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by Charles D. Tate, Jr.
Since 1899, the Church has published official reports of its annual (April) and semiannual (October) General Conferences, commonly called Conference Reports. These reports are distributed in booklet form only to Church leaders (bishoprics and higher), Church employees, and libraries, but because other members of the Church wanted to study the conference addresses, the improvement era began in 1942 to devote two issues a year to conference reports. The Ensign has followed that pattern since replacing the Era in 1971. Those issues have made reports of conference addresses available to the world by subscription or single issue bookstore or newsstand purchase. The talks as printed in the Conference Report volumes (see below) and in the Church magazines have mostly been identical. Those publications are significant resources for the study of the theology, progress, and development of the Church.
When the Church first began holding conferences, many attending the meetings recorded in their private journals what was said and done. These personal records now constitute the primary sources available on the various conference addresses in the early years because no official Church publication printed much more than a list of conference events. It appears that the first full report of any Church conference address was published in the Deseret News in 1850, even though several partial reports were published in Times and Seasons from November 1839 to February 1846, in Nauvoo. 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. Watt and others thereafter transcribed a great many conference addresses and other talks for publication in the Deseret News and also in the Journal of Discourses (Liverpool and London, 1854-1886).
The conference report for the Church's fiftieth jubilee year (1880) was the first to be published as a separate booklet (110 pages) exclusively of General Conference addresses. The next volume in that series contained the talks given at the October 1897 Semiannual General Conference (78 pages). Since 1899, the Church has published a Conference Report volume for each General Conference.
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Church Publications home page)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Conference Reports
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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