General Conference (LDS Church)
|Annual General Conference
Semiannual General Conference
|Venue||LDS Conference Center|
|Location(s)||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|Inaugurated||9 June 1830|
|Organized by||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
General Conference is a gathering of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), held semiannually 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 six general sessions, one exclusively for male priesthood holders on Saturday evening, and a general women's meeting held a week prior. Private training meetings for general and area leaders of the church are also conducted.
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 LDS Church, general conference is a series of semiannual meetings 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 of the first Sundays in April and October. The April conference is known as the Annual General Conference, with the October conference referred to as the Semiannual General Conference. The April conference includes annual statistical and financial audit 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 2016 meeting was the 186th Annual General Conference, and the October 2016 meeting will be the 186th Semiannual General Conference.
Since October 1848, all of the conferences have been held in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the exception of the April 1877 conference, which was held in St. George, Utah. Conferences were held in a bowery in Salt Lake City from 1848 to 1852, in the Old Salt Lake Tabernacle from 1852 to 1867, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle from October 1867 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, the anniversary of the church's organization. This made conference participation difficult for those with work and school commitments when April 6 fell on a weekday. In April 1977, during Spencer W. Kimball's presidency, changes were made to reduce the conference to the Saturday and Sunday of a weekend.
Each conference currently consists of six sessions: four general sessions, a priesthood session for males, and a women's 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. 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. The main and priesthood sessions of general conference last for two hours, with the women's meetings traditionally lasting about 90 minutes.
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 General Women's Meeting for those eight years of age and older.
On September 27, 2014, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, referred to the General Women's Meeting as the opening of General Conference, a change from the practice of referring to the Saturday morning session as the opening session. This created confusion regarding the status of the General Women's Meeting, as some general authorities, the church's public affairs department, and the Deseret News made comments both for and against the inclusion of the General Women's Meeting as part of General Conference. However, on October 30, 2014, the First Presidency clarified the issue and announced it "has decided that the General Women's Meeting will be designated as the General Women's Session of general conference".
Tickets to the conference are free of charge and church members can obtain them either from local leaders or by writing to church headquarters. Due to demand, the church often restricts the number of separate session tickets issued to attendees. Standby tickets are also available, as frequently many ticket holders are not able to attend.
The proceedings of general conference have traditionally been conducted in English, but since October 2014, speakers delivering sermons have the option of speaking in their native language.
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 designates someone to conduct the conference, typically 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 a few speak. Non-general authority speakers may include male and female officers of auxiliary organizations. Most area seventies travel to Utah to attend at least one general conference per year.
During one general session (usually Saturday afternoon), all the general authorities and general officers of the church are presented for the formal sustaining vote by 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 released from a previous position or called to a new one. 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 that the voting has been unanimous.
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, significant 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 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).
- General conference (Latter Day Saints)
- June Conference
- We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet
- World Conference (Community of Christ)
- Stack (30 October 2014). "About-face: Mormon women's meeting now part of General Conference". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- Walch, Tad (30 October 2014). "LDS Church confirms women's meeting now part of general conference". Deseret News. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- After the death of Joseph Smith, general conferences were held under the direction of Brigham Young in October 1844 (Nauvoo, Illinois); April 1845 (Nauvoo); October 1845 (Nauvoo); December 1847 (Kanesville, Iowa); and April 1848 (Kanesville). For the dates and locations of conferences prior to Smith's death, see General conference (Latter Day Saints).
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LDS Church spokesman Dale Jones said in a statement Friday afternoon, was that the women's meetings 'are not usually referred to as a session of General Conference.'
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