Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 1:1 – Recognize the Good

I love how every time I read the Book of Mormon, there’s always something else to learn, or rediscover. This time, I’m looking for things on joy and being prepared. And right off, what do we have?

“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make record of my proceedings in my days.” ~ 1 Nephi 1:1

Despite every trial he faced—and there were a lot—Nephi chose to keep his focus on the Lord, and on the blessings his family had been given. His life was not easy. Just look at what he had to go through:

  • He and his family had to flee from Jerusalem because the Jews were angry with his father for preaching against their wickedness and prophesying about the Messiah (1 Ne. 1:18-2:5).
  • Five separate murder attempts on his own life (four by his brothers, one by Laban) (1 Ne. 3:25; 7:16; 16:37-39; 17:48; 2 Ne. 5:3).
  • eight years wandering in the wilderness on a near-starvation diet and other hardships (1 Ne. 16-17)
  • the death of his father-in-law, Ishmael (1 Ne. 16:34)
  • nearly perishing on the boat ride toward the Promised Land (1 Ne. 18)
  • and other things that are likely not recorded

With all of that, what does he choose to do? He could have chosen to become as hard-hearted and bitter as Laman and Lemuel. But he didn’t. He recognized the good in his life, and he made a record of it. After they leave Jerusalem, Nephi seeks his own testimony of the things his father has been teaching, “having great desires to know of the mysteries of God” (1 Ne. 2:16).

I’m reminded of something that President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared in General Conference several years ago:

president-henry-b-eyring-lds-462519-mobile“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

“He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: ‘I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.’

“I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: ‘Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’ As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

What a wonderful reminder of where to keep our focus. It can be so easy to get discouraged and see only the bad in life. But President Eyring encourages us to do the same, to look back through our days and search for God’s hand in our lives. To find joy.

“More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”

What a wonderful blessing: a stronger testimony, more gratitude, a greater knowledge of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Atonement, and so much more!

What good have you seen in your life today? How has God shown His hand today? Write it down.

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1 Nephi 2

Lehi

What I learned from him: Lehi’s life is now in danger. The Jews had already killed or cast out the other prophets, and they don’t like it that here comes somebody else telling them that they’re wicked and that Jerusalem will be destroyed unless they repent. They want to kill him, too. So, the Lord tells Lehi to take his family and flee into the wilderness. Lehi obeys. And he doesn’t delay or make excuses:

“And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.

“And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” (v. 3-4)

He knew already what God had done for him so far. If he had delayed, or disobeyed and stayed behind, the Jews would have killed him. Or, if he had somehow managed to survive, there was the eventual destruction of Jerusalem where he would have either been killed or stolen away into captivity.

He is a prime example of the rule that the prophet Joseph Smith set for himself: “When the Lord commands, do it.”

And, when he and his family got to a place of safety, they pitched their tents, Lehi built an altar and offered sacrifices in gratitude to the Lord. God is looking out for us in everything. Through the good and the bad, we need to remember to thank Him.

 

Sariah

What I learned from her: I can empathize a bit with Sariah. When her husband was commanded to take his family and flee into the wilderness, she would likely have left friends and family behind (including the family of Ishmael, her future in-laws), along with all of their wealth. When my family had to move from Baltimore to Arkansas thirteen years ago, we left friends and family, and most of our stuff, behind. Unlike Sariah and her family, though, we knew where we were going. Like them, we had “a place prepared”.

It would have taken a lot of faith on Sariah’s part, to leave so much behind and travel with her family into an unknown land, trusting in the Lord to take care of them. If I’m ever asked to go through a similar situation, I hope I can have this same faith.

Laman & Lemuel

What I learned from them: We know almost immediately that these two think their father is crazy. They seem to be more materialistic in nature, grieving that Lehi took them from their home, leaving “the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart (v.11).” Lehi tries to encourage them to follow the Lord and obey His commandments, but they won’t do it.

“And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.”

They won’t do anything to find out the truth for themselves.

Sam

What I learned from him: There’s no record of his reaction to the sudden departure from all they knew. But we know that, when Nephi told him that he had received testimony of what Lehi had seen, taught, and commanded is true, Sam  believes. In fact, as we later see, Sam stays faithful his whole life. He appears to be one of those mentioned in Doctrine & Covenants 46:14 – “To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (emphasis added).

Nephi

What I learned from him: He wanted to find out the truth for himself. So, he asked, and was blessed with a softened heart and an answer from the Lord that what Lehi had learned and taught was the truth. Sam believes him, but Laman and Lemuel don’t, which causes Nephi great grief. What does he do? He prays for them. If I want to know something, especially of great spiritual significance like this, I need to follow Nephi’s example and be willing to ask. The Lord is always willing to teach us if we are willing to ask and learn.

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Sunday Scripture: Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I discovered several scriptures today that connect very nicely and taught me an amazing lesson, so I’d like to share them all.

I’ve been reading W. Cleon Skousen’s book, Days of the Living Christ: Volume One, and came across something today that really hit home. Dr. Skousen said, “One of the great disappointments of the Lord occurs when his choice servants lose their spiritual curiosity. They become satisfied with a little when they could have a lot. They stop hungering and thirsting after righteousness and an increased knowledge of heavenly things. This happened to the  twelve apostles in Jerusalem.”

Jesus had just taught them that He is the Good Shepherd, that He knows His sheep, and they know Him (John 10:14). Then, He drops a really big hint:

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

Who are these other sheep? “Jesus wanted to tell them about the great body of Christians in America,” Dr. Skousen wrote, “but they wouldn’t ask.”

When Christ visited the Nephites after His resurrection – the “great body of Christians in America” Dr. Skousen described – he revealed that they were the “other sheep” that He spoke of, but no one would ask about.

“And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.” (3 Ne. 15:18)

Dr. Skousen said, “The Father years to reveal the secrets of heaven to his righteous servants. Therefore Jesus said: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened’ (Matt. 7:7-8).”

I suddenly realized – What does the Lord withhold from us today because we don’t ask? What does He want to share with us, to help enlighten our minds and spirits, but can’t give us because we don’t even live by what we already have? What am I missing out on when I don’t make the effort to study and ponder the message of the gospel found in the scriptures?

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi acknowledges and gives gratitude to God for “having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God (1 Ne. 1:1)”. When the Lord gave command to build a ship to take his family to the Promised Land, Nephi wrote:

“And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.” (1 Ne. 18:3)

If we follow Nephi’s example to seek and “pray oft unto the Lord”, what “great things” could the Lord reveal to us?

Categories: Book of Mormon, prayer, Scripture Study, Scripture Sunday | 2 Comments

1 Nephi Chapter 1

I’m trying a different method of study this time around. I’m looking at the people in each chapter, and what I can learn from them. So far, in 1 Nephi 1, I’ve found:

Nephi

What I learned from him: Despite all the afflictions he went through, he felt that he was “highly favored of the Lord in all [his] days” because he had received the blessing of “great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God” (verse 1).

What knowledge do I receive from the things I go through? Or do I just make it an opportunity to complain about what I’m going through? Sadly, I think I spend more time complaining than recognizing my blessings.

Nephi also followed the commandment of the Lord to keep a record, which he does “in the language of [his] father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (verse 2).

Lehi

What I learned from him: He listened to the prophets when they began preaching throughout Jerusalem, calling the people to repentance with a warning that Jerusalem would be destroyed if they didn’t. Lehi was so concerned about it that he prayed to God, with all his heart, in behalf of his people. This wasn’t just a casual prayer; his concern for his people came from deep within.

The world today is moving further and further away from God. Every day, we see more and more ugliness and chaos and violence. We have the blessing of prayer. Who knows what it can do in today’s world?

After everything that he saw, both in this initial vision and the subsequent one after he returned home, Lehi could not be silent. He had to lend his voice to the other prophets in crying repentance to Jerusalem. Jesus told his apostles and other followers to go to all the world and teach what He had taught. Lehi is trying to do this among his own people, but they reject it and try to kill him. It may not come to that for us; but, as followers of Christ, it is our duty to spread His teachings to the world.

The Jews

What I learned from them: Yes, I even learned from the Jews who refused to listen to the prophets. They didn’t want to hear that they were doing anything wrong. They are angry enough that they now want to kill Lehi.

Eventually, of course, comes the destruction of Jerusalem, where many are killed and the rest are carried away into captivity. So the lesson learned from the Jews can best be summed up in the chorus of the Primary (children’s Sunday School) song “Follow the Prophet”.

Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.

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Ponderizing 2 Nephi 29:4

In the October 2015 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, challenged us to “ponderize” one verse of scripture every week.

I was browsing WordPress’s Blogging Events page this past week, and discovered that the ones that caught my attention the most were the ones on expressing gratitude. I realized that gratitude is something I needed to study more on and apply in my own life, and so went to the Bible Dictionary and wrote down all the topics and scriptures having something to do with thanks, or thanksgiving, and began right away.

One of the verses I came across in my study is 2 Nephi 29:4. In the previous verses, the Lord said that there would be many among the Gentiles who would reject the Book of Mormon, saying “We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible!” (verse 3).

Nephi then writes:

“But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?”

That second sentence struck me – “And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?”

scriptures-eye-glasses-758818-mobile

image from LDS.org

How often do we thank the Jews for the Bible that we have? I know it hasn’t occurred to me until now. But how exactly do I thank them? I imagine that I can start by saying thank you to the ancient House of Israel for keeping the records that were eventually compiled to become the Holy Bible that is available to us today. And I’m grateful to God for commanding them to keep these records.

But I’m sure I can do more. I can actually take the time to study their words and learn how to better live by them. These sacred records, after all, help us learn how to become like Christ and Heavenly Father.

That will be one of my goals in this coming year: to learn the Bible and learn how to live by it, and by all the sacred records God has given to the world.

What will you ponderize on this week? What is something you are grateful for, that maybe you don’t express as often as you’d like?

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Ponderizing 1 Nephi 1:5

In the October 2015 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, challenged us to “ponderize” one verse of scripture every week.

I’ve begun rereading the Book of Mormon this past week, and 1 Nephi 1:5 really stands out to me.

Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.

Lehi has heard the prophets preaching repentance, or else Jerusalem will be destroyed. I imagine Lehi doesn’t want to see that happen, so he prays for the people himself, even with all his heart. Do we pray for the world today, as we draw closer and closer to the time of the Second Coming? We are seeing fulfillment of prophecy every day.

What scripture are you ponderizing on this week?

Categories: Book of Mormon, prayer, Scripture Study, Scripture Sunday | Leave a comment

Title Page & Introduction to Book of Mormon

I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve read the Book of Mormon. Each time, I find so many wonderful treasures. (It’s no wonder that W. Cleon Skousen named his study series “Treasures from the Book of Mormon”.)

This time, as I began reading the title page of this sacred book and then continued on to the introduction, I realized that this these two pages tell the reader exactly what the Book of Mormon is and what the reader will find in its pages.

The Book of Mormon is:

“a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible … written by many ancient prophets by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation … a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto Him and obey the laws and ordinances of His gospel may be saved.”

It is, indeed. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the Book of Mormon is, as its title states, another testament of Jesus Christ, a companion to the Bible that, in fact, confirms truths found in the Bible.

“a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fullness of the gospel”

The Savior Himself said “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The record found in the Book of Mormon tells of some of those “other sheep”, specifically the descendants of Joseph.

Some other treasures of the Book of Mormon are that “it puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.”

But really, the most important thing contained in this book? The “crowning event”? The thing I look forward to every time I read this marvelous book…

christ-teaching-nephites-39665-mobile

Christ’s Visit to the Western Hemisphere. image from LDS.org

“[T]he personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection.”

What a wonderful thing, to read of the Savior’s visit, where He calls twelve disciples from among the people to lead His Church in this hemisphere, and He teaches the multitudes the same things he taught during his mortal ministry, and more. He heals, blesses children, institutes the sacrament among the people. It’s such a gift in my life.

I can’t wait to see what I discover this time!

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The Book of Mormon – A Blessing to the World

I was surfing Facebook just now and saw an image announcing that the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ was published in Palmyra, New York, 185 years ago TODAY! Wow!

man-giving-book-of-mormon-225221-print

185 years ago the world was blessed with an amazing book, written by prophets of God in the Ancient Americas, whose words would come forth “as the voice of one crying from the dust” (2 Nephi 33:13) to Jew and Gentile. Working together with the Holy Bible, it testifies to the whole world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, “who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20), to atone for each child of God, to become, in great love and mercy, as the intercessor in satisfying the demands of justice on the sins of the world.

I love this book. I read it again and again. I have several copies scattered throughout my bedroom and my school locker.

At the end of the book, the final author, Moroni, extends a challenge to his readers:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow thebtruth of all things. (Moroni 10:3-5)

I’ve taken this challenge and have learned for myself that these things are true. But you don’t have to believe my words. Find out for yourself.

To request a free copy for yourself, head this-a-way. Or read it online here. Or find a copy for your device.

Categories: Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Lesson from Nephi and King Lamoni’s Father

As I read in 1 Nephi 3 last Friday, I had a surprising revelation.

Nephi and his brothers have failed in their first attempt to retrieve the brass plates, and now Nephi has made what was probably a shocking suggestion to his brothers (in verses 16, 22-24):

Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord. …

And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things. And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.

And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired of him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.

Keep in mind what was on the brass plates – a genealogy of Lehi’s family, the five books of Moses, “a record of the Jews from the beginning” to the reign of Zedekiah, and all the prophecies from Adam to Jeremiah.

They were willing to give up all their wealth for the word of God.

That reminded me of King Lamoni’s father, who was willing to give up all he possessed – his sins, even his kingdom – to have the promised joy and companionship of the Spirit.

And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

That got me thinking. What are we willing to give up for the word of God? I mentioned this to my mother, and she helped me discover more. I’ve been blessed to have the word of God in my life. So, what am I willing to give up for a greater spiritual connection to Heavenly Father? To improve my relationship with Him?

As a beginning, our family has gotten back into the habit of daily family scripture and prayer. We’ve started over in the Book of Mormon, and have managed to do it for three days. We also pray every day for my youngest brother as he studies Spanish and… whatever it is that missionaries learn in the MTC. We pray that he’ll be protected and strengthened as he serves Heavenly Father, that he can be an instrument in bringing more of our Father’s children to the light of the gospel of Christ.

Do you have something you’d like to give up in order to have a stronger relationship with God?

Edited later: After some thought, I’ve come to realize that one of the things I would like to give up is procrastination. I keep putting off so many things – scripture study, planning my Sunday School lessons, homework for school. I’m going to improve on that during 2015.

Categories: Book of Mormon, Come unto Christ, Faith | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Purpose of Scripture and The Book of Mormon in 30 Days

Nephi knew that there would be people who would harden their hearts against sacred things, against the Holy Spirit, and would “esteem them as things of naught.” (2 Ne. 33:2) He continues:

But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.

And I know that the Lord will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers, and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal. (vv 3-4)

Just eight chapters earlier, he explained the reason he and other prophets write of Christ:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Ne. 25:26, emphasis added)

The major reason we have scriptures – writings of prophets containing the words of God and histories that we need to learn from – is so we can return to God. It is Christ who is our Mediator, our Advocate with the Father, the Source where we can receive remission of our sins by accepting His Atonement,  having faith in Him, repenting, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion (according to our obedience and righteousness), and enduring to the end to receive eternal life.

Book-Of-Mormon-30-Day-Reading-Schedule

Every once in a while, I’ll see or hear about someone who has been challenged, either by themselves or someone else, to read the Book of Mormon in 30 days. And every time, I wonder how such a thing is possible. 531 pages in 30 days? That’s 18 pages of scripture reading a day. How is it possible?

As I write this post, I suddenly wonder (more likely the Holy Ghost talking to me): What’s so hard about that?

After all, I’ve read big books over a weekend or a single day before. I stayed up till long after midnight several years ago reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Stayed up till 3 a.m. reading the sixth book in Gerald Lund’s The Work and the Glory series.

There are 24 hours in a day, 6-8 of which (or less, for some people) are spent sleeping. I’m a college student, but I can recognize right now some free time to spend reading those eighteen pages throughout my school day. (It helps, too, that this is the second day school has been canceled due to bad weather.)

On Sunday evening my mom decided that she would try it too. Knowing that she was making the effort, I decided to take up the challenge, too. When I began – in earnest – on Monday, I was almost to 2 Nephi 28, the last chapter expected for Day 6 of this challenge. I decided that I wouldn’t start over, but that I would continue on in the schedule, reading until I finished the Book of Mormon, then start over until I’m back where I was when I began. I’m about to start Jacob, so I have 9 pages left in today’s reading.

I look forward to this adventure.

Have you ever done a reading challenge like this? Tell me about it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be The Book of Mormon in 30 days. It can be any book in any length of time. What was the challenge? Why did you choose to take it? What did you gain from it?

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