“General Conferences to Be Two-day Conferences,” Ensign, Feb. 1977, 91
The First Presidency has announced a change in format for the annual and semiannual general conferences of the Church. General sessions, instead of being held for three days, will now be held for only two.
In a letter to priesthood leaders, the First Presidency said:
“The General Conference in April 1977 will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3. Two general sessions will be held on each of these days with the General Welfare Services meeting being held Saturday at 7:00 A.M., and the General Priesthood meeting being held Saturday at 7:00 P.M. Instead of general sessions being held on Friday, April 1, as in the past, Friday will be devoted to a seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve.
“The format of the April 1977 General Conference will be followed in subsequent general conferences, with the general sessions being held on the first Sunday of each April and October and the preceding Saturdays, and with the seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve being held on the preceding Friday.”
This also means that the annual general conference in the spring will no longer be specifically scheduled to include April 6, a traditional general conference day commemorating the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830.
In previous years, including 1976, the spring sessions of general conference have usually been scheduled so that April 6 could be included, even if it was in midweek.
The first conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York, June 9, 1830 (Essentials in Church History, p. 82), with all twenty-seven members in attendance. In September of the same year, a second conference was held, also in Fayette. In 1831 there were seven conferences from January 2 through October 25–26, from Fayette to Kirtland, Hiram, and Orange County, Ohio. Thereafter, conferences reflected the historical developments within the Church, with the gathering places ranging from Amherst, Ohio, through Far West, Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, and Council Bluffs.
Apart from some exceptions, the April/October pattern for general conference was established when the Saints arrived in Salt Lake City and held their first conference October 6–8, 1848. Among the exceptions were the 89th general conference that was postponed until June because of a flu epidemic, and the October 1957 semiannual conference that was cancelled because of the Asian flu.
But even though the Saints were settled in the Great Salt Lake Valley, the 1885 April and October conferences were held in Logan, Utah. The next year they were held in Provo and then in Coalville. The April conference in 1887 was held in Provo, and it wasn’t until the October semiannual conference that the Saints once again gathered in Salt Lake City.
From that 1830 gathering attended by twenty-seven Saints, general conference has grown to an event attended by many thousands of Saints and guests in the Tabernacle, in the overflow areas in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, and in the nearby Salt Palace. In addition, an uncounted audience “attends” conference through television and radio broadcasts and direct telephone line connections in the United States, Canada, It’s a Young Church in … Mexico, Central and South America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan.