“The Fight Against the Adversary”: 2023 MHA Presentation

Author’s note: This post is a modified version of the original presentation.

Most content analysis in Mormon studies relies on General Conference talks. This is primarily due to accessibility. Various tools such as the General Conference corpus and WordCruncher are available through BYU. Talks since 1971 are on the Church website.

A significantly underutilized source for content analysis are Sunday School manuals. While manuals prior to 1972 have received some attention, the standardized Gospel Doctrine manuals have been largely ignored in Mormon studies.

Sunday School manuals are used by nearly all church members, and have the effect of codifying, disseminating, and reinforcing doctrine. Church doctrine is most thoroughly provided within Sunday School manuals. Although manuals aren’t canonized, they do constitute some level of official church doctrinal position.

Historical Context

Manuals can be used to steer the direction of doctrinal emphasis. The two major curricular adjustments in the last century were accompanied by a concern that families needed to be strengthened in the “fight against the adversary.”

In 2018, President Russell M. Nelson announced the new “home-centered, church supported” Come, Follow Me program. He explained, “The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans.”1 Nelson concluded the conference with a promise that use of the new curriculum would decrease the influence of the adversary in the lives of individuals and their families.2

As part of the massive organizational changes in the 1960s, Elder Marion G. Romney explained that they were “developing a home-centered, Priesthood correlated program.”3 Encouraging a sense of urgency, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated that, “These are the last days…they are days when Satan dwells in the hearts of ungodly men…And there is no cure for the ills of the world except the gospel of Jesus Christ.”4 Similarly, President Harold B. Lee “called for a strengthening of Church doctrine…to insulate members from the evils of the outside world.”5

In fact, reflecting on the changes thirty years later, Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “…the Brethren warned us of the disintegration of the family and told us to prepare… While the doctrines and revealed organization remain unchanged, all agencies of the church have been reshaped in their relationship to one another and to the home. So sweeping were those changes that the entire curriculum of the church was overhauled—based on scriptures, with excellent manuals for each course. …We can only imagine where we would be if we were just now reacting to this terrible redefinition of the family. But that is not the case. We are not casting frantically about trying to decide what to do. We know what to do and what to teach.”6

The Research

For this research specifically, I selected a very small subset of manuals from the greater corpus of manuals between 1972 and the present:

  • the 1972-1973 teacher’s manual “In the Beginning”
  • the 1973-1974 teacher’s manual “Old Testament: Exodus to Malachi”
  • the 2022 teacher’s manual “Come, Follow Me—For Sunday School”

Published at the beginning of curricular changes, these manuals were created with the clearest overarching purposes in mind.

Additionally, I focused on the teacher’s manuals, since no student guide of any sort was published alongside the 1970s manuals. The Primary lessons were not standardized alongside Sunday School classes until the 1990s.

The first iteration of the 1972 curriculum changes gave two years for each standard work. As these years were based on calendar years, instruction paused for at least three months of each year. The current Sunday School program gives one calendar year for each standard work, dividing out scriptures across specific calendar weeks.

The purpose of both new curricula was to increase familial (and, to a lesser degree, individual) strength. Inclusion and exclusion of particular stories can provide insight into how leaders believed families could be strengthened—and what they need to be defending against. This can be accomplished, in part, by examining which verses and stories were included, and which were left out. Scriptural subcanon is created by the usage of some scriptures to the exclusion of others. Those used more frequently have a greater weight in doctrinal interpretation.7 Given the size of the Old Testament and the time limitations of the curricular year, it’s inevitable that some stories will be left out to a greater degree than other standard works.

General Content Analysis

Genesis, Moses, and Abraham

There are 63 chapters combined in Genesis and the overlapping books of Moses and Abraham in LDS canon. The Bible contains over 900 chapters. Genesis, Moses, and Abraham make up less than 7% of the total number of chapters. Despite this, the 1970s manuals devote 50% of its lessons to those chapters.

An increased focus in Genesis makes sense, given the number of stories it contains. (Proverbs, for example, contains no stories.) A list of Bible stories puts the number of stories found in Genesis at just over 17%. The 2022 manual comes close to that, spending about 23% of the lessons in Genesis/Moses/Abraham.

The introduction to the 1972 manual (which only covers Genesis/Moses/Abraham) justifies the disparity. It explains, “These books contain case histories of the struggles of the first human families to emulate the divine pattern. Our efforts to strengthen our families today will be advanced by this course of study.”

Bible Stories

Using a list of Bible stories allows us to compare the stories used or not used in the manuals. For example, both eras shy away from stories regarding David’s family found in the books of Samuel and Kings. Although they discuss complicated family dynamics similar to those addressed in other stories, these are less familiar. The lack of familiarity would require much more background explanation before application of gospel principles. The 2022 manual left out even more stories of David than the 1970s manuals did, with one exception. It includes the story of Saul’s disobedience to teach that obedience to the Lord should take priority over other commandments.

Neither manual adequately addresses sexual assault, an unfortunately frequent occurence throughout this text in particular. The story of Dinah in the 1970s manual implicitly blames her, while the 2022 manual leaves it out altogether. In both manuals, David and Joseph—despite the former being an aggressor while the latter is a victim—are used as examples in resisting temptation. Bathsheba and Potiphar’s wife share similar amounts of blame in ‘tempting’ the men.

There are many accounts of named (and unnamed) women throughout the text covered in assigned reading. Most lessons don’t use those stories to discuss gospel principles. If women are discussed, it is usually to highlight their responses to adversity in their role as wife or mother. In fact, of the seven prophetesses of Hebrew Biblical tradition, Miriam, Abigail, and Huldah are never mentioned; Deborah is briefly mentioned in a 1973 lesson on Psalms, and though she’s upheld for her spiritual leadership in 2022, she is not described as a prophetess. (The other three, Sarah, Hannah, and Esther, are discussed in both eras.)


The 1973 manual’s introduction explicitly communicates an increased emphasis on familial interactions. “The Church has recently emphasized the theme, The Church Hath Need of Every Member, and a major Sunday School objective is to help strengthen the family. It is appropriate, therefore, to introduce and discuss the personalities, characters, and events of the Old Testament in family terms.”

The 2022 manual seems to uphold that theme better than the 1970s manuals, as it doesn’t focus nearly as much on familial roles when applying gospel principles. Scriptures referenced only in 2022 focus primarily on Christ’s role in an individual’s life. There is more emphasis on open-ended interpretations. However, there are also a number of lessons that reinforce the “covenant path” and the need to stay faithful to the Church.

The Adversary

When it comes to descriptions of Satan, the adversary, or opposition, the 2022 manual is generally vague. The few exceptions are the temptation of sexual sin, opposition to the doctrine of heterosexual marriage, and speaking against the Church or God’s prophets. The adversary is referred to as “the rising tide of evil” or “weakening values and declining moral standards.”

The 1970s manuals teach that Satan is an actual entity with a more direct and active role in the lives of humans. Still, the main sins explicitly discussed in the 1970s manuals are sexual ones.

Corpus Linguistics

Many of these observations rely on reading the lessons themselves to discern patterns. Corpus linguistics uses computers to analyze large bodies of text to test things that seem anecdotally true. It can provide insight into patterns that normally go unnoticed. These patterns can provide statistical evidence without hand-classifying every sentence.

Keyword Analysis

One of the simplest ways to examine difference between texts is keyword analysis. Keyword analysis focuses on which words occur with greater frequency in one manual than the other.

In the 1970s manuals, the keywords include:

  • read
  • d&c
  • law
  • should
  • nation
  • man
  • chalkboard
  • obedience.

In the 2022 manuals, the keywords include:

  • share
  • invite
  • ponder
  • could
  • talk
  • board.

Chalkboard vs board highlights the changes to physical spaces over the years. The usage of d&c vs talk contrasts the types of non-Biblical citations used in lessons.

The juxtaposition of law, should, and obedience in the 1970s to could in 2022 demonstrates an interesting shift. Many of the questions found in the 1970s manuals came with particular answers that students should give.


Collocates are words that occur significantly more frequently with a given word than they occur with other words. In the 1970s manuals, Jesus Christ was most often used in conjunction with the name of the church. In 2022, Jesus Christ was associated the most strongly with atone, atonement, strengthen, faith, gospel, Isaiah, us, and Heavenly Father.


Many of the questions asked of the General Conference corpus can also be asked of Sunday School manuals. This analysis can potentially provide new insights into the doctrinal trends of LDS teachings.


  1. Nelson, Russell M. “Opening Remarks.” Ensign, 2018.
  2. Nelson, Russell M. “Becoming Exemplary Latter-Day Saints.Ensign, October 2018.
  3. Rose, Jerry. “The Correlation Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints During the Twentieth Century.” Brigham Young University, 1973.
  4. Rose.
  5. Wiley, Peter. “The Lee Revolution and the Rise of Correlation.” Sunstone, 1984.
  6. Packer, Boyd K. “The Father and the Family.” Ensign, May 1994.
  7. Anderson, Christian N. K. “Do We Have to Believe That? Canon and Extra-Canonical Sources of LDS Belief.Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 50, no. 1 (2017): 79–138.

A Timeline of LDS Sunday School Manuals: 1972-Present

There has been a significant amount of research done on Sunday School manuals for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) prior to 1972. While I’m not entirely sure why research hasn’t been pursued after the major shift from the Deseret Sunday School Union to simply Sunday School and the subsequent correlation of manuals, the inaccessibility of the manuals is probably one of the biggest inhibitors.

To that end, my goal is to make the manuals available in corpus form, searchable on this website. While that’s still in progress, I do want to provide a complete timeline of manuals used between 1972 and 2023. Most of them are currently digitized through the Church History Library (under the call number M257.36 S957gd) or available digitally on the Church’s website.

Manuals do not always have the same publication year as the year they were used. Most notably, the Old Testament manual used in 1982 was published in 1980, before the first half of the manual was published and used in 1981.1 They often have approval/version years that are earlier than the copyright date.

Initially, the plan for Sunday School was an eight year rotation, focusing two years on each standard work—Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants (and Church History). In 1983, that pattern was changed to a four year rotation after the eight-year rotation had already restarted, meaning the Old Testament was taught for two years, following which the New Testament was taught for just one year.

Truman G. Madsen spent time on the General Board of the Sunday School and participated in the rewriting of the manuals beginning in the early 1970s. He suggests this reasoning for the change to a four-year rotation:

“Because of the great number of new converts, the urgent need for scripturally informed leaders, and the high mobility of Church membership, we now do it in four.”

Richard Cowan, a professor in the Church History Department at BYU explained in an interview:

“…the specific reason that was given [for the change] was that the leaders didn’t want the saints to go eight years between the time they studied the Book of Mormon. So I think it was specifically concern about the Book of Mormon that dictated that change.”2

Another significant change that occurred in 1982 was the transition from a curriculum year based on local school years to a curriculum year based on the calendar year. This was announced in an Ensign article from January 1981, citing a number of reasons for the shift, including ease of shipping necessary materials.

Youth Sunday School and Primary manuals for a time were separate from the yearly rotation of the adult Sunday School classes. At some point, youth Sunday School classes began using the same manuals as the adult classes, and in 1995, Primary manuals began to be released to align with the rotation.3

From 1972 – 1986, the scriptures themselves were to be the student manuals, while teachers taught from church provided manuals. This changed in 1987, when study guides began to be available for class members in addition to the teacher’s manuals. A few print resources were provided to support the Doctrine and Covenants years; they are listed among the manuals, as they were intended to be used as a supplementary text.

With the advent of Come, Follow Me—the significantly revised Sunday School program—a more substantial guide for “Individuals and Families” was created. The Sunday School manuals are still written from a teaching perspective, as are the Primary version of the manuals.

The standard work corresponding to each work was determined partially by resources such as: a list created for Noel B. Reynolds’ article on Book of Mormon use, “Instructions for Curriculum” documents created by the Church, and Ensign articles where the year’s course of study was discussed. In absence of any firm sourcing for a given year, it is relatively easy to fill in the gaps, given that it’s generally a predictable four year cycle.

I looked at the church’s website via Wayback Machine, and found no differences in online editions of the manuals until the 2017 D&C manual. The lesson plans included references to the Gospel Topics essays that had been released starting in 2013. It does not appear that the student guide was updated with these changes, even digitally.

Although I don’t have sourcing for why there were no new print editions of the manuals released between 2006 and 2018, I do have some ideas.

In 1998, the Church began publishing “Teachings of Presidents of the Church” manuals to be used in Elders Quorum and Relief Society meetings. These were published yearly, each focusing on a new Church president, beginning with Brigham Young.

A Church Newsroom article from 2008 explains:

“On average it takes the Curriculum Department one and a half years to plan and write a lesson manual. All material is correlated to scripture and the teachings of the prophets.

“If the lesson material needs to be translated from English into one of the 170 languages currently used by the Church, the process can take months more. Factoring in printing and distribution, a non-English manual can take a total of two and a half years to produce.”

This burden of creation and printing took time away from releasing new editions of the Gospel Doctrine and Primary manuals.

Additionally, prior to 2013, there was a focus on creating a curriculum for youth to use in their Young Men’s and Young Women’s classes, which may have also taken priority over new editions of Gospel Doctrine or Primary manuals.

It seems likely that new editions will continue to be released yearly for Come, Follow Me, as the Church has announced the intention to prioritize digital usage over physical copies, minimizing the amount of work that needs to be done for updated versions.

This post was updated in February 2023


1. Years where a previous manual was used are noted. Copyright years are provided in the chart, while approval/version years are not.

2. There are a number of papers that discuss a similar idea to Cowan’s, but don’t provide any sourcing for the statement that the leadership, particularly President Ezra Taft Benson, wanted to decrease the number of years between Book of Mormon studies. These interviews represent the most accurate sourcing I’ve found as to reasoning for the change.

3. Since my research is specifically focusing on the changes in what scriptures were used and how they were used in discussing the standard works, both youth and Primary manuals are not included on this chart until they align with the yearly rotation. Youth Sunday School classes in 1986 still used separate manuals, and it’s my guess that the youth switched when the Gospel Doctrine manuals went through the final set of editions that were used until Come, Follow Me.

Women in General Conference

Update 1: As of February 11, 2022, it seems the Church has reversed this decision. They will be having Women’s Session during the April 2022 conference. I do still feel that there needs to be more women speaking in general sessions of Conference.

Update 2: The October 2022 General Conference sessions are to include five sessions. The Saturday evening session will be held as a general session, as opposed to a gendered session. See the Conclusions section for more discussion on this change.

There were a few errors in the data, so I fixed graphs and results to reflect the data more accurately. I also added data for sessions that hadn’t occurred at the time of the original post. Neither of these has affected the overall interpretation of the data.


In June of 2021, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) announced changes to its semi-annual General Conference. Conference sessions would be limited to the four general sessions, rather than including a gendered fifth session. The reason given “is because all sessions of general conference are now available to anyone who desires to watch or listen.”

Many have felt that the number of women speaking in Conference has been inadequate. Eliminating one of the sessions—especially one that focuses primarily on women—would decrease the percentage of women that speak.

While historical data may not predict the future of Conference, I felt it would be helpful to look at the trends of women speaking in Conference.


I used the General Conference talks currently available on the LDS Church’s website. These encompassed fifty years of talks from April of 1971 to April of 2021.

I was able to scrape the session and speaker names directly from the website. This gave me a list of which speakers spoke in which session of a particular Conference. My goal was to break the speakers down into four categories: members of the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, female speakers, and other male speakers.

I used Wikipedia’s chronology of the First Presidency and chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve to determine who were the members of those groups in each session of Conference. I then went through the remaining speaker names and separated the female speakers into a separate list.  From here, I was able to break down each session’s speaker data into totals for the groups.

I then manually marked the data in a spreadsheet, classifying sessions as either “general,” “men,” or “women.” Women’s sessions include General Relief Society sessions, General Women’s Sessions, and General Young Women’s sessions. There was one Children’s session that I grouped with “women,” as the majority of the speakers were women.

Code used is here on my GitHub. Full data is in this Google Sheet.


100% stacked area chart displaying the total percentage of speakers in general sessions, excluding finance and welfare sessions, in four categories: women, Quorum of the 12, First Presidency, and other male speakers. Data is further described in the text.
Total percentage of speakers in general sessions, excluding finance and welfare sessions

Women make up 0% of the speakers in general sessions between 1971 and April 1988. There was a brief moment in April 1984 when four women spoke across the general sessions. Since October 1988, women make up an average of 7% of the speakers in general sessions of conference. This excludes the General Welfare and Finance sessions.

100% stacked area chart displaying the total percentage of speakers in all general sessions, in four categories: women, Quorum of the 12, First Presidency, and other male speakers. Data is further described in the text.
Total percentage of speakers in general sessions

Historically, women were more likely to speak in General Welfare and General Financial sessions. These sessions focused on the temporal needs of members. Including those sessions raises the average percentage of women from 0% to 3%, before returning to 0% in 1985.

100% stacked area chart displaying the total percentage of speakers in all general sessions, in four categories: women, Quorum of the 12, First Presidency, and other male speakers. Data is further described in the text.
Total percentage of speakers across all sessions of conference

Across all sessions, the data looks marginally better. However, since April 1988, the average percentage of women speaking is still only 12.7%.

Percentage of female speakers in women's sessions as a line chart. Details explained in the text.
Percentage of female speakers in women’s sessions

Prior to October 1997, the percentage of women speaking in women only sessions fluctuated significantly. Women made up as little as 40% of the speakers in October 1983 and 1984; in April 1996 and 1997 they made up 86%. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke in women’s sessions during the early years. During that time, they took up as much as 35% of the session.

Mary Ellen Smoot was called as the General Relief Society president in April of 1997. From October of 1997 until October 2018, women made up 75% of the speakers. The pattern was a single First Presidency member speaking alongside three other women. Following changes presumably made by President Nelson in October 2018, the other two members of the First Presidency began speaking in women’s sessions. This decreased the overall percentage of women speaking in women’s sessions to 50%.

It’s too soon to determine whether there are going to be any significant changes in this pattern. It’s possible that April 2022’s Women’s Session was an anomaly.


Over the course of fifty years (from 1971 to April 2021), only 81 unique women have spoken in Conference. 334 unique men have spoken. (As a more fun fact, half of those women share their name with at least one other woman.)

This data doesn’t account for the amount of speaking time. Anecdotally, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve speak for around fifteen to twenty minutes. Other General Authorities tend to speak for five to ten minutes, depending on their particular position. A single female speaker in a 120 minute session only takes up 4-8% of the time. This is despite her making up 14% of the number of speakers.

Increasing Female Speakers

Conference sessions have an average of seven speakers per session. In the past, all members of the Quorum of the Twelve have given a talk. The First Presidency generally gives at least one talk each (if not more).

The current Church leadership page (at time of writing) lists nine women and 107 men. This includes the auxiliary presidencies, the presiding bishopric, and General Authority Seventies. It does not include Area Authorities or the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency.

The Church added “international area organization advisors” in 2021. These fifty women currently serve under Area Presidencies, but are not listed on the leadership page. It doesn’t seem likely that they would be added to the roster of potential speakers.

If we assume that the advisors are not added, the ratio of men to women eligible for non-First Presidency/Quorum of the Twelve speakers spots works out to:

  • Five sessions with 20 slots gives 2 to women (rounded up), and 18 to men (rounded down).
  • Four sessions with 13 slots gives 1 to women and 12 to men.

The only positive from these numbers is that women are actually speaking more often in general sessions than the statistical breakdown would suggest. The current highest number of women speaking in general sessions is four.

The ideal gender breakdown of Conference speakers would be a 50% split. Unfortunately, the dearth of women in leadership positions precludes this. The Sunday School presidency is not inherently a priesthood calling. Calling women to that presidency only raises the official number of general female officers to twelve. Adding general board members to the roster also adds more men to the list of possible speakers.

Gendered Sessions and Potential Adjustments

Until the leadership of women becomes more equal to that of men, there are other reasons to keep gender-focused sessions.

While anyone has the opportunity to listen in on any given session, that doesn’t diminish the value of gender-focused spaces. Women behave differently in women-only spheres. A BYU study points out that “women are likely to identify different things as problems” than men. In politics, “women are more likely to think about, What are the needs of families and children and how do we care for those who have the least in our society?”

Eliminating a woman-majority space also disproportionately affects women. Most sessions of Conference feature only male speakers. Despite the value of men speaking primarily to men, I do think this change will primarily affect women.

Gendered sessions could exclude in-person attendance; all sessions were only available via broadcast from April 2020 through October 2021. The General Priesthood Session could be renamed the General Men’s Session. Men are not required to hold the priesthood to attend, and the opposite of the priesthood is not womanhood.

There are benefits of decreasing “required hours” of Conference. There are also difficulties with availability in international time zones. International members already adapt by watching sessions at later times. A recent change to rotating the audience of the fifth session helped reduce the number of sessions.

We should make an effort to include more women at higher levels of leadership. While the steps currently being made are beneficial, they are ultimately not enough. The LDS Church has historically had trouble integrating women into leadership roles. This is especially visible at the highest levels in General Conference. If the Church wants to increase female leadership at local levels, they need to set an example at the general level. At very least, they need to increase the percentage of female speakers in Conference.


Updated 9/30/2022: Given the return to a fifth general session in the October 2022 conference, it seems that the return of gendered sessions was a limited time event. The April 2022 women’s session may have been held to advise women to avoid speculation about, or praying to, Heavenly Mother.

Before April, Elder Renlund addressed local congregations (at the stake or area level) with concerns of “doctrinal drift.” This included what was acceptable to say regarding Heavenly Mother.

Elder Renlund spoke on the topic in the women’s session. He framed his caution around the little known about her and added that, “Demanding revelation from God is both arrogant and unproductive.” (You can find a detailed commentary on this talk from Katie Ludlow Rich on The Exponent II.)

I will grant that this is speculation, but it does seem that the original reversal for the April conference was specifically to quell further discussion.

“We Know Them”: A Cross-Stitch Journey

Early 2020, the Church History Museum (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced the theme for their 12th International Art Competition: “All Are Alike Unto God.”

As an occasional cross-stitcher, this seemed like a great opportunity to dive back into the hobby. I was immediately inspired by the “If The World Was A Village of 100 People” concept. This isn’t a new idea, but this infographic by Jack Hagley is a good introduction.

An image detailing statistics of the percentage of people with access to various services, their religion, gender, and more

I wasn’t sure how old this data was, and I also wanted to develop my own set of characteristics, so I did some of my own research. The categories I decided to include were: eye and hair color, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, continent, country, ethnicity, and age. Most of the characteristics involved searching out a wide variety of sources to make sure I had the most accurate information.

My gender categories includes not only male and female, but also intersex, transgender, and nonbinary. Sexuality includes heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual orientations. Disabilities included physical, mental, deafness, and blindness. This category I feel is most underrepresented, but since most disabilities are invisible, I’m okay with my limitations in portraying disabilities.

Continents were easy to break down by population percentage, but country, ethnicity, and age were all tied into my continent breakdowns. Ages were determined per continent, grouping males and females into under 15, 15-64, and 65+. (Intersex, non-binary, and transgender people were selected from these groups afterwards to ease in calculations.) Countries were determined by population percentage within the continents, but when percentages got small enough to only equal one person, I randomly selected from the smaller remaining countries. Ethnicities were then determined by the highest percentage ethnic group within the country, divided if necessitated by the size of the country.

With my basic statistics calculated, I wrote a Python program to randomly assign attributes to each of the one hundred people. This was a good start, though it needed some minor tweaking afterwards, especially regarding religion in some countries (e.g. Christianity is significantly less common in China, and Hinduism is more prevalent in India). 

The next step was creating patterns for each one of the people. I used Stitch People templates, including their religious and cultural patterns. However, my desire to incorporate national dress meant I spent a lot of time developing my own designs after researching typical or traditional clothes of the country and/or ethnicity each person was from. Each person took an average of an hour to design, including the research process.

cross stitch pattern of a chinese man in traditional clothing cross stitch pattern of a romani woman cross stitch pattern of a brazilian woman in a traditional dress

During the design process, I gave each person a name chosen from their respective cultures. Although these names aren’t visible in the final project, I saw myself as how our Heavenly Parents see us—They know our names and our lives even if we can’t know the lives of everyone around us.

The next step was stitching the people themselves; these took an average of two hours per person. I chose white linen, as linen is one of the few fabrics mentioned in the scriptures. I intentionally left the backs visible as a reminder of the complexity of our lives, no matter how put together we may seem on the outside. I embraced the imperfections in my stitching, embedding the imperfection of the human condition.

After they had been stitched, I added borders in silver and gold thread to prevent significant fraying. The silver and the gold are representative of our Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father respectively. 

These are the figures before I hung them up.


18 cross stitched people dressed in primarily traditional Chinese clothing

Asia—Assorted Countries:

cross stitches of fourteen people dressed in the traditional clothing of their respective countries

Asia—Countries with more than one figure

ten cross stitched figures in various traditional clothing


seventeen cross stitched people dressed in primarily traditional Indian clothing

Africa (grouped roughly by country for those that have multiple from a country)

seventeen cross stitched people in a variety of traditional African clothing


ten cross stitched people dressed in traditional european clothing

Latin and South America (including Mexico):

eight cross stitched people in primarily latin american traditional clothing

North America (United States and Canada):

five cross stitched people from the US and Canada


a cross stitched woman from Australia

I also included figures of Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and Jesus Christ. These were stitched without features, providing a blank canvas for people to provide their own interpretations. Heavenly Father was stitched in gold thread, while Heavenly Mother was stitched in silver thread; Jesus Christ was stitched in a combination of the two. They were also stitched at double the size of the other figures.

Three stitched figures with no particular features

The next step was to hang them into a mobile. My intention for doing so was to keep any one person from being more important than any other. A mobile requires all of the pieces to be in balance with each other. The Heavenly Family is placed at the top, connecting us all to Them and balancing through Them.

Each embroidery hoop (traditionally used for cross stitching) holds the figures for one continent. Countries with multiple figures have the figures attached along the same string. Even though some figures seem to be above others in the country, they are still all needed for balance, and none of them hang directly from another person.

cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile

I’d like to hope that people are able to see elements of themselves in the figures, as well as find where they balance in the world. I believe that our Heavenly Parents know us even more intimately than I know these figures that I created. 

Names of Christ across Christian Religions

This was published in 2014 as part of a university course assignment. It has not been updated since that time, as evidenced by the color selection in the charts.

Beginning with my project on General Conference, I decided to compare the usage frequency of names of Christ across religions. I looked at the official Vatican website, the National Association of Evangelicals website, the United Methodist Church website, and the North American Lutheran Church website. I kept my numbers for General Conference, which is kept on the church’s website. While this doesn’t seem to be directly similar, this provides the best cross section of formal usage in the LDS church.

I used the General Conference corpus to get data for the LDS church. For the remainder of the churches, I used the site search feature of Google to get the numbers. Occasionally, I had to do some qualitative adjusting to weed out results that were irrelevant to the data needed. I also did some math to make sure that titles weren’t double counted, e.g. Jesus was not counted twice under both ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Christ Jesus.’

A table that uses very poor color choices to show positions of different names for Christ. There are six columns with ten names for Christ each in order of the frequency.

Column 1: Mormon
God, Lord, Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus, Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty, Son of God, Redeemer.

Column 2: Catholic
Jesus, Christ, God, Lord, Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus, Creator, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Redeemer.

Column 3: Baptist
God, Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, Christ, Creator, Lord Jesus, Christ Jesus, Savior Jesus Christ. 

Column 4: Evangelical
God, Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Christ, Jesus, Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ, Creator, Son of God.

Column 5: Methodist
Christ, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Lord, God, Savior, Creator, Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ.

Column 6: Lutheran
God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord, Lord Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus, Lord God.
Chart showing frequency of name usage for Jesus Christ by Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, Methodists, and Lutherans

Unsurprisingly, all churches had different names that ranked in the top ten. Some names were used within the top ten across all churches, while others were used in only one church. A few names were used in all but one church. ‘Lord Jesus’ is an example of one of these. It appears in the top ten ranking of every church but the LDS church. (For reference, it doesn’t show up in the complete rankings until 19th, so still in the top twenty, but not nearly as frequent as the other churches use it.)  ‘Jesus’ is not in the top ten of the Baptist church, but only barely, coming in at 11th on the complete rankings. However, this is a contrast to the other churches where the name ranks first or second in half of the other churches. ‘Savior’ is also a word that appears in five out of the six churches, not showing up in the Catholic list until 16th.  There are also words unique to religions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church to have ‘Almighty’ in its top ten list, falling as far as 19th in the Baptist list. Baptists however have the unique distinction of being the only church with ‘Savior Jesus Christ’ in the top ten. Due to the nature of the search, this may be due to the frequency of the phrase “our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” which was difficult to have it not appear in the searches. ‘Creator’ also appeared in more than half of the churches’ top ten lists. ‘Christ Jesus’ and ‘Son of God’ appeared in half of the lists. ‘God,’ ‘Christ,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ and ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ were used in all of the churches.

The Catholic Church and Methodist church were both surprising insofar as ‘God’ wasn’t listed as the top name. In fact, both ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ ranked higher in the Catholic Church, and four other titles ranked higher in the Methodist church. I was also slightly surprised to find that ‘Christ Jesus’ didn’t rank in the top ten for Evangelicals, because I had always perceived that as an Evangelical phraseology.

To look at frequencies within this top ten list, I assigned each position in the list a certain number of points: the most frequent name received ten points, second most frequent received nine points, etc. This allowed me to see which names were used most frequently overall without regard to religious group. In general, it appears that if a name was used frequently, it was used frequently across the spectrum, whereas if a name was used less frequently, it was generally used less frequently across the spectrum.

A list of names for Christ using in the same awful colors as the previous table. 

List is as follows: God, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Jesus, Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus, Creator, Christ Jesus, Son of God, Almighty, Redeemer, Savior Jesus Christ, Lord God
Top names for Christ used across all denominations

Besides the frequencies, what was also interesting was the words that didn’t appear in certain churches, or even at much lower frequencies. Old Testament names (Holy One of Israel, God of Abraham, Lord of Hosts, Jehovah, etc.) were much less frequent in all churches but the Catholic and LDS churches. However, this is possible that it was due more to sample size, rather than to actual differences in religious discourse. Creating a larger corpus of for each religion may eliminate or enhance these dissimilarities.

Finally, I sorted the frequencies into six different categories: words with zero occurrences, words with 1-10, words with 11-100 occurrences, words with 101-1000 occurrences, words with 1001-10,000 occurrences, and words with more than 10,000 occurrences.

Chart info in caption and in following paragraphs.
Chart showing frequencies of usage. Red representing words with zero occurrences; orange for words with 1-10, yellow for words with 11-100, light green for words with 101-1000, dark green for words with 1001-10,000, and blue for words with more than 10,000 occurrences.

This showed some surprising things. First of all, Mormons and Catholics both use a wide variety of terms across varying usage levels. While there are some used much more frequently than others, they still use many different terms with very few or no terms used not at all. Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists are similarly spread out across terms, but as not much to the same extent, as one third to one half of the words don’t appear at all (though this could be due to the size of the corpora). Evangelicals, however, are an anomaly. They use a few names often and the rest rarely or not at all.

Overall, different Christian religions use different names for Christ at different frequencies, something I’d hypothesized to be the case. These differing frequencies can be the result of different emphases within the churches concerning the role of Christ. It would be helpful to do this again with larger amounts of data from ‘official’ church sources to better determine the ‘official’ frequencies. Once that is done, it would be interesting to compare them to unofficial sources for each church to see if the frequencies stayed the same among members. If this is the case, would a member from one church shift the frequency of their title usage when they convert to a different religion? There is definitely room for further research on this topic.

Frequency of Names of Christ in General Conference

This was written in April of 2014 and doesn’t reflect any updated analysis. I’m leaving this here for a potential future update, as well as an improved table

For a Corpus Linguistics class project, I ended up looking at the usage of the names for Christ in General Conference. For my reference list, I used this article from the Ensign. I then found the frequency of the occurrence of these words in General Conference (doing what math I could to make sure that names weren’t double counted).







Jesus Christ






Lord Jesus Christ




Son of God




Lord God






Savior of the world


Almighty God


Redeemer of the world


Most High


Son of the Living God




Lord Jesus


Savior Jesus Christ


Lord of Hosts


God of Israel


Christ Jesus


Most High God


True and Living God


Lamb of God





Of course, with “God,” it’s impossible to completely distinguish when it’s referring to God, the father of Christ, and when it’s referring to Christ without going through every single one of the 130 thousand plus uses.

It’s interesting what titles come up the most frequently. Christ is used more often than “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus Christ” comes up far more often than “Christ Jesus.” “Lord” is used far more often than any of those names. “Savior” is the second most frequent non-name reference, followed by “Almighty.”

A line chart showing the total frequency of occurrence for nine different names for Jesus Christ: God, Lord, Jesus Christ, Jesus, Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty, Son of God, Redeemer.

The God line spiked in usage in the 1870s (used over 9000 times), declining with a small peak in the 1960s (used nearly 6000 times), and used approximately just over 4000 times by the end of the data.

Lord increases sporadically from under 3000 times to 4000 times.

Jesus Christ starts at a usage of zero, but increases to just over 2000 times. 

Jesus starts at 1000 times, increasing to almost 3000 times.

Savior stays below 1000 times per year until the 1990s, reaching 2000 times per year at the end of the data.

The last four (Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty, Son of God, and Redeemer) are all used less than 500 times per year over the course of the data.
General Conference usage in total frequency of various names for Jesus Christ over time

The relative usage of “God” has actually gone down in usage, while the usage of other names for Christ has increased. The usage of “Savior” has increased dramatically since the 1850s, suggesting an emphasis on Christ’s role as our savior.

I also looked at the top ten collocations (within two) of the top 25 (or so) words. Collocations are words that are often used in the vicinity of a target word.

Jesus Christnamechurchgospellordsonsavioratonementdivinitytestamentheirs
Lord Jesus Christrisenresurrected
Son of Godbegottenliteralartliterallyfirstborndeadbeheldimmortalresurrectedcrucified
Lord Godsaithalmightysurelyhathomnipotentsanctifygaveolivethspake
Savior of the worldevenredeemerliteralroleshepherd
Almighty Godinspirationpowerpriesthoodaccordingworshipingwrathblessingsrevelationsrevelationjudgments
Redeemer of the worldsaviordeedcreator
Most Highgodconfessingneverthelessdwelldividedwhereverprevailruleth
Lord JesusChristrisen
Savior Jesus ChristLord
Lord of Hostsifhaththunderconsiderfriendspokentillours
God of Israelblesshearsustainled
Christ Jesusinsufferconcerningruleboth
Lamb of Godbeholdagainstsaithseen

It’s clear that each of the words is used specifically to refer to certain roles of the Christ. For example, “redeemer,” “mankind,” “atonement,” “resurrected,” “crucified,” and “atoning” are all words associated with the Savior and his role of ‘saving mankind’. Whereas “Almighty” is a title used with words like “pouring,” “wrath,” “decree,” and “judgments” which reflect an Old Testament view of Christ and the use of his power.

Religion and language are really interesting subjects, and when you put the two together, you end up with fascinating results.