I realized the other day that, until I went to BYU, I had probably never watched a Saturday session of Conference (other than Priesthood session).
The thing is, my parents were (and are) tremendously active and participatory in the Church. I can probably count the number of Sundays I missed as a kid on one—or at most, on two—hands. And two of those Sundays had me in the hospital after an appendectomy.
I mean, when I was really little, suburban San Diego didn’t get Conference over cable, so my parents would have had to have bundled the three, then four, of us over to the Stake Center. But even when the station that carried nothing 50 weekends out of the year started showing Conference on the other two, I don’t remember watching Saturday sessions.
After BYU, I went to New York, where I (and many other members of the Stake) watched Saturday’s and Sunday’s sessions. And I know my parents watch Saturday these days, too.[fn]
And it got me to thinking: when did actually watching Saturday sessions become a thing? Was there a moment in time (the mid-90s, maybe, when I started at BYU)? or was it regional (like, Mormons in Southern California didn’t watch it, but Mormons in Eastern Washington did?)? or something else?
So I asked a bunch of my co-bloggers about their memories of Saturday sessions growing up. Here’s what they remember:
It’s part of a modern Reformation. It’s still not standard except amongst authorities.
Growing up in Oklahoma, we normally went to the Church on Conference Saturday to listed to a closed-circuit RADIO broadcast of the Priesthood Session. No visuals, just voices. I pretty much remember sleeping through these. #getoffmylawn
I grew up in SLC and it was on the RADIO around the house, but no one stopped what they were doing to just sit and listen, kid optional. When we lived outside the Mormon Corridor, I don’t think we picked up Saturdays until maybe 1983 or 1984, then we helped buy a satellite receiver for the ward. Then we went over on Saturdays because it was basically next door. When we ended up at BYU, it was a habit, but still not a sit and listen thing. The church push that conference was the word of the Lord for the next six months, circulated a lot from the 70s on.
For anything but the Priesthood Session, we were completely at the mercy of the local TV stations (this was in Oklahoma), who, if we were lucky, would broadcast one of the Sunday sessions that we could watch in our houses. Usually this required cable, and many people in the ward claimed that this was the only reason that they had cable TV.There was simply no place that we could go to watch Saturday sessions, with the exception of the Priesthood Session. It was not broadcast anywhere. There was no Internet. Lots of us only got four channels, and one of those was PBS.I suspect that the increased sense of obligation surrounding Saturdays has something to do with everybody having access to it.
It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with a memory of going to the stake center on a Saturday to listen to an audio broadcast of conference. It only lasted for a couple of years, between the time a television station in Spokane, WA, stopped showing Saturday conference, and the arrival of a satellite dish at our stake center. But it was, in retrospect, really kind of eerie, all of us sitting in the chapel with lights dimmed (why would they have done that, I wonder?), listening to a box up on the pulpit.
By the time I joined the church (2002) it was expected (at least in Spokane) that GC weekend be either watched at home, or at the Stake Center. All sessions, all weekend. I was not given the impressions opting out was an option. I just thought to be in good standing, this was part of attending your meetings. Because that’s the condition under which my membership was formed, I still feel guilty if I skip out on any session (not including Women’s session, which was not part of my foundational formation).The upside, I guess, is that my kids actually love conference weekend. I let them drag all the bins of Lego into the living room, I make special food, and we have picnic lunch and dinner on the floor while we listen. And now, the boys get to go to Priesthood with Jon, and they like that, mostly because ice cream.
I don’t remember even really being aware there were Saturday (non-PH) sessions until high school. Through college, no normal people watched them.
It definitely changed as it became more available. When I was little, we only got Sunday morning session. Then they started to broadcast at the stake center for the Sunday afternoon, and eventually the Saturday too.
My experience was pretty much the same as Michael’s. I remember traveling to the stake center (a long trip) to listen to priesthood session over an open telephone line; we all sat on the stand, as there was never any more bodies than that. My father never did this; I just went with friends, mainly to spend time with them. I seem to recall seeingSunday morning sessions on TV (we had cable, which might explain that). That was the only session I ever saw as a young man.
We did the stake center for everything, but no radio.
My parents were in church leadership when I was young. We lived outside the Mormon culture region and were fairly far from the chapel. I don’t remember ever watching conference, during conference weekend.
My parents had a no television in the home policy, so even though conference was on local cable (this was in California) we all trooped down to the stake center from as early as I can remember. I still feel pangs of guilt when I skip a Saturday session.
I don’t think I realized there were Saturday sessions of conference until I was a teenager. I remember being glad that my parents didn’t make us go on Saturday. I don’t think I started going to Saturday sessions until after college. After we had our daughter, we started this tradition of getting hamburgers between Saturday sessions, so our kids have always gone to Saturday am session at the church. We don’t make them watch the afternoon session, and we watch both Sunday sessions at home on the internet now (though the kids only have to watch one). So on conference weekends we end up going to church on Saturday but not Sunday.