General Conference

Next week is a very exciting one for the entire LDS Church. Instead of going to the closest meetinghouse like we usually do each Sunday, we will be spending both Saturday and Sunday listening to a worldwide broadcast which will be based in Salt Lake City at the conference center. General conference is semi-annual,  always occurring during the first week of April and the first week of October.

Sessions of general conference occur at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Each session lasts for two hours, and consists of different speakers getting up and giving talks. Each session opens with a prayer, a song, and then there are speakers. A variety of men and women in different leadership positions in the Church get up and talk about a topic of their choice. Topics from last general conference include the sacred nature of the sacrament, the importance of praying always, and how to have a celestial marriage. In truth, they always talk about the same things, but it somehow ends up feeling new and revitalizing each time. There are always improvements I need to make in my life, and the leaders of the Church touch on them in their talks every single year.

When I was young, we used to put on our church clothes four different times over the weekend to visit the nearest meetinghouse for the session. Some families who didn’t want to travel or who weren’t able to might listen to it on the radio. Once my family purchased a satellite TV system we made sure to get the BYU TV channel in our package which enabled us to watch all four sessions in our pajamas (I love watching conference in my pajamas!). Modern technology has advanced so far, that now all sessions are available live via streaming internet broadcasts. With options including going to a meetinghouse, radio, TV, and internet, all families can find a way to watch conference no matter their circumstances.

My favorite way to watch general conference is in person at the conference center in Salt Lake City. I was blessed to have the opportunity to go up to Salt Lake three separate times during my time in Utah as a student at BYU.  There are few feelings as wonderful as looking around to see thousands of people who believe the things that you do. And then I multiply that feeling many times over when I think of the many millions of people watching from their homes and meetinghouses all over the world.

I remember my mom making up little games to keep us entertained while we watched from home. She would put together bingo boards with key words that she knew would be included in the talks (temple, scriptures, prophet, Jesus Christ, salvation), and when we got five across we were able to eat the candy we used to mark the words on the bingo board. I always listened very closely to each session when we were playing this game because I wanted to eat some skittles!

Now that I am older (read: still without children so no excuse to make a bingo board and play), I will sit quetly next to my new husband on the couch as we watch the broadcast on the internet. In between sessions we will nap and eat lunch, and after it is all over we will talk about the things we have learned.

General Conference allows us to gather as a body of saints and listen to the leaders that we sustain. It is very rare that new doctrine is introduced during these sessions. Rather, doctrine is expounded upon. Changes to behavior are encouraged, with promises of great rewards to come for those who are obedient. Testimonies are born of the truthfulness of the Gospel and the reality of the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Next week I’ll be posting reminders on both Saturday and Sunday about the live broadcasts for anyone who might be interested in tuning in to see what conference is like, for it will help you to see what our Church leaders talk to us about and how they do so. On Sunday I’ll also be posting a collection of photos from Flickr that will help you see what the experience of visiting general conference at the conference center in Salt Lake City is like. I wish I could go there myself this year and take the pictures in person, but that’s just not an option for us this year. Whether I am in the conference center or not though, the message is the same. And results only are seen as I apply the teachings of our leaders in my everyday life.

Does your faith have anything like General Conference?

15 thoughts on “General Conference

  1. That sounds like a great way to get a little “kick” in one’s faith. What did people do before modern technology enabled everyone to share in it? Was the community small enough that people were expected to go to the general conference in person?

    Ashley Mar Reply:

    Jenna wrote about before modern technology there was radio and if they couldn’t be reached by radio then our church has a monthly magazine called “The Ensign” that is distributed that has all of the talks from General Conference in it so they can be read as well. We still publish the talks the following month after conference so people can have them on hand to remember things they might’ve forgotten.

    Jenna Reply:

    Back in 1830 the Church was definitely small enough that members could just meet in the same room 🙂

    The Ensign went into production in 1971. I’m not sure what members did before then? Definitely used the radio, but before the radio I think the Church was small enough that the President of the Church could spend time traveling around to different groups and meeting with them. Because that is what General Conference is really all about, hearing from the Prophet and the Apostles.

  2. My mom always made homemade cinnamon rolls on General Conference days. I thought we were pretty unique for doing that until I got older and it seemed every other LDS family did the same thing to commemorate GC.

  3. Very cool. I’ve been in that building, took a tour once, and was super impressed by it. It must be amazing when it is full. You could tell the Church had really done a great job of thinking about having huge numbers of people in attendance for a single event. The rooftop garden was so pretty, too!

  4. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a similar conference every two years, where huge groups come and meet for fellowship, talks, and discussions on current issues facing the church. A few years back it was in Birmingham, where my family lives, and on Sunday they had a church service in the Civic Center downtown. My dad and stepmom said it was amazing to be in such a large grouping of the same faith, like you said Jenna.

    BTW- last October General Conference was on TV here in North Carolina and i put it on – it was really interesting, and though I was exhausted and hoping it would help me into a nap, I stayed awake, listening to soothing stories of faith, but felt rested anyway! It was great! wish i wasn’t traveling this weekend, I’d probably do it again.

  5. My church (the Apostolic Faith Church, apostolicfaith.org) has an annual Camp Meeting in Portland, OR (where our first church was) as well as other camp meetings in the Midwest, New York, and several in other countries where we have multiple churches. Portland’s is always the first 2 weeks of July. The main point of the meetings is to fellowship with other believers at our camp grounds and for spiritual revival. We have between 2 and 4 services a day.

    The church also live broadcasts the services that take place in the Tabernacle on their website, which is how we attended this year, as we were not able to make the trip up there. I will say though, I definitely prefer doing it in person. It’s much harder to stay focused when I’m sitting at home on my couch!

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