Like many young men in the Church, I had my own excuses for not reading the Book of Mormon: summer skies, winter sports, other reading, and a bit of laziness. And when I did start to read, I could not get past the fourth chapter of First Nephi. The shock of reading Nephi’s account of how he decapitated Laban delayed my further reading of the Book of Mormon until I was well into my fifteenth year. I simply could not reconcile what seemed an act of cruelty with my idea of what a gentleman was.

When I was fifteen I was called as a building missionary. The president of the Swedish Mission at the time, Alvin W. Fletcher, knew what to do with a young man whose testimony needed strengthening.

When I left for this mission, I promised myself that I would read the standard works of the Church before returning home. After several months at the Cubbangen Chapel, south of Stockholm, and an interlude at Tampere, Finland, I was transferred to Turku where, after finishing the Bible, I felt ready to grapple with the Book of Mormon.

I don’t remember much about the city, just what I saw on the daily walks back and forth to the building site in the bitter cold. Because the Book of Mormon kept me in such suspense, I couldn’t think of much else. I was eager to get home from work every day to continue my reading. This was the first time I had really hungered and thirsted for the word of the Lord. Lying on my bed night after night in a room in the meeting house, reading the words of Nephi and the other Book of Mormon prophets, I received a testimony from God that the book was true.

My favorite part of the Book of Mormon was—and still is—Third Nephi. Many times, while reading of how the resurrected Christ taught the Nephites his gospel, I have felt as if I were actually there in his presence. And for me, nothing else in the scriptures equals chapter nineteen of Third Nephi, which documents how Jesus poured out his heart to his Father in behalf of his disciples. More than once I have wept while reading it.

Now I thank God that a just man named Nephi, who at first shrank from the Lord’s command to kill Laban, obeyed God and brought about his righteous purposes. Had it not been for Nephi and the subsequent keepers of the sacred record, I could never have discovered the goodness of God in that matchless volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon.

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  • Lars Åkebrand is editorial advisor for the International Magazines in Europe, and currently resides in Friedrichsdorf, West Germany.