Education Week participants went on a virtual tour of ancient Jerusalem with BYU Associate Teaching Professor Tyler Griffin during BYU’s Education Week. The presenter detailed different aspects of the city while debuting an app designed to give users an interactive experience in the ancient world.
Griffin, who received a bachelor’s degree in Electrical/Computer Engineering and now teaches as part of BYU’s Ancient Scripture Department, worked with animators from the Motion Picture Studio of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to create the app.
The app allows users to explore ancient Jerusalem from a bird’s eye view as well as virtually walk through the streets of the city. White dots placed strategically throughout the app give additional information about the places depicted within the app.
Participants during the Education Week class began their tour in Herod’s temple as Griffin virtually walked them through the ancient rooms within the temple.
Inside one of the inner courtyards, the presenter reminded the audience that Zacharias and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, most likely had come to this part of the temple to pray for a child.
“I can picture decades of prayers from Zacharias and Elizabeth, please bless us with a child, then nothing, nothing, nothing. Then an angel comes and says, ‘Thy prayer is heard,’” Griffin said. “I like that, brothers and sisters. Don’t give up hope, don’t give up praying. Especially if it’s for other people in the family.”
As the virtual tour continued, Griffin pointed out areas of the city where different biblical stories occurred and the significance that geography of the land held within those stories.
He also noted the importance of these types of visual aids for the youth of the church.
“The rising generation, by the way, the young adults, they don’t really connect well with line drawings, black and white, hand-drawn diagrams. They like beautiful, they like digital immersion,” Griffin said.
Griffin believes that applications like the one in his presentation adds valuable context to the scriptures, rather than distracting its users.
“The Lord, in the Doctrine and Covenants says, ‘I will speak unto them according to their language, so they may understand it.’ I don’t think these types of resources are designed to replace the scriptures or supplant them. On the contrary, I think they’re used to help give the rising generation more interest in the scriptures and help them dive deeper than they would have.”
Griffin said he and the students that work in the Motion Picture Studio, would like to continue enhancing the app so that, at some point, users can even take a tour of Christ’s last days in Jerusalem. To do that, however, the project requires additional funding. Griffin urged those who wished to contribute financially to the project, to do so.
“I guarantee you, no seminary student is going to be sleeping if you can pull out this app and say, ok, let’s walk through John 9,” Griffin said.