Because I love General Conference (seriously, it’s probably my favorite holiday, after Christmas and Easter – and it even occasionally coincides with Easter! Now all they need to do is move fall General Conference to Christmas, and we’ll be set!) I will be posting “Conference 101” – a series about General Conference and how to prepare and what to expect and how to keep your children focused. I’m pretty excited to gather all these resources – for my own benefit as well as yours!
I figured that the best place to start is with the basics, so the purpose for my first post will be to explain a little bit about what General Conference is.
If you don’t know already, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that God has a living prophet on the earth today, as well as twelve apostles (who are just like the twelve apostles that were called to be “fishers of men” when Jesus lived on the earth). see Article of Faith 6 here This is an amazing blessing, because a prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord, and it means that if we listen to the counsel of the prophet and try to follow that counsel, we will be following the Lord and we will be blessed. see more about following prophets here
Since it’s so important to listen to and obey the prophets, we should have a way to hear them speak regularly. One of the ways we can “hear” the words of the prophets is to read the First Presidency Message published each month in Church magazines called the “Ensign” and the “Liahona”. This message is usually pretty short (although the magazine typically contains many articles by the apostles and prophets, as well as other Church leaders, and Church members), but it comes every month like clockwork. You can also read it online at LDS.org.
I don’t know about you, but if there were living prophets on the earth today I would not want to only read a little blurb once a month from them. I would want to hear sermon after sermon from them!
And that is exactly what we get at General Conference.
Twice a year, in the spring (usually the first weekend in April) and then again in the fall (the first weekend in October), the entire world (including Church members) are invited to join together to listen to an entire weekend of prophets and apostles speak (as well as other Church leaders).
General Conference actually starts a few weeks before the general sessions with a special session for either the Young Women (in March) or the Relief Society – the women’s organization (in September). Then the first “general” session of the conference convenes at 10:00am (Mountain Time) on the Saturday of Conference weekend. The second general session is at 2:00pm (Mountain Time), and then at 6:00pm on Saturday there is a Priesthood session for all Priesthood holders – both Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders (that translates to “all men and young men ages 12+.” Then Sunday has two more general sessions, again at 10:00am and 2:00pm.
Each session is 2 hours long and consists of speakers from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as members of the Quorums of the Seventy, auxiliary presidencies (Young Womens, Young Mens, Primary, Relief Society, and Sunday School), and the Presiding Bishopric.
Total that up and you get 8 hours of soaking in prophetic counsel (not counting Priesthood session and the special sessions for the women).
It may seem like a long time to sit and listen, but I crave it. I can’t get enough of it! And when it is over I can’t wait to get my copy of the General Conference Ensign so I can read the talks over and over again. Above is a picture of my October conference Ensign. It’s not nearly as marked up as my April 2011 Conference Ensign was, but I did most of my study of this conference online using the “study notebook” at LDS.org.
The conference takes place at the LDS Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, UT. It used to be held in the Tabernacle, but in 2000 the Conference Center was completed and the conference moved there. It seats over 21,000 people, whereas the tabernacle only seats about 7000.
How can you access General Conference? There are a lot of different methods.
Watch it Live
- You can stream live video and/or audio at lds.org
- Bonneville Communications (the company that broadcasts General Conference for the Church) has availability information on their website for cable, satellite, and radio broadcasts across the United States
- You can check BYUtv’s website to find out if your cable or satellite provider carries BYUtv, or you can just watch live streaming on BYUtv
- in Utah you can watch conference on the local station, KSL-TV
- you can even watch General Conference live on Facebook. How cool is that?
Watch/Read it Later
- videos of General Conference are usually available online (on LDS.org and on YouTube) the same day as the broadcast, with transcripts usually available within a week or two. You can find out more about the availability of General Conference materials on lds.org
- the Conference issue of the Ensign is available toward the end of April/beginning of May and can be purchased at any LDS Distribution Center, some bookstores in Utah (and probably Arizona and Idaho) and online at store.lds.org
- audio, video, and pdf podcasts are also available
No matter how you participate, I am sure you will find something to touch your heart. How much you find, and how much it touches you is up to you, and I’ll share a few tips for preparing to get the most out of General Conference in the next post in this series!
What does General Conference mean to you? How do you participate? Where do you watch? Do you listen to/watch conference over and over again through the six months between sessions, or is it a one-weekend deal for you?