President Nelson’s talk, Let God Prevail, in the October 2020 general conference, is one of the most important talks in recent memory.  It is breathtaking to witness modern revelation unfolding before our eyes.  With parallels to Alma chapter 5, President Nelson concluded his talk with a series of probing questions:

  • Are you willing to let God prevail in your life?
  • Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life?
  • Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day?
  • Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other?
  • Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition?
  • Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?

This article takes a data-driven look back at the October 2020 conference to identify the main themes of the conference and of the Nelson era in general.

Unity

Given the riots and protests that occurred during the summer of 2020, it is not surprising that a major theme of the October conference was unity.  Since the motivation for the riots and protests was racism, it is not surprising that 2 Nephi 26:33 was frequently referenced. 

… and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

What is surprising and prophetic, is that references to 2 Nephi 26:33 have significantly increased throughout the Nelson era – before these protests took place.  Prior to the Nelson era this verse was infrequently referenced as shown below:

In the Nelson era, this verse was referenced in 12% of talks in the April 2020 conference and 12% in the October 2020 conference. Overall, it has been referenced in 7% of talks in the Nelson era.

Unity has always been an important topic in the church.  The Lord has said “… if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27).  Usage of the word unity has increased during the Nelson era to 11% of all conference talks as shown here:

In his talk, Let God Prevail, President Nelson said:

Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes. The implications of this truth are profound. Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, “black and white, bond and free, male and female.”

Becoming a Zion People

Zion is the name given by the Lord to his saints.  “This is Zion – the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).  Moses 7:18 describes the saints at the time of Enoch:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

It is noteworthy that Moses 7:18 was the most frequently referenced verse in the October conference because this verse has been infrequently referenced in general conference since the late 70s as shown in the following chart:

President Nelson has referred to the year 2020 as a “hinge point” in the history of the Church.  As events unfold in the world around us, we can feel an increasing urgency to prepare for the Second Coming.  Becoming a Zion people is a necessary part of that preparation.  It will be interesting to see if this theme is continued in the April 2021 conference. 

President Henry B. Eyring in his talk, Sisters in Zion, spoke directly to the women of the Church about their role creating a Zion people (emphasis added):

You sisters, your daughters, your granddaughters, and the women you have nurtured will be at the heart of creating that society of people who will join in glorious association with the Savior. You will be an essential force in the gathering of Israel and in the creation of a Zion people who will dwell in peace in the New Jerusalem.

Gathering of Israel

The gathering of Israel continues to be a major theme of general conference in the Nelson era.  President Nelson emphasized the significance of this himself: “I have spoken of Israel in at least 378 of the more than 800 messages I have delivered during my 36 years as an Apostle.”  In general conference, President Nelson has mentioned the “gathering of Israel” in 19 of his 93 conference talks.  The following table lists the 10 speakers that have mentioned the “gathering of Israel” most frequently in general conference:

On average, 6.6% of all conference talks mention the gathering of Israel, but in the Nelson era, the gathering of Israel is mentioned in 20% of conference talks as shown in the following chart:

In his talk, Let God Prevail, President Nelson continued his emphasis on the gathering of Israel.  He said:

For centuries, prophets have foretold this gathering, and it is happening right now! As an essential prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord, it is the most important work in the world!

Personal Revelation

During his first general conference as our prophet in April 2018, President Nelson spoke about personal revelation: (emphasis added)

The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.

Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

The following chart shows the emphasis on personal revelation during the Nelson era:

The above chart shows that 10% of conference talks during the Nelson era have mentioned the phrase “personal revelation”.  It is noteworthy that 11% of the talks in the only conference of the Hunter era mentioned “personal revelation”. 

Personal revelation and spiritual preparedness have long been central themes in general conference as shown in the following chart:

As shown in the chart above, there has been an increasing emphasis on spiritual preparation for the past 50 years.  Being spiritually prepared has been given even more emphasis in the Nelson era:

Here is a look back at the statistics for October 2020:

  • 34 talks by 29 different speakers
  • First-time Speakers:
  • 1,101 scripture references – the conference average since 1971 is 720
  • Most referenced verses:
    • Moses 7:18the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind
    •  2 Nephi 26:33he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female;
    • Mosiah 2:41consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments 
  • Most referenced chapters:    JS-H 1, Helaman 5, 1 Kings 18
  • Since 1971, there have been 3,662 conference talks given by 486 different speakers.  In those talks there are 72,012 scripture references.
  • The overall most frequently referenced verse continues to be Moses 1:39 (215 references) and the most frequently referenced chapter continues to be Doctrine and Covenants 84 (1,219 references).

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Past issues of General Conference by the Numbers: April 2019October 2019March 2020, April 2020, Sept 2020

This general conference data may be accessed at https://searchgeneralconference.com Questions and comments are welcome at: mailto:[email protected]