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Jack and Lynne Strike the Perfect Balance with Book of Mormon Matters
Amid the weekly spectrum of talented and charismatic online Come, Follow Me presenters—including others right here at Scripture Central—Book of Mormon Matters with John (Jack) W. Welch and Lynne Hilton Wilson strikes, for me, the perfect balance of accessible scholarship and heartwarming testimony. Not too dry, but also not too reliant on personality. This is not to say that Dr. Welch and Dr. Wilson lack charisma in the slightest. The chemistry between these two PhDs is vibrant yet accentuated with that gritty, hands-on experience that only a genuine frontline scholar can provide, one who has paid their disciplinary dues, expertly culling original sources to uncover (and sometimes unearth!) hidden insights. Yes, they’ll reference the work of other scholars, but Jack and Lynne carry that magical trump card to reference their own research and experiences in the trenches of discovery.
Statements describing Book of Mormon Matters suggest Jack and Lynne provide a deep dive into the scriptures that may limit its appeal to everyday audiences. I respectfully disagree. This combination of personalities–Dr. Welch’s encyclopedic braintrust and Dr. Wilson’s infectious enthusiasm–captivated my attention. As I’ve done with some engaging series on Netflix, I found myself binge-watching the first several episodes. I think of myself as a pretty tough customer. My career as an author of Latter-day Saint fiction has immersed me in countless books and articles on Church history and ancient culture. Sometimes it’s hard to surprise me with info I haven’t, in some form, already heard. Yet Jack and Lynne unfolded new surprises by the minute. I found myself frequently clicking back to earlier places in the timeline to re-hear the information.
Who knew, for example, that Dr. Welch was instrumental in prompting a search that uncovered Joseph Smith’s original 1829 copyright application for the Book of Mormon in the archives of the Library of Congress? Who knew the “master chess game” (Lynne’s words) that unfolded resulting in the unlikely meeting of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith? Recent articles I’d read emphasizing a seer stone in the translation process left me a bit foggy as to what part the Urim and Thummin had played. As Jack and Lynne made clear, the Urim and Thummin was the primary instrument of translation after Oliver Cowdery’s arrival. Maybe it’s of no real consequence, but I enjoyed learning that our current Book of Mormon text relied on this sacred ancient artifact rather than some other device.
In the second episode I was floored by Jack and Lynne’s discussion of the slaying of Laban. Examining verses from Exodus 21, Dr. Welch revealed the singular exception in Mosiac law that I’d never before heard justifying Nephi’s actions. Since coming into the Church forty years ago, I’ve watched as folks picked apart and overanalyzed this incident ad nauseam. Never has it been so satisfactorily settled in my mind as it was by Dr. Welch’s explanation.
What undergirds Book of Mormon Matters more than any other factor is the faith and humility of both presenters. Let’s face it: these are not traits one generally expects from seasoned academics, who tend to perch themselves above such trivial and “common” matters as religion.
“Details matter,” Dr. Welch declares in episode 2. “Background matters. The record is true.” This really penetrated my heart. It rekindled in me that kernel of excitement that has always defined my experience as a member of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints. I’m tempted to quote the professor’s almost childlike closing testimony, but I’ll leave that for the audience to relish in real time.
My heartfelt thanks to Jack and Lynne for bringing us Book of Mormon Matters. The time, energy, and sacrifice it takes to deliver such high-quality content on a weekly basis is no small thing. May others join me in offering them not only our gratitude but also our prayers of support to sustain them throughout the coming year.
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