One lasting fruit of the observance this year of the bicentennial of the birth of Joseph Smith is an official Internet Web site sponsored by the Church that teaches of the life and mission of the Prophet.
The site, www.josephsmith.net, can be accessed directly or from a link on the Church's official Web site, www.lds.org. It is intended to be a permanent Web site with occasional additions and upgrades.
"What we've tried to do is focus on the key events of the Restoration and Joseph Smith's role in helping those to come forth," said Kevin Nielson, product manager for Church history in the Family and Church History Department.
Accessing the home page of the site, the viewer immediately sees on the left side of the screen a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith, such as, "The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be, until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood." The quote is changed each day, with one for each day of the calendar year.
On the right side of the screen is a key event in Joseph Smith's life for the given day of the year on which the site is accessed. Accessed on Nov. 15, for example, the site noted that on that day in 1842, in Nauvoo, Ill., Joseph Smith resigned as editor of the Church newspaper Times and Seasons and appointed John Taylor in his place.
The event for the given day is linked to "a more robust calendar of daily events," Brother Nielson said. "We're trying to deliver content off the front page so the viewer can immediately find out something about the Prophet Joseph Smith."
From the home page one can follow various links and learn about the Prophet's mission, his life, what was said about him by those who knew him, historic sites where events of his life took place, and a "Resource Center" covering basic facts, quotes, witnesses, readings, art work, photographs, documents, maps and a glossary. The center offers the ability to look for specific quotes on various topics.
"One of the things we felt was important was that people get the opportunity to see original documents, images, etc. of the Prophet Joseph and, with those, get a feel and flavor that he really existed and that his message is critical," Brother Nielson noted. A multi-media player has been set up so that Web site visitors can look at such images. Video footage is among the elements planned for incorporation into virtual reality tours on the site.
The Web site draws on key articles published by the Church and by scholars such as those at BYU. A visitor, for example, can go to the Resource Center and there find a link to readings from BYU Studies, the Ensign, Church Educational System student manuals and other publications.
Brother Nielson said the Web site has been well received so far and draws about 50,000 "unique visitors" a month, comprising about 500,000 "hits." It has been accessed by people in more than 120 countries. One indicator of its popularity is that on Internet search engines, it is working its way up to the top of the list of "hits" that show up when a user types in the search term "Joseph Smith." On the MSN search engine, it is the first hit on the list. The position on such lists is influenced by the frequency of the term in the Web site and how many other Web pages link to it. There are now more than 500 pages that link to the site, Brother Nielson said.
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