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Why hundreds of teens from Bulgaria to New Zealand are lending their voices to youth-led recording of the Book of Mormon


Imagine young people from across the globe — some Latter-day Saints, some not — coming together to read the Book of Mormon out loud for the rest of the world to hear.

No need to imagine.

Thanks to a 15-year-old from Southern California, a high-quality digital recording of the entire Book of Mormon read by young people is now available. Over 250 teens from 10 countries and 15 U.S. states volunteered their voice talents to the Book of Mormon podcast project.

Last April, McKay Nelson, a teacher from the University Park Ward, Newport Beach California Stake, was searching for a suitable service project required to earn Scouting’s Eagle Award. Such Eagle projects traditionally happen outdoors and involve fellow Scouts and other volunteers working side by side.

But COVID-19 concerns forced McKay to be flexible and resourceful. With the support of his family, he was inspired to pursue a virtual Latter-day Saint-themed Eagle project. “The Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion,” he told the Church News, “so my family and I talked about doing a podcast featuring people my own age reading the Book of Mormon.”

Audio recordings of the Book of Mormon have been available for decades. But McKay’s project marks the first time the sacred text has been presented in a podcast format read by teenage readers. The Church authorized the project, allowing McKay to post the recordings for public use.

Finding 239 readers for 239 chapters

From the project’s beginning, McKay planned for each of the Book of Mormon’s 239 chapters, along with the book’s introduction, to be read and recorded by a different person.

Identifying young people to record the scores of chapters contained in the latter-day scripture was no small task. First, McKay called upon friends from his ward and stake to help. Then several teammates from his school basketball team stepped up to record chapters, even though they are not Church members. 

“They knew the project was important to me. They are my friends, so they were willing to help.”

Still, he needed more readers if he wanted to realize his goal of having each chapter of the Book of Mormon read by a different teen. “So I made a YouTube video inviting people to help me with this endeavor and put it up on my YouTube channel,” he said. 

The website teensreadthebook.com includes a podcast of the entire Book of Mormon read by youth from around the world. The project was organized by a 15-year-old from Southern California.

The website teensreadthebook.com includes a podcast of the entire Book of Mormon read by youth from around the world. The project was organized by a 15-year-old from Southern California.

Credit: Screenshot from teensreadthebook.com

Soon teens from around the world were offering their time and talents. Young people from as far away as South Korea, Bulgaria, Spain and England volunteered their services. Meanwhile, 86 youth from cities throughout Utah participated. Other U.S. states represented included North Carolina, Texas, New Jersey and Hawaii.

Completing the “Teens Read the Book” project took about seven months.

McKay’s interactive project website allowed would-be volunteers to select chapters to read — while also providing detailed instructions on how to make a suitable recording with their own cell phones. Each volunteer would then record their selected chapter from the Book of Mormon before sending the audio file to McKay for editing.

“Sometimes I would have to make changes to the audio because someone was reading too close to their phone or maybe too far away — but other than that, there wasn’t much more to do,” he said.

Connecting globally

McKay is thrilled with the growing response to the completed project, which is available in a variety of podcast formats such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts — and also at the project’s official site, teensreadthebook.com.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they can’t wait to share it with others,” he said. “We are at about 900 downloads right now for all of the episodes, and I know even more people have loved it, which is awesome.”

McKay and his worldwide team of volunteer readers are receiving an enthusiastic thumbs-up from many, including from the Young Men general presidency.

“It is inspiring to see young people who are willing to raise their voices on behalf of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the presidency. “I am certain other young people around the world will appreciate their contribution.”

Using their voices

A Book of Mormon is held by a missionary in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A Book of Mormon is held by a missionary in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Meanwhile, project volunteers relish having played a key role in sharing the Book of Mormon to a vast virtual audience, including their fellow teens.

Several participants shared with McKay their gratitude for the project:

Ramsey Anderson, a 13-year-old from Eugene, Oregon, recorded chapter 13 of 2 Nephi.

“I enjoyed being part of such an inspiring project,” said Ramsey. “I love reading the Book of Mormon every day, and now I feel connected to other people all over the world who, like me, have recorded their voices reading that great book.”

Thomas Abinadi Lameko, 13, of Auckland, New Zealand, recorded chapter 20 of 3 Nephi. “It was pretty cool that I got to have a reading recorded and represent New Zealand,” he said. 

Thomas’s father, Abinadi Vincent Fetaia’i Lameko, said he was uplifted just listening to his young son reading the Book of Mormon for others.

“[Thomas] kept reading the chapter over and over to make sure it was good enough to record. He said he’s been wanting to do something to add to his Young Men’s spiritual goals, and this opportunity came up.”

The youth-driven Book of Mormon recording/podcast is strengthening the lives of many tuning in to listen. McKay counts himself as one being blessed by this new scripture study resource.

“Just listening to people who are my age reading this sacred scripture to me and others has strengthened my testimony,” he said. “There is an authenticity to it.”

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