Cover image via Church Newsroom.

Studying the Doctrine and Covenants for the past year and consistently listening to several accompanying podcasts has deepened my understanding of these revelations.  My testimony has been strengthened as I have felt the Lord speaking directly to me in these scriptures.  It has also increased my empathy and appreciation for the early saints.  As a capstone to the year, this article looks at how the Doctrine and Covenants has been used in general conference. 

To take full advantage of learning everything we can from general conference talks, it is helpful to know which scriptures have been selected by the leaders of the church to help them teach and inspire us in their talks.

First, a little background to put things in context.  For the past three years, I have been collecting data about general conference.  I have now collected detailed data about all 102 general conferences that have been held since 1971[i].   This data includes every scripture referenced and every word spoken along with the name of the speaker and the title of each talk.  Since 1971, there have been 3,736 talks given by 505 different speakers.  In those talks, there have been 74,181 scripture references[ii]

An interesting fact is that the total number of scriptures referenced in each general conference has increased dramatically from 534 in the April 1971 conference to 1,171 in the October 2021 conference.   On average, each conference has 8.6 more[iii] scripture references that the previous conference.  I can only speculate about the reason why scripture references are increasing, but technology has definitely made it easier to include references in talks.

The 8.6 per conference increase can be broken down to show how much each volume of scripture contributes to the growth in references.  The breakdown is shown in the table below:

Most of the growth in scripture references comes from the Book of Mormon which makes sense given the emphasis of President Ezra Taft Benson and President Russell M. Nelson.  The rate of increase for the Doctrine and Covenants is 1.1; which means that, on average, each conference has 1.1 more Doctrine and Covenants references than the previous conference.  Of the 74,181 scripture references in general conference, 17,270 or 23.3% are Doctrine and Covenants references.

In determining which scriptures are referenced most frequently, there are three ways to rank them:

  1. The number of talks that reference a scripture – This may be the best indicator of the impact of a scripture in general conference.
  2. The total number of references to a scripture – Some talks reference the same scripture multiple times; the number of references is frequently greater than the number of talks.
  3. The number of speakers who have referenced a scripture in any of their talks – Speakers tend to repeat the same scripture in more than one talk; the number of speakers is almost always less than the number of talks.

The following table lists the ten Doctrine and Covenants verses that have been referenced in the most general conference talks:

Who knew that the most frequently referenced verse in the Doctrine and Covenants is the sacrament prayer?  Is there a message there?  “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matt 13:9

In addition to knowing which verses are most frequently referenced, it is insightful to know which sections are referenced most frequently.  Section references are computed by summing the reference counts for all of the verses in a section.  The following table lists the ten Doctrine and Covenants sections that have been referenced in the most general conference talks:

The distinction between the number of references and the number of talks with references is illustrated here by comparing sections 84 and 88.  Section 88 has been referenced in the most talks, but section 84 has the most references.   Section 88 has been referenced 874 times in 414 talks.  Section 84 has been referenced 1,238 times in 384 talks.  Also note that section 88 has been referenced 414 times by 143 different speakers which means that, on average, the speakers who have referenced section 88, have referenced it in 2.9 different talks. 

For my personal study of the Doctrine and Covenants, I have found it very helpful to know which verses of a given section have been referenced most frequently in general conference.  Taking section 88 as an example, the following table lists the ten verses in section 88 that have been referenced in the most general conference talks:

These ten verses of section 88 are familiar to many members of the church.  These are the verses that the leaders of the church have selected to help them teach and inspire in general conference.   There is much more in section 88 beyond these ten verses, but these verses help to focus our study.

A similar table could be produced for every section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but that many tables cannot be included in this article.  For those who are interested in the most frequently referenced verses in other sections, that information is available at searchgeneralconference.com.

Questions, suggestions, and comments are welcome at: [email protected]


[i] Data is not available for conferences before April 1971 on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

[ii] In collecting scripture references, each verse is counted as a separate reference.  For example, if a speaker references Alma 7:11-13, that counts as 3 scripture references.  Some references are to whole chapters which are counted as one reference.  Scripture references are counted the same whether they are quoted in a talk or only included in a footnote.

[iii]              

This chart shows the growth in scripture references since 1971.  The blue line is a regression line with a slope of 8.6.  The green line shows the actual number of scripture references in each conference.