I think one of the most compelling reasons many of us do anything is because we don’t want to miss out on something. We eat one kind of bread until someone we know and trust goes on and on about another. Not wanting to miss out, we buy a loaf—or make a loaf—to see if we are missing out. It might be a supplement, an exercise routine, a restaurant, but whatever it is, you go and try it to see if you’ve been missing out and to ensure that—in the future—you don’t miss out anymore.
So, today I offer you a challenge. It’s not an easy one. But, it’s a challenge to see if you’re missing out on something.
A Funny Story
When my husband Luke and I began talking to each other on the dogged insistence of a young missionary, our friendship began with a lot of argument. I was determined to prove he was a spiritual slacker, and he was determined to defend himself.
Right after I agreed to date him, we continued our relationship in much the same manner. Me placing myself on a spiritual pedestal and daring him to show he could stand on my level.
One day, we found ourselves arguing over whether or not the phrase “stripling warriors” was actually in the scriptures—specifically the Book of Mormon. I affirmed that it was. Luke assured me it was not. A self-professed veteran of the scriptures, I used my index, and then hurried over to Alma 51-56, scanning it furiously. To my utter astonishment, Luke was right. My prideful pedestal crumbled beneath me.
In the actual scriptures, the young ammonites are never called “stripling warriors.” You will see it in the modern electronic indexes and searches. But in the scriptures, they are only ever referred to as stripling ammonites or stripling soldiers. It was Teancum’s men who were called great warriors.
Is it really important what the young ammonites are called? No. What is important is my pride. I had read the Book of Mormon countless times (I lost count about 20 years ago) and I thought I knew what was in there.
So, then I had to ask myself the question, “What else have I missed out on that’s actually important? What have others caught that I have not?” You can be certain I have been a little more awake and aware every time I read the Book of Mormon, since.
Why People Don’t Read the Book of Mormon
There are a lot of reasons many of us refuse, procrastinate, or proceed with reluctance to read the Book of Mormon once, let alone again and again.
Some of those reasons might include:
- I don’t want to, or I don’t like to.
- I never understand what I read, or it’s hard for me to understand what I read.
- I’ve read it many times. I know what’s in there. Or maybe, I’ve been a member of the Church my whole life (or a long time), so, I know the gospel is true. Reading the Book of Mormon again isn’t going to significantly change my testimony.
- It’s not a terrible sin not to read the Book of Mormon.
- I’ve found weakness in the Book of Mormon and don’t see the point in reading or studying it.
I’d like to respond to each of these reasons for not reading the Book of Mormon again and again, with doctrine and with personal experience. And then to finish I will share the most important reason ever to read the Book of Mormon.
Let’s Get Down to Details
I don’t want to, I don’t like to
When I was at the end of my 8th grade year, I shared a room with one of my older sisters. Her name is Kalley. Kalley is 4 years older than me so she was in her Junior year of high school, attended seminary, and read her scriptures every night. I would get so frustrated, because I would be tired and ready for bed, and yet I’d have to wait up for her to finish because she needed the lights on to read. One night I complained and her response was, “You should read your scriptures too.”
I rolled over angered, but silenced. I wasn’t stupid. I knew the prophet had commanded us to read our scriptures daily. We read as a family consistently. And I assumed that reading myself every day was somehow off in the future—when I grew up. But as I lay there angry, my conscience was pricked. I knew it was the right thing to do.
At that point I had two choices. I could humble myself and start reading, or I could continue forward with the nagging annoyance of every night being reminded by her example that I needed to read my scriptures. I didn’t want to. But I did.
That choice to start reading my scriptures has transformed my entire life.—literally. Throughout the next several years I saw family members and friends fall away from the gospel. I was in despair emotionally. I began to wonder how I could stay faithful. Was I missing something?
It was during that time that words from my patriarchal blessing began to become important to me. God told me in that blessing, that if I would read my scriptures and say my prayers daily, I would never stray far from the path of truth. That promise is not just for me, it’s also for all of you.
So, if you’re reason for not reading the Book of Mormon is that you don’t want to, or you don’t like to, my question is this. “Do you want to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you want to progress spiritually and become like your Heavenly Parents with the potential for an eternal family?” If your answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” then you do want to read your scriptures.
I never understand what I read, or it’s hard for me to understand
When I began to read the scriptures at the age of 14, I didn’t understand anything I read either. But I knew it was good. If I had stopped after one reading, the idea that understanding it was not possible for me would have persisted. But I didn’t stop. I read it again, and again, and again, and again. And every time I read it the words became clearer, more understandable, stories began to piece together, and characters began to take on unique identities. Had I quit after 10 times; I would have missed out on even more. As I continued to read, I began to see symbolism, doctrines, patterns, and phrases began to impact me. Why? Because I didn’t cast the Book of Mormon off because of my unbelief in my ability to come to understand it, or God’s ability to increase my capacity.
In Alma 32:28 we read:
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out b your unbelief that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves…that the word is good.
Laman and Lemuel are a great example of this principle in 1 Nephi 15:3. They approach Nephi and complain that they can’t understand their Dad’s symbolic dream. Nephi said, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” And they responded, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” Nephi answered, “Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will harden not your hearts and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping the commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you?”
If God commands you to read the scriptures, “He will prepare a way for you to accomplish the thing which He commandeth,” but you must still believe, give place for the word, keep your heart soft, ask in faith, be diligent in reading, and then He will enable you to understand.
I’ve already read it before, I know what’s in there; I’ve been a member a long time…
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “…regardless of how many times you have previously read [the Book of Mormon], there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord.”
Let me illustrate with a quick object lesson why an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord is desirable.
This cup represents Christ (no holes). This cup represents us (holes). When Christ receives light and truth, He is able to retain it because He is a perfect vessel. He is “full of grace and truth.” We, on the other hand, are not perfect vessels. In order for us to become full of grace and truth we need help plugging up the holes. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or the “baptism of fire” makes possible our sanctification (plugging up the holes) as we keep the commandments. The more of the Spirit we receive in our lives, the more holy we become, and the more grace and truth we can retain.
Now, listen to this scripture.
In Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-13, 19-20 it says:
And I, John, saw that he [Jesus] received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness.
I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.
If no matter how many times we have read the Book of Mormon, every additional time we read it we receive an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, then every read makes it more possible for us to retain more light and truth. Every added measure plugs up more holes! If we stop reading the Book of Mormon on the false belief that a few readings are sufficient, we will actually decrease in light and truth.
One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon that teaches this truth is Alma 12:9-12:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless, they are laid under a strict command… And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (hold up the cups)
And they that harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction…
I have actually seen this happen before my very eyes. Many times. Of the handful of people that I’ve known closely who have been easily deceived and who have left the kingdom of God, the one thing they all had in common was that they stopped reading and studying the Book of Mormon.
In April 2018 Russell M. Nelson warned:
In coming days, it will not be possible to survive without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
Remember that every time you read the Book of Mormon you get an “added measure of the Spirit”!
It’s not a terrible sin not to read the Book of Mormon
James 4:17 teaches us:
Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Helaman 7:23-24 teaches:
…it shall be better for the Lamanites than for you except ye shall repent. For behold, they are more righteous than you, for they have not sinned against that great knowledge which ye have received; therefore, the Lord will be merciful unto them…even when thou shalt be utterly destroyed.
Doctrine and Covenants 82:3 warns:
For of him [or her] unto whom much is given much is required, and he [or she] who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.
So, if you know you’re supposed to read the Book of Mormon (which now you do) and you don’t, it isa terrible sin.
I’ve found weaknesses in the Book of Mormon
I know a good many intellectuals who claim they have found errors in the Book of Mormon. And when they try to convince me that the Book of Mormon is false, or not of great worth, or written merely by Joseph Smith’s intellect and deceit by stealing from other sources, I don’t waste my energy trying to prove them wrong. The Book of Mormon is true. But not because it’s without weakness. Its own author’s worried that people would cast it aside for its weaknesses.
When people began trying to intellectualize the Book of Mormon’s weaknesses to me, I read the Book of Mormon again looking specifically for answers against such weakness. I have a list of 12 scriptures in the Book of Mormon, totally almost 50 verses, of the authors of its various books owning and acknowledging the weakness that some would find, and also God assuring them of the consequences of such intellectual arguments. I would like to share just one.
2 Nephi 33:2,4-5,10-11
But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.
And I know that the Lord god will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in Him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if she shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
The most important reason to read the Book of Mormon is to not miss out on a relationship with God
The prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth…and a man [or woman] would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 64).
In John 17:3 we learn that eternal life comes to us based upon the extent of our knowledge of and our close relationship to God. In the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 15:12) we see members of God’s church, commandment-keeping members, kept from Jesus Christ, and the feast, because they didn’t know Him.
Why read the Book of Mormon again and again and again? Because as you do you will learn, better than you can by any other book, about God, about Jesus Christ, and about their plan for you. Are you missing out on pieces of their plan that you should know about?
Every time you read the Book of Mormon, you will not only receive an added portion of the Spirit, you will become a little more like your Heavenly Parents. Because you will get nearer, and nearer, and nearer to them.
There isn’t a wrong way to read the Book of Mormon
It doesn’t matter if you read the Book of Mormon front to back, or back to front or topically. You can read it to once and for all conquer your confusion between the multiple Alma’s, Nephi’s, Lehi’s, and Moroni’s. Why not? You could also read about each and every anti-Christ and compare and contrast their tactics and their tragic ends (because anyone who fights against Christ never wins).
But whatever you do, don’t stop reading it. Don’t leave yourself susceptible to deception. Don’t let your relationship with God grow distant. Don’t harden your heart against your capacity to understand it. Don’t treat lightly a book that has cost thousands of lives to preserve that you might have it to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.
President Russell M. Nelson has recently said of the Book of Mormon:
My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will (1) make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, (2) the windows of heaven will open and (3) you will receive answers to your own questions and (4) direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be (5) immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions” (The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?” Ensign, Nov. 2017, 62-63).
I challenge each and every one of you to depend faithfully on the promises President Nelson has given, as well as the promises of previous prophets. Confidently study and read and confidently expect the blessings to manifest themselves in your life. Acknowledge them with gratitude when they come and hunger and thirst after more.
Read the Book of Mormon again and again and again. Because if you don’t, you will be missing out. When the Savior comes again, you won’t have enough “oil” in your lamps. Don’t set aside the Book of Mormon and miss out on your oil.