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Sunday, October 7, 2012

What is a Mormon General Conference?

Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center
Salt Lake City - LDS Conference Center (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

Why do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a General Conference?

Twice per year, for two days on a weekend, members of the Church gather in Salt Lake City, or in local LDS chapels and around radios, satellite TVs, and Internet media devices in other parts of the world. They get together to hear the words of a living prophet of God.

A living prophet of God?

English: The perform in the during General Con...
English: The perform in the during General Conference of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What if I told you that Moses or Elijah or Isaiah had come back from the dead and offered to speak at a special place and time? Would it be worth it to you to attend? Even just out of curiosity?

Mormons believe in the ancient prophets of the Bible. They believe God never changes, never forgets His promises to His children. They believe God always wants to speak to His children. They believe God continues calling prophets. He raises up worthy men whom He knows will faithfully follow Him and fulfill the calling to be His Voice on the earth just as He did anciently.

The first prophet of this dispensation (time of teaching the Gospel) was Joseph Smith. He was succeeded by Brigham Young, who was succeeded, in turn, by other men.

English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibb...
English: Thomas S. Monson. Photo by Brian Tibbets (tibbets.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The present-day prophet (as of this writing) is Thomas S. Monson. We address him by the title "President". We believe that, just as Peter of the Old Testament was the prophet, seer, and revelator for his generation, President Monson is the prophet, seer, and revelator for our generation. He is the mouthpiece of the Lord on the earth and holds the same special authority as Peter had to administer the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

When people join the LDS faith, they are not converted to the prophet, but to Jesus Christ. The prophet is Christ's direct representative on the earth. When the prophet speaks, it is the same as if the Lord is speaking.

When is General Conference?

General Conference is scheduled regularly every six months, during the first weekends of April and October. It is structured into five separate sessions:  Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm MDT and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm MDT with a Saturday evening session from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm MDT. The Saturday evening session is only attended by priesthood boys and men or broadcast via satellite to a local chapel.

During every General Conference, Mormons anticipate eagerly the opportunity to hear what the Lord has commanded the prophet to say to them.

For example, during the Saturday morning session of October General Conference in 2012, President Monson announced two new temples would be built.

President Monson also delivered the groundbreaking announcement that the starting age of missionary service would be changed from 19 to 18 years of age for men and from 21 to 19 years of age for women.

The decisions that lead to these types of announcements, whether the changes be administrative or doctrinal, are not made solely by the prophet. They are revealed to him by God and to his counselors during private moments of inspiration and then proposed and decided upon collectively and unanimously in council with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

The Church is indeed a "living" church to which God continually reveals new knowledge, warns of impending adversity, and counsels us on how to live more virtuous lives in a world that is in constant moral decay.

If you would like to experience the counsels given to members of the LDS Church by caring and inspired leaders, you can do so in the same manner as the vast majority of members of the LDS faith. I invite you to watch the archived sessions found on the LDS.org website. Invite your family to join you, and then discuss what you have seen and heard. Post here in the comments if you have questions, or ask someone you know who is LDS. Missionaries can also answer your questions via the live chat feature of Mormon.org, or by talking on the phone at 888-537-6600 (U.S. and Canada only). You can locate a meetinghouse near you on Mormon.org.