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Cover image via ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Have you ever wondered which scriptures are referenced most frequently in General Conference? Or, when Neal A. Maxwell gave his first conference talk? Or, how often the word ‘faith’ is used in conference talks? Well I have, and that curiosity, along with inspiration, drove me to collect and analyze data about General Conference. Using my skills as a data scientist, I wrote software to gather the data and have now gathered data about every scripture, every talk, every speaker and every conference since 1971. (Data is not available for conferences before April 1971 on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.)
Here are some interesting facts that I have discovered:
- Since 1971, there have been 3,531 conference talks given by 447 different speakers. In those talks there are 67,593 scripture references
- Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson have each given more than 200 conference talks – twice as many as James E. Faust (100) who is third on the list.
- President Russell M. Nelson has referenced scriptures 6,116 times in his talks – more than twice as many as Neal A. Maxwell (2,883) who is second on the list.
The table below shows how the scripture references from general conference break down by volume. Note that nearly one third of all scripture references are from the New Testament.
When we take the data shown above and plot it over time, more of the dynamics are visible. We see that Book of Mormon references have tripled – increasing from 200 per year in 1971 to 600 per year in 2018. References to the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament have also been increasing, but at a lower rate than the Book of Mormon. Pearl of Great Price references have been flat and Old Testament references have been slightly decreasing. This is shown in the plot below.
One of the things that most interested me before the data gathering was completed, is knowing which verse of scripture has been most frequently referenced in General Conference. I speculated that it would either be:
- Moroni 10:4 – And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ…
- 1 Nephi 3:7 – …the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way…
It turns out that the most referenced verse in General Conference is:
- Moses 1:39 – For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man
As for my guesses: Moroni 10:4 is number 14 and 1 Nephi 3:7 is number 31.
The ten most referenced verses in are shown in the table below.
As a result of this work, I have gained a deeper appreciation for General Conference. These talks are an amazing resource that is available to everyone. I believe we are accountable for how we take advantage of the opportunity to learn from living prophets. It is my deepest desire that this General Conference data will make these talks more accessible for you and for me.
I can’t wait add the data from the April 2019 Conference! Also, I am currently working to make this data available to everyone – either as a web site and/or an app. In future installments, I’ll provide updates on progress.
Next in this series, we will look at the April 2019 Conference by the Numbers and we will explore how this data provides powerful new ways to search General Conference talks.
One more thing… Neal A. Maxwell gave his first conference talk in April 1974 and gave a total of 53 conference talks. The word ‘faith’ has been used 10,091 times in 2,581 conference talks.