Mormon Journal

By Irma de Mackenna, Chile


The Book of Mormon Taught Me to Read

“Sister, I can read now!”

I looked at her in amazement. The little wrinkles in her face contracted into a wide smile. We were enjoying a Relief Society luncheon in the Quilpue Branch.

“But, Sister Medina …” I stammered, “I didn’t know. …”

“Oh, no. I didn’t want anybody to know,” she responded. “I was so ashamed.”

Sister Ana de Medina was an elderly lady, smiling and friendly, who came to our branch breathing unsteadily due to a defective heart. She was a widow, and none of her children wanted to accept the gospel. She came to church by bus, usually alone.

“But, Sister Medina, why didn’t you tell me before that you couldn’t read? I would have been happy to come to your house and teach you.”

“Thank you very much, Sister. I know you would have done it. I learned to read in the Book of Mormon—and with the help of the Lord.”

I was fascinated. This sister attended Relief Society faithfully, and since I was the spiritual living teacher, I often asked her to read a scripture. Always she replied with a sweet smile, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” I only thought she could not see well or had forgotten her glasses.

Then she told me that when she was a girl, her parents didn’t attach importance to education for a girl, and she was taught only how to do housework.

When the missionaries knocked on her door, she listened to them attentively and felt they were telling the truth. After they left, she asked her daughter to read her the pamphlets. The lessons continued that way, and the missionaries never realized that she didn’t know how to read—she tried to remember every word and every concept. At last the time came when they talked to her about the Book of Mormon and gave her a copy. That was when the anguish began!

She accepted the book as a precious jewel, putting a beautiful protective cover on it and placing it on the mantel. Frequently she would take it in her trembling hands and caress it. She often cried because she had a priceless treasure she couldn’t enjoy.

Finally, one day she could stand it no longer, and she fell on her knees and pleaded with the Lord to help her become acquainted with the treasures of that book, not to leave her in darkness when she was so close to the light.

One day she asked her daughter to read her the first line of the Book of Mormon—just the first line. “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.” She repeated it two, three, many times. She looked at each word carefully, how it was formed and what it meant. She learned the words by memorizing them.

Then she asked her daughter to read her the second line, and she did the same with that, repeating it many times until the outline of each word was engraved in her mind. Slowly, line by line, she continued until she was able to recognize certain words that were repeated in the scriptures. Soon she began to understand the order that governs words in the Spanish language. She learned to analyze syllables and then to combine letters, associating sounds with them.

Her diligence was amazing. Day after day she learned to read her beloved Book of Mormon line by line. At last came the wonderful moment when she found she could read any part. She knew how to read!

From that time on Sister Medina read the Book of Mormon with a thirst for knowledge, and then she read the Doctrine and Covenants, delighting in the wisdom of so many inspired messages.

Sister Medina is gone now, but I can still see her happy, animated face, as each time we met, she rejoiced in talking about something she had read.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dan Shurtliff