Sunday, March 30, 2008

Salt Lake City Braces Itself For the 178th Annual General Conference Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints


Salt Lake City is bracing itself for a semi-annual event which sets it apart from other cities. The 178th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will convene on April 5th and 6th. At this conference, the individual selected to fill the vacancy on the Quorum of the Twelve, which was created after the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley when Dieter F. Uchtdorf was elevated to the First Presidency, is expected to be announced and introduced.

Tens of thousands of LDS members from all around the world will converge upon Salt Lake City to attend the event. KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake City virtually becomes Utah's version of "MTV" (in this case, "Mormon Television") at this time with its comprehensive coverage. Since 2000, the conference itself is held at the Conference Center on North Temple across the street from Temple Square. An impressive army of Church volunteers will be available in the Temple Square area to assist visitors with their needs. However, the prominence of the event does attract a handful of anti-Mormon protesters who see it as a great opportunity to get their proverbial "fifteen minutes of fame".

Wikipedia provides a factual and well-balanced background on the LDS Conferences. There are some subtle differences between the Spring and Fall events. First, the Spring event is referred to as an Annual Conference, since it ties in with the April 6th, 1830 official founding of the Church. The Fall event is referred to as a Semiannual Conference. Second, while a general women's session is held a week before the October Conference, a session only for young women is held prior to the April Conference.

There are four sessions open to all members and televised; morning and afternoon sessions on both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, there is a Priesthood session reserved exclusively for male Priesthood holders on Saturday evening. This session is generally not televised (we don't want you "Gentiles" to learn all of our "secret handshakes" just yet. ;-) )

This particular conference will have some unique characteristics, since it is the first general conference since the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley. At the first general conference after the death of any church president and the calling of his successor, the session at which the sustaining vote takes place is called a solemn assembly. At a solemn assembly, groups of Latter-day Saints are asked to stand in succession and sustain the new president of the church. Typically, the order is: First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorums of Seventy, Melchizedek priesthood holders, Aaronic priesthood holders, Relief Society members, members of the Young Women organization, and then all members together. Then the names of all other general authorities are read, and a sustaining and opposing vote is called for.

Otherwise, the conference consists of a series of inspiration and motivational addresses delivered by various church leaders. Visit the LDS website's Conference Report Archive page and read speeches from past conferences to establish a frame of reference.

Primary and standby tickets for in-person attendance are issued in advance by Church leaders to members. For those not attending in person, here are the viewing options:

(1). LDS wards: May or may not broadcast the conference via the Church Satellite Broadcast System at local meetinghouses. Consult your ward leaders.

(2). KSL Channel 5: Will broadcast the sessions live on their website, to include podcasting. Visit the Conference Page of their website.

(3). For Cable/Broadcast TV (US & Canada), Dish/DirecTV/Satellite TV, or AM/FM Radio: Visit the Bonneville Communications website and select the applicable options.

(4). Audio Options: Audio streams in a multitude of languages are available. Vist the LDS website's Conference page for more information.

The Salt Lake Tribune has published an interesting article about the "Mormon Empire" as a lead-in story to the conference. The title of the story is not intended to convey an anti-Mormon image, and the story itself is well-balanced. The Tribune has acquired a reputation for being critical of the Church; this is an exaggeration.

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