“He can’t be serious!” thought Margo Merrill of Highland Village, Texas, when she first heard President Ezra Taft Benson’s request that parents read the Book of Mormon with their children. “My children are only six, five, and two years old. I’ll just be wasting my time and patience.”
Brother and Sister Merrill decided to try reading the Book of Mormon with their children anyway. When they came to the story of Nephi and his broken bow, six-year-old Melissa became ill with pneumonia.
“Melissa pleaded with me to let her go back to school even though she was sick,” writes Margo. “She said that if she didn’t go back, her friend, Pamela—who is a member of another church—wouldn’t know what happened to Nephi. Then Melissa sobbed and slumped into my arms. I dried her tears and suggested she call Pamela on the telephone and tell her what had happened to Nephi.
“As I heard Melissa relate in detail the incident regarding Nephi’s broken bow, I remembered my earlier thoughts about wasting my time and patience reading the Book of Mormon to my young children. Oh, how I had underestimated their ability to learn the lessons of the Book of Mormon!”
In October 1989, the Ensign invited readers to share how the Book of Mormon had changed their lives. Many letters—like that from the Merrills—told of experiences children have had with the Book of Mormon.
President Marion G. Romney said in April 1980: “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes. … The spirit of contention will depart. … Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67.)
Following is a sampling of the letters we received sharing experiences that came as families read the Book of Mormon together.
“I felt especially heartened after talking with Spencer Packer, one of the Latter-day Saint students in my sixth-grade class,” says Brad Wilcox, a teacher in Provo, Utah.
“‘How many books have you read during the year?’ I asked Spencer as he joined me at my desk.
“Spencer was silent for a long time. Finally he looked up, holding back tears, and said, ‘Does the Book of Mormon count?’
“I was touched. ‘Yes, it counts,’ I assured him. ‘Have you been reading the Book of Mormon?’
“‘I just finished it,’ he said.
“‘Spencer, wasn’t that hard reading?’
“‘No, Mr. Wilcox,’ he said, smiling. ‘It’s the best book I’ve ever read.’”
“I decided we would begin reading the Book of Mormon together as a family even though my husband, Tom, was not a member,” says Carri Earl of Midvale, Utah. “The first few days, I did the reading while Tom took care of the children. Then the Spirit told me to have Tom do the reading while I took care of the children. ‘After all,’ I told Tom, ‘the kids listen better to you than to me.’
“When we had read together for about two months, Tom asked me to invite the missionaries over to teach him. The Book of Mormon had sparked a great desire in him to know the truth. Tom agreed to be baptized after his third discussion. I will never forget the joy I felt that night.
“Since then, I have been constantly reminded of how the Book of Mormon has changed my life. Tom has grown in the gospel and has accepted the responsibility and blessings of the holy priesthood. He blessed our fourth child and baptized our firstborn. And we have gone to the temple to receive our own endowments and have been sealed together as a family.”
“My son David had recently returned from his mission. We had always had a wonderful relationship, but lately I could sense a barrier growing between us,” says Sherri Zirker of Mesa, Arizona. “I only wanted to help him during this time of his life when he was making such important decisions. I analyzed the girls he dated and tried to help him with choosing a vocation. He quietly resisted, and though he tried to be respectful, sometimes he would just heave a big sigh and leave the room. I felt frustrated.
“One day, as I was pondering the growing contention in our relationship, I opened the Book of Mormon and read 3 Nephi 11:29: ‘He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.’ [3 Ne. 11:29]
“My first impulse was to counsel David not to be so contentious. Fortunately, I decided to pray about it first. The quiet whisperings of the Spirit softened my self-righteous heart.
“That night, I told David how much I loved him, and I asked him to forgive me. He said gently that he knew I was only trying to help but that sometimes lately he had difficulty thinking for himself. Without offending me, he let me know that the time for teaching was past and that the time to let go had arrived.
“After our talk, I literally cut off my apron strings and tied them around a note I gave to David. I am grateful I had the courage to follow the counsel in the Book of Mormon to resolve contention.”
“Last year, as the new year approached, my husband and I realized that our family was almost finished reading the entire Book of Mormon,” said Nancy Hardman of Osceola, Wisconsin. “So we decided to have a read-a-thon on New Year’s Eve with our seven children who were still living at home. Armed with pillows and popcorn, we read for two and a half hours about those last great Book of Mormon dramas. It was our best New Year’s Eve ever!”
“We thought that our children only tolerated our scripture reading in the morning because I gave them treats if they came on time,” says Betty Martinsen of Arlington, Texas. “But one day, after missing our scripture time for a couple of days, the children were unusually quarrelsome in the car as they came home from school. From the backseat, our five-year-old piped up, ‘We need to start reading the Book of Mormon again, Mom. Everybody is fighting too much.’”
“One day after our family had read the Book of Mormon and discussed eternal life, Adam, who was eight years old at the time, came to me with a worried look on his face,” says Linda Halvorsen of Ogden, Utah. “He said he had taken some candy from the store. I called the manager, and Adam paid his debt. Afterwards, Adam said it felt so good to get rid of that feeling. I am sure he felt inspired to confess when he thought about what he could lose eternally. He understood this principle because of our reading and discussion of the Book of Mormon.”
“It had been one of those days, and I was beat,” says Loretta Asay of Las Vegas, Nevada. “After our two children, ages three and seven, were bathed and into their pajamas, we knelt for family prayer. Each night we had been reading the Book of Mormon aloud, but tonight I was really tempted to skip it. I was relieved that the day was almost over. But our three-year-old remembered that we had to read ‘scipchers.’
“My husband started reading aloud. Forty-five minutes later, we were still cuddled up together on our couch discussing the Book of Mormon. The spirit that permeated our home was wonderful as we told our children about our love for the temple and our love for them.
“I learned a priceless lesson that night. Sometimes when we simply follow the ‘letter of the law,’ the spirit and blessings of that law will fill our homes.”
“Awakened early one morning by the feel of little cold feet on my legs, I peered through the gray light to see my seven-year-old son,” says Katherine Myers of Boise, Idaho.
“‘Good morning,’ I murmured, pulling the covers over him.
“He put his face next to mine, and I could feel his breath against my cheek. ‘I know the Book of Mormon is true,’ he whispered.
“‘How do you know?’ I asked.
“‘Well, I prayed about it. I knelt down and asked to repent. Then I asked if the Book of Mormon was true, and I heard a voice say, “Yes, it is true.” Then I felt warm, and I felt Jesus beside me.’
“I pulled my son close, unable to speak. His simple witness was a testimony to me. Oh, yes, I love the Book of Mormon!”
Our prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, has continually counseled us to read the Book of Mormon. As you can see, many families are enjoying the blessings that come from reading this sacred book. You and your family can enjoy similar blessings. Start today to make reading the Book of Mormon a part of your family life.