95908_000_008I thought reading the Book of Mormon was a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, but that summer I learned otherwise.
Though I have read the Book of Mormon cover to cover many times, one particular time stands out in my mind. In the summer of 1971, I had just graduated from high school and was working for a swimming pool construction company in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, to earn money to attend Brigham Young University that autumn. As a member of the Church for a little over a year, I had read the Book of Mormon once. In my youthful mind, I felt that was enough.
One Sunday a member of the bishopric asked me to prepare to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting in one month on a missionary-related topic. As I pondered what I should say, I felt inspired to read the Book of Mormon again and speak about the experience.
To read the entire book before my talk, I needed to finish eight chapters a day. Rather than listening to the crude language and off-color stories of some of my fellow construction workers, I began spending my lunch breaks reading from a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon that I kept in my lunch box. Some of the Hispanic crew members started calling me “Chewy.” I did not appreciate the significance of that nickname until years later.
When the Sunday I was to speak arrived, I had reached my goal. I felt very proud and self-satisfied to have read the Book of Mormon an “extra” time, and I intended to teach the congregation that they should do so as well. Not only was I speaking that day, but as a newly ordained priest I was also blessing the sacrament for the first time. I approached this task with the same overconfidence I felt about my talk. When I knelt to offer the blessing, however, I was somehow prevented from saying it properly. The congregation waited patiently while I prayed for forgiveness and help. Finally, I was able to say the blessing. While the sacrament was passed, I thought about my talk with a new perspective.
As I walked to the podium, I knew that I must do as originally asked and simply bear my personal testimony. I felt the still, small voice prompting me to humbly explain my experience with the Book of Mormon over the past month. As I spoke I realized as never before that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ and bring all people to him. My experience that Sunday remains the basis of my strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Two years later I was serving a mission in Mexico. I learned that when a Hispanic person is named Jesús, his family and friends often use a nickname for him to avoid repeating the name of Deity too frequently. That nickname is “Chuy,” pronounced “Chewy.”
When I realized this I suddenly understood why my Hispanic coworkers had called me “Chewy” that summer two years before. I believe they sensed in me spiritual growth and development from reading the Book of Mormon daily. In their own way, they were showing respect for spiritual things.
Whenever I feel far away from my goal to be more Christlike, I remember the lessons of that summer and I return to the Book of Mormon to renew my testimony and determination to serve Heavenly Father. The Prophet Joseph Smith was right: a person can get closer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon than by those of any other book (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194).