The first LDS General Conference was held in 1830, the year the church was organized. It is called General Conference because it is a meeting meant for the general membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter where they live. Usually, church members meet in local or regional meetings on Sundays, but twice a year they are called together for an all-church meeting. Every April and October church members all over the world listen to instruction from church leaders and enjoy uplifting music.
The History of General Conference
General Conference has been held in Salt Lake City every year since 1848, with one exception when the Conference was held in St. George, Utah in 1877. Before that time, they were held in various locations, such as Illinois and Missouri, depending on where the members were settled. In 1840, the Conference changed from an annual to a semiannual meeting. Most church members started their journey west in February 1846, which prevented Conference from being held that year.
Most of the General Conferences held in Salt Lake City were held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square, which was completed in 1867. This continued until the year 2000 when the new Conference Center, with a capacity for 21,000 participants, was completed across the street. Conferences were canceled a few times in the 20th century due to flu epidemics, and were held only in a limited capacity during World War II.
Initially, General Conference was held over the course of three days with April 6th always being included as it was the date on which the Church was organized. This changed in 1977 when the Conferences were standardized to be the first weekends in April and October. The first conference is called the “Annual” General Conference and the second is referred to as the “Semi-Annual” General Conference.
The Music at LDS General Conference
Between the different addresses given by church leaders during an LDS General Conference, choral groups sing inspirational songs from the LDS hymn book and other uplifting music. Throughout the five sessions of conference, the tradition is for there to be three different choirs. The church’s own Mormon Tabernacle Choir typically sings at three of the five sessions, leaving to other choirs a session apiece. Sometimes these are choirs from local universities, and sometimes they are choirs that were organized specifically for the Conference. In any case, powerful music is used to set the tone for the conference and to invite the Holy Spirit to be there. Often, the words sung at LDS General Conference will underscore the words spoken there.
Participating in LDS General Conference
General Conference now consists of five sessions, two general sessions on Saturday, two general sessions on Sunday and a session aimed at men, called the priesthood session, on Saturday night. Sessions focused on women are held the weekend before General Conference.
Each of the sessions lasts for two hours and is broadcast through TV, Internet, and satellite connections. Those who do not have access at home can go to a local LDS meetinghouse and view the conference. During the course of the conference, each member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles will speak, as well as the prophet and his two counselors.
Various leaders from other church organizations such as Relief Society, Primary, and the Young Men and Young Women organizations also address the conference. Once the conference is finished, the recordings of the proceedings are posted on www.lds.org . Transcripts of the talks are also printed in the official church magazine, The Ensign, in the November or May issue. Church members are encouraged to study and review the talks given at general conference, and these talks are often incorporated into Sunday school lessons.
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