Men of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been meeting in regular general conference priesthood sessions since April 6, 1862. On Monday, that changed.
Women’s sessions were held as early as 1889, but did not become a regular conference session until 1986. In 2018 the session alternated with the priesthood session being held only in April and women’s session in October.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which includes President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring — announced changes to upcoming general conferences of the church, which are held each April and October.
“Beginning with October’s general conference and continuing thereafter, the Saturday evening sessions will be discontinued,” The First Presidency statement said. “Previously, a Saturday evening session was held for women (in October) and priesthood holders (in April). This change is being made because all sessions of general conference are now available to anyone who desires to watch or listen.”
For the October 2021 general conference (to be held October 2–3), conference proceedings will originate from the Conference Center auditorium in Salt Lake City. Once again, the Conference Center will be closed to the public.
Casey Griffiths, an assistant professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, noted after hearing the announcement that changes have often occurred with general conference sessions.
“General conference used to last several days,” Griffiths said. “They used to have a welfare session and others, so change is fairly normal.”
The popular all-church basketball tournaments held in the 1950s through 1970s were played during the annual Young Men/Young Women conferences in June. Those were discontinued in 1977.
Griffiths said his first thought was all of the traditions he had with his dad going out after priesthood session for pizza or dinner.
“First, I’m happy for fewer meetings, but I’m sad not to hear more from the leaders of the church,” Griffiths added.
As a specialist on 20th and 21st century LDS church history, Griffiths said the church has never been afraid to embrace technology.
Now there are satellite broadcasts and the church can stream several kinds of meetings including face-to-face firesides and devotionals, Griffiths added.
The announcement also indicates the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will continue to be on hiatus due to the pandemic.