In his Welcome Message for the April 2021 General Conference, President Nelson observed: “… the gospel is a message of joy! Our spirits rejoice with every small step forward we take.” As we prepare for another conference it is important to look back and see what topics were emphasized and notice the steps forward that we’ve made.
Data collected from the April 2021 general conference reveal three important topics that were emphasized: 1) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2) the empathy the Savior feels as we face mortal challenges, and 3) the importance of seeking and obtaining priesthood power.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
President Russell M. Nelson taught that having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest source of power that we can obtain in this life. In his talk Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains, President Nelson explained:
Through your faith, Jesus Christ will increase your ability to move the mountains in your life…
Your mountains may be loneliness, doubt, illness, or other personal problems. Your mountains will vary, and yet the answer to each of your challenges is to increase your faith…
Moving your mountains may require a miracle. Learn about miracles. Miracles come according to your faith in the Lord. Central to that faith is trusting His will and timetable—how and when He will bless you with the miraculous help you desire. Only your unbelief will keep God from blessing you with miracles to move the mountains in your life…
Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. All things are possible to them that believe.
While the word ‘faith’ is used in nearly three quarters of all general conference talks, the specific emphasis on ‘faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’ has increased dramatically in the Nelson Era as shown in the following chart:
This chart shows that 41% of conference talks given in the Nelson Era have used a phrase similar[i] to ‘faith in Jesus Christ’. Elder Neil L. Andersen has used similar phases in 60% of his conference talks – more than any other speaker.
The Savior’s empathy – Alma 7:12
The Lord has deep empathy for the challenges that we all face in mortality. Elder Ulisses Soares emphasized that point in his talk: Jesus Christ: The Caregiver of Our Soul. Elder Soares said:
I can assure you that Christ is ever aware of the adversities we experience in mortality. He understands all of the bitterness, agony, and physical pain as well as the emotional and spiritual challenges we face. The Savior’s bowels are filled with mercy, and He is always ready to succor us. This is possible because He personally experienced and took upon Himself in the flesh the pain of our weakness and infirmities.
With meekness and humility of heart, He descended below all things and accepted being despised, rejected, and humiliated by men, having been wounded for our transgressions and iniquities. He suffered these things for all, taking upon Himself the sins of the world, thus becoming our ultimate spiritual caregiver.
Elder Soares was one of eight speakers who referenced Alma 7:12, making it the most frequently referenced verse of the conference. Overall, Alma 7:12 is the 14th most referenced verse in general conference and the 8th most referenced verse in the Book of Mormon.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:12
References to Alma 7:12 have been steadily increasing over time, reaching 9% of conference talks in the Nelson era, as shown in the above chart. Speakers who have referenced this verse most frequently are:
Anyone who is familiar with talks by Elder Neal A. Maxwell will not be surprised by the chart above. I can hear Elder Maxwell’s voice in my mind when I read Alma 7:12.
President Dallin H. Oaks also discussed the Savior’s empathy in What Has Our Savior Done for Us.
Our Savior feels and knows our temptations, our struggles, our heartaches, and our sufferings, for He willingly experienced them all as part of His Atonement. Other scriptures affirm this. The New Testament declares, “In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Isaiah teaches, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: … I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10). All who suffer any kind of mortal infirmities should remember that our Savior experienced that kind of pain also, and that through His Atonement, He offers each of us the strength to bear it.
Priesthood Power – Doctrine & Covenants 84:20
Doctrine & Covenants 84:20 was the second most referenced verse in the April 2021 conference.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. Doctrine and Covenants 84:20
The topic of priesthood power has been consistently discussed in all general conferences. The following chart shows the speakers who have included this topic most frequently in their talks:
Elder David A. Bednar explained the process by which priesthood power is derived from the ordinances:
As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ordinances of the holy temple we more completely and fully take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.
President Nelson has been especially pointed about the importance for both men and women to understand and use priesthood power. In Ministering with the Power and Authority of God, (April 2018) he said:
Now, may I voice a concern? It is this: Too many of our brothers and sisters do not fully understand the concept of priesthood power and authority. They act as though they would rather satisfy their own selfish desires and appetites than use the power of God to bless His children.
I fear that too many of our brothers and sisters do not grasp the privileges that could be theirs. (See D&C 84:19-21) Some of our brethren, for example, act like they do not understand what the priesthood is and what it enables them to do.
President Nelson gave the following counsel (October 2019) to the women of the Church:
As a righteous, endowed Latter-day Saint woman, you speak and teach with power and authority from God. Whether by exhortation or conversation, we need your voice teaching the doctrine of Christ…
My dear sisters, your power will increase as you serve others. Your prayers, fasting, time in the scriptures, service in the temple, and family history work will open the heavens to you.
Brethren, you bear the priesthood of God. “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” You and your family have received priesthood ordinances. It is “in the ordinances [of the priesthood that] the power of godliness is manifest.” That power is available to you and your family in your own home as you keep the covenants you have made.
Statistics for April 2020:
- 35 talks by 30 different speakers
- First-time Speakers:
- 1,096 scripture references – the conference average since 1971 is 723
- Most referenced verses: Alma 7:11-13, D&C 84:20
- Most referenced chapters: 1 Nephi 11, Moses 6, John 20
- Since 1971, there have been 3,697 conference talks given by 491 different speakers. In those talks there are 73,108 scripture references.
- The most frequently referenced verse continues to be Moses 1:39 (214 references) and the most frequently referenced chapter continues to be Doctrine and Covenants 84 (1,227 references).
Update on past topics
In the previous issues of General Conference by the Numbers, we have looked at covenants, ‘covenant path’, the ‘second coming’, the ‘gathering of Israel’ and ‘let God prevail’. Here is an update on each of those topics:
- The emphasis on the importance of making and keeping gospel covenants has continued. 66% of the talks in April 2021 mentioned covenants. The following chart shows the speakers that have included this topic most frequently in their talks:
- The importance of staying on the ‘covenant path’ continues to be emphasized in the Nelson era. It was mentioned in 26% of talks in the April 2021 conference, highlighted by D. Todd Christofferson’s talk Why the Covenant Path?
- The second coming was mentioned in 14% of the talks in this conference and continues to be a focus in the Nelson era. The following chart shows the speakers who have used the phrase “second coming” most frequently:
- The gathering is Israel was mentioned in 23% of the talks in April 2021 including You Can Gather Israel! by Ahmad S. Corbitt.
- President Nelson introduced the phrase ‘Let God Prevail’ in the October 2020 conference. 29% of talks in the April 2021 conference used that phrase. It will be interesting to see what trend emerges in the future.
This general conference data may be accessed at https://searchgeneralconference.com
Questions and comments are welcome at: mailto:[email protected]
[i] Includes ‘faith in Him’, ‘faith in Jesus Christ’, ‘faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘faith in Christ’, etc