Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Testimony of the Book of Mormon

I just finished the Book of Mormon, one day early.

For the context of any readers I might possibly have who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ, back in early October, our prophet, President Nelson, challenged the women in our church to read the entire Book of Mormon before the end of the year. Less than three months to finish a 531 page book of dense scripture.

I'm nothing if not an upholder, so I knew once this expectation had been given me, from a prophet no less, I would meet it. But I also knew it wouldn't be easy for me. I did the math and calculated I would need to read between six and seven pages of scripture a day. I already struggled to read one page a day. Honestly, most days were a handful of verses. Factor in that this challenge was given in the middle of one of my most intense, most demanding semesters of my life, where I spent every available minute reading all my other assigned work, and I really didn't know how I was going to fit in extra reading time every day.

But now that it's over, now that I've done what felt impossible and like a serious burden in the beginning, I'd like to take a few moments and reflect on the experience.

Lesson 1: I Have Time for My Priorities

This is a lesson I keep learning over and over. My life is so busy, so very, very busy. I never have enough time to do all of the things I need to do, let alone want to do. During the semester, I never have enough time to clean the bathrooms, I never have enough time to watch TV, I never have enough time to get all the sleep I want. But I always have time for what is most important: reading to my children, making dinner every night, occasional date nights with my husband.

I have enough time for the things that are most important.

And this challenge was no different. Way back in early October, I did not know where I was going to find the time in every day to read seven pages of scriptures, but I knew it was important. I knew this was going to be a priority. And so I thought about where in my day I could do this. My morning routines are already so rushed, I didn't think I could add scripture reading there and still make it out the door on time (let's be honest, I was rarely making it out the door on time at the end there, always rushing into class frazzled and late). But I realized I have this pocket of time, about fifteen minutes or so, after we all get home from school but before I start dinner prep, where I usually allow myself a break. I get the kids set up with a snack and make a snack myself and just sit at the kitchen table scrolling my phone. I decided that if I read my scriptures during that snack time instead of scrolling my phone, I could probably fit it in there, so that's what I did.

It took some discipline on my part. After all, at that time of day (4 PM), I am exhausted and weary and not up for much mental exertion. Reaching for my scriptures instead of my phone took energy. And I will be quite honest that there were days I was so tired that my "reading" was pretty superficial, eyes glazing over words with not much meaning taken in. I even fell asleep a few times.

But it was a priority, and I made it happen every day, until it became natural and easy.

And so, during one of the busiest, most grueling semesters of my life, I found time every day to read seven pages of the Book of Mormon. It was time that I would've sworn before I did not have, but when I chose to make it a priority, when I looked long and hard at my schedule, there it was. Time for what was most important.

Lesson 2: Joseph Smith Did Not Write This Book

One of the hardest parts of pursing an advanced degree in the liberal arts is the fact that most of the people and texts I interact with on a daily basis are highly critical, if not downright hostile, toward religious belief. This was not my worst semester (by far) in terms of dealing with professors or other students or class discussions where faith has been ridiculed (oh, how different it is to attend schools that are not BYU), but there was still a constant undercurrent that occasionally rose to the surface.

There was the snarky comment at the conference I attended about scripture belonging to the "speculative fiction" genre.

There was the class discussion on fan fiction writing where a fellow student brought up the idea of scripture being like fan fiction (people being so obsessed with an imaginary world they write about it as if it were true).

That's just a small, small sampling of the many comments and ideas hostile to faith that I combat on a daily basis, but these two, made at this time where I was immersing myself in the Book of Mormon, found themselves rattling around in my brain as I came home to read every day.

What if the Book of Mormon was "written" by Joseph Smith, like some kind of Bible fan fic? What would that mean? That a twenty-something kid with a rather limited education was able, essentially on his own, to take some rather obscure verses in Jeremiah about the sacking of Jerusalem under king Zedekiah, and imagine not one, but two groups escaping at this time, send them over to America, and then construct 1,000 years of history for a complex civilization with incredible detail, and allow different writing styles for different prophets, and then throw in a complex structure of small plates and large plate abridgment? And then let's not forget about the Jaredites, and the level of complexity that adds! Could someone like Joseph Smith really have constructed this world? Imagined it this clearly? And, history aside, could he really have made up this doctrine? A kid who was not a theologian? With an eighth grade education?

It was actually my son, just a week ago or so, who asked me, "Mom, why isn't there an author listed on the title page of the Book of Mormon?"  And I shot the question back at him:

"Well, who would the author be? What name should be listed as the author?"

And in his sweet, sweet innocence, he thought for a minute and then said, "Well, didn't God write all the scriptures?"

Yes. In a way, yes. I explained to him about how it was actually a long string of prophets who kept records and then those records were compiled and abridged, and so, technically, they are the authors of the Book of Mormon. But in the end, it is God's work entirely.

I know there are some places (like my university's library catalog) where Joseph Smith is listed as the author of the Book of Mormon. But what impressed me so much during the past three months of reading this book, so quickly and all together, was that there is no way Joseph Smith could have done this. No offense to my esteemed ancestor (four-greats grand uncle), but it is a stretch to believe that any person of his background and upbringing could create something like the Book of Mormon from scratch.

It is honestly easier for me to believe an angel sent from God showed him how to translate it than it is to believe he wrote it himself.

Lesson 3: There is Power in this Book

This is not the first time I've learned this lesson, because this is not the first time I've read this book.

I read the Book of Mormon for the first time when I was eight years old, in answer to another challenge given me at my baptism (if an authority figure gives me a challenge, I will meet it). It took me a year to read it. I understood very little of it. And when I finished it, I happily closed the book, content to move on to other more exciting books.

I don't remember exactly how long it took me to notice. Maybe it was a few months, probably a few years. But I began to realize that something was different. I remember reflecting on my year reading the Book of Mormon, and how happy I'd been that year, how I had been kinder to my siblings and gotten in fewer fights, how I'd felt more peace. I'm still impressed with myself, for being able to notice this at such a young age, but I did notice that since finishing the book and moving on, I'd been less happy, more quarrelsome, not as good a person.

At the age of twelve, I decided that I needed to return to regular scripture reading. But since I'd already done the Book of Mormon, I decided to branch out and try the other books of scripture. It took me through most of middle school, but I read the Bible cover to cover, then read the D&C and the Pearl of Great Price. And it was good. But it was not the same.

In eighth grade, I began reading the Book of Mormon again, for the second time. Again, it took me the better part of a year to finish it, and again, I didn't understand most of it. But the difference in my life was marked. I felt it. I felt it every day.

I finished on October 15th 2001, when I was in 9th grade. I recorded the date in my scriptures, because I wanted to mark the occasion. Now, after having read every book of scripture, I could say without doubt that there was something different about the Book of Mormon. There was power there, and I knew that I never wanted to go another day of my life without that power in it. So I decided that no matter what, I would read at least some piece of the Book of Mormon every day of my life.

Today I finished reading it for the 22nd time.

It's hard for me to say exactly how reading it this time influenced my life more than at other times, considering how long it's been since I've been without the influence of this book in my life. But here's what I can say about this three month period: I survived when I thought I wouldn't. I found time I didn't think I had. I had ideas and thoughts that led to papers that were very exciting to write. I was led to an incredibly serendipitous find in the special collections library which allowed me to frame one of my papers on original research. I was able to spend time with my children. I found the mental energy to play with them. I read to them every day. I made their dinners and breakfasts every day. For the most part, I did not yell at them. During the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the distinct thought: My life is busy, but it is full of deep, deep joy! If I miraculously won the lottery tomorrow, it wouldn't change a thing! This is the life I would choose! I would wake up and keep doing exactly what I'm doing now!

Now, that's not to say everything was perfect. I was definitely not getting enough sleep, my kids were sick far more often than was convenient, and my house was a complete disaster 99% of the time. But I was feeling deep joy, and deep peace, despite the chaos.

And I know I was feeling it because of the Book of Mormon.

So, I would like to take this time and space and place, to share my testimony of the Book of Mormon. My faith has not always been perfect. I have been deeply troubled by doubts before, and still battle with many doubts. There are doctrines and practices in my religion that are hard for me to accept.

But this I know: The Book of Mormon is true. I know this in a way that defies logic or reason. I know, I have felt, that if I were ever to deny the Book of Mormon, the very fibers of my being would revolt against me, for every part of me, my body, and my spirit, knows it to be true. There is power in that book. I have never known or felt anything as strongly as this.

If you would like a free copy of the Book of Mormon, you can request one by clicking this link.


  1. I have read many end-of-the-year testimonies of The Book of Mormon (which has been so awesome), but yours is definitely my favorite. You captured in words what I think so many of us felt but couldn’t express.

    1. That is so nice of you to say, because I think yours was my favorite!

  2. Thank you so much Suzanne! It's so neat to hear your testimony.

    1. Thanks, Linnae, because it's always kind of scary to share such personal stuff.

  3. You constantly amaze me with all that you do, and all that you are. What a beautiful testimony! Like Amy mentioned above, this post captured everything I felt too but couldn't express as eloquently. I was able to finish in just the nick of time (on the evening of the 31st, baby!), but it was such a special reading of the BOM for me--more than almost any other that I can think of. Thank you for sharing your faith and your testimony!

    1. Thanks for saying that Torrie (because I find you pretty amazing for keeping up with your posting schedule, what with a new baby and two kids and all!). And way to go on finishing yourself!

  4. I'm impressed you know how many times you've read the Book of Mormon! Natalie, my mom and I all finished the last few chapters together on NYE. Thank you for posting your thoughts; I completely agree.

    1. Thanks Ash. Recording my B of M readings started as just a whim, but it's a really cool record to have now.