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For week ended March 05, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 02Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

100 Million Mark Caps 20-year Explosion In Book of Mormon Printing
Kent Larsen 1Mar00 N1

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The news that the LDS Church expected to print its 100 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon comes on the end of nearly 20 years of heavy printing of the book. As recently as 1981, the LDS Church's printing department had estimated that only 27 million copies had been printed and it was then printing about 1 million copies a year. Now, the department is printing more than 5 million copies a year and copies in print have reached more than 3 times what had been printed in 150 years.

The acceleration in the number of copies of the Book of Mormon printed each year started about 1985, just before then LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson encouraged Church members to emphasize the Book of Mormon. While Mormon News hasn't been able to confirm a link between President Benson's statements and the significant rise in production, by 1989, the Church was printing 5 million copies a year -- 5 times what it was printing 5 years earlier. The next year, 1990, production hit an all-time high of more than 6.5 million copies.

According to the LDS Church's printing department's annual report on scripture production, the department printed 5,440,310 copies of the Book of Mormon in various formats in 1999. This includes copies in all languages, copies in quadruple- and triple-combinations, and copies in audio and computer formats. By far the biggest share of these formats was the Book of Mormon by itself printed in book form; the Church printed 4.9 million in 1999.

Among different languages, the printing roughly mirrors the number of LDS Church members in a language, at least among the largest languages. English-language copies of the Book of Mormon came first, with about 2.7 million copies printed. Spanish-language copies accounted for more than 1.5 million copies, and Portuguese for about 590 thousand copies.

The production of the Book of Mormon clearly puts it above the number of copies produced by any title making the various bestseller lists, such as the New York Times lists or the USA Today list that President Hinckley's book "Standing for Something" reached last week. A #1 New York Times Bestseller may sell as many as 2 or 3 million copies in its first year, and will usually decline in subsequent years. However, the Book of Mormon will almost certainly not make any best seller list, both because it is usually not sold through traditional bookstores (especially if the bookstore isn't an LDS bookstore), from which the New York Times, USA Today and others get their sales figures. Additionally, many copies of the Book of Mormon are not sold.

Still, the number of copies produced is very high, especially when compared to the number of religious books produced in the United States. U.S. Census data estimates that 155 million religious books were sold in 1995. The Book Industry Study Group projected that sales of religious books would rise to 169 million for 1999, making the Book of Mormon nearly 3% of all religious books sold in the United States.


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