General Conference is a churchwide, biannual meeting held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Conference is held on the weekends containing the first Sundays in April and in October. So, when the first of the month falls on a Sunday, General Conference includes the last Saturday of March or September. There have been some exceptions; one was in October 2000 when NBC broadcast the Olympics and church station KSL was an NBC affiliate. The Summer Olympics were held later in the year than usual due to their being held in Australia and the necessity of having spring weather.
The April meeting is called the Annual General Conference and includes annual statistical and financial reports not included in the October meeting, which is called the Semiannual General Conference. The conferences are identified by the number of years since the founding of the Church in 1830.
The conference includes four two-hour sessions starting at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on both Saturday and Sunday. For many years, a Priesthood meeting was held Saturday evening for the young men and men of the Church. In 1944 this meeting began to be considered part of general conference. There have also been annual Relief Society and Young Women meetings held for the women and young women of the Church a week prior to General Conference (Young Women's in March, Relief Society's in September). On November 1, 2013, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that beginning in 2014, a semiannual general women’s meeting would replace the general Relief Society and general Young Women meetings held annually since 1993. All women, young women, and girls age eight years old and older were invited to attend. One year later, this meeting was designated the first session of both the annual and semiannual General Conferences by the First Presidency.
In October 2017, the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes for future general conferences: "Beginning in April 2018, the general women's session will no longer be held on the Saturday preceding the other sessions of general conference. Rather, the general priesthood and general women's sessions will each be held annually, with the general priesthood session being in April and the general women's session being in October. These meetings will originate from the Conference Center on Saturday evening following the morning and afternoon sessions of the conference." According to the letter issued by the Brethren to local leaders, consolidating general conference sessions into one weekend furthers Church efforts "of reducing and simplifying the work of the Church and the demands made upon leaders and members."
General Conferences were historically held in the Tabernacle at Temple Square. Since 2000, however, sessions have been held in the the larger and much more accommodating Conference Center adjacent to Temple Square. The conference center is a state-of-the-art facility and seats over 21,000 people.
Any member or visitor that has obtained a ticket is able to attend. Locally, General Conference is broadcast live on television or on the radio. Elsewhere, people can watch conference via satellite broadcast (often shown in Church meetinghouses) or on the internet. All of the talks given can later be read on the Church's website or in the Church magazines, the Ensign and the Liahona. Recordings of the sessions were also available on CDs and DVDs until 2020. May and November issues of the Liahona (formerly the Ensign) are composed of conference talks instead of the regular set of articles, which normally includes a First Presidency Message (shared personally with families by ministering brothers) and a Visiting Teaching message. Home teachers and visiting teachers on these occasions shared a message for their families drawn from General Conference. This practice was discontinued in 2018.
General conference used to be a three-day event (sometimes four), and in April always included April 6th, the date of the restoration of the Church and anniversary of Christ's birth. However, during President Kimball's administration it was reduced to two days, Saturday and Sunday, and did not always include April 6th. Always including April 6th made the schedule awkward when the 6th was midweek. Changing the scheduling policy also enabled more people to attend the sessions, as weekday sessions generally conflicted with work and school obligations.
General conference is presided over by the president of the Church. In the case of his absence, as in the case of illness, one of his counselors in the First Presidency presides over the meeting. During a session of conference, the leaders of the Church are presented to members and members are able to vote to sustain or support them. Speakers generally include members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Authority Seventies, the Presiding Bishopric, and the general office presidencies such as the Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, Young Men, and Sunday School. Each session also includes a number of musical numbers, often provided by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
When a president of the Church passes away, the following conference is referred to as a solemn assembly. During this meeting the new president is announced and sustained by the membership.
Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy said,
- Conferences have been part of the Church since the beginning of this dispensation. The first conference was held just two months after the Church was organized. . . . The Lord explained in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith ‘that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know . . . how to act upon the points of my law and commandment.’ But knowing ‘how to act’ isn’t enough. The Lord in the next verse said, ‘Ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.’ This willingness to take action on what we have learned opens the doors for marvelous blessings."
The purpose of General Conference is to be able to hear the words of the prophet and those whom the Lord has called to lead His Church. Conference also provides a time for the members of the Church to receive guidance and revelation from God directed to that particular time. Elder Paul V. Johnson further exhorted members to
- Decide now to make general conference a priority in your life. Decide to listen carefully and follow the teachings that are given. Listen to or read the talks more than once to better understand and follow the counsel. By doing these things, the gates of hell will not prevail against you, the powers of darkness will be dispersed from before you, and the heavens will shake for your good.
Latter-day Saints Come from Far and Wide to Attend General Conference
Regardless of what country they live in, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who journey to Salt Lake City for the semiannual general conference meetings share similar reactions.
Hannah Walters and Jacqui Mount of Birmingham, England, planned for more than a year to attend Salt Lake City conference sessions in April 2009. The idea germinated at a Church youth outing where the young women talked to others who had previously made the journey. “It’s something that a lot of English people determine to do, at least one time in their lives,” explained Walters, who grew up as a member the Church.
Mount noted the surprise of being around so many people of like faith. “I’ve never been around so many Mormons before,” she admitted. “I was at a conference in Manchester of about 1,000 people, but to be with 21,000 — that was amazing!”
“When I walked into the Conference Center on Saturday morning and saw all the people and heard the organ, it really hit me that I was here. When the prophet walked in, the room fell silent and everyone stood up to honor him. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s what happens in the two minutes of silence we see at home before the broadcast starts.’”
For Cintia Garcia, an accounting professional from Jundai, São Paulo, Brazil, the response was similar. “Many people save a long time and sacrifice a lot to be here. We are happy and glad and amazed to see all of this,” Garcia reported. The Brazilian woman, a member of the Church for 15 years, planned her trip to conference for nearly 18 months. “It’s a very special experience for me,” she said. “Knowing everything I know, it is a dream for me to be here and listen to the prophets of God help us strengthen our testimonies and help us feel we are in the right way.”
Taking General Conference to the World
Millions of Latter-day Saints who are not able to attend General Conference in Salt Lake City participate via local television or satellite broadcast in more than 6,000 meetinghouses in 85 countries or on the Internet. They are able to listen often to the talks in their native languages. For instance, the 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church was translated into 92 languages.  The October 2011 (181st session) General Conference was interpreted into 93 different languages. But only 43 of those languages were interpreted in the high-tech Conference Center facilities and broadcast to the world via satellite. For the rest:
- 31 languages were interpreted in various locations around the world, transmitted back to the Conference Center where they were combined with video and broadcast via satellite with only a few seconds delay from the live proceedings.
- 12 languages were interpreted on location around the world and heard locally without transmission through the Conference Center.
- 7 languages were interpreted in the Conference Center and distributed later on DVD.
All together, the translation work required about 800 people — 600 at the Conference Center and 200 at other locations around the world.
Another group of people are employed in making the translations available through audio and video broadcast sent out over the air, via satellite, on the internet and through recordings. 
General Conference During 2020 and 2021
During General Conference, thousands gather inside the Conference Center and many more are seated on the grounds of the Conference Center or Temple Square and in the visitors' centers, Tabernacle, Assembly Hall, and Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The year 2020 presented departures from this long-held tradition. Temple Square underwent a remodel, which made those buildings unavailable. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an abundance of caution from the leadership of the Church: only speakers for each session and those conducting/presiding and offering prayers attended in a small auditorium in the Joseph Smith Building, from where the conference was broadcast worldwide. Music was pre-recorded by the Tabernacle Choir. The semiannual conference followed this format in the Conference Center theater. The same format and location was used for the 191st annual General Conference (April 2021).
In early June 2021, the First Presidency announced changes to General Conference. Beginning with October’s general conference and continuing thereafter, the Saturday evening sessions will be discontinued. Previously, a Saturday evening session was held for women (in October) and priesthood holders (in April). "This change is being made because all sessions of general conference are now available to anyone who desires to watch or listen." They also announced that the October 2021 conference would return to its traditional location (since 2000) of the Conference Center auditorium, but the Conference Center would be closed to the public and again conference would be virtual events to be streamed worldwide.
Later in the year, the First Presidency announced in a July 27 letter that following "additional study and prayer we have felt impressed to continue to hold the Saturday evening session of general conference, albeit in a different format than in the past." The session will not have a specific theme, nor will it be intended for any particular demographic or leadership group, and all will be invited to view the session. “Holding this session will allow for more gospel topics to be taught and permit more general leaders to address the conference.”
- See also Reflections: General Conference.
- Audio of conference is available in more than 70 languages at Live Broadcasts or General Conference Live, along with the text in 30 languages and video streams in American Sign Language, English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
- In April, 2009, the Church announced that General Conference addresses would be available on CD and DVD in Spanish within eight weeks after conference.
- Click here for a general conference activity booklet: My Conference Booklet.
- The Friend Magazine provides a general conference notebook or here
- See also Wikipedia's article about LDS General Conference
- ↑ Paul V. Johnson, “The Blessings of General Conference,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 50.
- ↑ Paul V. Johnson, “The Blessings of General Conference,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 50.