Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide gather twice yearly for what they call “general conference.” This is in addition to their weekly worship services each Sunday.
General conferences are conducted each April and October and comprise five two-hour meetings held over two days. The April meetings are called annual conferences and those in October, semiannual.
The sessions on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon are open to everyone, while a session on Saturday evening is for Latter-day Saint men and young men who hold the priesthood.
Latter-day Saints travel from all over the world to attend general conferences, which originate in the 21,000-seat Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Free tickets are distributed for each session, with standby lines available for those without tickets. Overflow facilities on nearby Temple Square accommodate those who cannot fit in the Conference Center.
Since the vast majority of the Church’s 14 million members are unable to attend general conference in person, the meetings are broadcast via satellite to over 7,400 church buildings in 102 countries. Members can also watch conference on television through Salt Lake City-based station KSL or BYU-TV. In addition, the Church streams the meetings live on the LDS.org website and on the Mormon Channel.
During the conference, Church leaders speak on a variety of spiritual topics. They address Latter-day Saints as well as government, faith and community representatives and other conference guests. Speakers include the worldwide leader of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson, and his counselors in the First Presidency, the governing body of the Church. Talks are also given by the members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and other leaders.
General conference talks vary in length from about 5 to 20 minutes. Topics are not assigned; each speaker chooses his or her own subject matter. Talks usually cover basic gospel principles or address significant issues of the day, with speakers encouraging individuals and families in their efforts to follow Jesus Christ.
Music for the conference sessions is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and organists, other Church choirs and the congregation. The music emphasizes gospel themes.
Church leaders have conducted general conferences since 1830, when the Church was organized by Joseph Smith. According to historian Glen M. Leonard, “about 30 baptized members attended the first conference along with others who were interested in the Church.”
Today, the conferences are simultaneously interpreted into 94 languages ranging from Albanian to Yapese to serve a large and growing international membership. American Sign Language interpretation and closed captioning are also available.