In the October 2018 General Conference, President Nelson offered the following invitation for the women of the church:
“I invite you to read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year. As impossible as that may seem with all you are trying to manage in your life, if you will accept this invitation with full purpose of heart, the Lord will help you find a way to achieve it. And, as you prayerfully study, I promise that the heavens will open for you. The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation.
As you read, I would encourage you to mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior. Then, be intentional about talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ with your families and friends.2 You and they will be drawn closer to the Savior through this process. And changes, even miracles, will begin to happen.”
I accepted the invitation and finished reading the Book of Mormon on Sunday, just as the year ended. The promised miracles occurred in my life in small and big ways. I want to record a few of my experience because for me it was simple but profound.
First, at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi states, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).
As I started reading I knew I would be putting this prophetic statement to the test. Between October and December this year we: moved to Connecticut; Andrew wrote and defended his dissertation with a trip back to Indiana; we returned again to Indiana for graduation; Andrew started a new job at Yale; I dislocated my shoulder; the kids were super sick for a week with the stomach bug that warranted a trip to the hospital; I did a weekly podcast through this time; I released a planner to sell; we homeschooled. This period of three months when this Book of Mormon challenge was going on was a super unusual season in our lives.
While we were getting ready to move I was reading about the Lord helping Lehi and his family travel from Jerusalem, through the wilderness, and eventually led them to the promised land. The kids and I would talk over breakfast and throughout the day about the parallels of their move and our move. We said often – and I thought often – “If the Lord can get Lehi’s family to the promised land, then surely he can get us to Connecticut.” Despite the reality that the bulk of the move was my responsibility because Andrew was working on finishing his dissertation, I felt immense peace during this time that I’m certain was a direct blessing from reading the Book of Mormon.
I was amazed at just how often Jesus Christ was mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Usually multiple times on every single page. Reading through the entire book quickly also impressed upon my mind how many prophets told the story and prophesied of his birth, coming to earth, ministry in Jerusalem, death and atonement, and resurrection.
The theme that stood out to me in this reading was afflictions, and in particular, searching for maybe the why to all of mine. I look at all I’ve learned through those periods of physical health challenges that I’ve had over the years and I am immensely grateful for them. But I also see how incredibly hard they have been not only for me, but for my family. I wonder how we could ever choose to sign up for another phase of morning sickness like we had last time for example.
But as I read the scriptures I felt first, a healing and peace about all we’ve walked through. I also got the sense that God isn’t so worried about us not experiencing afflictions. I realized that afflictions aren’t a measure of the quality of our choice (being on the right/wrong spectrum). It was emphasized over and over again that the missionaries and prophets experienced great afflictions while going about God’s work. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, who I would think if anyone would have perks for labor and delivery it would be the mother of the Savior, delivered a baby away from her family in a stable without any obvious earthly support or previous experience.
What intrigued me and taught me was how these people faced and thought about their trials and afflictions to help us prepare for the next one we experience (spoiler alert – dislocated shoulder, which is rather mild compared to some of our previous experiences so it doesn’t feel quite so hard making it a good practice test of the following principles). One of my favorite examples of this was in Alma 31:31-38. Alma is praying before he and and the sons of Mosiah and his two sons go again on a difficult missionary journey, here are some of his words:
“O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities. For I am infirm…O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me.”
I love how he then turns and prayers about those who he is bringing with him. I compared this to how I can pray for Andrew and the kids when I’m physically unable to do what I usually do and it has a huge impact on our family in many areas of our life:
“O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me—yea, Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, and also my two sons—yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord. Yea, wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ. Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may bear their afflictions which shall come upon them.”
Then he gave everyone a blessing and they were filled with the Holy Ghost. I absolutely love how they went forward in complete faith and trust, receiving great blessings from the Lord:
“And after that they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on. And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.”
That is how I want to live my life – not getting caught up in the details but moving forward and trusting completely in God THROUGH the afflictions.
I learned to prioritize my reading. To make up for the days that I missed, the last six weeks or so I read 10-20 pages a day. When I first started reading, my stamina for spiritual focus and scriptural reading was pretty short. After a few pages I would feel the urge to do something else. But over the weeks and months my focus increased to where I easily enjoyed reading at least ten pages a day. I’ve discovered that this focus and attention has also spread to others areas of my life and my capacities have increased.
I feel prepared and ready to jump into the new Come Follow Me studies for this upcoming year. I see so much wisdom in reading the entire Book of Mormon and encouraging us to talk of Christ. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the increased spirit that has been in our home and in my life. I am so grateful that the way was prepared that I could accomplish what the Lord asked me to do. I’m excited to return to passages and study them further this year.