Just before April conference in 1986, our missionary son David wrote home: “President Benson has been in Ohio. He’s pushing the Book of Mormon hard and wants us to use it even more in our missionary work. Our Regional Representative told us he’s going to ask the Church members to read the Book of Mormon daily. You’d better get ahead and start reading now! I’m doing great. I’ve never felt better in my life.”
How those words touched me! It had been 15 years ago that the Book of Mormon became an integral part of David’s life. I had read it to him as he lay in bed, at life’s edge.
“What are you reading, Mommy?” David asked in the faintest whisper of a sound. His delicate face closely matched the color of the snowy pillowcase. Deep red drops of blood, descending from a bottle suspended above, provided a vivid contrast as they dropped through a tube into his motionless white arm.
“The Book of Mormon,” I replied. It helped me through the endless hours of watching my son fight a seemingly insurmountable battle. It was supposed to be minor surgery to correct a small health problem, but the whole procedure had become a nightmare. Face to face with the fragile quality of mortality, I groped for an anchor with eternity.
“Read it to me,” David said.
“But you wouldn’t understand it, David,” I told him. “You’re too young. Later, when you’re well and at home, I’ll read you some stories from the Book of Mormon.”
Again the whispered words, urgent this time. “Please read it to me, Mommy.”
Not knowing what else to do, and not wishing to further upset him, I began in First Nephi: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, …” I intended to read a few lines while he drifted off to sleep, and then continue my silent reading. Every time I thought he was asleep, my voice quieted and quit. Then, from the hospital bed, again and again, I heard, “Read it to me.”
And so I read it to him. I read all during the hospital stay, and then at home, where he lay attached to two tubes that drained fluids from his body into bags, one on each leg. Doctors had discovered a congenital defect that gave him only part of one kidney.
I did not read stories from the Book of Mormon. I read from the book itself. One morning, after David’s two sisters had gone to school and his two little brothers were sleeping, we sat together reading as usual. I stopped and looked down at him. “David, do you understand this?”
His blue eyes looked thoughtfully into mine. “Not all. But some of it.”
When I continued reading he stopped me and said, “Mother, kneel down.” Startled by the request, I simply knelt, feeling his small body at my side. Then, totally trusting, he said, “Now pray for me. Pray that I will understand the Book of Mormon.”
By the time we finished the book, David had turned five and was able to recognize and read many of the words on his own. Eventually he read alone. His health improved and, by the time he was baptized, he had read the whole thing by himself more than once. By the time he was ordained a deacon, he was eagerly preparing for a mission.
But during his sophomore year in high school, his physical condition worsened. His one remaining kidney deteriorated rapidly, and a transplant became necessary to save his life. His father was the donor. The eve of the surgery brought our ward members together in prayer and fasting. David was the happiest one present. “I don’t know why everyone is so worried,” he said. “This just means that I can make serious plans for my mission.” And by this time, daily reading of the Book of Mormon had become a habit that sustained him through his recovery.
We can never underestimate the influence of the Book of Mormon in our lives, nor the ability of even a child to understand and find solace from its words.
Habits are established very young. Good habits, firmly secured, will not desert us in times of need. They can become anchors to our souls, rooting us securely to an inner serenity. A child, recently separated from his heavenly home, will understand and respond to the whisperings of the Spirit deep within.
In his initial address given to the general membership of the Church, President Benson called for a daily reading of the Book of Mormon. It is an urgent call, oft repeated, to bring our lives into harmony with the teachings of the Master. The message of the Book of Mormon is a call from our Savior, Jesus Christ: “Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. … Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth” (3 Ne. 11:38, 41).
The Book of Mormon will help you heed that call. It helped David. Last December, he sent us the greatest gift we’d ever received—a letter from a husband and wife, the parents of two small children. “We are to be baptized the day after Christmas. Thank you for sending your son, who taught us, and changed our lives—for now, and for eternity.”
It’s probable that the Book of Mormon will become their anchor as well.