Which GAs Prefer Which Books of Scripture? (Take 3)

This post is a follow-up to my post last week, where I looked at how much members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (Q15) quote from each of the five books of scripture in the LDS canon in their Conference talks. In the previous post, I showed one breakdown for each Q15 member, aggregating his citations of scripture in all his Conference talks, across whatever period of years he served in the Q15. In this post, I’ll show trends across time for each individual Q15 member. The previous analysis would miss it if a GA changed over time from preferring the Book of Mormon to preferring the New Testament, for example. This analysis might be able to show such changes (if they’re large enough). As for the previous post, my data source is the LDS Scripture Citation Index.

The graphs below show seven-year moving averages for the percentages of citations each Q15 member took from each book of scripture. There’s nothing special about seven years for the moving average. I chose it by eyeball. The year-to-year data often jump around a lot, which isn’t surprising given that for Q15 members who aren’t in the First Presidency, one year’s worth of Conference talks is typically just two talks. Seven years of aggregation looked like a good compromise that smoothed out the yearly variation but didn’t smooth so much that it made changes over time disappear. One other note is that I’ve only made graphs for members who have at least 16 years of data. This allows for 10 years worth of seven-year moving averages to be shown (because the first six years are combined into the initial seven-year moving average).

Graphs for Q15 members are shown in the order they were called, which is the same ordering I used in my previous post. Also, to make it easier to look back and forth between the two posts, I’ve used the same color to represent data for each book of scripture as in the previous post. One warning with these graphs is that the scaling of both the horizontal and vertical axes changes from person to person to best display each Q15 member’s data, so be careful if you’re looking at comparisons across graphs.

books of scripture quoted across time - kimballbooks of scripture quoted across time - bensonIt’s interesting that President Benson wasn’t very consistent across time in citing the Book of Mormon most. He had a period of time where he cited it most earlier in his time in the Q15, and then he came back to it when he became Church President, but at other times, he preferred the D&C. In any case, he clearly had a consistent preference for latter-day scriptures over the Bible.

books of scripture quoted across time - petersenMark E. Peterson clearly liked the New Testament the most. His pattern of total separation of the New Testament from all other books of scripture is also followed by several other Q15 members.

books of scripture quoted across time - moylebooks of scripture quoted across time - stapleyElder Stapley’s pattern of going back and forth between the New Testament or the D&C, with the Book of Mormon typically lagging, is also fairly common among Q15 members. It’s present for Marion G. Romney, Marvin J. Ashton, David B. Haight, and James E. Faust. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising considering that the New Testament and the D&C were the #1 and #2 most cited books in Conference from the 1940s to the 1980s (see the second graph in my previous post).

books of scripture quoted across time - romneybooks of scripture quoted across time - richardsElder Richards not only has complete separation of the New Testament from all other books, he also has complete separation of the Old Testament from all latter-day scriptures. His preference was the opposite of Ezra Taft Benson’s: the Bible over latter-day scriptures.

books of scripture quoted across time - evansThe trends over time for Richard L. Evans are interesting, I think, in that it looks like it took him a few years to decide which book he liked most, but once he settled on the D&C, he stuck with it.

books of scripture quoted across time - brownI think Hugh B. Brown stands out as the most consistent Q15 member in citing the New Testament. He was always citing it with more than half of his scripture cites, and was usually over 60%.

books of scripture quoted across time - hunterbooks of scripture quoted across time - hinckleyPresident Hinckley certainly had some variation across time, but it looks like he never got on Benson’s BoM bandwagon. Right up until the end of his life, he was still citing the Book of Mormon even less often than the Old Testament, and barely more than the Pearl of Great Price.

books of scripture quoted across time - tannerbooks of scripture quoted across time - monsonbooks of scripture quoted across time - packerAfter some youthful flirtation with the New Testament, President Packer fell pretty solidly into the Ezra Taft Benson mold, going back and forth between the Book of Mormon and the D&C, but clearly preferring both to the Bible.

books of scripture quoted across time - ashtonbooks of scripture quoted across time - perryIt’s really difficult to see any trends in Elder Perry’s data. He cited the New Testament the most for a while, while the New Testament’s heyday was coming to a close in Conference, then moved to the Book of Mormon along with (or following) President Benson, and recently has gone against the grain by citing the D&C the most, along with a surprisingly large number of cites of the Pearl of Great Price (given how short it is). Before gathering the data, I was actually expecting more Q15 members’ graphs to look jumbled like this rather than the more clean splits and clear preferences for one book over another that appear in so many of them.

books of scripture quoted across time - haightbooks of scripture quoted across time - faustbooks of scripture quoted across time - maxwellbooks of scripture quoted across time - nelsonElder Nelson is another member in the Benson mold, preferring latter-day scriptures to the Bible. He was called very close to the time that Benson became President, so perhaps he was especially influenced by him.

books of scripture quoted across time - oaksbooks of scripture quoted across time - ballardbooks of scripture quoted across time - wirthlinElder Wirthlin’s late-in-life increase in citing the New Testament is interesting, especially given how consistent his preferences were before that. Dallin H. Oaks, James E. Faust, David B. Haight, and N. Eldon Tanner also had similar changes, although Elder Oaks likely has many years to live, so it will be interesting to see if his New Testament preference continues or drops off.

books of scripture quoted across time - scottElder Scott is in the mold of President Benson and Elder Nelson. He may show the strongest latter-day scripture preference of any of them, sometimes citing the even the Pearl of Great Price more than either the Old or the New Testament.

books of scripture quoted across time - halesbooks of scripture quoted across time - hollandElder Holland is an old-school New Testament guy. In the 1970s, he wouldn’t have been unusual, but now he probably is.

books of scripture quoted across time - eyringOne other question that came up on the previous post was whether Q15 member’s preference for different books of scripture changed when they became President. In the following graphs, for each member in these data who became President, I show his breakdown before becoming President, and while he was President. Note that I’ve rounded calling date and talk date to the nearest year, so if a man was called as President during a particular year, I’ve counted all his talks in that year (and in subsequent years) as belonging to the time when he was President.

books of scripture quoted before president vs as president - kimballIt looks like President Kimball went heavy on the D&C and Pearl of Great Price as President, relative to how much he had cited them before.

books of scripture quoted before president vs as president - bensonThis was already pretty clear from his graph above that shows trends over time, but this highlights that President Benson cited the Book of Mormon a lot while he was President.

books of scripture quoted before president vs as president - hunterPresident Hunter wasn’t in his role very long, so this is based on little data, but it looks like he cited latter-day scriptures in general more as President than he had before.

books of scripture quoted before president vs as president - hinckleyPresident Hinckley shows almost no change comparing before and after.

books of scripture quoted before president vs as president - monsonPresident Monson has cut down on citing the New Testament, and has gone to the Book of Mormon and D&C more than he did before he was President.

I have one final bit of analysis that might be interesting. I wanted to look at how consistent each Q15 member was in his preferences for citing different books from year to year. Hugh B. Brown, for example, looks remarkably consistent from year to year. He knew what he liked and he stuck with it. L. Tom Perry is at the other end of the spectrum, where he went from citing book the most one year, to citing another the most a few years later. To measure this consistency or inconsistency, I took each man’s overall percentages, aggregating across all the years he was in the Q15 (from the previous post), and calculated the correlation coefficient between these and his yearly percentages of citing each book. This resulted in one correlation for each year, so to summarize them, I took the average of these correlations as a measure of consistency.

The important thing to know about the correlation coefficient is that higher values indicate stronger association between yearly percentages and aggregated percentages (more consistency), and lower values indicate weaker association (more bouncing around). Its maximum value is 1. Its minimum value is -1, but because these correlations are calculated between aggregated data and the individual values that make up the aggregate data, it is difficult to imagine how the average correlations could be negative. Given this, it makes more sense to think of the minimum possible value as 0.

I’ve listed the Q15 members in order from largest to smallest average correlation. This calculation didn’t use the seven-year moving average requirement of 16 years of data, so all members from the previous post (Spencer W. Kimball forward) are included.

Name Avg Name Avg
corr corr
Hugh B. Brown 0.92 Jeffrey R. Holland 0.71
Alvin R. Dyer 0.91 James E. Faust 0.66
Thomas S. Monson 0.86 Marion G. Romney 0.65
LeGrand Richards 0.86 N. Eldon Tanner 0.63
Neal A. Maxwell 0.84 M. Russell Ballard 0.62
David A. Bednar 0.82 Mark E. Petersen 0.61
Henry B. Eyring 0.81 Boyd K. Packer 0.61
Matthew Cowley 0.80 David B. Haight 0.61
D. Todd Christofferson 0.80 Robert D. Hales 0.60
Russell M. Nelson 0.78 Richard G. Scott 0.60
Marvin J. Ashton 0.78 Adam S. Bennion 0.58
Quentin L. Cook 0.77 Bruce R. McConkie 0.57
Gordon B. Hinckley 0.77 Ezra Taft Benson 0.57
Henry D. Moyle 0.76 Neil L. Andersen 0.52
Dallin H. Oaks 0.74 Spencer W. Kimball 0.52
Howard W. Hunter 0.74 George Q. Morris 0.43
Delbert L. Stapley 0.72 Richard L. Evans 0.35
Dieter F. Uchtdorf 0.72 L. Tom Perry 0.25
Joseph B. Wirthlin 0.71

I actually chose Hugh B. Brown and L. Tom Perry as examples just looking at their graphs, so I’m happy that this measure matches up with my intuition of what looks like consistency and inconsistency.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to trying all the suggestions made on the previous post, but I’m always happy to hear other things you think it might be worth looking at, or any comments you have on what I’ve done here.


  1. Sorry, Jeff, which graph are you looking at? Or are you talking about the overall one (the second graph in the previous post)? But it doesn’t look like there’s a decline for the Book of Mormon there around 1960.

  2. I guess I was looking more at the 50’s. Seems like prior to 1960 the BoM did get referenced all that much, but I guess that doesn’t necessarily entail a dip of any kind.


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