I was recently invited to give a sermon in my home congregation. (Mormons don’t have a professional clergy so members of the congregation take turns teaching each other in Sunday services)
I was asked to speak on “Reading and gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon.” Reading. And the very first thing I thought was why ‘reading’ and not ‘studying’? And when I finally chose to pay attention to that question, I learned some really sweet things.
I grew up with a scriptorian. Any who have had my siblings or me in religious classes know we have been taught how to study and love the scriptures. I have been so blessed by her example.
But I felt impressed to testify that you don’t have to be a scriptorian to be blessed by the Book of Mormon….you don’t even have to study it. I wanted to reaffirm to my congregation the blessings of simply reading the Book of Mormon.
Alma taught the Zoramites that their faith could grow into a perfect knowledge if they could “no more than desire to believe” and I have found over and over in my life that the enabling power of the Atonement reaches out to make “no more than” just reading enough.
In my childhood, it was enough to build the foundation for a testimony of the gospel. I think only the older 4 of us could read when my parents bought us each a copy of the Book of Mormon and we all marked the 25 seminary mastery scriptures in any color we wanted…then each morning, it was someone’s turn to find a colored scripture and read it aloud. It was one verse a day, but I remember learning that everything that “inviteth and enticeth to do good” was from God—and that I could be sure of that.
On my mission, just reading was enough to feel an undergirding gratitude that changed my perspective on trials. Between Canadian and American Thanksgiving every year our whole mission would read the Book of Mormon through, marking things we were grateful for, and giving the books away as we went. Now that’s a rather intense reading schedule, but the approach has helped me multiple times since when I found myself needing a bit of an attitude adjustment.
And more recently, just reading the Book of Mormon has been enough to learn or feel something every day. After struggling with scripture study for a while, and feeling guiltier and guiltier and more and more stuck I finally just opened my scriptures, flipped through a bit, decided that Mormon needed more markings in it, and gave myself permission to stop reading every day once I’d felt the Spirit, learned something, or found something interesting enough to mark. No chapter a day, no time quotas, no “shoulds” about it. I would read until I felt like marking something and then I was good for the day, no questions asked. Some days, it was one stinkin’ verse, but I felt something. Some days, I didn’t gain any real spiritual insight per se, but marked something interesting, or even amusing (yes, the Book of Mormon is funny sometimes) and I stopped. And I was blessed.
Because the Lord has promised blessings for even just reading the Book of Mormon.
We encounter righteous examples, and not-so-righteous counter-examples that teach us how to live. We have quiet time—even if it’s just 5 minutes—for our minds and spirits to rest and be open to love and light and guidance. We store up the words of life, things that the Spirit can bring back to our minds “preaching from the pulpit of memory” when we need them (and often least expect them). We learn how the Lord interacts with His children; patterns of revelation and chastisement, of guidance and succoring. We exercise faith and are obedient to simple commandments (and receive the blessings that ALWAYS come from that). And we prove to ourselves that we can do hard things.