This last week I finished reading the Book of Mormon for the second time in Spanish. I've read the book more than a dozen times in English, but reading and studying it in Spanish has truly opened up a new door of information and insight. In the many times I read the Book of Mormon before the mission I studied it, I loved it, and I knew that it was true. However, I wasn't consistent in my reading. At times other worries got in the way: school, work, social demands.
That all changed when I got out into the mission field and was brought "to the dust", greatly humbled. I was in a different country without a single family member or friend. I didn't understand the culture, the language, or what my purpose really was as a missionary. All I had was the power of prayer, of direct and personal communication with my Father in Heaven, and a blue book: the Book of Mormon. When I started seriously studying and taking in the words of this book my mission, and my life, changed dramatically. Plenty of you reading this email or blog post aren't members of the church, and may have a little trouble believing that a book could change anyone's life.
Let me explain a little bit of the "How" with clips from my life this week.
First, visiting Fanny, an older sister in the ward. She has ulcers in her legs and it's extremely difficult for her to get around. She is constantly in a lot of pain. We stopped by during the week to serve her and share something from the Book of Mormon to brighten up her day. As we opened the Book of Mormon to read I asked Fanny what she wanted to learn about. She told me to pick something "linda", or pretty. We read a chapter from 3rd Nephi, or the teachings of Christ to the people in the Americas. As we read she closed her eyes and listened, completely at peace. We didn't read for a long time, perhaps 3 or 4 minutes. When we finished Fanny still had her ulcers, was still in pain. However, the look in her eyes made it clear that she was at peace inside. The Book of Mormon was able to bring her inner strength and health, peace in a turbulent time.
My companion and I decided to teach Lilian her retention lesson "The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ", using the Book of Mormon. As we read from 2nd Nephi 3, which talks of Joseph Smith and the great work he would accomplish in translating the Book of Mormon, Lilian and Zulma were all eyes and ears. Paying attention, asking questions when things weren't clear, and marking the verses we were studying. Zulma and Lilian are both converts to the church. They baptized in their 60's, moving forward in faith as the only members of their families. And here we were, studying this marvelous book with two strong, faith-filled women, women who found the strength to follow Christ through their testimony of a book, an ancient history of the people who lived in the Americas long before. I could feel the love they had for the Book of Mormon as we studied and read together.
My new Companion: Hermana Bekaouche
Jorge Luis, a convert to the church, has been preparing to serve a mission. As he's worked on his papers he's been hit with a lot of trials and temptations. When we visited with him during the week I asked him how he was doing with daily prayer. He told me he was praying morning and night. When we asked him how his scripture reading was doing he said, honestly, that he was struggling to read consistently. Understanding his situation, as I was the same way before the mission, I invited him to participate in an activity with me. I had just finished reading the Book of Mormon through and was planning on starting over the same day. I invited him to "read with me". We decided to set the goal of reading 2 chapters a day, which will lead to us finishing up right before General Conference. He was really excited by the prospect. A couple days into the project now, I can tell you that I can already see a difference in him. He's not only reading the Book of Mormon, but has started to read the Bible as well. What power in a book, to bring us closer to all of God's words!
Later that same day we went to visit Walter and his friend Raul, two less active members of the church. They have started coming back to church but still aren't reading the Book of Mormon. Being the persistent woman I am, I asked them to pull out their books, as we would be reading with them. We read 1 Nephi 1, taking turns reading. Throughout the chapter Walter would ask questions, and really seemed to get into the reading. I think he was almost disappointed when we didn't continue with chapter 2. His friend, Raul, before we left, asked us if we would mark something for him to read in the Book of Mormon. These two men, who weren't reading before, had completely changed with the reading of a single chapter. They then told us how they would be going to stake conference, an hour early to get a good spot, and that if help was needed afterwards to clean up that they wanted to be there. Is it not clear that the Book of Mormon can change our very desires and attitudes? With the reading of a single chapter.
Often we visit Carmen, a 72 year old convert to share with her and her two fantastic grandsons, Yunca and Santiago. We ALWAYS do something with the Book of Mormon. Every little lesson and every game are centered around this book. Now, when we come through the door Yunca immediately asks us, "Should I bring the Bibles?", referring to the Book of Mormon. I have witnessed a huge change in these two young boys and their grandma as we take the time to read and play with the Book of Mormon. Yunca, 7 years old, is now teaching us about faith and repentance, is asking us about stories from the Book of Mormon. Santiago invites us in even when they're "busy". The Book of Mormon and its influence has changed these two little boys, and by watching this change take place Carmen has changed as well.
I could go on and on. Sharing with a less active regarding the Atonement. Sharing with a family after eating lunch together the importance of reading the Book of Mormon together as a family every night.
Perhaps my favorite experience, making a covenant, or a promise with my Heavenly Father, that I would make and take the time to read the Book of Mormon for 15 minutes everyday for the rest of my life. By making this promise and doing everything in my power to fulfill my side of the deal, I have felt a difference in my reading. A power. Shout out to Elder Mason Miles for recommending making such a covenant! It works, and I invite each of you to consider doing the same.
This four word titled book Changes EVERYTHING. My week consisted of its power, and for this reason it's been the topic of this week's letter.
Now, if anyone has any questions as to WHAT the Book of Mormon is, WHEN to read it, WHO it talks about, or anything else, email me! As a representative of Jesus Christ, I'd love to talk to anyone about this marvelous book:)
I love you guys and I hope each of you knows it!
P.S. READ THE BOOK.