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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joseph Smith in One Question

Like most Latter-day Saints of my generation, I grew up with a sanitized, out sized Joseph Smith as a persecuted demigod who worked endless streams of wonders against tall odds in his short 38 1/2 years on earth. I did not worship the man, but I was in awe of him as I still am. As I matured and developed a more nuanced view of my prophet, I had an abiding curiosity to know more about Joseph the man. Todd Compton and I were classmates at BYU. When his In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith came out in 1997, I was taken aback for a time. My respect for the prophet never waned, but I had even more desire to understand what made him tick.

When Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling: Joseph Smith: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism's Founder appeared in 2005, I became a Bushman groupie. I attended his lectures from Provo to Ogden, asking many questions and carefully weighing his responses. Bushman had a deep understanding of the prophet that I was anxious to absorb. In the end, one sentence from Bushman helped me understand who Joseph really was. Bushman said, "Joseph sucked the air out of every room he ever entered." Joseph was such a powerful presence that no one else held a candle to him. He was supremely confident, without peer. It was always Joseph and the seven dwarfs. People hung on his every word. He had an opinion about and a ready answer for everything. He was often attacked from afar but seldom contradicted in person. That made sense to me given the nature of Joseph's interaction with deity and the divine.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to spend time with Mike MacKay of the BYU Religion faculty. He worked on the Joseph Smith Papers Project and co-authored the very important From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. His next major publication will be Joseph Smith's Seer Stones. I asked MacKay how he would characterize Joseph the man. "Joseph had a green thumb for religion" was his reply. As he shared examples of what he meant, I came to understand that post 1829 Joseph consciously fit every person, place, or thing he ever encountered somewhere into his expansive religious vision. That prompted me to ask MacKay one important question: "Did Joseph ever say 'I don't know'?" "No" was his quick reply.

In our current era of internet-inspired transparency, we hear the brethren say "We don't know" frequently. See for example, Pres. Uchtdorf's frank talk entitled "Come, Join with Us" in October, 2013 General Conference or the Gospel Topics Essays such as "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." Top scholars say "I don't know" all the time. "I don't know" is a fundamental status endemic to the human condition.

One result from Joseph's tendency to never say "I don't know" were the 1834 Zion's Camp tales about Zelph, Onandagus, and the plains of the Nephites associated with Naples-Russell Mound 8 near Griggsville, Pike County, Illinois. See the 1989 BYU Studies article by Kenneth W. Godfrey entitled "The Zelph Story." Was the germ of the variant Zelph accounts revelation to the prophet? Was it well-meaning speculation? As with so much of the extra-canonical material attributed to Joseph Smith, we don't know.