Book of Mormon Experiment

R. Devan Jensen

Devan Jensen ( is the executive editor at BYU’s Religious Studies Center.

If the world was going to talk about the Book of Mormon because of the release of a creative musical, The Book of Mormon, in New York City in 2011, then wouldn’t it be interesting if there was an equally creative approach to showing people what the book is truly about? BYU professor and AdLab director Jeff Sheets wanted to lean into that moment and counter that exposure with a more effective and spiritual social experiment to share the book of sacred scripture. “If we use creative problem-solving to solve other things, like business problems,” said Sheets, “maybe we need the same type of thinking for hastening the work.”

He and some former students brainstormed an idea of creating a public art social experiment, where every day people were the artists, and what they read about God in the Book of Mormon became the creative data visualization of what the book is about, and worked with students to prototype the campaign. Book of Mormon prophet Alma invited readers to compare the word of God to a seed, then plant the seed in their hearts and “experiment” (Alma 32:23). If the seed sprouted and enlarged their understanding, readers could identify the message as a good seed. The Book of Mormon experiment would be to have friends of other faiths take pages of the Book, highlight messages from God, then share impressions. And the resultant marked text with their photos and thoughts would make a visual art exhibit to show that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, not because the Church said it is, but because all the people who read a page witnessed for themselves that it is.

Students springboarded off project field-study trips already planned and set up displays in Sydney, London, Las Vegas, and Cape Town, South Africa. People of many belief systems—atheists, Christians, Muslims, and others—would each read one page from the 531 pages, have their picture taken to represent their individual page, and then share thoughts.

For example, Rafi, a Muslim from the United Kingdom who read page 430 of the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11:31–41; 12:1), said, “This is the first time that I have ever read a page of Christian scripture. I think the page was good. It shows that God is a God of miracles, not a God of punishment. . . . I believe that God is that way. He wants to help us. Reading this book has helped me.”

Since that initial experiment, the team has re-created the experiment dozens of times with the Church, and now including in Spanish and French. Missions, Temple Visitors Centers, youth conferences, seminaries and institutes, and many other groups have implemented similar versions of the experiment all sharing the opportunity for people to discover for themselves that the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ.

In September 2023, to commemorate Moroni’s first visit to young Joseph Smith that happened two hundred years ago, BYU Religious Education associate dean Tyler J. Griffin asked Sheets and his students to help re-create that initial Book of Mormon experiment for students on BYU campus.

Participants had Polaroid photos taken. Students running the event taped up the pages and accompanying photos inside the Joseph Smith Building. The resultant living art exhibit allowed other students to see experiences of their peers of reading one page of the Book and what they felt.

For more information about the initiative, visit