General Conference is a large meeting held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Conference is held twice annually, on the weekends containing the first Sundays in April and in October. 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.
The conference includes four two hour sessions starting at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. mountain time on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night, another session is held for the Priesthood (men) of the Church. The conferences are held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Any member or visiter that has obtained a ticket is able to attend. Those who live too far away from Salt Lake are able to watch conference through satellite or the internet, or read it on the Church website or in the Church magazine, The Ensign.
The conference is presided over by the President of the Church. In the case of his absence, as in sickness, one of his councilors 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 support them.
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 voted for.
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.”
This is the purpose of General Conference to be able to hear the words of a prophet and to get guidance and revelation from God. Elder Paul V. Johnson again stated, “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.”
Recent conference addresses can be read in a number of different languages at www.lds.org
See also Wikipedia's article about LDS General Conference