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