I am always excited when General Conference comes around every 6 months and we get to hear from our leaders. As I have grown older, I have gained a much greater appreciation for General Conference and what an opportunity it is to hear from the Lord’s mouthpiece. However, I wasn’t always so appreciative of this opportunity. I remember as a kid, I looked forward to General Conference because twice a year I could sleep in, go to church in my pajamas, and eat cereal while I watched the talks. As I reflect back to my childhood experiences surrounding General Conferences, I wonder what general conferences have been like throughout the ages. So for those of you that have also wondered this, here are some highlights of General Conferences throughout the ages.
The First General Conferences:
General conference dates back to June 9, 1830, shortly after April 6, 1830, when the church was organized. At that time there were only 27 members present. As members were driven from state to state, general conferences were held wherever the saints were gathered (such as New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois).
An early general conference of the Church was held at Fayette, New York, in the Peter Whitmer home.
General Conference on a Ferryboat:
One early general conference meeting in 1833 was held on the Big Blue River ferryboat in Missouri.
Start of Semi-Annual General Conferences:
In 1840, a banner year for conferences, the Church moved to a semiannual schedule, held its first conference outside the United States in Great Britain, and published conference talks and summaries in the Millennial Star.
General Conference Cancelled:
During the western exodus of the Church, which began in February 1846, no general conference was held. The meetings resumed along the westward trail in Iowa and Nebraska. The meetings continued and then started again in 1848, after pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
First General Conference in Salt Lake City:
Meeting facilities were limited in the newly settled Salt Lake Valley so the first conference in the Salt Lake Valley was held in an open-air bowery. Later the pioneers built an adobe tabernacle and then moved to the world-famous Tabernacle on Temple Square in 1867.
Old bowery that was home for LDS general conference sessions during the mid-1800s.
Two flu epidemics affected conference. A nationwide 1919 flu epidemic postponed conference from April to June of that year and another flu scare forced the cancellation of the October 1957 meetings.
World War II:
During World War II, general conference was confined to Church leaders only as wartime travel restrictions impacted members. The Tabernacle was actually closed during this time frame; the leadership meetings were held in the Assembly Hall, also on Temple Square.
Radio & TV Broadcasts of General Conference:
General Conference began being broadcast via the radio in 1923 and a television transmission in 1949.
General Conference Today:
According to data gathered in 2012 by the Church, more than 100,000 people attended conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Conference is now viewed in 175 countries and territories, and it is translated into 94 languages. About 595,000 households in North America tune in on television for the Sunday morning session.
Church members have enjoyed that General Conference for over 180 years. I hope you enjoy this week's General Conference!