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BYU students create tiniest Book of Mormon in advance of conference

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 30, 2022
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Professor Aaron Hawkins and his students showcase their Scripture on a Wafer that they have created containing the entire text of the Old Testament, New Testament and Book of Mormon.
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Professor Aaron Hawkins and his students showcase their Scripture on a Wafer that they have created containing the entire text of the Old Testament, New Testament and Book of Mormon.
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New LDS Area Seventies. From left to right, top: Area Seventies Elder Willy Binene, Elder Bernhard Cziesla, Elder Yves S. Weidmann; bottom: Elder Sione Tuione, Elder Ricardo J. Battista, and Elder Nathan R. Emery.

Just ahead of this weekend’s semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group of innovative Brigham Young University students have done something never before attempted.

Students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department etched the entire text of The Book of Mormon onto a thin silicon disc, called a wafer, that can fit in a person’s palm. The wafer is about the same size of a senine or a shum, the ancient coins from Nephite currency in the Book of Mormon.

To top it off, after engraving the 4-inch diameter wafer with all 291,652 words contained in the book, the students gave it a gold-plated coating in reference to the plates of gold the book was originally etched on.

“Lots of people can do this and lots of people have done this with the Bible,” said Aaron Hawkins, faculty mentor and an electrical and computer engineering professor. “But to our knowledge, no one has ever done it for The Book of Mormon. We realized it was up to BYU to put The Book of Mormon into silicon.”

A wafer is a thin slice of semiconductor, usually made out of silicon, used to create computer chips. In a normal fabrication process, hundreds of microchips would be created from a wafer. This group of students engraved the tiny chip-sized squares with 1,497,482 microscopic characters.

According to the team, each letter is about 25 by 35 micrometers small, a micrometer is one millionth of a meter. The gold-plated letters will last, literally, millions of years.

“Like Moroni himself, we etched into this wafer so it is physically engraved,” student Ethan Belliston said. “Current electronic storage degrades over time, but this will last forever. It’s a great way to create a compact, permanent record readable with a simple microscope.”

For good measure, the group also created wafers loaded with the entire Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament wafer is 4,234,673 characters while the New Testament is 975,320 characters.

While the group’s work is a gift for those living now and in the future, it is this weekend’s conference that church leaders are hoping will be etched into the minds and hearts of all those who listen.

Members of the church are taught that the words spoken at conference are scripture spoken for today’s needs and should be considered God’s words.

Each conference has its own anticipated announcements. During Thursday’s leadership meeting, new area authorities were announced, the World Report of the church was released and preparations were made for the crowds coming to the Salt Lake Conference Center.

During the Thursday morning leadership session, six new area authorities were announced. As in past conferences, it is also anticipated that new temples will be announced. While there has been nothing said about a theme for the conference, or any “big” announcements, President Russell M. Nelson works to bring the focus back to members being Christ-centered.

There are five general membership sessions of conference — at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday with a general session at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

In-person attendance is again limited as the construction at the Salt Lake Temple has lowered the availability of parking. The church is encouraging those attending to, where possible, use the “ticket to transit” option on FrontRunner, Trax and bus services.

“There is not room for all the cars, thanks to construction,” said Doug Andersen, church spokesman. “Even some of the roads are impacted.”

For those who will not be able to attend in person there is a variety of ways to watch or listen to conference including the church website, YouTube and BYUtv. Mobile apps include the gospel library and it will be broadcast through TV and radio stations that are part of the Bonneville Distribution group.

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