The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made two significant announcements related to its semiannual general conferences.
The church announced the changes with a statement Monday morning.
General conference: What’s changing?
Starting with this October’s conference and going forward, the church will discontinue the Saturday evening sessions. Previously, the church held Saturday evening sessions for women (referred to as the women’s session) in October and men (the priesthood session) in April.
“This change is being made because all sessions of general conference are now available to anyone who desires to watch or listen,” the church statement said.
Will there be a live audience?
The October 2021 general conference, scheduled for Oct. 2-3, will be virtual only and the Conference Center will be closed to the public as it has been since March 2020. However, the proceedings will return to the Conference Center auditorium in Salt Lake City.
The church first closed the Conference Center prior to the April 2020 conference to help control the spread of COVID-19. The church has followed the same pattern for general conferences in October 2020 and April 2021.
Despite the closed Conference Center, the church has witnessed rapid expansion of broadcast partners and used technology to broadcast general conference to more than 70 countries in the last two years.
Saturday evening sessions: History
The priesthood session became part of general conference in April 1944.
The Relief Society began holding a Saturday evening meeting a week before October general conference in 1986. A similar meeting for Young Women was added on the Saturday evening before April general conference in 1994.
Another change was made in 2014 when a general women’s meeting was designated for women and girls ages 8 and older. It replaced the two women’s meetings.
In 2018, the church began alternating the priesthood and women’s sessions with the priesthood session taking place on Saturday evening in April and the women’s session (all women and girls 11 and older) on Saturday evening in October.
The Saturday evening session of the April 2020 general conference was opened to all members age 11 and older as the church commemorated the bicentennial of the First Vision.
What is the Conference Center?
The Conference Center, located near Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, is 21,000-seat auditorium. Construction on the 1.4-million-square-foot structure started in 1997 and it was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2000. It has multiple levels, a sophisticated pipe organ and a rooftop garden with views of the city.
The church holds general conference each April and October, where church leaders share inspiring messages about Jesus Christ and other gospel topics for more than 16.6 million members.