The 164th Semiannual General Conference opened with a history-making event: a solemn assembly for the sustaining of a new Church president and his counselors.
Within minutes after the two-day conference opened at 10 a.m. (MDT) in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, Saturday, Oct. 1, President Howard W. Hunter, 86, was sustained as prophet, seer and revelator and president of the Church. He is the 14th person to serve as Church president.President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson were sustained as first and second counselors, respectively, in the First Presidency.
President Hinckley was also sustained as president of the Council of the Twelve, and President Boyd K. Packer was sustained as acting president of the Council of the Twelve.
President Hunter was ordained and set apart as president of the Church in the Salt Lake Temple on June 5, after the death of President Ezra Taft Benson. President Hunter served in the Council of the Twelve for nearly 35 years. Born Nov. 14, 1907, in Boise, Idaho, he is the first Church president born in the 20th century.
President Hinckley and President Monson both served as counselors to President Benson, who was president of the Church from Nov. 10, 1985, until his death May 30, 1994. President Hinckley also served as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball from 1981 until President Kimball's death on Nov. 5, 1985.
Before the sustaining of the First Presidency and other General Authorities and general officers of the Church took place, President Hinckley told the congregation that President Hunter had requested that he conduct the business of the solemn assembly. "This is an occasion of great significance for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world," President Hinckley noted.
President Hinckley gave instructions to the congregation regarding the procedure for participating in the solemn assembly. He invited members to stand when requested and to express by their uplifted hands whether they chose to sustain those whose names were presented.
The sustaining was by quorums and groups, beginning with the First Presidency, followed by the Council of the Twelve; the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric; ordained patriarchs and all members of high priests and elders quorums in the Melchizedek Priesthood; ordained priests, teachers and deacons in the Aaronic Priesthood; and the entire congregation, including those who had stood previously.
Members were asked to participate in the sustaining wherever they were. The session was transmitted live to Europe as well as to some 3,000 meetinghouses in North America and the Caribbean.
For the first time, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was sustained in general conference as a member of the Council of the Twelve. Elder Holland was called June 23 to the Twelve to fill a vacancy created when President Hunter became president of the Church.
Elder Holland, 53, is the youngest member of the Council of the Twelve. A former president of Brigham Young University and commissioner of Church education, he has served as a General Authority since April 1, 1989, when he was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy. (Please see Church News June 25 and July 9.)
Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, who had been a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy since April 1991 was sustained a member of the First Quorum. In addition, two additional members - Elders Andrew W. Peterson and Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. - were called to the First Quorum of the Seventy. (Please see biographical information on page 4.)
New presidencies of the Sunday School and the Primary and a new counselor in the Young Women presidency were also sustained. (Please see separate articles on page 5.)
Eight members of the Quorums of the Seventy were given emeritus status or released. (Please see article on page 4.)
President Hinckley thanked the congregation for their sustaining vote. "We feel that you have sustained us not only with your hands but also with your hearts and your faith and prayers, which we so urgently need, and pray that you will continue to do so," he said.
An air of excitement typically surrounds general conferences, but the 164th Semiannual General Conference of Oct. 1 and 2 was accompanied by an especially prevalent expectation since it included a solemn assembly.
With President Hunter delivering the opening address Saturday morning, this was the first general conference at which the Church president has spoken directly to the members in six years. President Ezra Taft Benson delivered his last conference address in October 1988.
The Tabernacle, which can seat nearly 6,000, had capacity congregations during each session, and overflow congregations gathered in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square and in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building across the street.
The unusually warm weather that hovered over Utah until about 48 hours before conference weekend - temperatures had been in the high 80s and low 90s - was replaced with cooler temperatures. Although it rained Friday night and early Saturday morning, a crowd began gathering hours before the conference was scheduled to open. By 2 a.m. Saturday, a dozen or more arrived outside Temple Square, prepared to wait until its gates opened at 7 a.m. The number of conference-goers increased by the hour until hundreds had gathered by daybreak. For the Sunday morning session, some conference-goers began gathering around midnight Saturday.
Conference included two general sessions Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, and a priesthood session Saturday at 6 p.m.
Conference proceedings, which originated over KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, were televised by satellite to some 3,000 meetinghouses in North America and the Caribbean, and were transmitted to more than 1,100 cable television stations in the United States. A one-hour video documentary tribute to President Hunter was broadcast between conference sessions. (Please see article on this page.)
Church units in areas where the satellite and other transmissions of conference were not available will receive videotapes of conference proceedings.