Women leaders recall visiting the Sacred Grove with President Nelson. Read what they learned

In preparation for the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, President Russell M. Nelson retraced the steps of the Prophet Joseph Smith into the Sacred Grove and delivered a bold proclamation to the world declaring the ongoing Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

On this historic occasion, President Nelson invited two general officers — Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham and Primary General President Joy D. Jones — to join him. 

President Bingham and President Jones recently recounted “the profound privilege” of standing in the Sacred Grove with President Nelson as he spoke the words of “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.”

Sister Bingham said as she stood in the Sacred Grove, she looked to the “witness trees” — trees that would have been in the grove when the Prophet Joseph was there.  

The Sacred Grove.
The Sacred Grove. Credit: Church News archives

“I thought about the things that happened in that grove that have impacted my life,” she said. “And I thought about President Nelson, who is now the legal successor of the Prophet Joseph Smith. And I thought, ‘This is an absolutely remarkable experience to be listening to this declaration, this proclamation about the Restoration that has impacted every single person who lives upon the earth, delivered by our 95-year-old prophet, who is strong and vital and has all the keys of the kingdom.’”

President Bingham said she felt President Nelson’s brilliance, enthusiasm and love. “You could see that he was so grateful for the blessings of the gospel for himself and for everyone in the entire world.”

Likewise, President Jones called it “a tender experience” to stand in the Sacred Grove. Even though there was only a handful of people standing with President Nelson in the Sacred Grove, it felt as though “he was speaking to the world.”

“I remember, prior to the filming beginning, when President Nelson looked up just for a moment,” recalled President Jones. “He looked up to the heavens. And at that moment, I thought, ‘The heavens truly are just as open as they were when the Prophet Joseph was in that grove.’”

It was important to know Latter-day Saints also felt “a connection to that remarkable place where it all began, where the world was changed because of what took place in the Sacred Grove with Joseph Smith, the Father and the Son.”

Joseph Smith family home

On the same occasion that he read the Church’s newest proclamation, President Nelson also met in the replica of the Joseph Smith family home with some of the Church’s Primary children.

President Jones said it was “priceless” to watch the children and President Nelson interact.

“President Nelson loves the children,” she said. “It was so comfortable. It was so natural. It was as if he was sitting with a group of his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

President Russell M. Nelson and President Joy D. Jones speak with a group of children in a previously recorded video shared during the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson and President Joy D. Jones speak with a group of children in a previously recorded video shared during the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, ChurchofJesusChrist.org

He asked the children their names and put them at ease, she said. “I just couldn’t take my eyes off the children, who couldn’t take their eyes off of President Nelson.”

Sister Jones said it was appropriate to have children, “our rising generation,” join the prophet in that setting.

“President Nelson has challenged our youth and our children to be part of this marvelous youth battalion to step up, to rise up, and to be part of the work of salvation and exaltation,” said President Jones. “I see that strength in our children and our youth. I see it. I know President Nelson sees it, and He’s inviting them. He’s encouraging them. …

“I think that was a really powerful message for those children to … be able to actually speak of truth, to speak of doctrine, to speak of things that are important to them and what they see, and how they want to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and be examples to others.”

Priesthood restoration site

During the trip, the general officers and President Nelson also visited Harmony, Pennsylvania — the site where the priesthood was restored to the earth.

After speaking with President Nelson about the priesthood at that sacred site, President Bingham said she has a “greater appreciation for the blessings that women have.”

At an earlier time in her life, President Bingham said she felt as though women “were not as intimately blessed by the priesthood” as men.

President Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, and President Russell M. Nelson discuss the role of women in the restoration of priesthood authority in a video shown during the Saturday evening session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020.
President Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, and President Russell M. Nelson discuss the role of women in the restoration of priesthood authority in a video shown during the Saturday evening session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, ChurchofJesusChrist.org

President Nelson — in addition to her own personal study — “helped me to realize that women are losing nothing; women have every single blessing of the priesthood in their lives that men do.”

She hopes that every Church member has a greater appreciation for Joseph and Emma Smith and their role in the Restoration.

During the trip, she thought often about Emma Smith. “When you think about all that Emma went through time after time, losing child after child, and, yet, she had a firm testimony that Joseph was the Prophet, and that this was the Lord’s Church that was being restored. The original Church of Jesus Christ.”

Like Joseph Smith, Latter-day Saints “can always turn to God. He will answer us, no matter what, if we are sincere.”

President Bingham said the trip was an experience she will never forget. “I felt very highly honored to be one of the two called leaders who were there observing — in quiet hush, in reverence, in that beautiful setting.”