps to bring the gospel to the four corners of the earth.
- Sister Reyna Isabel Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and a native of Managua, Nicaragua.
- Elder S. Mark Palmer, a Seventy General Authority born in Te Puke, New Zealand and currently in Johannesburg, South Africa, leading the South African area.
- Elder Edward Dube, a Seventy General Authority and second counselor in the same South African presidency, was born in Chiramanzu, Zimbabwe.
- Elder Jos A. Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy, originally from Vila Real, Portugal.
- Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, a Seventy General Authority born in Lomaloma, Fiji, who serves in Manila, Philippines, as president of the Philippines Zone.
- Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, born in Hong Kong and serving as the first counselor in the North American Central Area presidency outside the Church headquarters.
- Elder Michael John U. Teh, a Seventy General Authority serving in Salt Lake City, born in Davao City, Philippines.
- President Nelson, 96-year-old born and raised in Salt Lake City who heads a worldwide Church of nearly 17 million members.
Find summaries of each of their general conference messages
The international aroma continued with prayer and music sessions. Offering prayers for the session were Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy, originally from Sydney, Australia, and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, an Authority Seventy who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico.
And pre-recorded music choices came from Mexico, Korea and other parts of the world.
The birthplaces and current service areas for the aforementioned leaders represent the lands of six inhabited continents and a host of international languages, but do not yet include the places where the nine have resided for any professional, ecclesiastical, or personal purpose.
President Nelson may be the group’s most international, having visited 133 countries as an Apostle even before he became President of the Church. He devoted 31 of those nations to preaching the gospel and has been helpful in opening doors for the Church in areas such as Eastern Europe and China.
Since becoming President of the Church, President Nelson has served in nearly three dozen nations on all six continents, with more than 115,000 miles traveled equivalent to 4.5 trips around the globe. And all of this came in the first two years of his term, as the third and last year saw all travel and almost all public gatherings of size abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions and protocols.
Conference messages distributed remotely
Adding to the international flavor of the April 2021 session and conference in general was the fact that half a dozen conference messages from the General Authority of the Seventies were pre-recorded remotely in international countries:
- Elder Jorge T. Becerra, whose remarks were part of the Saturday afternoon session. He is serving as a second counselor in the presidency of the Northwest South America area, based in Lima, Peru, nearly 4,300 miles from the Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
- Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, who also spoke Saturday afternoon. He is serving as a second counselor in the Central African Area, based in Nairobi, Kenya, more than 9,000 from Salt Lake City.
- Elder Palmer and Elder Dube, who spoke in turn at Sunday morning session and are in the Johannesburg-based South African presidency, nearly 10,000 miles from Salt Lake City.
- Elder Wakolo, another Sunday morning speaker, presiding over the Philippine Area of Manila, more than 7,300 miles from Church headquarters.
- Elder Alan R. Walker, who spoke in Sunday afternoon session, is the second counselor in the Central American Area in Guatemala City, Guatemala, about 2,900 miles from Salt Lake City.
They were not the first remote messages shared at an Utah-based general conference. President Spencer W. Kimball held part of the April 1980 general conference from Peter Whitmer Farmhouse in Fayette, New York. His presidency and speech from there on April 6, 1980, the first satellite-related broadcast of a conference address commemorated the 150th anniversary of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Forty years later, the April 2020 general conference and another distant message celebrated another crucial moment in Church history, the 200th year since Joseph Smiths vision of the Lord Father and Son. President Nelsons’s reading of the two-hundred-year-old proclamation was not a live broadcast, but was recorded earlier in the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York.
While the six remote messages from the April 2021 general conference were also pre-recorded on video, they were the first remote conference conversations given outside of New York, Utah or any of the United States coming from Peru, Kenya, Africa and South, Philippines and Guatemala.
Increasing international media exposure
The general audience for the April 2021 general conference is expected to be the largest Church ever. In addition to broadcasting conferences by the Churches themselves, national and regional television and radio stations in more than 70 countries will broadcast at least one conference session. A number of these countries, including Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay will be receiving television or radio for the first time.
This is a 40% increase from the October 2020 general conference, conducted by around 200 public service broadcasters in 50 countries, reaching Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, the Pacific, and South America.
The Pacific island nation of Kiribati was included among the 50. Latter-day Saints there not only were first treated on public media broadcasts, but at the end of Sunday afternoon session, they heard President Nelson say their capital Tarawa as a location for the six new temples he announced.
For the April 2020 general conference and the first Churches in the COVID-19 pandemic, 31 countries received the general conference through national or regional television or radio broadcasts, including Jamaica, New Zealand, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
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