It’s now a few months into 2019, but I keep reflecting on my promise to record and share my thoughts on what I learned from President Russell M. Nelson’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon he made in the October 2018 general conference.
At the time, I had been enjoying my study of the women of the Old Testament. I knew I’d have to leave that behind for a few months to meet such an aggressive goal (because I’m not THAT hard core of a studier to do both), so I murmured a moment, but then jumped right in. I’m so glad I did.
Lesson 1: Go and Do
As y’all know, other things were announced that day of conference as well. First, a policy changed about how family history was managed in the ward and I knew that would affect how I was serving as then-lead consultant. Then the change in the Church block actually got me into a bit of a stress-mode. The shortened schedule meant that I would no longer have the Sunday School hour to help people with family history and I would need to be more innovative. AND, it meant I would have to start going to regular Sunday School class again. So I was frazzled.
But that was not all! I also serve in our Relief Society presidency. I started to stress about how we were going to connect with the sisters and keep an eye out on them if we only met together twice a month. I wondered how we’d adapt and what this would all mean.
Various people tried to tell me this wasn’t that big of a deal (I really am in favor of shorter Church, don’t get me wrong), but I still had my worries. And it was important for me to feel peace about them. It was, therefore, a comfort and strength to be reminded that it would all work out. Thanks to my friend Nephi, who jumped in right at the beginning of the reading challenge. “I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7, emphasis added).
And how were we going to do it? Tell ’em Nephi! “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4: 6, emphasis added).
So, Liz, stop murmuring and just go and do even when you don’t know how! I’m still not sure how to manage it all, but I know that it’ll probably be OK just the same.
Lesson 2: Something New
For my birthday this year, a friend gave me a Journal Edition of the Book of Mormon–it gives extra space in the margins to write notes. I thought that this challenge to read the Book of Mormon was as good as any to use my new set of scriptures. Especially because the invitation was not just to read the Book of Mormon but as President Nelson said, “As you read, I would encourage you to mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior.”
I was doing pretty well at marking references of the Savior until I got to what we call the “war chapters”. There are fewer overt references in those chapters and I kind of got into a reading mode instead of study mode. One morning, I finished up my reading, and realized I hadn’t marked a single passage about the Savior. I felt like I had missed something. So I went back and skimmed the chapters. To my surprise, in my lack of attention, I had read through and skipped some beautiful verses.
Nuggets of truth like “the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name…the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who believe on the name of Jesus Christ” (Helaman 3:27-28).
And then the people of Zarahemla “did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation” (Helaman 3:35).
Mercy. Joy. Consolation. All through the Savior. It is so so easy for me to run through life and not pay attention to the Savior’s grace and goodness all around. Sometimes I just need to pause, look for Him, and then I will find Him.
Lesson 3: Shared Experience
I love that reading the Book of Mormon became a shared experience. It was fun to hear and learn from what others were reading during that time. And I LOVED at the end of the year when everyone started sharing what they learned–I loved that families and couples took the challenge together, too.
BUT, I am especially grateful for that shared experience because…
On the 5th Sunday of December during Sacrament meeting, I had a little prompting, “Maybe you should think about what you’d teach if there isn’t actually a combined lesson today.”
So I thought it was SUPER funny when we ended up not having a combined lesson (no one’s fault…just a series of unfortunate events). Hahahaha. So, so funny.
Well, thanks to the Spirit, I already had some thoughts prepped, and I volunteered to teach. Because I love family history, we all learned how to use the new “Ordinances Ready” feature on the Family Tree app. Total hit. And then I turned to President Nelson’s talk.
After his invitation to read the Book of Mormon and to mark verses about Christ, President Nelson said, “Then, be intentional about talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ with your families and friends. You and they will be drawn closer to the Savior through this process. And changes, even miracles, will begin to happen” (October 2018 general conference).
So we invited those who had read any portion at all of the Book of Mormon to take the other challenge from President Nelson and to talk about Christ and preach of Christ with us as friends and a ward family. What followed was a wonderful experience where many sisters shared their experiences studying the Book of Mormon and their testimonies of the Savior. Some had already finished; some were still working on it. (TBH–I still had a few chapters left, too!). And it didn’t matter–it was a sharing of the portion we all had to offer. As we shared, I felt we drew closer together as sisters and closer to Christ. I was so grateful for those who had also chosen to do what they could to read and to share what they felt.
So there you have it. Follow the prophet. The book is blue and it is true.