General Conference Research Guide
What is a general session of conference?
General sessions of conference are meetings where all members of the Church gather with Church leadership. In the past, these sessions generally covered three days, with two sessions each day. On occasion, meetings did extend to four days, making a total of eight sessions. In April 1977, Church leaders announced that general conference would be only two days.1
Priesthood sessions were not considered part of general conference until April 1944, toward the end of World War II, when the meetings began to be identified as numbered sessions (for example, first, second). Other meetings such as Relief Society and Primary meetings were considered conferences specific to their organizations and, while held in the spring and fall to increase attendance, were not considered part of general conference. Beginning in March 2014, the general women’s meetings became official conference sessions, bringing the total number of sessions held during general conference to six. In 2018, Church leaders announced that the general women’s session would be held during the fall conference and the general priesthood session would be held during the spring conference.
When was the first general conference?
The first meeting of all Church members was held Wednesday, June 9, 1830, in Fayette, Seneca County, New York, at the Peter Whitmer home. There were about 30 members in attendance, along with several friends and other interested persons. The minutes of this meeting are available through the Joseph Smith Papers.2
Has conference ever been canceled?
General conference has been held every year since 1830, with two exceptions. The first was 1846; no conferences were held that year, because of the exodus from Nauvoo. The second cancellation was October 1957, because of the Asian flu epidemic. The April 1919 conference was not canceled, but it was postponed until June due to the influenza epidemic, and some conferences in the 1940s were limited in attendance because of safety concerns and wartime restrictions on large gatherings.
When did the Church stop holding spring general conference on April 6?
It was a long-standing tradition to hold conference on April 6 each year in honor of the Church’s founding, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. For example, the 114th Annual General Conference, in 1949, was held over three days: Sunday, April 3; Monday, April 4; and Wednesday, April 6. Another example is the 146th Annual General Conference, held in 1976 on Saturday, April 3; Sunday, April 4; and Tuesday, April 6. In April 1977, after general conference was standardized, the Church stopped purposely holding general conference sessions on April 6.
|Priesthood:||The earliest mention of a Church-wide priesthood meeting April 6, 1862, although several special meetings for priesthood brethren were called in the years prior.3|
|Relief Society:||The Relief Society held its first annual conference in the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake on April 6, 1889.|
|Primary:||The Primary held a convention for stake Primary presidents in the Assembly Hall on October 5, 1889, but the first official annual conference was held on October 5, 1890.4|
|Young Women:||The first conference of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (Y.L.M.I.A.) was held on April 4, 1890.5|
|Young Men:||The first conference of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (Y.M.M.I.A.) was held in the Old Salt Lake Tabernacle on April 8, 1876.6|
 See “General Conferences to Be Two-day Conferences,” Ensign, Feb. 1977, 91–92.
 See “Minute Book 2,” 1, The Joseph Smith Papers, josephsmithpapers.org.
 See Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Apr. 6, 1862, 1, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
 See Woman’s Exponent, Mar. 15, 1890, 158.
 See Woman’s Exponent, 158.
 See “Association Intelligence,” The Contributor, Dec. 1879, 71.