Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Book Of Mormon

My mother has told me for years that I should try reading the Book of Mormon like I do novels - straight through and quickly. I always thought, "Yes, yes...that would be great." but never really thought much more about it. After all, I'm not involved with a Young Men/Young Women super overnighter group read, or a convert from the 1800s reading by candlelight in a haybarn.

When Calamity Jane posted her goal and experience, I was reminded again of this idea - to consume the Book of Mormon like a book. I never, ever, ever take a year to read a book. Ever. I don't even take a month. I read it in a timely manner or I don't read it at all. Which is why I've never looked at scriptures as "books". I wish I could say I was a regular reader of them, but the truth is, I'm not. I go in spurts and have never really developed a daily habit of reading.

I began reading at around 11:00 am on Monday morning. I had just come back from the gym and was feeling very goal-oriented. I posted a blog post and, afterwards, sat in my blue, leather Lazy-Boy recliner in the living room, opened a replica copy of the first edition Book of Mormon (which makes for much, much easier speed reading as it is in the traditional block paragraph format) and read "I, Nephi". Familiarity hit me and my body physically resisted. Almost immediately, I was tired. I read maybe twenty pages and fell asleep. Asleep asleep, not just shutting my eyes.

First of all, I don't nap. I'm not a good napper (I wake up more grouchy than ever) and I need dark and quiet, two things I'm not prone to find in the middle of the day. Moreover, reading doesn't make me sleepy. Usually. Unless, of course, the paragraph begins with, "I, Nephi."

After my first pathetic attempt failed miserably, I decided to pull out the guns. I filled the bathtub with hot water and got a Diet Dr. Pepper from the fridge to keep me company. I really do some of my best reading in the bathtub. While this format is usually reserved for my evening solitude when no food demands or poopy diaper can disturb my soak, I recognized the need for an earlier intervention.

"What are your kids doing?" you might be asking. Coming in and out of my bedroom, but playing together handsomely and, overall, doing quite well. My parenting style of benign neglect came in quite handy for this current project.

The bathtub proved worse than the comfy reclining chair and I found myself dozing again! I was only forty pages into the book and my goal of a hundred pages per day seemed insurmountable. I felt like I'd already been reading, or trying to read, for the better part of the day and I hadn't made the kind of progress I anticipated making. I got out, got dressed and changed gears by talking to a few people on the phone. Later, I tried again and forcibly made myself read one-hundred pages. It wasn't enjoyable, or uplifting, and I found myself annoyed with Nephi and his goody-goodness. I get Laman and Lemuel's grievance. He sort of bugs.

I went about the rest of my day, picking Seth up from school, tidying up the more noticeable disasters in the house, and making dinner. After dinner, I noticed my sad little pedometer on my hip and it displayed a measly 2,500 steps for the day. A lofty reading goal doesn't jive well with being more active. With a sigh, I asked Jay if he minded if I went to the gym to walk on the treadmill for a while to get my steps in. He turned into Jillian- the-trainer and sent me off, telling me "No excuses." and I found myself in the very rare situation of being at a gym in the evening hours.

Thinking if I got ahead, maybe I would have a better experience the next day, I started walking at 3.8 mph and turned to page 101. I don't know what made the difference, but my entire experience changed from this point on. The book energized my walking or the walking energized my reading because sixty minutes and three and a half miles later, I was sixty more pages into the book and wishing I didn't have to stop. I went home, crawled into bed and read sixty more. I got my first glimpse of what would become obvious two days later, that like like any good book, this book was centered on conflict. I don't think I'd really known that before. Or at least I thought there was more of a balance between the good times and the bad. But there really isn't. It's mostly about the bad times.

The next two days were spent reading whenever possible. I made good use of my new gym membership and spent over an hour each day walking briskly while reading. I found my best reading to be done while walking. It was the only time I averaged a page a minute. If the day care would have allowed it, I might have spent all day there - walking and reading. I read in the car while I was waiting for Seth. I read while I ate. I read in bed before falling asleep. I just keep reading. I knew I could finish in three days and changed my goal to just that. I finished last night at 11:43 pm.

While certainly not comprehensive, here are some of my observations:

  • Nephi is hard for the proud to like. If this sounds sacrilege, and you've never had this thought before, congratulations...you're probably not proud. But, pride is something I struggle with so his, "Why can't you all just be more like me?" attitude can be a stumbling block. But the thing to remember is, he was called of God, and although his personality might make me less wont to invite him to a party, his righteousness is absolute. And, ultimately, those who are called to be our leaders are meant to be followed. This means that the relief society president, who drives me batty (not my current one), still has the mantle of leadership, and it is my responsibility to adjust my pride so that I can learn the gospel. Laman and Lemuel, while probably slightly justified in finding their younger brother too much to take, allowed their pride to turn to sin, which resulted in the loss of the spirit. And thus, the second promise of the Lord is fulfilled, that "inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence. They didn't and they were.
  • the word "durst" is used quite frequently.
  • The lineage of authorship foreshadows the later-day church established by Joseph Smith. Nephi gives the small plates to his brother, Jacob, not to any of his own children. Sort of similar to how Hyrum's children were later leaders for the LDS church but not Joseph's own. I found that interesting. I wonder if there was an ancient RLDS church out there.
  • The allegory of the Lord in the Vineyard found in Jacob is profound and deeply relevant to our day.
  • There were some slackers that were handed the plates.
  • Race does not matter. The line between Nephite and Lamanite was so blurred throughout their history that it wasn't a matter of race. The distinction was between those who were lived the commandments of God and those who ignored them. The Nephites who turned "bad" were the worst of all. Those were some scary dudes.
  • I've often wondered why there are so many details of the wars. I'm sure there are multiple and deeper reasons, but I'm leaning towards Mormon just being really interested in it. After all, he was in charge of the entire Nephite army when he was only 16. I can imagine him looking through all the old plates and scrolls and loving all the details Captain Moroni, Teancum, Helaman and Moronihah left. It's a manly book. If only their wives could have been bloggers.
  • Sadly, the history is dictated by which war was in what year. I don't think their history differed from that of any other civilization. We mark time by our skirmishes and conquests. The peace and love that existed while Christ visited, and the effect his visit had for generations to come, stands in stark contrast.
  • The sacrament is sacred. Jay and I had a discussion a couple of weeks ago where he pointed out that taking the sacrament is symbolic of partaking of the tree of life. After reading Christ's words to his disciples, I absolutely agree. I think we endanger our spirits when we partake unworthily or even absentmindedly.
  • It truly matters who our leaders are. I found this discovery extremely apropos with the current change in leadership of this church, as well as the leadership of our country. It takes a wise, humble, and righteous person to effectively lead his people in peace and prosperity whereas a corrupt leader inevitably leads those who follow to destruction. Every time.
  • Being rich isn't the point of being prosperous. I think a great stewardship comes with becoming rich. It's almost a test to see how you handle it. I've been feeling covetous lately for a large home. You see these monster homes being built everywhere around here and it's gotten into my head that I must have one. Nothing less than 5,000 square feet will do! It's pretty clear throughout the book that those the Lord blesses with prosperity doesn't entitle them to get caught up with their money and belongings. The outcome is never good when this happens. So, I'm going to nip this feeling in the bud and hopefully do it before the riches come. (by the way, I don't think having a 5,000 square foot house is bad. But coveting one before you need it or can afford it certainly is).
  • Moroni was totally improvising at the end. He didn't know when he'd die so he just kept adding stuff at the end. And there is some really good stuff at the end!
  • The moral of the story seems to be repentance. The theme throughout is "keep my commandments and you will prosper in the land." but as no one does that perfectly, except my good friend Nephi (who, really I'm just envious of because he never seems to stumble...and who doesn't stumble???) the only way to do it is to repent...continually.
The best part of this experience has been today. There is a certain famous verse, although when I read it, it wasn't a verse but merely part of the second to last page, where Moroni challenges the reader to pray with a sincere heart to discover the truth of the book. My greatest fear while reading was that I would feel exactly the same afterwards. I wanted to feel more, and an inner voice sounded off a worry about what I'd think if I didn't.

There were times I felt more. When Enos prayed, I felt power and love for that man.

I was again moved when Alma and the sons of Mosiah meet up again after more than a decade of missionary work and when Captain Moroni rides around with his Title of Liberty (although I really had to work hard to shake off a Mel Gibson with facepaint image I had in my head).

There was definitely a feeling of more when Christ blessed the little children. It is such a tender moment in time.

I didn't know if I'd get the burning bosom. I wanted it, but knew I couldn't force it so I decided to fast the entire day and made arrangements with my sister, Maureen, to have her watch Sam and Henry while I went to the temple. It was while I was driving to her high school to drop them off, and after I switched the CD playing from a So You Think You Can Dance mix to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir recording (I knew no burning would come from listening to Timbaland) that it came. Peace like a River started to play while I was going through the drive through at Carl's Jr. to get lunch for my boys and the melody and words "peace like a river", " faith like a river" "hope like a river", "love like a river" and I felt overwhelmed with such a spirit of joy and love for my Savior.

That's it! That's it. There are wars, and rumors of wars, and corruption and sin and secret combinations and even total destruction. But with Christ, there is peace. And hope. And charity. The Book of Mormon boldly teaches us the commandments of God, and of His plan so that the faith, hope and peace can be felt.

This book is true. It is not written by a genius of manipulation. By their fruits ye shall know them, and this is good fruit. It testifies of Christ and because it does, it uplifts the soul.

I found this quote on my friend, Alisa's, blog. How appropriate that it comes from President Hinckley. He says, "Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people..." The Book of Mormon proves this is true. Not through regime change. Not through indoctrination. I feel like shouting out to the world, and particularly to the candidates for president who keep promising unity. It's not about the economy, stupid,...it's about love!

I've been writing for a while now, and feeling a little bit like Moroni in that I don't know how to end this. I'm really hungry, but happy that I've made it until 5:50 without succumbing to my natural man, who most definitely likes to feel full.

I've been asked if certain books I review would be appropriate for church or enrichment style book groups. This would be a good one! I actually think it'd be fun to discuss in a book group setting. Of course, there's Sunday School, which is already set up for that, but I'm not usually a participant in that arena. Either way, I give it a thumbs up....five stars....highly recommended.

Thank you, President Hinckley, for inspiring this event in my life. It changed my week from mediocre to meaningful.

1 comment:

Tandy said...

Lucy, I found you through Ana's blog and was just skimming through your reviews when I came across this one. I think I found a new challenge for myself. Thank you so much for sharing this! I tend to get lost in books and ignore everything around me until I'm done reading them so I have to limit myself a bit. This has never been a problem with the BOM, however. I have only read it in its entirety one time - and that was when my DH was preparing for his mission and he was trying to read it before he entered the MTC. I figured it was a good time for me to do so as well. That was 14 years ago.

Not sure if you'll see this comment but I just wanted to thank you for this post in particular.