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Church announces that October general conference will follow April’s format: digital only, closed to the public

‘As a worldwide organization, we have an obligation to be good citizens and to act with caution as it relates to such a unique setting as general conference’

President Dallin H. Oaks speaks to an empty auditorium but a global audience as President Russell M. Nelson and President Henry B. Eyring watch during the April general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4, 2020. October’s conference will follow the same format, the church announced Thursday.
The Church of Jesus Christ

SALT LAKE CITY — General conference will be digital-only again in October, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Thursday.

In April, church leaders conducted the first general conference without public attendance since World War II in an attempt to help control the spread of COVID-19.

“Because of our concern for the health and safety of others, we have decided that the October 2020 general conference will follow the same pattern as the conference held in April of this year,” the First Presidency said in a letter to leaders and members released Thursday morning. “The general sessions will be broadcast as usual. However, the general sessions will not be open to the public.”

The conference is scheduled to be held on Oct. 3-4. Additional details will be released in the coming weeks, the letter said.

“As a worldwide organization, we have an obligation to be good citizens and to act with caution as it relates to such a unique setting as general conference, which traditionally brings thousands of visitors to Salt Lake City from around the globe,” the First Presidency added.

The coronavirus pandemic had killed 383,872 people worldwide as of Thursday morning, according to the World Health Organization, with nearly 6.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The United States accounts for 28% of global confirmed cases and deaths.

Traditionally, about 100,000 people attend five sessions of conference at the 20,000-seat Conference Center across the street from historic Temple Square. But most of the world’s 16.3 million Latter-day Saints usually experience general conference via broadcast technologies. About 595,000 households in North America watch the Sunday morning session live via television, for example.

Church members around the world shared photos of their families watching general conference online.

The Deseret News editorial board called it a home-centered global gathering during a shelter-in-place pandemic.

Maya Bennett, 10, Edward Castro Bennett, Silvia Castro and Luna Thomas, 6, watch the Sunday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint in their Murray home on Sunday, April 5, 2020. The couple were recently baptized on Feb. 7 and planned to attend a session of conference at the Conference Center before the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the mass gatherings.
Maya Bennett, 10, Edward Castro Bennett, Silvia Castro and Luna Thomas, 6, watch the Sunday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint in their Murray home on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

The advance of the coronavirus caused church leaders to announce on Feb. 27 that general authorities and church members should not travel to Utah for the annual April general conference.

On March 11, they announced the conference would be digital-only. On April 4-5, the Conference Center stood empty while church leaders conducted the conference from a small auditorium in the Church Office Building by broadcast and livestream.

The conference was historic. President Nelson:

• Read a new proclamation on the restoration of Christ’s church.

• Announced eight new temples.

• Released a new church symbol featuring the Christus statue.

• Called for a global Good Friday fast for relief from the pandemic.

• Conducted a solemn assembly and led the church in a worldwide Hosanna Shout.

In an empty auditorium in the Church Office Building, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepare for a session of general conference on April 4, 2020. Each session traditionally draws 20,000 people to the conference center, but the coronavirus pandemic led to a digital-only event broadcast to millions around the world.
IRI

Pandemic restrictions affected the music provided for the conference. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square prerecorded some music, and the church used taped performances from past conferences.

Thursday’s entire First Presidency letter reads:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While some areas of the world continue to experience the effects of a serious pandemic, other areas do not. As a worldwide organization, we have an obligation to be good citizens and to act with caution as it relates to such a unique setting as general conference, which traditionally brings thousands of visitors to Salt Lake City from around the globe.

Because of our concern for the health and safety of others, we have decided that the October 2020 general conference will follow the same pattern as the conference held in April of this year. The general sessions will be broadcast as usual. However, the general sessions will not be open to the public.

Additional details about general conference, scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4, 2020, will be shared as they are finalized.

We pray that the Lord’s choicest blessings will attend you.

Russell M. Nelson

Dallin H. Oaks

Henry B. Eyring

The First Presidency