Book of Mormon use increasing: Time line indicates significant growth of scriptures cited during conference

Book of Mormon use in general conference has increased significantly since President Ezra Taft Benson's emphasis in April 1986 on making that sacred volume of scripture the "center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching and missionary work."

Looking at a time line of Book of Mormon scriptures cited in conference shows a substantial increase in the mid-1980s, according to BYU Prof. Richard C. Galbraith, compiler of "Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" and gatherer of the general conference scriptural data. Prior to that time, from 1942 into the 1980s, Book of Mormon references composed only 11 percent of all scriptures used in conference. That percentage jumped to 32 percent from 1986-95, according to conference reports in the Improvement Era and Ensign.In addition to this dramatic rise in the proportion of Book of Mormon quotations, the total of all scriptures quoted at conference doubled from 4,500 to 9,000 in the same time period. Members of the Twelve speaking from 1942-51 cited an average of 10 scriptures per conference address, while those speaking from 1986-95 used an average of 20 references.

Here's a look at the relative use of all scriptures cited in general conferences from 1942-51 and from 1986-95:

1942-51 - Book of Mormon, 11 percent; Old Testament, 15 percent; New Testament, 41 percent; Doctrine and Covenants, 27 percent; Pearl of Great Price, 6 percent.

1986-95 - Book of Mormon, 32 percent; Old Testament, 11 percent; New Testament, 28 percent; Doctrine and Covenants, 24 percent; Pearl of Great Price, 5 percent.

It also is informative to consider the relative use of scriptures at a much earlier time, from 1852 to about 1857 as recorded in Journal of Discourses. During that period, the Book of Mormon was quoted relatively infrequently in conference, with the Bible receiving the overwhelming attention.

1852-57 - Book of Mormon, 4 percent; Old Testament, 29 percent; New Testament, 50 percent; Doctrine and Covenants, 14 percent; Pearl of Great Price, 3 percent.

Brother Galbraith noted the profound impact President Benson's Book of Mormon emphasis has had in bringing it to the fore and truly making it one with the Bible.

"It's interesting that Ezekiel prophesied that the two sticks of Judah and Ephraim would not only be joined one to another into one stick,' but that they would alsobecome one in thine hand. (Ezek. 37:16-17),' " he said. "The Book of Mormon really has been brought out of obscurity and has become one in emphasis and centrality with the Bible. Each Church president seems to have a major mission and message to deliver to the world, and President Benson's emphasis on the Book of Mormon certainly helped bring Ezekiel's prophesy to fruition."

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