What started out as a New Years resolution for Arizona Mormon couple Ben and Chelsea Prince to prioritize scripture study has now turned into a daily reminder to read the Book of Mormon for more than 44,000 people all around the world.
The Princes manage the Instagram account “The Book of Mormon in 365 Days” at instagram.com/bofm365, which has more than 44,000 followers and receives thousands of likes and dozens to hundreds of comments each day.
“We saw that we weren’t prioritizing scripture study like we knew we should, and we wanted to correct that,” Ben Prince wrote in an email to the Deseret News. “The thought came to me to use Instagram and Facebook as a way to keep track of daily reading and remind us of what we should read. We considered that others might want to use it for the same thing but never expected the response that we have seen up to today. We laugh at it now that my wife said that it would be cool if a hundred people used it.”
Ben said he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to post a graphic with a set of scripture verses from the Book of Mormon to Instagram.
“The idea is that as followers see the post, they will read the short set of scriptures and ‘like’ the post as a way of checking off that they had read,” Ben Prince said. “If followers read every short set of posted scriptures, on Dec. 31, 2014, they will finish (reading) the Book of Mormon.”
The Princes usually follow a 365-day schedule from the writers of the Sugardoodle blog, online at sugardoodle.net. To get participants to apply what they have read, Chelsea Prince comes up with a question to post with each scripture reference, Ben said. He also said that they discuss the next day’s reading together each night.
They started the account on Dec. 22, 2013, and had more than 100 followers within two hours, Ben Prince said. A week later, there were more than 10,000 followers.
“The growth of followers was entirely by word of mouth and everyone inviting their friends and family to participate,” Ben Prince said. “Our followers would repost our images and tag their friends and family in our posts. I truly believe that there could not have been such a large response without the hand of the Lord being involved. People recognized the power that is in the Book of Mormon, and it became fun and easy to invite others to join.”
Ben Prince said he knew it was too late to back out of waking up early every morning with more than 20,000 followers before the challenge even began. Ben and Chelsea Prince have been thrilled at the response and said they have had fun imagining 44,000 people gathered, which would fill both Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City and the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, to read the Book of Mormon together.
“Without a doubt, the greatest satisfaction has come from people telling us how their families have been strengthened by following (the plan),” Ben Prince said. “One woman told us that every day, her son reminds his parents to check Instagram to find out what they should read, and that the boy’s favorite part is tapping the heart on the Instagram post to show they’ve read. Others have stated that they have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout their lives but have never read the Book of Mormon cover to cover or hadn’t done it in 30-plus years. People have mentioned they are or know of people who are not members of the church following along.”
LDS Church members have also used the account and the challenge as a missionary tool, and youths have been motivated to share the gospel more by following the account, he said, and daily comments made on the account include personal experiences, insights and testimonies.
“Our testimonies have grown in many, many ways,” he said. “We have seen that our lives seem happier, our conversations are more positive, our parenting is kinder, our patience is longer and our marriage has been stronger. We find ourselves discussing the scriptures throughout the day and applying them to our lives. Chelsea and I both served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we agree we have felt the hand of the Lord in motivating us just as we felt on our missions. Reading everyone’s testimonies and drawing from each other's strength has been empowering and exciting.”
The Princes discovered after doing a post asking where their readers are from and learned there are followers in South America, Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States.
They feel that President Gordon B. Hinckley’s promise from August 2005, when he said, “Those who read The Book of Mormon will be blessed with an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a greater resolve to obey his commandments and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God,” has become true for them through the experience.
Ben said he and his wife “have recognized the amazing blessings from being a part of this so-called ‘largest book club of the greatest book ever written,’ ” as one participant told the couple.
Ben Prince added that he and Chelsea are encouraging everyone to join in on the conversation and the challenge of reading The Book of Mormon daily, and that it is never too late to start following.
The Princes live in Glendale, Ariz., and have a daughter, Hadley, who is 18 months old. Ben is in his second year of medical school at Midwestern University.
Sonja Carlson is a graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho in Communication with an emphasis in journalism and intern for the LDS Church News. Email: [email protected] Twitter: sonycarlson