The first time I read the Book of Mormon I was not affiliated with the LDS Church, but I had a brother who had joined; he asked me to try to read the Book of Mormon. I had read the Bible all the way through and while it was hard in places, mostly I knew all its stories and could follow its twists and turns. The Book of Mormon started off in Jerusalem, so I felt I knew where I was with it. But then the family left Jerusalem and went somewhere south. I was only twelve years old and my knowledge of geography sketchy and my approach to books plot-based. I couldn’t follow the “story.” The Book of Mormon, I had been told, was about Jesus, but I missed any mention of Him in those first few chapters. I was lost. I put the book down, writing to my brother that I had tried but could not understand it. I promised to try again after a few years. I was sure I would be able to understand it when I was older.
A few years later I read the Book of Mormon again, completing it this time. I loved it. I knew it was true without even formally praying about it, but when I made myself formally pray and ask, immediately I felt a rush of happiness about it, a warmth of love and spirit and truth filling up my mind and heart. I had no doubts. My sister and I, having been baptized that year into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made a pact together to read the Book of Mormon every year of our lives from then on. I asked her a month or so ago (decades later) if she had continued to read the Book of Mormon every year. Yes, she said, but she had for some time been reading it twice a year, as she felt she needed more strength for the challenges of her life.
That extra gift of strength to me is the key to the power of the Book of Mormon. Its truth is transcendent—it clarifies concepts and principles that are obscure in the Bible, and it reveals truths that the Bible lacks—and the effect on a person reading for truth is that it provides a nourishing strength, a renewal to one’s spirit, a re-energizing and purifying effect that gives one happiness, conviction, commitment, and courage for all that life entails.
I have known since I was a very small child that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and He is my Savior. I have always loved Him and have always been happiest learning more about Him. I had read the Bible, but I had not found Jesus Christ in the Old Testament until I read the Book of Mormon. I had not found the God of Love in the Old Testament until I read the Book of Mormon. I knew and loved the stories of Jesus in the New Testament but did not fully understand them until I had read the Book of Mormon a number of times. Understanding grew; the more times I read the Book of Mormon, the Bible grew clearer.
I continue to read the Book of Mormon to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ—to understand His Atonement, His justice, mercy, forgiveness, knowledge, power, compassion, and commandments—and to understand the Bible better, which reinforces the truth of the Book of Mormon. I cannot imagine the one without the other now.
One of the many truths I have come to understand about the Bible through the Book of Mormon is that from the rise and fall of civilizations in the Bible and Book of Mormon, I see that God’s covenant is not just for one race of people, one extended family, but that one race, one extended family is His metaphor for His entire family—everyone who ever did or who will ever live—and all are welcome to join equally. Curiously then, my better understanding of the plot of both books of scripture enhanced my understanding of the character of God, of His love and commitment to extend the blessings of His way of life to every single person on earth who is willing to receive it.
My life long search for truth has presented me with many treasures; the Book of Mormon remains the one most treasured that I keep by giving away.