Mormons from around world to gather for weekend conference

AP News
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Posted: Apr 03, 2015 5:06 AM
Mormons from around world to gather for weekend conference

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 100,000 Mormons will descend on Salt Lake City this weekend for the faith's biannual conference to listen to spiritual guidance from leaders and to learn about church news.

Millions more will watch live broadcasts of the event from around the U.S. and in more than 200 other countries. This year marks the conference's 185th year. Here's more on what it's all about:

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WHAT IS EXPECTED THIS WEEKEND?

Few people know ahead of time what news will be announced or which issues will be discussed by Mormon church leaders.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has surprised people before with unexpected news and headline-grabbing speeches. In 2012, for instance, leaders made the landmark announcement that the minimum age for missionaries was being lowered.

The church often reveals plans for new temples and provides updated figures about membership, new converts and the number of missionaries serving. This weekend's topics could include the importance of the traditional family, women's role in the faith, and the church's views on LGBT issues and religious freedoms.

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WHO SPEAKS?

High-ranking church leaders. Church President Thomas S. Monson opens the conference with a brief speech.

Speakers also include several members of the Quorum of the Twelve, a governing body of the church that is modeled after Jesus Christ's apostles and serves under the church president and his two counselors.

Mormon leaders read prewritten speeches, only rarely deviating from script.

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ARE THE SPEECHES ONLY IN ENGLISH?

No. At the conference this past fall, history was made when three speeches were delivered in foreign languages with English subtitles on big screens.

More foreign language speeches are expected this weekend as the church continues to acknowledge its growing international membership. The English speeches are translated into more than 90 languages.

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WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT?

Nobody has a reliable estimate, but it's clearly a boon for Salt Lake City hotels and downtown restaurants that are packed during conference weekend.

If you assume about half the attendees are from out of state, direct spending tied to the conference weekend could be as high as $20 million, said James Wood, director of the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Conference attendees probably don't spend as much as convention visitors because many stay with family or friends, Wood said.

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WHERE IS IT HELD?

The sessions are held in the church's 21,000-seat conference center downtown, across the street from the religion's flagship temple. The gray brick building has a tiered waterfall running down the front and trees and landscaping on the roof.

The theater venue inside is a massive space that resembles a concert hall.

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WHO GETS TO ATTEND?

Tickets are free, but members must request them from local church leaders. Mormons from around the world come to the event, which for many people is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

International church members can arrive unannounced and get in by going to a special gate designated for them.

Attendees includes some people who aren't yet church members but are considering joining and want to learn more about the faith.

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WHAT ABOUT MORMONS WHO CAN'T GET TICKETS?

They watch from home or at church centers. The Mormon-owned TV station in Salt Lake City, NBC affiliate KSL-TV, broadcasts four of the five sessions live.

Most Latter-day Saints in Utah watch from the comfort of their homes. There are no Sunday church services on general conference weekends.

Mormons living outside Utah often gather at local churches to watch the sessions.