For as long as I can remember, my family has read scripture stories every night. We started with the books that have lots of pictures, then gradually moved up to books with more words and fewer pictures. It wasn’t until my mom read the requirements for earning a Gospel in Action award that we made the jump from scriptures stories to real scriptures.
“‘Read the scriptures daily for at least one month,’” Mom read from the award form. “We could all do that together,” she said enthusiastically.
“You mean scripture stories, don’t you?” my little sister, Crystal, asked.
“I think that you’re old enough to read the actual scriptures,” Dad said.
Crystal and I looked at each other.
“I don’t think Crystal’s ready for scriptures,” I said. After all, she was only seven and hadn’t even been baptized yet.
“I am, too, ready!” she shouted, offended. She didn’t understand that I was just trying to keep Mom and Dad reading from the scripture story books.
“Then it’s settled,” Mom said. “We’ll start tonight.”
So we started reading the Book of Mormon. Dad suggested that we try to read one chapter per night. Each of us took a turn reading three verses at a time. Then we finished up by reading the chapter heading. I like the chapter headings. Sometimes that’s the only part that I understand.
We began, of course, with 1 Nephi, and after a few days, I decided that the actual scriptures weren’t as tough as I thought they’d be. We read about how Lehi’s family left Jerusalem. Then Nephi and his brothers, Laman, Lemuel, and Sam, went back and got the brass plates. I already knew the story, but it was interesting to read it the way that Nephi himself told the story. Then Nephi and his brothers went back to Jerusalem to get Ishmael’s family. And after a long time, they all sailed to the promised land.
I learned things that I had never known before, like how the Lord taught Nephi to build a boat. And how some of the sons of Ishmael were just as mean to Nephi as Laman and Lemuel were. And I had never realized how long they all lived in the wilderness before they sailed to America.
Toward the end of 1 Nephi were a few chapters that were very hard for Crystal and me to understand. The chapter headings always ended with a note that said to compare them with a chapter in Isaiah. Dad explained that Isaiah was a prophet from the Old Testament who Nephi really liked. I didn’t think much about it until we got to 2 Nephi, where we read chapter after chapter that didn’t make much sense to me. There were even parts where Mom and Dad just shook their heads and said that we’d understand them better when we’re older.
I was just about ready to tell Mom and Dad that I didn’t think I was old enough to read real scriptures, when Nephi started to use words that I understood again.
Then one Monday night we read 2 Nephi 31. Crystal was reading when we came to verse 20. She read, “‘Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.’”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “That sounds familiar.”
Crystal, who is usually annoyed when I interrupt, added, “I’ve heard it before, too.”
“Where do you think you heard it?” Mom asked.
It popped into my head: “In Primary, in singing time!” I started to sing, “‘Press forward, Saints, with steadfast faith in Christ.’”
Crystal joined in. “‘With hope’s bright flame alight in heart and mind, With love of God and love of all mankind.’”
Mom and Dad sang the last line with us. “‘Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!’”
“Well done,” Dad said after clapping. “We’re impressed!”
“It’s out of the Hymns book,” Crystal said, trying to impress them a little more.
“That’s right, and I think it’s hymn number eighty-one,” I added.
I could tell that Mom and Dad were surprised, so I went over to the piano for our hymnbook. “Look it up,” I said, handing it to Mom.
She turned to hymn number eighty-one. I was right. There it was—“Press Forward, Saints.”
“We learned this hymn for the Primary program last year,” I reminded Mom. “And the words are almost the same as in the Book of Mormon.”
Mom pointed to the bottom of the page in the hymnbook. It said, “Text: Marvin K. Gardner, b. 1952; based on 2 Nephi 31:20.” Then she explained that the words to the song were written by a man named Marvin K. Gardner, who was born in 1952. He took the scripture that we had just read, and wrote it as a poem to be sung.
Mom played the piano, and together we sang all three verses. Then we went back and finished chapter 31.
“Nephi wrote those words a long time ago,” Dad said as he closed his scriptures. “But they mean as much now as they did then. We still need to ‘press forward.’”
I went to bed that night understanding that the scriptures are more than just a story about people who lived a long time ago. The scriptures are here for us to read and learn from. I felt that night as if the scriptures were talking to Crystal and me. It was as though Nephi was telling us to always press forward and do our best. I could use that kind of encouragement every day. I plan to keep reading the scriptures every night. Someday I’ll even understand the parts from Isaiah.