“Have you ever had the feeling that your life is like an erratic sewing machine?” asks Gwen Legler of Arlington, Washington. “You zig when it zags! You feel you should have control of your destiny, but you don’t, so you spend your time worrying about it. Such was my life a few years ago. I constantly worried and felt anxious about our future.
“One day I was reading the Book of Mormon and came to 2 Nephi 4:27 [2 Ne. 4:27]: ‘Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?’ Lightning could not have pierced my soul more deeply than did those words. I realized that worry and anxiety were temptations of the devil and were destroying my peace. This scripture did not change our circumstances, but it did change my attitude. I gained peace of mind as I put my faith in my Heavenly Father for our future.”
This is only one of hundreds of letters we received in response to a request made in the October 1989 Ensign for members’ experiences with the Book of Mormon. The following are selections from these responses:
“I needed a personal second witness of Jesus Christ,” says Jodi Burr of Danville, Pennsylvania. “I wanted to know Christ. I had no doubt of his reality and atonement, but I wanted to come to a knowledge of him as a person and as a loving God. As I reread the Book of Mormon, no individual verse or story provided what I was looking for. However, my knowledge of Christ formed piece by piece as I studied about him in the various Book of Mormon settings.
“I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting, and my soul was flooded with the Holy Spirit as I received what I had longed for—a second witness of Jesus Christ. After church, one sentence kept repeating itself in my thoughts, ‘I know the Master; I know the Master.’ This testimony is priceless to me. What I was given that day was exactly what I had been searching for—‘and it came to pass’ through reading the Book of Mormon.”
“As an investigator, I came across an old copy of the Book of Mormon. Yellowed and musty with age, its jacket was stiff, like it had never been touched,” says Janet Spear of South Glens Falls, New York. “But as I picked it up, I was filled with tremendous joy, and a peaceful feeling of relief washed over me. That day I began to read the Book of Mormon for the very first time. My soul was starving for spiritual food, and I began to feast upon the words.
“The passage cried out to me as I read Alma 13:27: ‘Cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance.’ Driven to my knees, I poured out my soul in prayer. In my heart the Holy Spirit said, ‘This journey has ended. It’s time to begin another.’
“I arranged to have the missionaries teach me the gospel. It was wonderful. I’d never known such joy! Since the day I was baptized, the Book of Mormon has been my constant companion. It encourages me, inspires me, and teaches me. Its words have shown me how to live, not simply to exist. I truly experienced a metamorphosis.”
One Saturday morning, Bob and Paula Kraemer of Chandler, Arizona, were sitting outside in the warm sunshine watching their sons play in the backyard. Paula, recently reactivated, pulled out her Book of Mormon and began reading. Bob, who is not a member of the Church, asked Paula what she was reading.
“The Book of Mormon,” Paula answered.
“Why don’t you read it to me?” Bob asked nonchalantly.
Paula was surprised at Bob’s request. During thirteen years of marriage, she couldn’t ever remember reading a book out loud to her husband. With hesitancy in her voice and a prayer in her heart, Paula began reading—“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents. …” She read for two hours that day and has continued, on occasion, to read the Book of Mormon to Bob.
“Something important happened that January morning,” says Paula. “Bob and I began to communicate about the Church. With this newfound open dialogue, Bob began to see what a difference the Church made in my life. And I learned to be grateful for his support instead of being critical of him. This past July, I went through the Mesa Arizona Temple and received my endowment, and Bob supported me 100 percent.
“Now as I read the Book of Mormon, I realize that this book is far more than just words on a page; its spirit has worked miracles in my life just by reading its message to someone I love.”
“Christmas was only two weeks away. How would I ever survive the recent death of my eight-year-old son?” says Lyn McGuire of Draper, Utah. “One night after everyone was asleep, I got out of bed and went to the living room to sit by the Christmas tree. I asked Heavenly Father how I was going to make it through the holidays and the years ahead. As I prayed, I remembered an ‘old friend’ that would comfort me—my Book of Mormon. I found it and started to read. I don’t remember what I read, only that it comforted me. As I read, I cried, and relief came. It was like pouring my burdens on the shoulders of a friend.”
“Being the oldest of six children, I was often left in charge of the others,” says Ruth Ann Wheelwright of Fort Worth, Texas. “I seemed to find it difficult to ‘preside’ in peace, so I yelled a lot. I even yelled at my friends. My parents didn’t like my yelling, I didn’t like it, and I tried not to yell, but there were times when I felt I would self-destruct if I didn’t yell at someone.”
When Ruth Ann went to Brigham Young University, her religion teacher challenged the class to read the scriptures for thirty minutes every day. However, they were not just to read the scriptures, they were to feast on them. Being an avid reader, she accepted the challenge easily.
“When I went home for the summer,” Ruth Ann continues, “I continued my scripture reading during the week, but on Saturday and Sunday I neglected my reading. Guess what happened? I began yelling at my brother and sisters again. I was shocked. I immediately spent thirty minutes reading the Book of Mormon. The rest of the day went fine. Over the summer, my impulse to rid myself of my frustrations by yelling slowly faded, and our family life was much calmer. I could not have conquered my yelling sprees without the help of the Book of Mormon.”
Sam Walker of Shelley, Idaho, had been a missionary in Argentina only two weeks when he decided to accept the challenge in Moroni 10:4 [Moro. 10:4]:
“I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
He waited until his companion was asleep and then went into the bathroom to pray in private.
“I wore my overcoat over my pajamas because our bathroom had no roof,” says Elder Walker. “I can still remember kneeling down on the hard, damp floor. As I prayed, I listened intently for that still, small voice. When I felt my knees could take no more, I closed my prayer and went back to bed.
Elder Walker continued to pray for a “sure testimony” of the Book of Mormon, but without the results he wanted. One day, he and his companion were teaching an elderly gentleman.
“An extraordinarily sweet spirit began to fill the room as my companion taught this man about the Book of Mormon,” remembers Elder Walker. “Suddenly my companion stopped and looked at me. I knew it was my turn to bear witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I don’t remember my exact words, but I do remember the warmth of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to me. It grew stronger as I bore testimony to our friend that the Book of Mormon was true. At last I felt the sure knowledge of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon I had been seeking.”
“Two or three nights a week I would wake up, frightened, unable to go back to sleep. Eventually, I began to fear sleep itself,” says Jan Sara of South Jordan, Utah. “Well-meaning friends offered suggestions, but nothing helped. Every night I asked Heavenly Father to help me have a good night’s sleep, but every night I would awaken in fear. I began to wonder what was wrong with me.
“One night as I knelt to pray, instead of asking Heavenly Father to help me sleep, I asked him what I could do to get rid of my terrible dreams. A strong feeling came to me to read the scriptures before I went to sleep. I got out my Book of Mormon and turned to Alma 37:37: ‘Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings … when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep.’ Since that night, I have changed my scripture reading time from morning to just before I go to bed. The peaceful feelings that come to me as I ponder the Book of Mormon help me to sleep, and the nightmares have ended.”
“One day as I was praying, the Spirit impressed me to thank Heavenly Father for the prophets who wrote the Book of Mormon,” says Ruth Roess of Castaic, California. “Have you ever been praying and had your heart so full of joy and peace and thanksgiving and humility that you didn’t want it ever to end? And the prayer is so beautiful that you wonder where it came from? And you feel so close to Heavenly Father that your very soul just cries out? Well, that is what happened to me as I gave thanks for the Book of Mormon prophets.”
It is easy to see that many members are reaping the benefits of reading the Book of Mormon, as President Ezra Taft Benson promised in his address at April 1986 general conference:
“I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon,” said President Benson. “I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown.” (Ensign, April 1986, p. 78.)
The letters the Ensign has received have proved that there is more than one way to study the Book of Mormon:
Write Down the Main Principles
“I wanted to glean something concrete from my reading of the Book of Mormon,” says Lynn Ford of Provo, Utah. “I got a notebook and wrote down the main principles I learned from my reading and how those principles applied to me personally. Now when I feel discouraged, I can look through my notebook and find encouragement and guidance.”
Listen to the Spirit
“Instead of trying to remember specific details in the Book of Mormon, I focused on listening to the Spirit as I read,” says Owenna Nagy of Collegeville, Pennsylvania. “The simple act of opening the scriptures and reading from them was like saying to the Lord, ‘I want to learn from you.’ While there are great lessons to be learned from the lives of Nephi, Mosiah, and King Benjamin, I have found an inexhaustible source of personal strength and guidance hidden ‘between the lines.’”
“Many times as I read the Book of Mormon, I come to material that I don’t understand,” says Robert Turner of Radford, Virginia. “At such times I stop and pray until a feeling of peace comes to me. It gets to be such a habit that often I am praying over nearly every page. As a result, I have a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.”
Keep a Journal
“I had kept a diary for years,” says Michelle Sandberg of Loveland, Colorado. “But it was more like the large plates of Nephi—a secular history of dates and facts. I felt a desire to begin a religious or sacred history of my life after reading about Nephi’s record-keeping in the Book of Mormon. I resolved to begin keeping my own ‘small plates’ to bear testimony of God our Father, of Jesus Christ, and of their love for us.”
Spend at Least Fifteen Seconds a Day
“When I was challenged in Relief Society to spend fifteen seconds a day reading the Book of Mormon for one month, I knew I had to accept the challenge. As busy as I was, even I had fifteen seconds to devote to the scriptures,” says Carol Lorange of Sandy, Utah. “At the end of one month, I was in the habit of reading my Book of Mormon—and, of course, I always ended up reading far more than fifteen seconds.”
Reread the Book of Mormon
“The third time I read the Book of Mormon, seeking for light in my dark life, I found it,” says Marian Hayes of Rexburg, Idaho. “It took me a year and a half of reading each day during my children’s nap time, but I finished the Book of Mormon and found the light of the Savior, the Prince of Peace.”