“My Young Women leaders had challenged me to finish reading the Book of Mormon by November,” says Sierra Hoffman, a Mia Maid from Albany, Oregon. “I was in the middle of it when President Hinckley gave the challenge to all members to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year.”
She could have simply finished from where she was. And she did. Then, after completing her leaders’ challenge, Sierra turned back to 1 Nephi in late November and started reading again—this time to meet President Hinckley’s reading challenge. She read each night, sometimes for several hours.
“The spirit that filled my room and my heart as I read was amazing!” she says. “Passages that I had never noticed before stood out and touched me deeply. Verses that had confused me before made sense. Tears would fill my eyes as I read about the Savior visiting the Americas.”
Sierra also noticed a change in her 10-year-old brother as he, too, began reading from the Book of Mormon daily. He became more loving, kind, and respectful. Just as President Hinckley promised when he made the challenge, there was a greater feeling of the Spirit of the Lord in the Hoffman family’s home.
Throughout the Church, thousands of youth like Sierra and her brother took up the prophet’s challenge. And many sent stories about the blessings they received to the New Era. For some readers, this was their first time through the Book of Mormon. For others this was their third, fifth, or even tenth time. Regardless of the number of times these teens had read this book of scripture, they all recognized specific blessings they received because they accepted the challenge.
“Never before have I felt like I did while reading the Book of Mormon this time,” says Brandon Merchant, a priest from Green River, Wyoming. “Never have I been able to relate so much information to myself and the world. I can see Satan’s traps easier; I can more quickly and efficiently answer questions from people investigating the Church. I guess it is true what they say—if you study it, the information will be available at the time you need. I understand the meanings and teachings more than I ever have. It is almost impossible to describe the great feelings and understanding that I have received.”
Nicole Wood, a Laurel from St. George, Utah, didn’t think she would have time to read the Book of Mormon. She didn’t really think it was all that important to do it, either. “But I started reading a little bit every night anyway,” she says. “I can’t even describe how much it has changed my life. I was less stressed out in my classes. I felt happier, and, mostly, I felt closer to my Father in Heaven.”
Along with this change in her life, Nicole says she grew to love the Book of Mormon. She found it easy and exciting to apply its stories to what she was experiencing. And she felt close to the prophets who wrote so that we could learn from their experiences.
“It wasn’t just a story anymore,” explains Jessica Grosland, a Mia Maid from Springville, Utah. “I was reading it all the way through, and by the time I got to the end, I found my heart breaking along with Moroni’s as he talked about how bad the people had become.”
Jessica says she felt as if she were there with Book of Mormon people. “I took the journey with them as they went on this roller coaster of righteousness and wickedness. I felt their good and bad times were mine. I have a much better appreciation and can see them as real people now.” Most important, says Jessica, “My testimony is stronger. I feel the Spirit more, and I do have a stronger desire to follow the words of Christ.”
Mitch Oakes of Ontario, Oregon, describes his experience in much the same way as other youth do: “I seemed to get more out of reading it this time than the other times. I found more scriptures that helped me in my life and with my acquaintances. At school and home, I felt more Christlike. I caused less contention with my little brother, and I felt more love for everyone. My testimony was strengthened.”
Sarah Glade, a Laurel from El Paso, Texas, says she decided to accept President Hinckley’s challenge because “the world around us is encouraging more and more behaviors that go against what the Church teaches us. Reading the Book of Mormon helps us to put on the armor of God and to be in the world but not of it.”
“When I read the Book of Mormon,” she adds, “everything feels right. I don’t stress about school, I’m nicer to my family, and I have more patience with others. It’s the highlight of my day, a ‘homework’ assignment that I really enjoy.”
In August of 2005, when President Hinckley issued the challenge to finish the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, he said: “Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 6).
What these youth who accepted the challenge have in common is a life-changing experience. Most of them have continued to read the Book of Mormon. They’ve felt the difference it makes in their lives, and they want that difference to continue.
“The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing today. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day.”
—President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 63.