General conference (Latter Day Saints)
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In the Latter Day Saint movement, a general conference is a meeting for all members of the church for conducting general church business and instruction.
The first general conference of the newly formed Church of Christ was held on June 9, 1830, in Fayette, New York, presided over by Joseph Smith. It included a gathering of the 27 members of the two-month-old church.
Originally, general conferences were held every three months, as provided by one of Joseph Smith's early revelations. Beginning in 1832, the conferences were held less frequently, usually to conduct special church business or to respond to special church needs.
Following the death of Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, and the resulting succession crisis, general conferences have been practiced in different forms by several denominations in the Latter Day Saint movement.
General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
History and structure
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), general conferences are a semiannual meeting where general authorities and other church leaders preach sermons and give guidance to church members. Changes to church leadership are also proposed and sustained through the principle of common consent. General conferences are held on the weekends containing the first Sunday in April and the first Sunday in October. The April conference is known as the Annual General Conference, and the October conference the Semiannual General Conference. The April conference includes annual statistical and financial reports not included in the October meeting. Both conferences are identified by the number of years since the church was founded in April 1830; thus, the April 2013 meeting was the 183rd Annual General Conference, and the October 2013 meeting was the 183rd Semiannual General Conference.
The conferences have been held in Salt Lake City, Utah since 1848; in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square before 2000 and in the Conference Center after that. Historically, general conference was held over three days, with the annual conference always including April 6. This proved difficult when April 6 fell midweek, making conference attendance difficult to attend due to work and school commitments. In April 1977, during Spencer W. Kimball's presidency, conference was reduced to two days, Saturday and Sunday.
Each conference currently consists of five two-hour sessions: four general sessions and one Priesthood session. General sessions commence at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Mountain Time) on Saturday and Sunday. General sessions are open to all church members and guests holding tickets, usually for only one session. The tickets are free of charge and church members can obtain them from either local leaders or by writing to church headquarters. Standby tickets are also available, as frequently many ticket holders are not able to attend. At 6 p.m. on Saturday the Priesthood session is held for men and boys (12 years and older) who hold the church's priesthood. Beginning in 1994, a women's general meeting was held on Saturday a week prior to the general sessions of the October conference, with a general meeting for young women held at a similar time before the April conference. In November 2013, church leadership announced that beginning in 2014 these meetings for women would be replaced by a semiannual meeting general women's meeting for those eight years of age and older. The main sessions of general conference last for 2 hours, with the women's meetings traditionally lasting about 90 minutes.
A member of the church's First Presidency normally conducts each conference session, with the President of the Church presiding. On occasions in the past, when part or all of the First Presidency have been absent, the First Presidency invites someone else to conduct the conference, that typically being the most senior apostle not in the First Presidency. The conducting official introduces the various speakers, which over the course of the sessions will generally include all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with other selected church leaders. Almost every general authority of the church is present, though outside the First Presidency and Twelve only few speak. Non-general authority speakers may include male and female officers of auxiliary organizations.
During one general session (usually Saturday afternoon) the conducting officer presents all the church's general authorities and general officers for a formal sustaining vote of the membership, and it is usually at this time that any changes among the general church leadership are announced. Normally, the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are mentioned by name; those in other positions are mentioned by name only if they are being called to new positions or released from previous ones. The person conducting asks all of those who are in favor of the sustaining the current leadership, or the calling of a new leader, to raise their hand in a "vote." The conducting officer then asks any who may be opposed to raise their hand. Dissenting votes are rare and the customary declaration at the end of the voting is "the voting appears to be unanimous in the affirmative."
At the first general conference after the death of a church president and the calling of his successor, the session at which the sustaining vote takes place is called a solemn assembly. At a solemn assembly, groups of Latter-day Saints are asked to stand in succession and sustain the new church president, followed by his counselors and members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Typically, the order is: First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the First and Second Quorums of Seventy and Presiding Bishopric, Melchizedek priesthood holders, Aaronic priesthood holders, Relief Society members, members of the Young Women organization, and then all members together. Then, unless there are specific releases or sustainings, other general authorities and general officers as sustained and a vote called for "as presently constituted."
Frequently, special announcements are made at general conference, which may include building sites for new temples or the institution of new policies or programs.
Music is also an important part of the conference. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir along with the organist at the Conference Center generally provide the majority of the music, with the exception of the Saturday afternoon and priesthood sessions. Guest ensembles include regional choirs, institute choirs, the MTC choir, and the BYU Choirs. The hymns are usually selected from the normal repertoire of LDS hymns and their various arrangements, with an occasional piece from traditional sacred choral repertoire. Usually, the congregation is invited to stand and join in with one hymn halfway through each session.
Very rarely, soloist artists will perform for conferences. The last to do so, Liriel Domiciano, performed in the 2004 Annual General Conference with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Beginning in 1996, the recordings of the music performed in General Conference itself have from that date been distributed on the CD recordings of each Conference. When the Church began distributing DVDs in 2001, the music was also included, and in October 2008, mp3 recordings of the music performed began to be posted at the same time, or within a day or two of, the audio mp3 recordings of the sermons are posted on the Church's website.
Members of the church regard and sustain the President of the Church, the counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles as "prophets, seers, and revelators," and are counseled to pay close attention to what they teach throughout the year. However, the sermons given at general conference are held in particularly high esteem and they are considered the will of God to the church members at the current time. The sermons (usually called talks) are published in the Ensign, the official church English language magazine, the month following a general conference. They are also translated and printed in the Liahona, the church's international version of the Ensign, which is published in multiple languages. Church members are encouraged to read and study the talks, discuss them at home and at church, and quote from them while giving lessons and sermons at church.
A sample of the topics of general conference discourses includes:
- Unity (Eyring, October 2008)
- Forgiveness (Faust, April 2007; Hinckley, October 2005)
- Natural disasters and preparedness (Hinckley, October 2005)
- Faith (Sorensen, April 2005)
- Gratitude (Monson, October 2010)
- The dangers of pornography (Hinckley, October 2004; Oaks, April 2005; Holland, April 2010)
- The first vision of Joseph Smith (Uchtdorf, April 2005)
- Acquiring a testimony of Jesus (McMullin, April 2004)
- Fatherhood (Perry, April 2004)
- The Atonement of Jesus (Hafen, April 2004)
- Fasting (Pratt, October 2004)
- Repentance (Nelson, April 2007; Uchtdorf, April 2007; Oaks, October 2003)
- Eternal life through Jesus (Madsen, April 2002)
- Tithing (Tingey, April 2002)
- Hope in the Atonement of Jesus (Faust, October 2001)
- The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Packer, October 2001)
Although the conference is held in the Conference Center the church makes it as widely available as possible. It is shown on screens in various buildings on Temple Square, including the Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The conference usually airs on the LDS-owned media outlets, including KSL-TV, KSL (AM), KBYU (FM), and KBYU-TV. The conference usually preempts regularly scheduled programming. The conference is broadcast by satellite to church meetinghouses throughout the world, either simultaneously or time delayed to accommodate for differing time zones.
Conferences are also broadcast by some pay television networks such as Dish, DirecTV, and C-band in some markets on BYUtv. In recent years, the conference can also be heard or viewed via the church's website. Beginning in October 2013, the Priesthood session will also be broadcast on BYUtv and via the church's website.
Since October 2009, the Internet site broadcasts on the church's website have been supplemented with the church's official radio station, the Mormon Channel, also broadcasting the conference live.
Using these methods, the church delivers the broadcast to 83 countries transmitting to over 7,450 church facilities worldwide and airing over 20 television and 2,177 cable stations. Volunteer language professionals translate the sermons into over 90 languages live during the simulcast, meaning that ninety-eight percent of church members can listen to general conference in their native language. Where there is no satellite or internet availability local church units receive general conference on DVD.
World Conference in Community of Christ
World Conference is the name given to the tri-annual meeting of delegates of Community of Christ. Originally called General Conferences and held semiannually, or as need arose, they have the same origin as the semi-annual General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
The World Conference is the highest legislative body in the Community of Christ and is empowered to act for the entire church. Delegates to the conference are elected by Mission Center conferences. Motions are often debated vigorously and the results are sometimes controversial. World Conferences are traditionally held at Community of Christ World Headquarters, with the legislative and main worship services held in the Auditorium.
- (LDS D&C 20:61)
- "Report of the 147th Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Ensign: 1. May 1977.
- "First Presidency Announces New General Women’s Meeting".
- "The Solemn Assembly Sustaining of Church Officers". Ensign. May 1995.
- Ezra Taft Benson, “‘Come unto Christ, and Be Perfected in Him’,” Ensign, May 1988, p. 84.
- "LDS Church", November 2010