General Conference: the intersection of faith and technology

Oct 1, 2021, 8:00 AM

Church leaders Congratulate President-elect Joe Biden...

President Russell M. Nelson, center, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, right, take their seats at the start of the Saturday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world will be able to participate in General Conference this weekend. 

The intersection of faith and technology

General Conference was once a community event. Now, Church leaders recognize that community is much bigger than people living in Utah.

Expansion of the faith to different corners of the globe and technology have made that possible. 

“When you move to the 20th Century, technology changes it,” said Scott Esplin, dean of religious instruction at Brigham Young University.

He recalls his college days of waiting outside the tabernacle with hopes of getting a seat for Conference. 

“Those days are gone now. There are no barriers to participating in the meeting whatsoever,” said Esplin. 

Technology changes everything

Not only has the prevalence of technology altered the experience for Church members, it has also changed everything for Church leaders. 

Esplin says new ways of tuning in have forced updates to the format, the speakers, how long they talk, and what they discuss. 

“If I’m a speaker, I’m going to adjust my message differently knowing that I’m not just speaking to people live in the room at the time,” Esplin said. “That there’s someone else in a living room, in a house somewhere that’s listening.” 

That is now also true of people in different states, different countries, and on different continents. 

Latter-day Saints can tune in from anywhere and at a time convenient to them. As an example, while the Saturday evening session starts at 6:00 p.m. MDT, it will be 9:00 a.m. in Seoul, South Korea. 

“To watch it live, worldwide, for those saints is just wonderful,” said Esplin. 

One thing remains the same

Despite the changes, Esplin cites one constant: the spectacular spirit of General Conference. 

“Certainly things have changed in how we assemble together…and that will continue to change, but I think the constant is that God will pour out his spirit on the day we assemble together,” Esplin said. 

This weekend’s sessions of conference will be broadcast from the Conference Center, but in-person attendance will not be permitted. 

Esplin anticipates people will still want to attend General Conference in person when the pandemic restrictions end.

“There’s something electric…about being in the Conference Center for General Conference that I frankly miss,” said Esplin. 

He also expects conference will be different when the 21,000 seats of the Conference Center are filled again. 

Listen to General Conference on KSL Newsradio

KSL Newsradio will carry all sessions of General Conference live at 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, and the KSL Newsradio app.

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General Conference: the intersection of faith and technology