Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Updating the Vocabulary

Updating the Vocabulary

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 05, 2013

I’ve recently found the answer to a question that has been raised on Keepa … but now I can’t find where we’ve talked about this before to link to it.

The question was about the change in vocabulary from “Conference” to “District,” referring to the organization of missions. The answer is found in a 1927 letter:

March 12th, 1927

Presidents of Missions:

Please be advised that the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles have recently made a ruling to the effect that the word “District” shall be substituted for the word “Conference,” when referring to a territorial division of a Mission.

We shall be pleased therefore to have you conform to this change in the future.

Sincerely your brethren,

Heber J. Grant
A.W. Ivins
C.W. Nibley,
First Presidency



  1. Up next, the fiend who invented “zones,” thereby inflicting on us that prototype of the middle-manager–the zone leader.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 5, 2013 @ 11:51 am

  2. Or, for that matter, the present incantation of District, referring to the smallest number of companionships, as compared with the proto-stake referred to in the 1st Presidency letter.

    Comment by Paul — June 5, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

  3. The UK was different and confusing in that conferences became pastorates or districts certainly by 1850s. But also initially you could find several districts in a branch, then several branches in a district, then a few conferences in a district, then pastorates (I don’t think anywhere else had Pastorates?)then solely districts.
    For example, Bilston branch 23 Feb 1858 was made a district. 31 Aug 1856 several branches AGAIN to be know as the Dudley district with William Miller as President.20 Sep 1856 Middlewich District council was held.5 Jun 1853 Middlewich district council met to be accountable for its branches. 21 October 1850 mentions travelling elders for the district, (not clear if it is ecclesiastical or geographical). And a really odd one, 28 October 1854, John Barker, pastor of the district, reports on the conferences.(You have all three here, district, conference, pastorate). Much of the conferences–>pastorates—> had been made by 1870s.

    Comment by David M.Morris — June 5, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  4. This was one I’ve been wondering about. Unlike in the UK that David talks about, here in the U.S. it seems quite consistent: conferences were made up of a number of branches. And there were several conferences in a mission.

    Now I wonder, given Last Lemming and Paul’s comments, when the missionary hierarchy of missionaries in districts in zones was introduced. Surely it was well after this 1927 letter.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — June 13, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

  5. Districts of members and districts of missionaries are so distinct that I never had any trouble managing both concepts simultaneously, though I’d never caught on that conferences were organizations of members, probably because of how often when I’ve come past mentions of conferences, it’s been in the context of a missionary being assigned to lead one. Where I work on the other hand, I’ve never become comfortable with being part of a division (several dozen people) that is part of a department (a few hundred people) that is part of a division (three thousand people).

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 14, 2013 @ 6:11 am

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