General Conference is a semi-annual (twice a year) meeting for members of the LDS Church (Mormons). It is where Mormons receive the latest direction and advice from prophets based on revelation from God. The words of the conference are a Mormon’s most important source (but not his or her only source) of guidance for the next six months until the next conference.
Video Clip: Gordon B. Hinckley on Faith at General Conference
When and Where General Conference Happens
General Conference takes place on the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October (if April or October 1 is on a Sunday, then it will also be the last weekend of the preceding month). These meetings are held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City near the Salt Lake City Temple. All members of the Church should attend General Conference. Because the Church is so large and widespread, only a limited number of members can actually attend inside the Conference Center, and these seats must be reserved in advance by requesting tickets from a local Church leader. As a solution to this problem, the Conferences are broadcast to church houses and even on television, so many members may watch from home. This is convenient, especially since during the weekend of General Conference there are two two-hour sessions on Saturday and two more two-hour sessions on Sunday, with a special priesthood session Saturday evenings. Eight to ten hours of church in a weekend may seem like a lot, but to many Mormons, the help received, the spirit felt, and the messages offered at General Conference are well worth the time commitment.
What Happens at General Conference
During General Conference, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his two counselors, the apostles, and other general authorities speak. Both men and women address the Church and cover a wide range of topics: anything and everything from caring for children to receiving answers to prayers and doing genealogy work. The speakers tackle problems the members may be suffering and offer comfort through Jesus Christ. General Conference is meant to give Mormons guidance they can live by each day, and it is especially meant for the time period in which it is given. It is advice today for today’s problems.
Music is an important part of every LDS worship service, and this especially applied to General Conference. Several choirs perform during conference, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The worldwide congregation usually joins in for several songs as well, which offers an opportunity for everyone to participate (and to stretch their legs). Mormons believe music is instrumental in bringing the spirit of the Holy Ghost into meetings.
Reflecting on General Conference
Video, audio, and written recordings of General Conference are available afterward, allowing Mormons the opportunity to review, reflect upon, and teach the important messages that they received during the Conference. The month after each General Conference, the Ensign, the official magazine of the LDS Church, prints an issue comprising solely the proceedings of the conference, so that the talks from Conference are on-hand for study or home use. The Church also posts online video files of entire sessions or individual talks for streaming. Audio mp3 files are also available for download, and can be played on personal media devices.