Saturday, October 1, 2016

October Conference 2016

Pres. Ucthdorf opened the Saturday morning session with several Book of Mormon citations and allusions.
  • "As we become more familiar with something, even something miraculous and awe-inspiring, we lose our sense of awe and treat it as commonplace."
  • "We are surrounded by such an astonishing wealth of light and truth that I wonder if we truly appreciate what we have." I am reminded of the 199 KnoWhys we have published at Book of Mormon Central since January 1, 2016.
  • "How could it ever be possible that we of all people would not be excited about ... or get tired of reading the Holy Scriptures?" 
  • "...gratitude and awe for the sacred and sublime gifts God has granted us."
  • "We can look forward to what Moroni called 'the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah' " Moroni 10:34. Royal Skousen in the Yale 2009 text renders this and Jacob 6:13 as "pleading bar" referring to a courtroom fixture derived from English jurisprudence.
  • "Does it not fill our minds with wonder and awe to contemplate the great plan of happiness?" Alma 42:8
  • "Does it not fill us with unspeakable joy?" Helaman 5:44 which is intertextual with 1 Peter 1:8.
  • "Can ye feel so now?" Alma 5:26
Pres. Ucthdorf mentioned the Belfast Coat of Arms.
Belfast, Northern Ireland Coat of Arms
The Belfast motto "What shall we give in return for so much?" derives from Psalms 116:2. I am reminded of our Moroni Day 2016 celebration recently concluded where dozens of people contributed financially to help Book of Mormon Central share the Nephite text with the world in engaging ways.

Other Book of Mormon references:
Elder Craig C. Christensen began his talk quoting Moroni who told the Prophet, Joseph, that his "name should be had for good and evil among all nations." Joseph Smith History 1:33. Book of Mormon Central currently engages about 40,000 people per day in dozens of countries with well-researched and well-packaged scholarship that extols Joseph Smith and vindicates his mission as a Prophet. We noticed last week that an anti-Mormon group has recently set up a vaguely similar apparatus to criticize Joseph and denigrate his mission as a Prophet. Moroni's prophecy is being fulfilled. Elder Christensen referenced "the great plan of redemption" Jacob 6:8 and Alma 34:31. "For many of us, a witness of the Prophet, Joseph, begins as we read the Book of Mormon." Elder Christensen's own conversion story followed that pattern.

Elder Christensen called the Book of Mormon the impetus for some of Joseph's questions that led to restored truth and saving ordinances. John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood is one example. Next year's Gospel Doctrine lessons will focus on Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants. The Book of Mormon can be seen as a template, almost a handbook of instructions, for many of the ordinances and organizations we follow in the contemporary Church. Joseph and Emma lost their first child, Alvin, the same day he was born on June 15, 1828 in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Elder Christensen's reading of Moroni 8:11-24 in light of their loss is instructive. Interpreting 2 Nephi 3:6-15 as referring to Joseph Smith Sr. and Joseph Smith, Jr. does cause one to wonder how the Prophet reacted when he came to that ancient prophecy about himself and his mighty ministry like unto Moses. Describing Joseph's impressive accomplishments after 1829 and his increasing legacy, Elder Christensen asked "Is not the fulfillment of this prophecy compelling evidence of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith?" "Because Joseph was a prophet, we have witness upon witness, testimony upon testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World," fulfilling 1 Nephi 13:40.      
Elder Gary E. Stevenson in his Saturday afternoon address "Look to the Book, Look to the Lord" told the story of Mary Elizabeth Rollins who loved the Book of Mormon from the moment she first held it in her hands in 1830. The image that displayed on TV during this portion of Elder Stevenson's talk was a 2012 painting of Mary Elizabeth by outstanding Orem, Utah artist Elspeth Young.
"Growing Light" by Elspeth Young
Sister Young has a similar 2012 painting, also of Mary Elizabeth reading the Book of Mormon, entitled "The Treasure."
"The Treasure" by Elspeth Young
Both works are part of the Pioneer Fine Art Collection by the remarkable artists of Al Young Studios.

Mary Elizabeth went on to rescue parts of the Book of Commandments when anti-Mormon mobs destroyed W.W. Phelps' printing press in Independence, Missouri in 1833. Something of a painter herself, she became a plural wife of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. She died in Utah in 1913, the last surviving plural wife of the Prophet, Joseph.

The family members who make up Al Young Studios (Elspeth is Al's daughter) have a special affection for the Book of Mormon. Their "Heroes of the Book of Mormon" series has some of the finest art pieces ever painted on the subject. Al's 2009 book entitled "My Father's Captivity" is one of the most moving testimonies of the Book of Mormon you are likely to read.

Meanwhile, Elder Stevenson continued in his talk to cite Mormon 8:35 where Moroni saw us in vision. This passage was not illustrated on TV, but Glery Becerra has two 2010 pieces interpreting this verse. The first shows Moroni as an ancient epigrapher across a table from Becerra's own daughter who is working on her testimony of the Book of Mormon.
"The Lord Has Shown You Unto Me" by Glery Becerra
The second has the same Moroni, but this time it is Becerra's son across the table.
"The Lord Has Shown You Unto Me" by Glery Becerra
More information is at

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Moroni Day 2016

On or near autumnal equinox 1823, the Angel Moroni first appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and told him about records engraved on gold plates.

On or near autumnal equinox 1827, the Angel Moroni gave Joseph a set of plates having the appearance of gold.

The value of the records contained on the gold plates far exceeded their worth as precious metal or pre-Columbian cultural artifact.

On or near autumnal equinox 2016, Book of Mormon Central will celebrate Moroni Day with a fundraising reception in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Moroni Day 2016 Invitation
If you are able and willing to support Book of Mormon Central financially, please join us. Those unable to attend the physical event can experience some of Moroni Day virtually and donate online. Contributions are tax-deductible.

A 2 page PDF of the invitation is available for viewing or download here. Please share as appropriate.

Many more of God's children would benefit if they immersed themselves in the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 32:3, Ether 4:11.
Avard T. Fairbanks' Moroni
Supporting well-designed, impactful Book of Mormon projects will help.

Friday, August 19, 2016

KnoWhy App

The new KnoWhy app from Book of Mormon Central is generating favorable response from many people. It debuted at BYU Education Week two days ago. KnoWhys are frequently published brief essays about some interesting aspect of the Book of Mormon. Each essay has a Know portion explaining insights from the text, and a Why portion explaining significance or personal application. Well-illustrated, KnoWhys draw on the best LDS scholarship from the last 60 years to engage students in an immersive learning experience. Each KnoWhy starts with a question about a passage and provides one or more faithful answers in an attractively-packaged format including an audio podcast and a short YouTube video.

We began publishing KnoWhys on January 1, 2016. Today we published #169 about the Levitical laws of vessel impurity which shed light on Alma 60:23. The organizing principle behind KnoWhys in 2016 is one essay per chapter. We are working our way through the Book of Mormon, roughly following the Gospel Doctrine lesson sequence.

KnoWhys begin in brainstorming sessions. Ideas that show promise are then worked into a draft which is reviewed by John W. (Jack) Welch, generally regarded as the foremost Book of Mormon scholar of our generation. Drafts are then polished, edited, and formatted, at which time they are reviewed by a panel of volunteers who provide feedback which often gets incorporated into the final product. A script is written summarizing each KnoWhy. Illustrations are gathered. Professional voice talents record each full-length essay as a podcast and each short script as the voice track for a video. Each KnoWhy then goes into video and meme production and on the appointed day gets published in about a dozen social media channels.

A KnoWhy is like a gold brick in a Fort Knox vault. Eventually there will be thousands. Collectively they constitute a veritable treasure trove of information about the Book of Mormon. Go to your app store, search for "knowhy" and download your free key to the vault from the Apple iTunes Store or the Google Play Store.
KnoWhy App Icon on Android
After launching the app, the first thing you see is a list of KnoWhys.
List of KnoWhys
Tapping on a KnoWhy downloads its content, including the live YouTube link.
KnoWhy Content
Book of Mormon Central was built to help people come unto Christ by feasting on His word. The KnoWhy app is one way this is happening.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chiasmus Day 2016

Today, August 16, 2016, marks the 49th anniversary of Jack Welch's discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. 49 years was a biblical 7 X 7 jubilee cycle. Here are seven things we did to commemorate:
Look for even more exciting developments next year as we celebrate the 50th anniversary.

The article "Chiasmus Day" has additional context.

Voyages of Columbus

1 Nephi 13:12 is often interpreted as referring to Christopher Columbus. Columbus made four voyages to the New World between 1492 and 1504. This is a simplified map of the four expeditions.
4 Voyages of Christopher Columbus 1492 - 1504
This is a more detailed map of the first expedition.
Voyage of Christopher Columbus 1492 - 1493
The second expedition.
Voyage of Christopher Columbus 1493 - 1496
The third expedition.
Voyage of Christopher Columbus 1498 - 1500
The fourth expedition.
Voyage of Christopher Columbus 1502 - 1504
Columbus visited the following countries and territories (in this approximate order) that have Church presence today:
  • Bahamas More than 1,000 members in 3 congregations.
  • Cuba More than 100 members in 2 congregations. See this Church News article.
  • Haiti More than 21,000 members, 1 mission, and 44 congregations.
  • Dominican Republic More than 129,000 members, 3 missions, 199 congregations, and 1 temple.
  • Dominica More than 100 members in 1 congregation.
  • Guadeloupe More than 500 members in 3 congregations.
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis More than 200 members in 1 congregation.
  • Virgin Islands More than 500 members in 2 congregations.
  • Puerto Rico (US Territory) More than 23,000 members, 1 mission, and 42 congregations.
  • Trinidad and Tobago More than 3,000 members, 1 mission, and 10 congregations.
  • Venezuela More than 165,000 members, 4 missions, 256 congregations, and 1 temple.
  • Martinique More than 200 members in 1 congregation.
  • Honduras More than 169,000 members, 4 missions, 232 congregations, and 1 temple.
  • Nicaragua More than 92,000 members, 2 missions, and 103 congregations.
  • Costa Rica More than 46,000 members, 2 missions, 74 congregations, and 1 temple.
  • Panama More than 51,000 members, 1 mission, 71 congregations, and 1 temple.
  • Jamaica More than 6,000 members, 1 mission, 19 congregations.
If 1 Nephi 13:12 really does refer to Columbus, then the seed of Nephi's brethren, the Lamanites, inhabited Central America, South America, and the Caribbean at European contact and those areas were part of the Book of Mormon promised land.

Monday, August 15, 2016

1830 Americas

Occasionally Latter-day Saints reference modern nations in Book of Mormon discussions. It is instructive to understand what the Americas looked like in 1830 when the text first went on  sale to the public.
Sovereign Nations in the Americas in 1830
The white area represents the 24 states of the United States of America. The blue area represents Mexico. The red area represents the Federal Republic of Central America. The green area represents Great Colombia. All of modern-day Canada was a British colony as was Belize, then called British Honduras. The territory in modern-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho was contested between Great Britain and the US, as was northern Maine.

How the countries ranked in approximate area:
1. Mexico 4.4 million square kilometers
2. Great Colombia 2.8 million square kilometers
3. United States 2.2 million square kilometers
4. Federal Republic of Central America 429,000 square kilometers

How the countries ranked in estimated population:
1. United States 13 million
2. Mexico 6 million
3. Great Colombia 2 million
4. Federal Republic of Central America 1 million

Year the countries declared independence:
1. United States 1776
2. Great Colombia 1810
3. Mexico 1810
4. Federal Republic of Central America 1821

Wars of Independence:
1. United States 1776 - 1781
2. Mexico 1810 - 1821
3. Great Colombia 1810 - 1822

Year slavery was abolished:
1. Federal Republic of Central America 1824
2. Mexico 1824
3. Colombia 1851
4. United States 1865

Many of the Book of Mormon passages that some associate with the United States of America apply equally well to Latin America.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Central Locations

I was at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) in June and saw this striking visual depicting the old city at the crossroads of 3 continents.
Jerusalem as Continental Axis
Photo by Kirk Magleby June 23, 2016
From this originating point, the blood of Israel and Christ's influence spread over much of the earth. This was an ideal location for the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant to extend to every nation, kindred, tongue and people as Nephi foresaw 2 Nephi 26:12-13.

Now consider where an ideal location would be in the New World for the blood of Israel and Christ's influence to spread over much of the earth in ancient times.
Mesoamerica as Continental Axis
The formulaic phrase "all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" occurs 16 times in the text exclusive of the testimonies of the witnesses and Moroni's instructions to the prophet Joseph. The Book of Mormon writers cared about wide dissemination. In pre-Colombian times Mesoamerica was the crossroads of the western hemisphere with significant communication, trade, and emigration contact both northward and southward.