There is a little-known secret about Mormons. Every six months, the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the real name of the church the Mormons belong to) get instructions from their leaders and are told to spend the next half of the year studying those messages and obeying them. Do you want to find out what their “secret” instructions are—what the Mormons are going to be doing for the next six months?
Watch the Mormon General Conference.
Yes, the Mormons give out their “secret” instructions right on television and on the Internet, where anyone, absolutely anyone, can hear them. Then they publish them and make YouTube videos of them…and everyone in the whole world can find out what the Mormons have been instructed to do this year.
Here’s how it works. Every year, the first weekends of April and October, the conference is held in Salt Lake City, Utah, headquarters for the Mormons. There are two sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday. In addition, there are meetings for men, for women, and for teenage girls. During these meetings, most of which last two hours, male and female leaders of the international church speak. They are not assigned topics. Instead, they are asked to pray for inspiration to find out what God wants them to talk about. Mormons believe every person is entitled to personal revelation concerning his own life and responsibilities. Since each topic comes through inspiration, it is particularly enlightening to pay attention to the topics chosen. These are the things God wants you to think about in the coming months. If a topic is spoken on by more than one person, most Mormons pay even closer attention—it probably means God really wants you to pay attention to that particular subject.
The Mormon prophet speaks several times during the conference, although some are just brief welcomes and announcements. One important talk is delivered each conference and Mormons pay particular attention to this talk. The current Mormon prophet, Thomas S. Monson, frequently talks about serving the poor or about making wise choices. Many speakers have topics that are especially important to them and on which they are known as something of an expert. However, they speak on those topics only when inspired to do so.
Many of the speakers are apostles. Mormons organize their church in the same pattern set by Jesus Christ when He was on the earth. There was no need for a prophet while Jesus served his ministry, but he chose twelve apostles to assist Him in the work and to testify of Him. Once he was gone, the apostles continued to function as prophets, seers, and revelators. As we study the New Testament, we see that these apostles taught many things Jesus hadn’t taught during his lifetime or that weren’t recorded. When disagreements arose over doctrine, they settled them with inspired answers. Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators.
However, there can only be one person who receives revelation for the entire church and his is the person we call the prophet. In Old Testament times, there were many prophets, each teaching what was needed for his specific time on earth. Unfortunately, after the apostles died, the world fell into apostasy. A relatively small number of Christians worked hard and sacrificed much—even their lives—to keep Christianity alive. However, without a prophet, there was no one who had authority to resolve the disagreements that arose over doctrinal differences. No one was authorized to speak for God. Councils met and put doctrine to a vote because they did not have a prophet. Reformers who saw the church falling into apostasy did the best they could to put things back the way they thought it should be, but they never claimed to be prophets. They simply interpreted the Bible as conscientiously as possible. Mormons teach even their children to honor these early Christians and Protestant reformers.
Although faithful efforts to figure out what God wants are admirable, the Bible shows us God intended for us to learn eternal truths through prophets. This is why, as the final days of earth draw near, God has restored the prophets.
Of course, having a prophet is pointless if you don’t know what he is teaching or if you ignore what he says. The people in the Old Testament usually had prophets, but frequently neglected to find out what they were teaching or chose to ignore anything that didn’t fit with their politics, lifestyle choices, or desires. When Noah warned of the upcoming flood, people tuned him out. When the rain started, it was too late. The prophet was there and he was teaching God’s word…but they failed to make the choices that would allow them to benefit from those teachings.
General Conference gives Mormons an opportunity to find out what God’s messages are for them. Just as with the people in the time of Noah, if we have a prophet, we have a responsibility to hear what they have to say. Seldom will you hear earth-shattering revelations. Most of the time, we are simply being reminded of what we already know to be true. Basic truths don’t change. We generally don’t need revelations; we just need to start doing what God has already taught us. We need to improve our understanding of the previously revealed principles and we need to receive renewed energy to go forward with our eternal progression.
Mormons who watch the conference are encouraged to take special note of those things they especially need in their own lives and to invite the Holy Ghost to tell them what is especially applicable to them. People who are not Mormon can do the same thing but can also use this time to learn about Mormonism from Mormons themselves, go get a sense of who the leaders are and to better understand their priorities. Although a few talks are aimed at people who are not Mormon, most of the talks (sermons) are meant for Mormons and so you will see just what real Mormons are being asked to believe and to do.
You can watch online at no cost and without registration.