Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.
The General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) is held during the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October each year. As the Church was founded in April 1830, the April conference is referred to as the Annual General Conference of the Church, whereas the October conference is referred to as the Semiannual General Conference of the Church. The next sessions of General Conference will be held on Saturday, 31 March 2012, and Sunday, 1 April 2012. This will be the 182nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints. The number of the conference refers to the number of years since the founding of the Church.
General Conference has 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 before 2000 and in the LDS Conference Center after that. Historically, General Conference was over three days with the Annual Conference always including April 6. However, this proved awkward when April 6 fell midweek, as this made conference difficult to attend for those with work and school commitments. In April 1977, during Prophet Spencer W. Kimball‘s Presidency, General Conference was reduced to two days, Saturday and Sunday.
Members of the Church from many different parts of the world will attend Mormon General Conference through various available sources. There will be some members who will travel from great distances to Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend the conference sessions in the LDS Conference Center where the sessions are broadcast via satellite, radio, television, and internet to help increase participation. For those who are unable to get a seat in the Conference Center to view the sessions, the proceedings are broadcast in nearby buildings such as the old Salt Lake Tabernacle or the Joseph Smith Memorial Building via satellite. Other members will gather in meeting houses across the globe to watch the proceedings being broadcast via satellite. Still others will watch via the internet channels that are provided, or in their homes on the BYU television network or KSL television. The Conference is also broadcast on BYU and KSL radio networks. Each session is translated into numerous languages in order that Saints around the world can hear the messages in their own native tongue and be edified and uplifted by the teachings they receive.
President Thomas S. Monson, the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presides, and either he or one of his counselors conducts each session. Speakers for the sessions of Conference are selected from General and Area Authorities, and auxiliary leaders of the Church. The speakers who are assigned are not given topics on which to speak, but they prayerfully consider what they might speak about and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the preparation of their remarks. Each message that is delivered is both inspirational and instructional, and is considered the will of God to the church members at the current time.
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, the Missionary Training Center (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.
Each session of conference is two hours in length. On Saturday there is a morning session followed by a two hour recess, an afternoon session, followed by a two hour recess, and a Priesthood session is held on Saturday evening for all men and boys (12 years of age and older) who are members of the Priesthood. On Sunday there is a morning session followed by a two hour recess, and then a concluding session on Sunday afternoon. The sessions of General Conference are not restricted only to members of the Church, but non-member family and friends, as well as, those who are in the process of learning more about the Church are also invited to attend.
At the beginning of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson, the current President of the Church (also considered by the members to be the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator), welcomes the members and makes several announcements to include the construction of new Temples. Part of the proceedings of General Conference also includes proposing changes to Church leadership and those changes are sustained through the principle of common consent. The April meeting includes annual statistical and financial reports not included in the October meeting.
On the weekend prior to General Conference, under the direction of the First Presidency of the Church, either the Young Women General Presidency (in the month of April) or the Relief Society General Presidency (in the month of October) hold their annual meeting for all young women of the Church, and all members of the Relief Society respectively. The next General Young Women’s meeting is scheduled for Saturday, 24 March 2012.
General Conference addresses are published in many text, video, and audio formats in multiple languages and multiple channels, including television, radio, the internet, and other media, such as the ROKU device. Those who are unable to attend or watch General Conference during conference weekend are afforded the opportunity to watch the sessions via the internet on the Church’s official website LDS.ORG. The texts of the messages that are given are made available in the official Church magazines, the Ensign and the Liahona (in over 30 languages), within 4 to 6 weeks, and can generally be found on the Conference website in English within 4 days and in over 40 other different languages within 2 to 8 weeks following General Conference. Video of the conference messages are usually available on the Conference website and the Mormon Channel on YouTube (in ASL, Cantonese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) within 24 hours, on mobile devices and the Mormon Channel on ROKU within 1 week following General Conference. General Conference is also recorded on DVDs which are generally available 6 weeks after the conference.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ meet together for General Conference twice a year, they know that they are going to be taught by the Prophet of the Lord, modern day Apostles, and other leaders of the Church. They know that each message has been prayerfully prepared, and that the things that they will be taught and learn will help to strengthen their personal testimonies and daily walk with their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.