A group of BYU religion professors meets to discuss key truths found within the Book of Mormon every month of the school year as part of the Book of Mormon Academy.
Religion professors are not required to participate in the Book of Mormon Academy, but they all have the opportunity to attend monthly meetings and collaborate together. The fruits of their work are scholarship and completed projects, such as volumes of text.
The academy was founded in 2013 by the leadership of the Department of Ancient Scripture. A chair is chosen to lead the group, which changes every two to three years.
Daniel Belnap, a professor of ancient scripture, is a former Academy chair. He said for the first few years, the academy met together and talked about their thoughts on and approaches to the Book of Mormon. “One of the things that emerged from that was we decided that there were certain areas of the book that we would like to research together and approach,” Belnap said.
Two book volumes have been published by the academy. In 2018, the academy released its first book titled, “Abinadi, He Came Among Them In Disguise.”
During Belnap’s time as chair, the academy members compiled “Illuminating the Jaredite Records.”
“‘Illuminating the Jaredite Records’ became the second volume in what we hope to be a series of volumes from the Book of Mormon Academy,” Belnap said.
Current Department of Ancient Scripture chair Shon Hopkin was the academy’s first chair. As a current member and previous chair of the Book of Mormon Academy, Hopkin provided insight into the Academy’s purpose.
“The goal was to promote and enhance scholarship and teaching on the Book of Mormon here at BYU,” Hopkin said.
Ancient scripture professor Charles Swift is the current chair of the Book of Mormon Academy, where he has served for one year so far. While he has been chair, the academy worked together to complete a volume on Samuel the Lamanite, which is now under review.
At the academy’s first meeting of Fall Semester, the members decided they would like to start working on a new volume. According to Swift, the topic hasn’t been chosen yet. “Hopefully by the time I’m done, we will have published more volumes,” Swift said.
Swift explained there is not a requirement for a chair to lead the Academy in putting together a new volume, but the decision on what to work on is discussed as a group.
The Book of Mormon Academy also volunteered to review essays for the BYU Religious Education Student Symposium, and at times lecturers are invited to speak on specific topics the Academy is focused on. The group then has the opportunity to share ideas and brainstorm with the lecturers.
For Swift, the best thing about being the chair has been the opportunity to work with his colleagues at BYU who share a common love for the Book of Mormon. “It’s a very rewarding experience,” Swift said.