Matthew and Leena Barnum teach the 11- and 12-year-old Sunday School class in their ward in Issaquah, Washington. A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to get their class more engaged and as a sort of icebreaker, they wrote out a Wordle puzzle on the board with a five-letter word that related to their Come, Follow Me lesson for the week. And they were shocked that so many of the kids were familiar with the game and excited to play.
Matthew then took the idea one step further. Thanks to his recent degree from BYU and a day job as a software developer for Amazon, he put his programming skills to good use and developed his own website to house the game online. His website—aptly named comefollowmedle.com—launched earlier this week and now offers a daily word puzzle connected to the weekly Come, Follow Me chapters.
For those unfamiliar with the trendy online game Wordle—which is owned by the New York Times—each day a new five-letter English word is chosen and you have six chances to correctly guess the word. After you hit enter on your guess, if a letter box is green, it’s in the correct spot within the word; if it’s yellow, that letter is found in the word but currently in the wrong spot; if it’s gray, the letter is not found in the word at all.
In Barnum’s game, the same rules apply except for one. In the original game, any five-letter English word is up for selection as the daily word of choice, but in Barnum’s version, the daily word always has some connection to the week’s Come, Follow Me lesson.
After you correctly guess the daily word on Barnum’s site, a clever “Hurrah for Israel!” or “Scripture master!” message appears at the top of the screen. Then you can see a pop-up message listing your playing statistics from previous days and the scripture verse from which the word came.
Creating a game where any five-letter English word can be the answer is one thing—one volume of the Scrabble Dictionary claims there are 8,996 words with five letters, so there are plenty of options. But only choosing words from a very finite topic or scripture chapters is a whole other challenge. So Barnum has come up with a clever solution to give himself more options.
“I’ve changed the code a little bit so that it can be anywhere from a four-letter word to a seven-letter word,” he said, “So that allows for a lot more possibilities from the scriptures.” So today’s five-letter word answer BLOOD might be a six- or four-letter word answer like EXODUS or FROG tomorrow.
The site launched on Wednesday—Matthew primarily shared it with family and, of course, his Sunday School kids—but by the end of the day on Thursday, it had around 6,000 plays. And because this year’s Come, Follow Me study is centered around the Old Testament, it’s an easy missionary tool to share with Christians or others who believe or study the Bible.
Matthew’s wife Leena shared, “We had one girl from our [Sunday School] class text us, ‘I actually played at school with some of my friends, and they didn’t know much about the Church or anything, but I liked to share it because I thought it was really cool too.’ So it’s definitely shareable. Not just within the Church, but for non-members as well.”
Another player, a BYU student, also reached out to Matthew to share how the game has benefited him. “[The guy] said, ‘Man, I usually don’t even read the Come, Follow Me lessons. This was like the first week I’ve done it all year. But I couldn’t figure out the word until the sixth try, so I had to actually go to the chapters to find it.’”
Since the site just launched, Matthew only has the next seven days built into the site, but he is excited to continue with the project and has no plans of ending the daily game.
“As long as people are playing, I'm going to keep it going. I like it because it’s a fun puzzle, and I get to go into the scriptures myself and really spend more time in them as I try to find the best words to use for the game.”
You can go to comefollowmedle.com to try your own hand at today’s puzzle and start your streak of daily wins.