General Conference (LDS Church)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)|
|Annual General Conference
Semiannual General Conference
|Venue||LDS Conference Center|
|Location(s)||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|Inaugurated||1 April 1830|
|Organized by||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
General Conference is a semiannual gathering of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), held every April and October at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. During each conference, members of the church gather in a series of two-hour sessions to listen to sermons from church leaders. It consists of five sessions, one exclusively for male priesthood holders on Saturday evening.
While originating from Salt Lake City, General Conference is considered an international event for the church. The sessions are broadcast worldwide in many languages, primarily through local and international media outlets, and over the Internet.
History and structure
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), general conference is a series of semiannual meetings where general authorities and other church leaders preach sermons and give guidance to the members of the church. Changes to church leadership are also proposed and sustained through the principle of common consent. General conferences are held on the weekends of the first Sundays in April and October. The April conference is known as the Annual General Conference, and the October conference as 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 2011 meeting was the 181st Annual General Conference, and the October 2011 meeting was the 181st Semiannual General Conference.
The conferences have been held in Salt Lake City, Utah since 1848, with the exception of the April 1877 conference which was held in St. George, Utah; in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square prior to April 2000 and in the Conference Center since that time. Historically, General Conference was held over three days, with the annual conference always including April 6. This made conference participation difficult for those with work and school commitments when April 6 fell midweek. In April 1977, during Spencer W. Kimball's presidency, the conference was reduced to two days, and would be held exclusively over a weekend.
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, 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 either from 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.
Since October 2014, leaders assigned to speak at general conference have the option of speaking in their native language.
A member of the First Presidency of the church 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, whoever the First Presidency requests to conduct the conference may do so, which has usually been 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 and a selection of other leaders in the church. 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), all the general authorities and general officers of the church are presented for the 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 or released from a previous or to a new position. The person conducting asks all of those who are in favor of sustaining the current leadership or the calling of a new leader to raise their hand in a "vote." He then asks that any who are opposed 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 president of the church. Typically, the order is: First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorums of Seventy, Melchizedek priesthood holders, Aaronic priesthood holders, Relief Society members, members of the Young Women organization, and then all members together. Then the names of all other general authorities are read, and a sustaining and opposing vote is called for.
Frequently, special announcements are made at a 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 in setting the appropriate spiritual mood. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, accompanied by tabernacle organists, generally provides the majority of the music, with the exception of the Saturday afternoon and priesthood sessions. At the Saturday afternoon session and the priesthood session guest ensembles include regional choirs, institute choirs, an 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.
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 (called "talks") are published in the Ensign, an 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)
- The dangers of pornography (Oaks, April 2005; Hinckley, October 2004)
- 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)
The events of the conferences are televised both locally and internationally through various platforms to increase their exposure and availability. Sessions are broadcast on screens in various buildings on Temple Square, including the Tabernacle, Assembly Hall and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The conference sessions are also broadcast via satellite to church meetinghouses throughout the world, either simultaneously or time delayed to accommodate differing time zones and languages. The conferences have also aired through webcasts, and since 2010, the complete sermons have been posted on the Church's Mormon Messages YouTube channel.
Conference was first broadcast on Television in October 1949.
Live coverage of the conferences are also shown on local television and radio stations with ties to the LDS Church. These include Utah's NBC affiliate KSL-TV and AM/FM radio station KSL (AM)/FM (owned by Bonneville International, a commercial broadcasting arm of the Church), KBYU-FM and KBYU-TV (public broadcasters owned by Brigham Young University), Mormon Channel (the LDS-owned radio network, which also has additional HD Radio coverage in Bonneville markets), and BYU Television (national cable and satellite, and over KBYU-DT2). Coverage of the conferences on these stations usually focus on the four main sessions only.
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- Official website
- Official listing of cable/radio accessibility
- LDS Church Conference Reports (October 1897 – 2011)