I’m a Mormon, so I -along with the 16,805,400 worldwide members and their families and friends- listen to and/or attend General Conference twice a year.
Currently, General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is held the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October.
About 30 members were present at the first conference called by the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 9, 1830. Today 21,000 members fill the Conference Center adjacent to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The words flowing from the Conference Center go far beyond this audience as they are translated into 93 different languages and reach members worldwide via radio, television, satellite, and Internet connections.
“General Conference – Then and Now,” Ensign of the LDS Church, October 2012
But, what is General Conference? How does it differ from regular attendance on Sundays? Who may attend? Is attendance mandatory?
Basically, General Conference is a special meeting. Members of the higher-level leadership positions of the LDS church give sermons on whatever subject they feel inspired to speak on. Since its being completed in 2000, the entire program takes place in The Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference follows a similar format to normal church services, in that it begins with an opening prayer; has a member of the highest priesthood there to conduct the services; contains an opening song, rest hymn, and closing song; and ends with a closing prayer. Each speaker has been asked ahead of time, in order to prepare, and is requested to talk between 5 to 20 minutes.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described his experience in preparing as follows:
Perhaps you already know (but if you don’t you should) that with rare exception, no man or woman who speaks here is assigned a topic. Each is to fast and pray, study and seek, start and stop and start again until he or she is confident that for this conference, at this time, his or hers is the topic the Lord wishes that speaker to present regardless of personal wishes or private preferences. Every man and woman you have heard during the past 10 hours of general conference has tried to be true to that prompting. Each has wept, worried, and earnestly sought the Lord’s direction to guide his or her thoughts and expression.
Jeffrey R. Holland, “An Ensign to the Nations,” May 2011 General Conference
General Conference takes the place of Sunday worship on the weekend it is held. There are always morning and afternoon sessions. Historically, an evening session on Saturday for the men also occurred (with the women’s leadership holding one the Saturday before the October session for most of my life); the Saturday evening meeting is going through an awkward un-assigned phase at this point, being listed as an extra meeting. This April, the schedule is:
Saturday, April 1
10 a.m.* Saturday morning session
2 p.m. Saturday afternoon session
6 p.m. Saturday evening session
Sunday, April 2
10 a.m. Sunday morning session
2 p.m. Sunday afternoon session
*Mountain Daylight Time
As to who may attend (and whether any must attend), ALL are welcome. This is more-easily realized with the vast reach of communications devices. Anyone with internet or radio access may tune in, and is encouraged to do so. The talks given (obviously) discuss LDS gospel topics; but those topics hold a wide appeal. This is evidenced by a popular activity sheet suggested for children, Conference Bingo:
And, as with any doctrine or teaching or commandment given in the LDS Church, attending General Conference is a commandment -but no one will chop off your hands if you choose to miss -or fall asleep.
General Conference is where we members receive news of inspiration given to our leaders, learn of new temples being built, hear statistical reports, watch and enjoy the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square or one session’s worth of a guest choir, and enrich and expound our understanding through others’ experiences and advice.
Final note: April’s session is this Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2. I encourage everyone to give it a listen. You’ll be able to hear it live from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday; then 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday (all MDT).
©2023 Chel Owens
We Mormons are officially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are to drop any name but that. Since many recognize the nickname of ‘Mormon’ and it works with the alliteration so well, however, I will use the term.
My other note is that I will keep to official doctrinal practices. I will add my own application of them, especially in response to comments.
My final note is that I LOVE discussing anything I write. Don’t be rude, obviously, but any and all queries or responses are welcome.
My final note beyond the final note is that I do not seek to convert anyone. I am motivated by forming connections, answering curiosity, and straightening pictures. So, you’re safe.