Conference by the Numbers: October 2023 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
— Russell M. Nelson
Every six months the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold a general conference. During this conference talks are given by church leaders to teach and instruct members of the church and others who are interested in listening.
The most important lessons that can be learned from the conference are what the Holy Spirit teaches each listener — sometimes about things that aren’t even mentioned by the speakers.
However, as I often hear people talk about what was mentioned frequently or emphasized at a conference, I like to do a little data collection on the words used and see what words or topics came up that differ from those that have been used in the past.
The infographic below looks at some of the emphasized words, based on how frequently they were used in this conference and how that compares to how frequently they’ve been used in the past.
Also, with President Russell M. Nelson turning 99 (and not being able to participate live in the conference because of an injury from a fall), I was interested in knowing how the ages of church leaders compare to the past. You can see a graph of the minimum and maximum ages of the combined First Presidency / Quorum of the 12 Apostles from 1836 to present. The average age of the group is also presented.
Take a look at the infographic, and I’ll share a few more thoughts below.
Thoughts on Word Emphasis
President Nelson only gave one address during this conference. It was entitled “Think Celestial”. As you might imagine, he used the word celestial quite frequently, and so that became a highly emphasized word.
One thing I also like to do when looking at the emphasized words is to create small little sentences or catch-phrases that might sum up some of the emphasized messages. You’re welcome to make your own combinations, but here are a few I came up with.
- Invite all to the gathering of sealing relationships
- Recognize and receive the Savior’s gifts
- Choose powerful worship of the Redeemer forever
- Everything on the journey is about trying to face God’s Celestial path
To be clear, none of these wordings occurred during conference. But I think they help capture some of the thoughts and messages that were given.
Church Leader Ages
A few details on the church leader age plot. You may be wondering why President Nelson shows up as 98 instead of 99 on the graph. I chose to plot the ages based on the status of January 1st of each year. This helps smooth out the noisy bumps that would occur after one leader dies, a waiting gap occurs until another leader is called, and then a new leader enters the leadership. Trust me — the plot makes more sense this way rather than trying to get the exact dates on a day-by-day or even month-by-month basis!
Thus, you may recognize that George A. Smith started as an apostle in April 1839 at the age of 21. However, he first shows up in the plot in January 1840, by which time he was 22. Similarly, President Nelson was 98 in January 2023, and thus he won’t show up as 99 on the plot until January 2024.
I pointed out some of the leaders at the high points and low points on the graph. Most of them are fairly familiar leaders. If a leader lives to be the oldest in his cohort, he is likely a senior apostle or the President of the Church. Similarly, a young apostle often lives to an old age and becomes a senior member of the quorum.
The exception of that is Abraham Owen Woodruff. If you haven’t heard much about Elder Woodruff, you’re in good company. He was the son of Wilford Woodruff, called to be an apostle at the young age of 24 (showing up the next January at age 25). Unfortunately, he passed away at the young age of 31 due to smallpox. As a result, his legacy in the church remained somewhat limited. However, if you’d like to learn more, see the Wikipedia entry on him.
What about the average age? If it seems like church leaders are getting older, the data indicates that is true. It does seem to correlate with the general increase in life expectancy in the US during this same period. I found this website interesting to look at since you can select life expectancy starting at age 40 or age 60 and select either men or women. This helps differentiate life expectancy for those who make it to adulthood, filtering out the high infant mortality of the 1800s and early 1900s.
Note on the Age Data
All the age data used in this plot comes from Wikipedia. This article on List of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church) — Wikipedia was the main source. Members of the First Presidency who were not originally called as members of the Quorum of the Twelve were pulled from the article First Presidency (LDS Church).
Past Years’ Conference by the Numbers
You can find some past Conference by the Numbers here:
If you’d like to see past versions before October 2020 and some other analyses, visit my Visual Scriptures site.