Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from around the world are looking forward to general conference. The semiannual event will be held this weekend, just as it has every six months since 1848.
That is, every six months with two exceptions. Both times, the delay or cancellation was caused by the same thing.
The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people — more people than died in World War I. It was a global disaster, with people infected all over the world — including people in Salt Lake City.
For that reason, the April 1919 general conference was postponed until June of that year in an attempt to avoid transmitting the illness.
Another exceptionally bad flu season led Church leaders to cancel general conference altogether in October 1957. In a statement to Church members, the First Presidency said:
“With deep regret the First Presidency of the Church, with the concurrence of the Council of Twelve Apostles, announces that out of regard for the health of the people, the semiannual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scheduled for Oct. 4, 5 and 6, 1957, together with all meetings planned in connection therein, will not be held . . .
“We have consulted will all public agencies available to us which are concerned in the problems of health, and whose opinion on the extent and effects of the epidemic influenza we regard as helpful in reaching a decision.”