1967 “Space-Age” Technology Delivered First Overseas Conference Broadcast

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 11 April 2017

General conference was heard over the radio for the first time a half-century ago.

Article Highlights

  • The first conference overseas broadcast was April 1967.

Technology has made general conference a live, global event. Anyone with basic internet access can, regardless of distance from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, listen to the inspired words of Church leaders at the very moment they are uttered.

Communication technology enjoyed another historic moment a half-century ago at the 137th Annual General Conference on April 6, 8, and 9, 1967. For the first time a radio broadcast of the Sunday morning session was sent overseas by the “Lani Bird” satellite in orbit 22,000 miles above the Pacific Ocean. This broadcast could be heard in Hawaii six-tenths of a second after the voices were uttered in the Tabernacle after traveling over 100,000 miles through space.

The event surely marked a miracle for then Church President David O. McKay. Born in 1873, the beloved prophet was a 30-year-old man when Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first airplane flight in 1903. The first wireless radio broadcast would occur three years later.

“I am pleased to announce that during this conference we will usher in the use of space-age communications in carrying the messages of the gospel,” he said in conference remarks read by his son Robert R. McKay.

“Thus,” he continued, “we begin to utilize another great communication tool in the work of our Heavenly Father. It is estimated that the April conference will be seen and heard by the largest audience to witness the proceedings of a general conference of the Church.”

Fifty years ago, a historically large audience heard President McKay’s prophetic words at April general conference. But his timeless message focused on the individual—the one.

Personal spirituality, he taught, signals “victory over self” and communion “with the Infinite.”

A person’s earthly existence is a test as to whether he or she will concentrate his or her efforts upon “comfort and gratification” or whether he or she will make life’s aims and purposes “the acquisition of spiritual qualities.”

“Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties and acquire more and more strength. To feel one’s faculties unfolding and truth expanding the soul is one of life’s sublimest experiences.”

Spirituality, he added, is the highest acquisition of the soul. One can realize spirituality by being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to others.

“It is the divine in man, the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things, the one final quality that makes him tower above all other animals.”