What is general conference?
General conference is a semi-annual meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held during the first weekend of April and October each year. All Latter-day Saints, and everyone interested are invited to listen to shared messages which are all inspirational and uplifting. General conference is held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, but is broadcast to people all around the world via radio, satellite transmission, and the internet. A special session for men age 12 and over occurs every April, and a special session for women age 8 and older happens every October. Every conference is done in five sessions with each session lasting for two hours.
What are the activities during general conference?
General conference is a very special opportunity for everyone to hear the messages delivered by a living prophet and apostles whom the Latter-day Saints believe as the leaders of the Church. During this event, various religious and spiritual talks are given by the Church leaders who are inspired by God to lead and guide His children on earth.
Male and female Church leaders speak and pray, and the affairs of the Church are conducted during the conference. A form of entertainment through musical numbers is carried out by the world-famous Tabernacle Choir and other performers.
As a way to reach out to as many people as possible, conference messages are then translated to over 90 languages and are published online. One can also learn of it by reading the Church’s Liahona magazine.
History of general conference
The first general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held in Fayette, New York, on 9 June 1830— a little over two months after the Church was organized. Only 27 members were present at that time. This first general conference was more like a church administration meeting, unlike the general conferences of the present era. Church leaders hold a sustaining vote (a special vote where Church members can show support), scriptures were read aloud, and certain Church leaders were ordained as priests. Although sustaining votes are still part of Latter-day Saint general conference, with the passage of time, the general conference of today has been characterized by more sermons and talks given by Church leaders.
Throughout the mid-1800s, general conference was held in various locations throughout the United States (Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, and other places), as the Latter-day Saints migrated westward to Utah. The 1848 conference took place in a semi-outdoor structure called bowery, after early Church members arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah. Later, conference sessions were held in an adobe structure which the early Saints built. Not long after, a special church building called the Tabernacle was completed in 1867. It became the venue for general conferences from 1876 until 2000, when the Conference Center that stands today was finished. Today’s Conference Center can accommodate 21,000 people at a time, and over 100,000 people attend over the course of the five sessions of each conference!
General conferences started to reach a greater number of people when the inaugural radio broadcast of general conference happened in 1923. Local television transmission began in 1949, and conference messages were first translated from English into different languages in 1962. Satellite broadcasts began in 1975, and in early 1999, general conference was made available online. Today, it can be viewed online at ChurchOfJesusChrist.org, on YouTube, and through various existing apps. General conference is now available in 93 languages, hence, people of different nationalities can truly learn from it and understand it in their own native languages.
Why is general conference important?
Whether you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not, general conference has been giving everyone a unique opportunity to listen to God’s words and receive guidance from Him. Amazingly, speakers at general conference do not prepare scripts because they are not assigned specific topics beforehand, but instead they pray to God for know-how and inspiration on what to talk about. Devoting one’s time to listen to general conference is a way to show God that you are seeking His influence, and that you care about the messages He wants to share with you.
Before attending or listening to the conference, it’s advisable that one should pray to ask God for the things He wants you to learn from the conference. Praying also is a moment to ponder on spiritual questions you may have. During conference, you may find the answers you have been searching for, whether through something a speaker says, or through the influence of the Holy Spirit, which can teach truth to your mind and heart.
Visit ChurchofJesusChrist.org to learn about when the next general conference will be held and how you can participate. ◼︎