First time a microphone was used in conference: April 1924
Believe it or not, until 1924, speakers relied on the incredible sound-carrying ability of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and how loudly they could speak for everyone to hear them! When the microphone was introduced to the conference, however, they were also able to pipe sound to another building on Temple Square for those who didn’t fit in the Tabernacle.
April 1956 general conference. Photo from Utah State Historical Society.
First time conference was broadcast over television: October 1949
Television added a new dynamic to general conference, with an even wider potential reach among those who were not members of the Church. This meant that speakers began tailoring their talks to appeal to those outside the Church who might be listening. A little less than two decades later, the conference was first broadcast in color in 1967.
1956 general conference. Photo from Utah State Historical Society.
First satellite transmission of conference: October 1979
Though radio satellites had been used prior to this time, 1979 was the first time satellite direct was used to transmit conference sessions. Just a few years later, President Spencer W. Kimball demonstrated satellite broadcast capability in a new way, speaking to the general conference congregation remotely from Fayette New York.
First live audio and video broadcast of general conference online: October 1999
While this is no surprise to us today, it was brand new in 1999. Audio archives in several languages were also made of this conference and the audio broadcast was available on lds.org.
First time a prophet was nominated as a presidential candidate in conference: April 1844
This was the first and only time that such an action was part of a general conference meeting. At this April conference, those in attendance nominated the Prophet Joseph Smith as a presidential candidate.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
First time the President of the Church was sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator: 1850
The members of the Church gathered for conference this year and participated in sustaining President Brigham Young as prophet, seer, and revelator. The name of the Church patriarch was first presented for sustaining in 1843 and the name of the presiding bishop was first presented for sustaining in 1847.
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First time an auditing report was given: October 1908
This was the first conference at which an auditing committee made a report to the congregation that all financial matter in the Church were acceptably conducted.
First conference in the 20th century where revelations were canonized: April 1976
During this conference, President N. Eldon Tanner presented two revelations to the Church and asked for a sustaining vote to add them to the Pearl of Great Price. These revelations became Doctrine and Covenants section 137 and 138.
David O. McKay speaking at the1936 general conference. Photos from Utah State Historical Society.
Speakers and Talks
First time a woman spoke in general conference: October 1845
Seventy-year-old Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the prophet Joseph Smith, delivered an address to during the general conference held at the Nauvoo temple that year. You can read her address here. Though women speakers were few and far between after that, starting in October 1988, a woman has spoken in every conference.
First conference address printed in full: April 6, 1850
An article on lds.org states that “In that year, the Deseret News was able to print word-for-word transcriptions because a young reporter, George D. Watt, had learned shorthand and transcribed the talks for publication.” Brother Watt was also the one who helped develop the Deseret Alphabet in the early days of the Church.
First time limits on talks: 1949
As general conference began being shared on radio and television, there was a growing need to stick to the station timetables so that talks would not be interrupted by station breaks, leading to the introduction of a time limit on talks.
General conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 1953. Photo from the Deseret News.
First time general conference was translated into a different language: October 1962
As the Church spread outside of the United States and more Church leaders from those areas were beginning to attend conference, there was a growing need for translation, and a translation room was added to the Tabernacle for this purpose. Learn more about the history of translation in the Church here.