A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business” [Doctrine and Covenants 20:61-62]. The first of these conferences was held on 9 June 1830. By 1831, a revision to the Articles and Covenants instructed the elders to hold these conferences quarterly. Tasks performed at conferences included conducting church business, performing ordinations, recording membership growth, and preaching sermons. Lay members attended these conferences in order to hear sermons and ratify decisions according to the law of “Common consent.” In addition, “special conferences”—sometimes referred to as councils—were held to resolve church disputes, appoint individuals to missions, and discipline individual church members. Individual branches of the church also held conferences locally. While a regional conference might be referred to as a general conference, by 1839, the term usually referred to semiannual meetings where business was transacted for the entire church. Joseph Smith announced in October 1841 that no further general conferences would be held until the Nauvoo temple was completed; although large “special conferences” continued to be held in April and October of each year, the next gathering termed a general conference was held in October 1845 on the floor of the nearly completed temple. Beginning in 1835, the term was also used to describe geographical areas defined for administrative purposes.
Retrieved with permission from The Joseph Smith Papers.