Priesthood, women’s sessions evolve

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Hundreds of thousands of women, young women and girls 8 years old and older gathered around the world on Saturday, March 28, 2015, for the general women’s session of the 185th Annual General Conference. (Mormon Newsroom)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ semiannual General Conference has grown from 27 members in attendance to an assembly of over 21,000 in the Salt Lake-based Conference Center, including millions of people watching the conference from the comfort of their own homes all around the world, in the span of just under 200 years.

Changes to the conference schedule have been made as recently as last year to further develop the church and bless the lives of its members.

“Since 1977, General Conference has been established as a two-day, weekend event, with two general sessions each day and a priesthood session meeting Saturday evening,” according to a Church News article.

In 1986, general Relief Society sessions were added and held each Saturday before General Conference weekend. Later, young women were given their own meeting, which alternated with the general Relief Society meetings. Beginning in 1994, the general Relief Society session was held in October while the young women’s session took place in April.

In 2013, the First Presidency announced that both women’s sessions would combine into a single meeting for women 8 years old and older.

On Oct. 27, 2017, a letter from the First Presidency was sent to church leadership regarding additional changes to priesthood and women’s sessions of General Conference. The letter, which was read to congregations worldwide, explained these consolidations.

Beginning in April 2018, the general women’s session will no longer be held on the Saturday preceding the other sessions of general conference. Rather, the general priesthood and general women’s sessions will each be held annually,” the letter reads.

Instead of holding both sessions in April and October, the First Presidency letter explains that the general women’s session will now be held in October while the general priesthood session will be held in April. Both sessions will take place the Saturday night following the first two sessions of General Conference.

According to the letter, the purpose of the change was to fulfill the goals of the church by “reducing and simplifying the work of the church and the demands made upon leaders and members.”

“We are confident this change will be a blessing in the lives of members throughout the church,” the First Presidency said in the letter.

According to an article by Deseret News, the impact this change makes will affect the lives of many members of the church and their experience with General Conference. 

“The announced schedule changes will enable all church members to join together twice a year in a single conference weekend,” said Ruth Todd, a former church spokeswoman, in an interview with the Deseret News. “It feels, to me, simpler, more efficient and more unified as we worship globally.”

The general women’s session will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. MDT.