As a new year rolls around, Gospel Doctrine classes across the world will once again turn the attention of Latter-day Saints to our “keystone” scripture: the Book of Mormon. It’s been 27 years since President Ezra Taft Benson stressed, “The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon.” Despite being close to 3 decades old, this prophetic injunction is needed now more than ever.
Back in 1988, President Benson felt that, “In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.” Now, a new generation of Latter-day Saints has risen up in an age of unprecedented information access, yet many bright, young Latter-day Saints do not know where to turn to seriously engage with the Book of Mormon. Lynne Wilson, a faculty member at the Stanford University LDS Institute of Religion, envisioned an organization capable of communicating the wonders of this text to a broad audience, including especially the rising generation of young people.
Generous donors came forward and Book of Mormon Central was born. Beginning January 1, 2016, frequent Book of Mormon research updates will appear in many social media venues. This new resource is designed and built by and for people who love, treasure, ponder, research, apply, and believe the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Central aims to provide free access to Book of Mormon research and scholarship and expects to become the largest on-line repository of all such materials in the world.
John W. (Jack) Welch is the Chairman of this new venture. Generally regarded as a leading Book of Mormon scholar, Welch started the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in 1979. For 20 years FARMS was the pre-eminent source for faithful and academic Book of Mormon scholarship. The new organization exists to freely inform, explain, invite, engage, inspire, and encourage greater knowledge and appreciation of every aspect of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Central believes that increased understanding of this transformational text will advance goodness, justice, and faith on personal, family, social, and international levels.
Kirk Magleby, Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, stated, “The need now exists and the time is right for a new independent, non-profit organization to re-focus on Mormonism’s keystone text.” Magleby explained, “A team of amazing young people has come together to create a new and exciting approach to the dissemination of Book of Mormon studies.” Book of Mormon Central currently seeks to accomplish this with four main initiatives:
- The Archive: With the cooperation of other research institutions and publishers (such as Interpreter, the Religious Studies Center, BYU Studies, etc.), Book of Mormon Central is building what we hope will become a comprehensive online research archive featuring all things published on the Book of Mormon. Books, papers, art, photos, audio, and video all freely available in one convenient place. Close to 1000 items are already in the archive, and more are being added all the time.
- Study Notes: Using a Wiki platform, encyclopedia-like articles on every imaginable Book of Mormon topic, authored and edited by dozens of people from different walks of life. This resource will grow through 2016 and beyond to become an online encyclopedia of knowledge about the Book of Mormon. Notes articles reference longer sources in the archive.
- Interactive Text: An interactive online edition of the Book of Mormon text, with annotations from the Study Notes and archived materials will be available, with links back in the archive and the full Study Note entries. This will provide Book of Mormon readers with direct and instant access to the latest and most relevant information in historical, geographical, textual, cultural, theological, and linguistic analysis, as well charts, graphs, and other visuals. The central text for this web site will be based on the earliest manuscripts of the Book of Mormon that were written 1829–1830.
- KnoWhys: brief illustrated essays, videos, podcasts and memes that present little-known information about the Book of Mormon, then explain why it is significant. KnoWhys are published frequently via Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Ultimately, it is about knowing whythe Book of Mormon deserves our time, effort, and devotion.
Book of Mormon Central is an independent organization, but seeks to maintain cooperative and collaborative relationships with other research organizations with similar goals. Book of Mormon Central hopes to enrich the experience of Book of Mormon readers everywhere. As you study the Book of Mormon this year, I would invite you to make Book of Mormon Central a go-to tool to deepen your study, and to use it in sharing the Book of Mormon more widely than ever. With Book of Mormon Central, flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon has never been easier!