Book of the Mormons

OK, you finished it, or got close. Maybe you were done months ago, maybe you read 100 pages in the last day.*

What did you feel, learn, or think about? For me, I was reminded again that I should pray more. Nothing doctrinally path breaking, just a behavioral adjustment, which I think is largely what scripture reading is about.

Since I finished the last day, this works out very conveniently for making a new year’s resolution to be a better prayer. I don’t like to make a lot of resolutions, so I guess that crowds out the one about being nice to my students. Oh well, maybe next year.


28 comments for “Book of the Mormons

  1. I read it again the last month; I’m always reading the Book of Mormon, and end up reading it 4 times a year as a minimum. My attention this last time was drawn to the kidnapping of the Lamanite women by Noah’s priests and the war chapters of Alma. Not sure why that was, but those were the two parts I spent the most time pondering and meditating.

  2. Because of Pres. Hinckley’s promise I finally had a motivation to read the parts I normally just read the words of, without really paying much attention to them, i.e. the war chapters, and believe it or not, they finally started to make sense. I didn’t read them as talking about war between states or peoples, but about our constant fight against sin and temptation. The pattern of preparation, protection and defense on the one hand and light-headedness, neglection, and thinking it’s all gonna work out somehow and we don’t need to protect ourselves anyways.
    When you look at some of the strategies some of the Nephites’ leaders use to prepare for war and prevent bigger blows, you almost have a step-for-step manual of requirements to keep yourself protected from Satan’s attacks on your personal weak spots.
    That was probably the main teaching that had never struck out to me as much as it did reading the Book of Mormon this time.

  3. It worked out that I read the very last chapter on New Year’s Eve, a great way to end the old year. I think the thing that struck me most this time around was that there truly should not be so much of a social and wealth disparity between the saints as there is. I think we’re in great danger from that. I plan to adopt a more frugal lifestyle, and consecrate the rest, while getting my finances in better order. Malnourished LDS children seem to me to have more pressing needs than many of the things I might ordinarily spend my money on.

    I also plan to spend more time getting to know the investigators, new converts, and missionaries, and going on team-ups with the missionary sisters.

  4. 1. repentance isn’t what i think it is. there’s a reactive repentance, one where i go about and repair what i’ve done wrong. but there’s a proactive repentance, too. one where the principal activity involved in the repentance is prayer and where the fruit is a changed heart. enos, alma the younger, king benjamin’s people, the lamanites in helaman 5, king lamoni and his father . . . they are all examples of this latter type. the bom talks about this kind of repentance all the time. it’s kind of a repenting for our nature as opposed to a repenting for our behavior.

    2. the holy ghost gives charity. the holy ghost only comes to those who are meek and lowly in heart. meekness and lowliness of heart are the by-product of the remission of sins. a remission of sins occurs when we keep god’s commandments. we often talk about things that ‘bring the spirit;’ it seems like we don’t need to be as preoccupied with ‘bringing the spirit’ as we should be with keeping commandments, which starts a cascading effect that naturally results in the presence of the holy ghost.

    3. the keeping of commandments doesn’t start this cascading effect unless we’re keeping them w/ real intent. and this seems to be a catch 22 in the gospel: i’m fallen, carnal, sensual, devilish by nature, fundamentally incapable of doing the right thing for the right reason; i need god to purify me if i’m going to do something with the right intent. and yet that purification ostensibly stands on the other side of my ability to keep a commandment with real intent, right? so i’m hosed. i think this logic is at the base of the broken heart and contrite spirit christ requires us to possess before he’s willing to ‘save’ us. real commandment keeping isn’t about being a model citizen or self-mastery: it’s about realizing and broken-heartedly confessing the need for christ. moroni 7 talks at length about how to discern good from evil so that we may lay hold upon the good. he explains the gift given to all men that helps them if they’ll search to know the good from the evil. i’m of the opinion that the first really good thing we lay hold upon in this process is the realization that we really are incapable of any good without the savior’s grace. he–and he alone–enables us to do things with real intent, with a righteous heart.

  5. I got a better sense of the book this time (yeah, I was finished at 11:30 pm on New Year’s. Yeah, rockin’ night for me!). I liked getting a sweeping sense of the compilation of the whole thing, and the gigantic task it must have been for the editors, Mormon and Moroni, to put it together. I was also completely grossed out by Ether, and some of the stuff in Mormon. Raping and torturing women, then forcing them to eat their husband’s flesh. Ick-o-rama.

  6. I was struck with a sadness, as I read the last three books (Mormon, Ether, Moroni) in two days. Each of the named authors saw the end of his civilization, and, it seemed, was even more sad about it because he saw it coming, and all of the warnings he gave went unheeded.

    It also somehow made me seem less lonely myself. We recently moved, and have no friends here yet, and no family that we could spend time with over the holidays. But at least we aren’t spending our time in fear of being killed by those who don’t agree with what we believe.

  7. I was reading the Old Testament, having just finished Job, when President Hinckley asked everyone to read the Book of Mormon. A few days before Christmas I finished the BoM and started on Psalms.

    I was impressed how the Book of Mormon reconciles the New Testament and the Old Testament of the Bible.

    The prophets of the Old Testament did understand that Jehovah was the son of God the father. That does show through in the Old Testament, but barely. That leads me to believe that the Old Testament was altered, both before the Savior’s mortal ministry, and probably after. It makes me curious to learn more about the history of Old Testament codices and how old the oldest copies are.

    I finally picked up that it was almost a year from the Savior’s death and resurrection until the time he visited the Nephites. I was unclear or unaware of that before.

    I also picked up more ways to liken the scriptures unto ourselves. There are many more ways than I previously thought for each of us to be Nephi, to be Alma, to be Ammon, to be Mormon, etc.

    This reading of the Book of Mormon reminded me that I’m not doing a good enough job of living basic gospel principles.

  8. I kept reading other things in my spare time (e.g. Rough Rolling Stone and Rise of Modern Mormonism, etc.) and found myself still in 2nd Nephi after finals rolled around. I was forced to read the rest in about a week‘s time. Oddly, it was kind of what I needed. I had never read the Book of Mormon like a “normal” book (I usually take 4-6 months to read it), but I got a whole new sense of it by doing so. I discovered it as a novel whose books flow together as Mormon weaves the narrative along. I found myself astounded by the complexity of the storyline and touched by the rich layers of meaning that it intertwines. It strengthened my testimony in the book in a way I had never experienced.

  9. My wife’s comment, as she like Frank finished the last 100 pages on Saturday, was that there was a whole lot in there about how we should treat the poor, and not so much on gay marriage. (Don’t mean to start a fight here — been there done that — I’m just reporting.)

    As for me, I’m still working to finish (and yes, the words of Elder Eyring from conference are ringing loudly in my ears). What my reading has shown me thus far is that I am spending way too much time reading blogs and the latest books (Bushman, Prince, Kimball, etc.) and not nearly enough time with the scriptures. I’ve got to do a much better at striking a balance, I think.

  10. Thanks everybody for the comments. It’s good to hear them even if I have no brilliant things to say about them.

  11. One lesson that caught my attention this time around is similiar to #9 Randy’s wife:

    As expressed in Mosiah 26 I am to use teaching and preaching (and possibly excommunication or disfellowship), not civil laws, against those “taken in iniquity”. My take on the BoM is the evil ness of man attempting to control others.

  12. First of all, even though I’ve read the BoM a couple times before, I really got a sense of the chronology.
    I read the Isaiah chapters like never before, and have a much more complete understanding of them. The experience also helped me learn how to hear the Holy Ghost much better (taught me what to listen for).
    I read the whole thing a lot more quickly than I have before, and in so doing, I was brought to a full understanding that it truly is another testament of Jesus Christ.
    I understand the principle of faith much more fully (having read Joseph Smith’s “Lectures on Faith” alongside), as well as how it and the priesthood are inseperately intertwined.
    I have a deeper understanding of the mysteries of Godliness.
    I have a greater respect for the ancient prophets.
    I have greater insight into my own potential and destiny.
    But most importantly, I have a stronger testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and the atonement he made for mankind.

  13. I got to know about President Hinckley’s challenge kind of late and by other people’s references. I did not know who it was intended for and how serious was he about the challenge. In other words, I did not pay much attention to it.
    Then Elder Eyring, in his October conference talk, let me know that the challenge was serious and universal (as far as LDS universe is concerned, at least) and the promises involved.
    I started reading, kind of reluctantly, and not very excited at the view of having to “sprint” through the pages just to qualify, used as I was to slow, in-depth meditation and reading of the book.
    Then one day it struck me that there was something more really at stake there: If I believed that President Hinckley was a prophet this was surely a good chance to prove it to myself. You don’t take it easy when a prophet of God asks you to do something, do you?
    The fast reading of the Book of Mormon gave me an overall view of the whole thing that I had never perceived before, and some new things “clicked”. That was nice. But I think the greatest value I got out of this whole thing was to realize that when the prophet spoke, I was looking elsewhere and, should the warning had been urgent, I might well not have reacted on time. And that needs to change…

  14. I was struck by the fact that every major (and many minor) figure and writer in the book had a direct, personal interaction with the Savior. The result is chapters like 2 Ne 2, and , Mosiah 3-5, Alma 12, 34, 42 and others, all of which are, I think, the clearest, best discussions of the atonement in scriptures. Over and over, we are told about Christ, our reliance on Him, and the efficacy of His redemption. The book’s subtitle is apropriate and accurate.

    I made it a habit of reading about 5 chapters a day, but in mid December had a couple of slow days at work and so I finished the last 100 pages during those days. Got a greater sense of the narrative flow, how complex, how engaging it is.

    I’ve always thought about war as being a central part of the experience of the peoples of the book, and certainly it is, but for some reason, the war stuff was so overshadowed by the testimonies of Christ, that it simply seemed like a tangential issue this time through.

    Finally, as others have mentioned, I was struck by how lonely it must have been for Mormon and his family. I wondered about his wife, his other? children. How did they die (or live, for that matter, in the face of what was gross wickedness around them)? And I felt a lot of empathy for Moroni and Ether, wandering around the ruins of their cultures, to wind out the last days of their lives in solitude and sorrow. What a profound debt I owe them, how grateful I am for their faithfulness, for their strength, for their commitment and their courage. For without it, I would not have this book, and my relationship with Christ would be so much poorer for its lack.

  15. Jesse, me too. I realized that, about every 15 – 20 pages, someone is bearing direct testimony of Jesus and his role as redeemer.

    Also, with Ether and Moroni, how their narrative could have focused only on judgement, retribution, and destruction, but they also included wonderful sermons on faith, hope, and charity. Given the conditions of Moroni’s life at that time, I find his teachings on hope and charity to be miraculous.

  16. The only really positive I can say is I was again struck with the knowledge that no way could Joseph Smith have made that up. No way.

    For me, Bill reading the Book of Mormon was one of the highlights of the last 24 years. It is only the third book he’s ever read in his life and it made a difference in our home while he was reading it. I feel like we made a small step toward each other with that. He fishes and hunts and hikes and has to be outside and I lay around and read and visit teach. Not much in common there.

    I read a book every day, in addition to the Ensign, People magazine, Vanity Fair (You guys, they have some really good articles, like on the war and stuff), etc. etc. Like I said, Bill’s only read three. in 24 years.

    The last time I was outside was three days ago. I walked from the car to the house.

    So this has been good for my marriage. I know that’s not what the prophet wanted, but you know, take it when you can get it.

    Personally, I had to be drug/dragged kicking and screaming into abandoning the D&C. It was the fastest I’ve ever read and it was really nice to keep the story going and know what was going on in a different way.

    You’d think with all the reading, I could have easily have read D&C and the Book of Mormon, but it wasn’t the same. I have taken enough of your time, but it just didn’t work. I tried it for awhile.

  17. One highlight for me was seeing a friend holed up in a bathroom (for quiet) on New Year’s Eve, plowing through Alma with a scrunched expression.

  18. Gotta admit I’m having trouble suspending my disbelief at least a little bit on the concurrance of details w/ Bible stories in a couple instances (like dancing for a guys head on a plate for example).

  19. You’re right. Women have never used sex for power except in the bible ;) And bringing the head as proof of death? Sheesh. Very unoriginal.
    /smiling tongue-in-cheek comment

  20. LisaB–

    In situations where biblical scholars are faced with two too-similar stories in sources that they want to regard as independant, they assume that there is a third source that both of these sources had, but that we don’t have today. No reason we can’t consider that for the BoM. In this case, it would mean a Jewish legend with a head-on-a-plate known to both the daughter of Herodias and the daughter of Jared, but now lost to us.

    If it’s good enough for Q, it’s good enough for me :).

  21. Similar to Dave (#13), I didn’t really take the challenge seriously until I heard so much about it at General Conference. I still think there are several ways to interpret the original challenge, but since everyone was taking it as a challenge to read the BoM by the end of the year, I jumped in and read it by the end of October.

    Reading it so fast, and from beginning to end for the first time in a while, was a good change from my usual dipping into favorate chapters or chasing down of interesting themes. But the thing that struck me the most was how much temple imagery and info about the high priesthood is contained in the BoM, which was translated years before anyone had much of a clue about the priesthood, and over a decade before we had a complete endowment ceremony. It made me wonder how much Joseph Smith really even knew about what he was translating, and made the book seem to transcend Joseph’s own involvement in its coming to light.

    It was also interesting to think about Nephite and early Israelite religious practices in light of recent specualtion that a) Jeremiah and the prophets of ca. 600 BC were testifying against the so-called Deuteronomist reforms that emphasized centralized temple rituals, asserted a more strict monotheism, and may have obfuscated the separate roles of God the Father and the Son or that b) much of the Old Testament that we have now is a product of Greek era historiography that took place in Palestine during what we traditionally consider the inter-testamental period (couple hundred years BC).

    Reading it this time I also felt more acutely the loss of many plain and precious things from the Bible, and longed even more for the promised revelation of the Brass Plates and the sealed portion of the BoM. Lots to ponder, and I have started in again from the beginning. The way I read Pres. Hinckley’s original challenge, it may be more important that we feast daily on the BoM than that we finish in any given time period–are we ever “finished” reading the BoM?–a message that we’ve heard from the prophets for the last couple of decades or so, at least since the presidency of Ezra Taft Benson.

  22. That’s interesting, Rob. Those things stood out to me, too, though I didn’t take it through to its logical conclusion as you have.

  23. President Hinckley’s challenge gave me the impetus to finally do something I have wanted to do for some time, which was to read a facsimile of the first edition of the Book of Mormon. For those not familiar with it, it has no versification, much longer chapters and much fewer sentence and paragraph breaks than our current version, and no footnotes or chapter headnotes. This especially facilitated the sense of strong narrative flow (especially after you get into Mormon’s part of the book) that others have noted here. It also has quite a few typos, which gave me a nice historical sense of reading something straight out of Mr. Grandin’s shop (even though I was reading a reproduction).

    One thing that struck me strongly was how the Isaiah quotations in Nephi and elsewhere flow seamlessly into the text. In the first edition they start midparagraph and sometimes midsentence. After a lifetime of viewing the Isaiah material as a huge boring mountain to be climbed so early in the journey, I was amazed to find myself whizzing along lines and lines into the Isaiah material before even realizing it because it followed so naturally from the preceding Nephi text. It suddenly fit in and made sense!

    Another part of the Book that struck me again with the more flowing nature of the first edition format was Mormon’s Captain Moroni narrative. Foreign invasion, civil war, treason, internal social upheaval and disorder, economic and political turmoil, all grimly and realistically portrayed, and in the midst of it Mormon’s insistence on showing that one can be a righteous person even in these circumstances. Also started figuring out how to do a screenplay of that part.

  24. i found propaganda and treachery, linking 9-11 and amalickiah.

    i found a complete reversal of the typical moroni and pahoran situation.

    i found an amazing bunch of parallels, imagery, and irony, especially in the story of alma and amulek in ammonihah.

    i found the incredible intricacy of interweaving the stories.

    i found that ether 12:27 isn’t what everyone says it is.

    i had great fun (sorry) (kind of ) rebutting many FARMS articles about other people in the americas. this required the most work, including thinking.

    i confirmed that preemptive strike is not of god, except in very certain situations.

    i confirmed that patriotic and oaths of liberty are different that what many made out.

    i had fun writing/ trying to write about most of the above.

    the more i read, the more i can’t help but burst more easily and deeper into tears at the end.

  25. I’m grateful for Pres. Hinckley’s challenge. I read some scripture every day but I had been chewing on the Book of Mormon for nearly three years. I started again at the beginning to meet the challenge and finished the last 17 pages at a New Year’s Eve dinner party in which I was the only LDS.

    A lesser item is the description of Blitzkrieg published 100+ years before the Nazis used it (Hel 1:24-27, substitute Paris for Zarahemla)

    This challenge was a blessing for me. Some of the key things are:

    * Reading through quickly, I gained a sense of how this book truly is centered on Christ — either through direct prophecy and exposition or the historical recountings that appear to be included because they show the results of following or not following Christ.

    * The Isaiah sections finally made sense because this time I used their chapter headings to tell me their meanings and then read the chapters to see how their imagery would mean what the chapter headings said.

    * The descriptions of the tragedies, terrors, joys, and humanity were real to me this time instead of just remote descriptions. I felt the survivors’ relief when Christ apppeared and Mormon’s & Moroni’s despair.

    * I stumbled upon this verse which I hadn’t really noticed before,

    Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Hel 3:35)

    which I now pair with another favorite that reflects what I feel after repenting and receiving forgiveness,

    And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. (Mni 8:26).

  26. My wife and I listended to it on CD together (the first time through for my wife, a convert) There’s nothing cooler than pausing the CD in the middle of a car ride and getting into a long discussion about doctrines and histories. Especially because normally in the car we are both bemoaning what our idiot bosses did that day, bills, or some other negative nonsense. You just forget sometimes how much tim eyou waste talking about the negative. Thanks Pres. Hinckley.

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