It Became Real

by Morgan D. Westerman

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    I had read the stories before. But on this night the scriptures came to life. I was there with Alma and Amulek

    It was nighttime, and the usual buzz 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’d 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’d already read the Book of Mormon before. Mine was marked well in at least a dozen colors primed for seminary scripture chases. I recognized each story as I read, but never had the message meant more to me. 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 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 new-found power of the book. It had me enthralled. I felt that night like the Book of Mormon was speaking directly to me, and now I was able to listen like I’d never done before.

    I was in Alma, rediscovering the slightly familiar story of how Alma and Amulek were delivered from their enemies as the power of God brought down the prison walls which 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 softhearted 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 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 people and, one by one, threw the crying women and children into the deadly blaze until every one was killed.

    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, opened to the truth I’d taken for granted for so long. I had gained a testimony. Though I believed before, now I knew.

    With my face wet with tears, I looked up from my Book of Mormon 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’d received that it was true.

    Each time I read the stories of young Nephi or old King Benjamin, of Samuel the Lamanite and Alma the great missionary, the familiar feelings come back strong and unmistakable. Joy and light swell in my heart again and again as I read, and tears flow when I remember that one winter night.

    Liken Them unto Yourself

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

    • Read when you’re awake. If you catch yourself falling asleep each night before you even make it through one verse, change reading times. Read when you’re alert.

    • 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 seminary teacher to suggest some books to read along with your scriptures. For example, it’s really interesting to read Talmage’s Jesusthe Christ along with the New Testament.

    • Don’t always start at the beginning. If you keep reading 1st Nephi over and over each time you resolve to read the scriptures, try starting at 3rd Nephi. That’s when things are getting exciting just as Christ appears on the American continent. Or in the New Testament, read the same story as it appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Check with the chart on page 684 of the Bible Dictionary to tell you where each story of the Savior’s life appears in each book.

    • Read children’s versions of the scripture stories. Read a child’s version 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 by Gary L. Kapp, “Alma and Amulek in Prison”

    Photography by Welden Andersen