Delicious to Me: My Experience Reading The Book of Mormon

Dec 25, 2018



In years to come, I think I will look back on 2018 and remember it as the year my faith was reborn.

And it is only now, as the crisis is fading, that I feel comfortable talking about it. That's the way it is sometimes, right? We can be vulnerable when we are in a safe place, when it no longer feels like the bottom will drop out from under us at any moment. I'm in that safe place now, and I am writing this so I will remember one of the ways I got there.

As you might expect, this rekindling was not the result of just one event. For years, I have held firmly to my habits (scripture study, prayer, church attendance, among others) so that I would always be in a position conducive to feeling the Spirit.  I don't want to de-emphasize the importance of pressing forward in these small and simple things. They have, quite literally, saved me. However, there have been some bigger things this year that helped push that faith forward by leaps and bounds.

One of them began on October 6th and concluded on December 23rd. On that evening two and a half months ago, I was sitting in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City when President Russell M. Nelson, the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, extended this invitation: "I invite you to read The Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year." 

I heard those words, and my heart sank. I admit it, it did. I didn't feel excited or inspired. In that moment, I felt the magnitude of such a challenge in what seemed to me to be an already full and busy life. 


It wasn't that I wasn't already reading my scriptures. To the contrary, my habit of reading my scriptures is a firmly rooted one, rivaled only by my commitment to write in my journal every night. In fact, I can't remember the last time I missed a day of reading.


But this was different. In order to read the entire Book of Mormon before the end of the year, I knew I would have to significantly increase the amount of time I devoted to scripture study every day. I am not a fast reader, and I am even slower when I'm reading the scriptures.


And so I wavered. I had started The Book of Mormon in January of this year, and I was almost through the book of Alma (which is about two-thirds of the way through). Surely I could just continue where I was and be sure to finish before the end of December. After all, that would still be the whole Book of Mormon this year.


But something about that didn't settle with me. It seemed like there must be a reason why President Nelson would want people to read the entire book in a condensed amount of time. So I had a decision: Was I going to follow the prophet's counsel or not? Was I going to sacrifice something good for something better? And as I considered it, the way opened up. I figured out how many pages I would need to read each day. I observed my schedule and noticed where I could give a few minutes here and there. I realized I didn't need a solid hour, but just ten to fifteen minutes several times a day. Suddenly it seemed possible.


I took out my bookmark at Alma 63 and moved it back to 1 Nephi 1. And as I read the first verse, the burden I had originally felt lifted and never returned. The blessing that came with deciding to obey the prophet was instantaneous, immediate. Of course there were days when time was scarce, distractions were many, or the words themselves were confusing. But. I never felt unhappy or irritated about my decision. I counted it as a blessing and a privilege to read, and I know that attitude did not come from me. 


My boys were all very interested in the challenge and checked in with me to see how my reading was coming along. Whereas before, I usually reserved scripture study for nap time, I could no longer afford that luxury. I had to read any chance I could get, and so they often saw me reading in the car or in the evening after dinner or at the kitchen table. They could see how important reading the scriptures was to me. Aaron finished reading The Book of Mormon about the same time I started, but Maxwell decided he was going to accept the invitation as well, and he began reading with a fierce determination (he is a much faster reader than I am, and, in spite of his late start, he is already in 3 Nephi). Even Ian picked up on my commitment. One afternoon, he carried my scriptures out to me and said, "Scriptures, scriptures," knowing that I often read in the afternoon.


One thing I noticed right away was how comfortably familiar the words in The Book of Mormon were. I have no idea how many times I've read The Book of Mormon during my lifetime, but it's been many. As I read, my mind would often complete a verse or leap ahead to an upcoming phrase. The words felt like they were a part of me.


In contrast, and as often happens when studying the scriptures, there were completely new verses, or so it seemed: words that seemed brand new and lit me up with the thrill of discovery. I also noticed that I was able to keep track of places, people, time frames, and events and how they all related to each other much more easily than before, and I attribute this to my quick pacing. For example, 3 Nephi 8 is about the vast destruction that occurred when the Savior was crucified. Many cities were sunk or buried or burned. It broke my heart because I recognized the names of many of those cities and remembered some of the miracles that had happened in them in earlier chapters. All of the details just fit together better than they ever have before.


When President Nelson extended his invitation, he also made the recommendation to "mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior." I kept a little green pencil tucked between the pages for just this purpose. I have always known that The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, but I was surprised to discover that it is literally saturated with references to and testimonies of Him. Hardly a page went by without at least one green mark, and many of the pages were riddled with dozens of highlights. 


Perhaps this was most meaningful to me in 2 Nephi. This is usually one of the hardest books for me to get through because so much of it is quoting Isaiah's prophecies, which are not the easiest to understand. But this time, armed with my trusty green pencil, I read it with eyes searching for the Savior. And amazingly, He was there. I still didn't understand a lot of it, but one thing came through loud and clear: Isaiah testified of Jesus Christ.




My personal testimony has suffered a great deal in recent years. To put it simply, it just hasn't been easy to believe. I don't think there was any one thing that triggered the doubts, but they slowly built up over time, in spite of my best efforts to stop them. I have many friends who have had their faith shaken over a Church policy or practice, but my questioning went right to the very core of my belief: Is there a God? And many times, the answers seemed unsatisfactory at best and unbelievable at worst. I prayed often, but most of the time, it felt like no one was on the other side. It feels scary to admit that, to type out the words in black and white, but that's what it felt like to me.


I always thought my belief in God needed to come first, and then all of the other beliefs would fall into place. But reading The Book of Mormon this time changed that for me. As I read, the thought that came most often and totally unbidden to my mind was, Joseph Smith did not write this book. I would just be reading along, absorbed in a story or sermon, and suddenly, without warning, Joseph Smith did not write this book. It happened over and over again. It happened so often, I couldn't estimate the number of times if I tried.

The reality of whether or not Joseph Smith really found the gold plates and translated the sacred record that became The Book of Mormon or whether it was something he created out of his own head was not something I had ever really thought (or prayed) much about. In other words, it wasn't really a big issue for me. So I didn't go into this reading of The Book of Mormon with that question in my head. And yet, there was the answer, almost every day: Joseph Smith did not write this book.

And I realized something. I didn't need that answer to know if The Book of Mormon was really from God. I needed it to know if God Himself was real. And once my testimony of The Book of Mormon was firmly in place, it felt easy, even natural, to extend that belief to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I had never thought the pathway to belief could go in that order, but apparently it can.

You know what it feels like when you finish a really good book and want to immediately reread it, but you know that you can never read it for the first time ever again? That's how I felt as I neared the end of The Book of Mormon. I felt sad. I didn't want it to end. It had been one of the most marvelous, miraculous experiences I had ever had, and I worried I would never get to experience it in quite that way again. Even though this was not my first time through The Book of Mormon, I had never read it at this pace, and that changed it for me. I saw it all with new eyes. Even if I read it again in less than three months, the experience would no longer be new and thrilling. I'm sad that I probably can't duplicate this experience over and over again.

The prophet Moroni offers a challenge at the end of The Book of Mormon: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true" (Moroni 10:4).  Missionaries often read this verse to investigators and invite them to ask God for themselves if The Book of Mormon is true. I rather thought that when I read that verse, maybe I would feel a strong answer from the Spirit.

But as I came to it, I realized that I'd already received my answer many pages before when I was in Alma 32. In verse 28, the prophet Alma instructs the people to plant the seed of belief in their hearts and says that they will know if it is a good seed because "it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious unto me."

No scripture could more perfectly describe what The Book of Mormon has done for me over the last three months. It has enlarged my soul, enlightened my understanding, and become so incredibly delicious to me.


P.S. If you read this post and have questions or would like to know more, I would love to talk to you about my beliefs. Nothing would make me happier.

5 comments:

  1. It is interesting that I had two of the same experiences, even though I was listening to the audio recording and not reading. The first was that the endings of so many familiar lines of scripture would just flood forward in my mind before I heard the end. And the second was that so unexpectedly, over and over again, was that Joseph Smith did not write this book. As with you, each time that thought entered my mind, it came unexpectedly, unasked for, as revelatory truth, more feeling than words. What an unexpected blessing those feelings and thoughts were to me throughout my listening. Each time it washed over me as a warm comforting feeling. I loved that feeling. I know I used "unexpected" too many times in this recounting, but I am not sure how else to describe it. Startling, unanticipated, out-of-the-blue. I am not sure what the right term is, but I think you know the feeling I am trying to describe. And perhaps that was the greatest blessing coming to me from this reading assignment. I now know again that God knows me personally and that he knew I could use this extra boost to my testimony that I didn't even know I needed. I am glad to have a shared experience with you. I am glad you have so eloquently written about it and shared it here. Papa

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  2. Amy, thank you for this beautiful testimony of your experience. It touched my heart.

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  3. This was beautiful Amy, thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate so much your vulnerability in talking about doubts (we all experience it, but yes, so scary to talk about). I just finished myself and I'm writing up my own thoughts and experiences right now, but came back to read your reflections again because we had some similar experiences. Thanks for sharing this!

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  4. What a beautiful experience and testament!

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  5. Yes, thank you for sharing your doubts and insights. Beautifully said.

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