On New Years Day 2023, as many people were waking to the excitement and endless possibilities of a new calendar year, Conlon and Rachel Bonner awoke to find that their 9-month-old son Joshua had passed away. Conlon Bonner is likely best-known as part of the singing group, The Bonner Family, whose beautiful voices have inspired thousands around the world. But in August 2021, Conlon played the role of Hyrum Smith in a musical about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and1820 The Musical detailed stories from the flood of revelation that followed Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
One such revelation came as Joseph Smith sought revelation about the eternal state of his children who had passed away. Six of the Smiths’ own children passed away as infants and as a result, Joseph sought to understand what would happen to these children after death as many religion believed in the theology of original sin. In the Book of Mormon, an angels speaks to King Benjamin of the Atonement of Jesus Christ’s ability to redeem infants who have died in infancy. The topic of infant baptism is again addressed in Moroni 8. Joseph Smith further proclaimed, “The doctrine of baptizing children, or sprinkling them, or they must welter in hell, is a doctrine not true, not supported in Holy Writ, and is not consistent with the character of God. All children are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and the moment that children leave this world, they are taken to the bosom of Abraham.” Doctrine and Covenants 137:10 describes the vision the Prophet had of the celestial kingdom, “I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” These and other doctrinal sources related to this theology can be found by clicking here.
Joseph Smith repeatedly ministered to many saints who’d lost their infant children. Then in 2023, through the song Alive in Christ from 1820 The Musical, Conlon and his wife Rachel Bonner felt the Prophet Joseph’s teachings ministering to them personally and providing comfort to their souls after the passing of their Joshua.
Listen to the interview with Conlon and Rachel Bonner in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: A few years ago, Conlon, you were in a play called 1820. And I was lucky enough to get to go see it. And I’ll tell you, my husband and I, we still love listening to the soundtrack. But it tells the story of the Restoration of the gospel, and there was a song when Joseph Smith received the revelation that little children didn’t have the need to be baptized before the age of eight. Joseph and Emma Smith had lost multiple children, and the song is so full of joy, because this is a dad who wants to be reunited with his kids and who knows what it feels like to long to see their child again. Somebody created a little slideshow with pictures of Joshua set to that song, and I wondered how have you drawn upon the faith of those that have come before us like Joseph and Emma Smith, and also the comforting doctrines of the gospel in a way that maybe you hadn’t previously throughout this experience?
Conlon Bonner: Oh, man, you know, if I could go back and sing that song again, and dance it like I did with 1820, oh, that would be such a joy because the doctrine in that [is so powerful]. That children are alive in Christ. “They are not lost forever. Heaven has called them home.” And [the song] repeats that over and over. “They are not lost forever. Heaven has called them home.” I know that Joshua is there. He did what he needed to do here. And heaven has called him home for a time, so that now it’s time for me to do what I’m supposed to do here. And then when the time comes, we’ll be reunited. And, gosh, I am so grateful for Joseph Smith, receiving that beautiful, beautiful doctrine. How sad it is—it hurts to imagine that children are lost forever. It hurts to think that you won’t be with them for eternity when they are so innocent, when they are so whole. They’re so good. Of course little children are alive in Christ. You think about Jesus Christ and how much He loves little children, my goodness. So I’m just so grateful to hear and to know that truth, so grateful for Joseph Smith, so grateful for being able to sing that truth and to read that truth of how children are alive in Christ. Yes, we created that video, and you can’t get through it without crying, but also can’t get through it without rejoicing and feeling so excited.
Rachel Bonner: It makes me want to stand up and clap along. Yes. It really is such a rejoicing.
Conlon Bonner: Yes, yes. So we had that played, and a slideshow shown, even at his funeral. And with collages of pictures with him and our family. He brought so much joy. And I love that he is still, his effect, is doing so much good today. And so, yes, he is not lost forever. And I’m so excited to be reunited with him again.