Jacob’s Textual Legacy

The Prophet Jacob

The Prophet Jacob

One area that I’ve been interested in studying is how different Book of Mormon prophets use each other’s words. I think there is a beauty that appears in the Book of Mormon when see the level of connection between Book of Mormon prophets. Recently I’ve focused on a project called Jacob’s Textual Legacy. The article highlights how several prophets, including Nephi, King Benjamin and Moroni utilize Jacob’s words. Engaging in this study helped me more fully realize the significance of Jacob’s words. Take a look at the article – I hope you enjoy it.

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What Shall I Do?

One of the questions Brad Wilcox and I discuss in 52 Life-Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon is “What Shall I Do?” This is a powerful question. I talked about it at Time Out for Women. Here’s an excerpt from that talk:

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Clicking Our Way to Happiness

timthumbOne of my favorite people is Hilary Weeks. Her music is amazing and in my interactions with her I have found her to be extremely genuine, caring and an all-around great person. So I’m excited to give a shout out for one of her great inventions — Billion Clicks.

As a promotional video explains, the idea behind a Billion Clicks is simple. 1. We are what we think about. 2. We can control our thoughts. 3. The things we measure, we improve. So the basic concept is that you measure the amount of positive thoughts you have each day by clicking a clicker — to count the positivity in your day. It’s a fun way of counting your blessings.

I heard Hilary speak about clicking at Timeout for Women and absolutely loved the idea. That same day I bought a clicker and tried it for myself. It’s true that when we’re counting the positive things in our lives, they are so much easier to find. I passed the clicker around to my children and they loved it.

Now Hilary has started the Billion Clicks website, dedicated to helping people have more positive by clicking their way to one billion positive thoughts. The new clicker comes in a beautiful package, and contains a great booklet about the power of positive thinking. We’ve got one at our house and have found it to be a positive influence for the whole family.

During the month of November, Hilary is sponsoring a promotion where if you buy one clicker boxed set, you can get an additional clicker free (just to clarify, it’s one clicker kit (with the box/booklet/etc.) and one additional clicker. So one for the family, one to give away! You can order them here, using the code JOHN349. Happy clicking!



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Psalms in the Book of Mormon


My daughter noticed that I was dressed up on a Saturday morning and asked where I was going. I said, “I’m going to BYU to give a talk at the Sperry Symposium. Would you like to come?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve already heard all of your talks.”

“I don’t think you’ve heard this one,” I replied. “It’s about Psalms in the Book of Mormon.”

“There are no Psalms in the Book of Mormon,” she said. She then began to recite, “1st and 2nd books of Nephi, Jacob, Enos…there are no Psalms!”

“You really need to hear my talk!” I told her.

The fact is, that even though the Old Testament Psalms are not specifically referenced in the Book of Mormon, many Book of Mormon passage use language from the Psalms. I wrote a chapter on this topic for the 2013 Sperry Symposium. Feel free to download the article and see if you learn anything new about how Book of Mormon authors employ the Psalms!

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The Silent Lesson

One day during my second semester as a part-time seminary teacher, a student named Mindy came into class and asked, “Brother Hilton, are we going to do a silent lesson this year?” When I told her that I had never heard of a silent lesson, she said, “Brother Kirkham just taught a silent lesson, and I heard it was really awesome. You should ask him how to do it.”

Wanting to be a good seminary teacher, I approached Brother Kirkham and asked him to teach me about silent lessons. He obliged, and I began regularly using them in a variety of gospel settings, including seminary lessons, Young Men and Young Women classes, institute courses, BYU religion classes, Especially for Youth sessions, and Education Week classes. Silent lessons provide a unique way to help students have an in-class experience that helps them connect directly with the scriptures and the Spirit.

While some teachers already use silent lessons, many may not be familiar with this approach. I recently wrote an article for The Religious Educator called “The Silent Lesson,” that explains what these lessons are and how they can be created. As part of the article, I also posted a version of a silent lesson online, for illustration purposes. I hope it can be a helpful catalyst in getting others to think about how to effectively utilize silent lessons. You can see more here. Read the article and explore the silent lesson! I hope the idea of silent lessons can be a blessing in your life, if it isn’t already.

Note: if you are using a Mac, it may not play properly. However, I found an article online that has helped some Mac users make it work; hopefully it is helpful!

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543 Questions

question markMany years ago I was inspired by the question “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” This question led me on a quest that has really blessed my life (I even wrote an Ensign article about it).

In 2006 I was really curious about how many questions there were in the Book of Mormon. I laboriously copied and pasted the text of the Book of Mormon from LDS.org into a Word document and used the find/replace function to make my big discovery (drumroll please…). There are 543 questions in the Book of Mormon. That is a fun fact you can share with your friends (it’s a great conversation starter at parties…) (BTW I now know that it’s much easier to figure out … just download LDSVIEW and search “^?” –BINGO. Life was so much harder back then. :-) ) And to make your life even easier, if you’d like to download a spreadsheet of all the questions in the Book of Mormon, you can find it here.

I’ve played around with these questions for several years and once made them the centerpiece of my talk at Timeout for Women. When I started teaching at BYU, two wonderful research assistants (Andreina Stevenson and Alyssa Aramaki) helped create a spreadsheet that included all the questions and helped me do some initial analyses of patterns found across them.

Brad Wilcox was gracious enough to be willing to collaborate with me,on a book and so about 16 months ago we began writing 52 Life Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon. It was a joy working with Brad, who is one of my heroes. I just received some copies of the book, which should be in stores soon (it is already available online). Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some excerpts from the book and sharing additional insights I’ve gained by focusing on the questions asked in the Book of Mormon.

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Never Complain

Never Complain

It all started with me telling my kids to eat their oatmeal because children were starving elsewhere. Of course, they told me to send it to them…

I’ve been thinking a lot about these six words lately: “Never complain, others have it worse.” One of my good friends told me to NEVER compare, and I even gave a talk about not comparing. But lately I’ve felt that it is helpful to recognize that compared to so many in the world, I really have nothing to complain about. I recently blogged on this topic at TOFW; I’d love for you to read the post and let me know what you think.

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Suit Up!

I have been recently involved in a great project called  Suit Up!

It’s a follow up to Armor Up! and I’m honored to be a part of it. Seven authors collaborated on the book, with each of us addressing one of the verses in Doctrine and Covenants 4.  I’m always a little nervous when a book comes out — because one never knows how it will be received. But I’ve been gratified to find out that it has been helpful to some people. A reviewer named Heidi on deseretbook.com said,

“What a wonderful resource for LDS youth preparing for a mission!  Each article provides straightforward counsel about how to prepare to become a servant of the Lord. While it is directed specifically at young people becoming missionaries it also applies beautifully to all who want to serve the Lord. Each article also includes a QR code that takes the reader to short videos demonstrating the topics being discussed as well as brief discussions held by the authors with young people preparing to go on missions. Very informative and helpful, I highly recommend this book for both young people preparing to go on a mission and their parents/leaders. There is also much here of benefit to anyone who wants to become a better servant of the Lord.”

So thanks for the kind words Heidi. I hope that this book will be a helpful resource for those preparing to serve a mission!

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The Big Picture

I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to write The Big Picture with Anthony Sweat. If you want to learn what it’s all about you can read this post, or download a sample chapter.

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Textual Connections in the Book of Mormon

Who quotes Abinadi in the Book of Mormon? Who does Abinadi quote?

One area that I’ve been studying lately has to do with how different prophets in the Book of Mormon quote from each other. I think this is an important issue because, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Our understanding of the prophetic word will be greatly expanded if we know how one prophet quotes another, usually without acknowledging his source.”

For example, Abinadi quotes from Moses, Isaiah, and other prophets (including perhaps Lehi). And recently, I’ve discovered something about how Abinadi’s words are used by others. In Alma 39-42,  Alma quotes several times from the prophet Abinadi. Here’s one example:

Alma says, “And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrectiona resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead” (Alma 40:16).

Who spoke those words? When were they spoken? Compare them with these words from Abinadi: “And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called” (Mosiah 15:21).

So even though Alma doesn’t come out and say that he’s quoting Abinadi, he is. In fact in Alma 39-42 there are at least 13 allusions to Abinadi’s words.

Here’s why I think this is cool. Alma talks to his wayward son Corianton about three specific concerns (see Alma 40:1, 41:1, and 42:1). Nearly all of the allusions Alma makes to Abinadi cluster around those three topics. So picture Alma, a father worried about his son’s poor choices. His son has some concerns, and Alma turns to the words of a recent prophet, Abinadi, to address them.

So one principle we can apply today is that when we are trying to help others with their problems we can turn to the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.

I recently published an article that goes into much greater depth on how Alma quotes from Abinadi. I encourage you to check it out! You can download the article (for free) here: Textual Similarities in the Word of Abinadi and Alma’s Counsel to Corianton.

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