Jessica Finnigan recently asked me about the use of the phrase “I know” in General Conference. I thought I’d quickly look it up, and some interesting results emerged. I could throw in my speculations to explain the results, but I’ll keep that at a very minimal level and ask you to offer your thoughts.

First, here’s a graph showing the use of the phrase “I know” and “I believe” In general conference over the years (the 2010-2020 decade was projected based on the talks from 2010 to now).


The most interesting thing is the meteoric rise and fall of the use of “I believe.” The years covered by the spike in “I believe” include changes in:  polygamy, law of adoption, temple healers, baptisms for health, garment design, etc.

Interestingly, the beginning of the spike occurs when the 1st Manifesto was issued (world we’re “stopping” polygamy), and the spike ends when the “Council of Friends” (FLDS) was created. Then “I believe” has stayed especially low throughout the era of church correlation.

Now the next plot seems even more interesting to me. It is looking at how many times you hear the phrase “I know” for every “I believe.” It makes a “V” shape with a couple outliers. There is a clear trend of hearing more “I know”s than “I believe”s at conference.



It should be interesting to see if this trend continues. Thoughts?

Geoff was born in Northern Utah and raised primarily in Central California. He received a BS in Biomedical Physics from Fresno State, a MS and PhD in Bioengineering from Stanford, and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah working as a Clinical Medical Physicist. He served his LDS Mission in Donetsk Ukraine. He's married and has two boys and two girls. He is currently the ward organist and primary pianist.

All posts by