On behalf of the State of New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently issued a special citation to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Palmyra, New York, in 1820.
“The firm foundation and extraordinary longevity of this church demonstrate a devoted unity of faith reflected in the prayers, charitable endeavors and good works of Latter-day Saint congregations …,” the citation states.
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be deservedly proud as they gather in joyful commemoration of two centuries of history, a bright future for this house of worship, and their ongoing commitment to giving of one’s self for the betterment of all humankind.”
The 450-word citation describes the Second Great Awakening, Joseph’s vision, the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the publication of the Book of Mormon in New York. It also notes the more than 82,000 Latter-day Saints and temples in Palmyra and Manhattan found in New York today.
“It’s very significant that the governor of New York and the state government would recognize the deep significance of this for us and for the world,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“I express my thanks, personally, but also the gratitude of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for this act on behalf of the State of New York and its leaders.”
Gov. Cuomo’s citation comes at the close of a year in which New York has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Church has donated more than 800 tons of nonperishable food to faith-based food pantries and local charities in the state.
While in New York City on Feb. 27 —shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States — Elder Christofferson announced an initiative to provide 200 deliveries to food pantries in New York to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision.
Since then, “We have worked very hard to fulfill that commitment,” Elder Christofferson said.
Deliveries began in the upstate New York and New York City areas in mid-September. Benjamin Lee, an operations manager for Eastern Service Workers, told Newsroom that the demand on the group’s emergency food services “increased tenfold since the beginning of the pandemic.” The 5,000 pounds of food they received from the Church was “a tremendous boost.”
Rev. Alex Walbrodt of the Atonement Lutheran Church in East Elmhurst said, “We serve 50 people every two weeks, and now we have 150 or more, and sometimes we don’t even have enough food for 50 people. … We’re very glad about the donation so we can supplement what we get from the food bank.”
Food was shipped to New York from the Church’s Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, after being harvested from farms and processed in canneries owned by the Church.
The Church partnered with local nonprofit food delivery services, including Food Bank For New York City, Feeding Westchester, Long Island Cares and City Harvest. Hundreds of Church members in New York also volunteered to help unload the food and stock shelves at local pantries.
As many people in New York have been struggling as a result of the pandemic, Elder Robert C. Gay of the Presidency of the Seventy said, “This is a way of saying ‘No, you’re not abandoned. There are people out there that care.’”
Elder Randall K. Bennett, a General Authority Seventy serving as president of the North America Northeast Area, credited the Area Seventies, stake presidents and local members for making the donations possible.
“At a time when we could all be looking inward and focusing on self, this has been a remarkable example of people ‘loving God,’ which causes them to ‘love neighbor,’” Elder Bennett said, referencing the Savior’s Two Great Commandments in Matthew 22:34-40. “We’re all in this together. We’re brothers and sisters. We’re members of the same family, with the same Father in Heaven.”
More than 100 truckloads of food have been donated throughout the entire North America Northeast Area, Elder Christofferson said. “And it’s not just in that region of the country — it’s all across the United States and across the world. …
“We’ve been blessed by the Lord. We’ve been blessed by the generosity of the members of the Church and been able to, in this way, help in a great humanitarian cause in a crucial year and situation that none of us anticipated fully. Yet, we were ready. The Lord had prepared us.”
Elder Christofferson said like the Savior’s humble birth in Bethlehem, Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Palmyra “happened in a quiet corner.” This event ushered in the beginning of the last dispensation and preparations for the Savior’s return, and now the gospel is “rolling forth” across the earth.
“We’re grateful for the foundations of the Church beginning in New York,” he said. “Importantly, as recognized by the state’s citation, the Book of Mormon was first published there, and that book of scripture has become key to the Lord’s great latter-day work.”
Of the food donations, Elder Christofferson added, “I think this would be very pleasing to the Prophet Joseph Smith because he was always a man of such generosity.
“His home was open to anyone in need. He was ‘free with his substance,’ as the scripture says.” Though Joseph didn’t have much, if someone needed money, food or clothing, “he always was anxious … to share whatever he had.”