It is general conference time again! It is one of my favorite times of the year. General conference is a time when all the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet to conduct general church business as well as to receive instruction.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830, with six members. Two months later it held its first general conference on June 9, 1830, in Fayette, New York, with 27 members. It was presided over by the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the early years of the Church, general conferences were held every three months but gradually lessened to every six months.
There are now more than 15,082,028 members. The annual general conference is held on the weekend closest to April 6 with the semi-annual general conference being held six months later in October. Even though the Conference Center has room for approximately 21,000, the proceedings of the meetings are available to everyone over the Internet or printed in the Ensign.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles spoke about the importance of general conference: “In our dispensation, the Savior Jesus Christ referred to a gathering of Saints as `my general conference’ (Doctrine and Covenants 124:88; emphasis added).
“Wherever we are in this world, however we receive these proceedings, I testify that we are gathered in His conference. I also testify that we will hear His word, for He has said, `Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
“Conferences have always been part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Adam gathered his posterity and prophesied of things to come. Moses gathered the children of Israel and taught them the commandments he had received. The Savior taught multitudes gathered both in the Holy Land and on the American continent. Peter gathered believers in Jerusalem. The first general conference in these latter days was convened just two months after the Church was organized, and conferences have continued to this very day….
“In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us. One member testified: `As I listened to your address, I was astounded. … Your talk was personal revelation directly from the Lord to my family. I have never experienced such a strong manifestation of the Spirit in my life as those minutes when the Holy Ghost spoke directly to me.’
“Another said, `I have never before felt so profoundly that a talk was being given to me.’
“This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand. When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me.
“What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel. That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood.
“Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong amid the fiery darts of these last days."
I love general conference and look forward to it. I schedule my time in order to attend or watch every session. I often feel like I am being spiritually fed from a fire hose! I take notes for my personal use but am particularly grateful for having the information fully available to me over the Internet. When my conference issue of the Ensign arrives, I begin at the front cover and systematically read the entire magazine with the intent to finish it before the next general conference. I refer to the talks many times during the six months following the conference and sometimes years later. In fact, many of my blog posts are based on talks from general conference. I consider the counsel given in general conference to be my guide for the next six months. I believe I will be safer by following that counsel. I encourage YOU to watchgeneral conference and to see for yourself.