It’s that time of year again. There’s a certain excitement in the air. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are suddenly posting lots of invitations, memes, and quotes. People are sharing how the Savior and His gospel bring hope and peace to their lives, expressing the excitement of hearing from prophets and leaders, and exchanging wishes of “Happy conference weekend!”
But what really is general conference? Whether you’re a longtime member of the Church who’s a regular viewer, a new member who will be watching for the first time, or someone who’s just interested in knowing what all the hubbub is about, here are a few things to know about general conference.
General conference is …
1. (More Than Just) a Semiannual Meeting
Two weekends a year (always the first weekends in April and October), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others wanting to feel hope and peace gather virtually and in person to listen to Christ-centered messages. The conference includes five unique sessions (which can be watched live or viewed later), each lasting about two hours. All are welcome to watch any or all of the sessions, with one session specifically for men in April and one for women in October.
Why are so many people willing to dedicate an entire weekend to this conference? Latter-day Saints believe that God speaks to all His children. Because of this, general conference is more than just a semiannual meeting—it’s an opportunity to receive direction from God through a living prophet and apostles. Their role is to testify of Jesus Christ and help us learn about Him. Other Church leaders, men and women from around the world, also share messages during the conference. Each message contains principles and ideas that help us feel peace and draw closer to God.
The first general conference, held on June 9, 1830, was attended by only 27 people! Today, millions tune in to general conference, making it a special time to feel connected to people around the globe who are trying to follow Christ.
2. A Time to Refocus
For many, general conference provides a welcome opportunity to step back from the stress of everyday life and see the bigger picture. The messages that are shared remind listeners of the purpose of life and help them see their challenges through a wider lens. This perspective can help us find meaning in our trials and the strength to make it through them, allowing us to see life for what it is—a chance to learn and grow and prepare to live with Heavenly Father.
Taking a step back also allows us to evaluate our lives. Many people use this time to think about the changes they want to make. When we approach general conference thoughtfully and prayerfully, the messages can help us know how to re-center our lives on Christ and His teachings.
3. An Opportunity to Receive Inspiration and Guidance for Your Life
General conference is a time for everyone to come together with open minds and hearts to receive comfort and guidance from God. We feel united as we laugh together and are lifted by stories from Church leaders, cry together over touching words, sing together and listen to The Tabernacle Choir, and are strengthened by the powerful messages shared.
During general conference, you can gain new spiritual insights and inspiration. It’s common for Latter-day Saints to prepare for the conference by thinking of personal questions that they have—questions like, “How can I better feel God’s love?” and “What can I learn from the challenges I am facing?”
Every speaker has prayerfully written their remarks, so they may share a message that God has prepared for you. How will you know it’s for you? Well, as Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“If you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.
“In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us.”1
4. Available around the Globe
Today, general conference is held at the Conference Center, a building in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. (For health and safety purposes related to COVID-19, the April 2021 general conference will be virtual only.) The first general conference held in Utah was in 1848, and it’s been held there ever since. But thanks to technology, you don’t have to be in Utah to hear the conference messages. You can tune in from anywhere and everywhere, in over 70 languages, at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
5. For Everyone
There is a reason that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints love general conference so much: the weekend is filled with inspiration, motivation, and connection. Everyone wanting to join in worshipping the Savior is welcome! Messages in past conferences have included finding peace in our crazy world, overcoming adversity, establishing good habits, strengthening family relationships, and most importantly, learning how to better follow Jesus Christ and feel His love. There is something for everyone.
6. A Chance to Feel God’s Love
General conference shows that God is aware of each of us and wants to speak to us. That’s because conference is not only a globally shared experience—it’s also a personal one. Whether you receive inspiration, find an answer to a personal question, or simply feel peace during conference, your experience can show you that God knows and cares about the details of your life.
Recognizing God’s love for us can bring us joy and help us have confidence in Him. Conference messages also help us long after the sessions are over by teaching us how to hear God’s voice and feel His love more often in our daily lives.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reiterated this truth:
“There is a treasure chest of heavenly direction awaiting your discovery in the messages of general conference. …
“I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of … general conference, and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven’s hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed.”2
General conference isn’t just a meeting; it is a time to hear the voice of the Lord. Everyone is welcome to attend. If you are a member of the Church, invite a friend to watch it with you, or you can send them the link. And if you’re interested in watching for the first time, set your alarm and grab a notepad to write down the things that stand out to you. Come to conference with a question in your heart, and the Lord will help you feel His love.
You can watch general conference on Saturday, April 3, 2021, and Sunday, April 4, 2021, on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, the Church YouTube channel, and select TV stations and mobile apps. (For more information, see “5 Ways to Watch or Listen to General Conference Live.”)