It Became Real

By Morgan D. Westerman

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    It was nighttime, and the usual noise of the Missionary Training Center was hushed now. I huddled deeper into the blanket I had wrapped around me and continued my reading.

    I had to catch up. If I was going to reach my goal, I would have to finish reading the remaining two-thirds of the book by the end of the week. It was a challenge I eagerly accepted, even though I had already read the Book of Mormon before. My copy was well marked, and I recognized each story as I read. But never had the messages meant more to me than now. Perhaps that was why the MTC president issued us the challenge to read the entire Book of Mormon during our three weeks of training there.

    I read for a long time. The longer I read that quiet night, the more those stories became real to me. I was almost surprised at the fascinating newfound power of the book. It had me enthralled. I felt that the Book of Mormon was speaking directly to me, and now I was able to listen as I had never done before.

    I was in the book of Alma, rediscovering the story of how Alma and Amulek were delivered from their enemies as the power of God brought down the prison walls that held them captive. It was what led up to their imprisonment that had such a powerful effect on me. I read how some of the more soft-hearted people believed their words and began to pray to God for forgiveness. But most of the people rejected everything they had been taught. The hostile unbelievers bound Alma and Amulek and planned to kill them and everyone who accepted and believed their teachings. Every man who believed was chased out of the land, stoned, and spit upon. Then the wicked men took the wives and children of the believers with Alma and Amulek to a large, raging fire.

    As I read, I could see and feel the whole scene. I saw the wicked tie up Alma and Amulek and make them watch what happened. They burned their scriptures, trying to destroy the word of God they had rejected. Then, with no shame or empathy, they took the crying women and children and, one by one, threw them into the deadly blaze.

    I sat there with my Book of Mormon, my heart literally burning with sympathy inside me. I think I understood to some tiny degree how Alma and Amulek must have felt as they watched the repentant martyrs die, for I had witnessed the same scene as I read, and I knew that it really happened. And because I knew this account was real, I knew and finally understood that the book I was reading was true. Tears spilled from my newly-opened eyes as I realized that I had taken the truth for granted for so long. But now I had gained a testimony. Though I had believed before, now I knew.

    With my face wet with tears, I looked up from my Book of Mormon and out at the falling snow. I was no longer cold. I felt indescribable warmth wrapped completely around me. Never have I felt so moved to pray as at that moment. I knelt and prayed a sincere prayer of thanks. I lost track of time as I knelt there and poured out my soul in gratitude. The tears came unashamedly now as I thanked my Heavenly Father for giving me the Book of Mormon, and for the powerful yet peaceful witness I had received that it was true.

    Now each time I read the stories of young Nephi or old King Benjamin, of Samuel the Lamanite or Alma the great missionary, the familiar feelings come back strongly and unmistakably. Joy and light swell in my heart again and again as I read, and tears flow when I remember that winter night in the Missionary Training Center.

    Liken Them unto Yourself

    Get into the scriptures more intensely. You will find stories that will amaze and move you. And you will find answers to some of your biggest questions. Here are a few suggestions to help you as you read:

    Read when you’re awake and alert. If you catch yourself falling asleep as you read, change reading times.

    Read with someone else. Sometimes it’s nice to share the experience. Take turns reading out loud with a friend, a brother or sister, or a parent.

    Use study aids. Ask your teacher or parent to suggest some books to read along with your scriptures.

    Don’t always start at the beginning. For example, if you keep reading 1 Nephi over and over each time you resolve to read the scriptures, try starting at 3 Nephi, where Christ appears on the American continent.

    Read children’s versions of scripture stories. Then pull out your scriptures and read the same story in its full, uncondensed form.

    Use your imagination. Try to picture events in your mind as you read. Imagine you are there, and the scriptures will become more meaningful to you.

    Painting, Alma and Amulek in Prison, by Gary L. Kapp

    Photography by Welden Andersen