When our children were still small, our stake Relief Society issued a challenge to read the Book of Mormon one year. There was to be a brunch for all the sisters who met the goal. As the year progressed, the invitation changed: “Come to the brunch if you’ve read part of the Book of Mormon.” By the time of the brunch, the invitation was pretty much, “If you own a Book of Mormon, and you have picked it up this year, please come to the brunch.” I attended that brunch rather guiltily, because I could tell they were desperately worried no one would come. The testimony meeting that preceded that brunch was life changing.
One sister told of her family’s experience trying to read the Book of Mormon every morning. On any given morning, at least one family member battled “mind over mattress,” and several times a week, she would find herself asking, “Why are we doing this?” But she continued on – missing days, starting over, striving to roust her family, and herself, in an effort to be obedient. She related that one morning, when it was her turn to be fainthearted, she came downstairs late and saw her little family huddled around the kitchen table reading. Her voice broke with emotion as she told of the spiritual impression that came to her seeing them engaged in reading the scriptures. The thought came clearly to her mind: “This is the only place today where your children will hear the truth.”
All these years later, I can still recall the impact that sister’s statement had on my life. The Spirit communicated to me as purely as she delivered it, and bore powerful witness that I had a stewardship to provide that place for my children every day. It was then that I began to learn what Brother Packer has spoken about, that fitting the armor of God to our children is a cottage industry, and must be done at home. I have since learned that daily exposure to the Book of Mormon gave my family a frame of reference of truth, in contrast to every “philosophy of men” that comes from the media, the entertainment industry, and the public education system. Not long after that testimony meeting, as our family began our first journey through the Book of Mormon together, we came to the part where Nephi’s brothers have asked him the meaning of Lehi’s dream; in particular, what the rod of iron was. Nephi’s answer describes exactly what this sister had borne witness of:
“And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24)
I came to rely on that promise quite literally as we had our own battles with “mind over mattress,” missed days, and started over. As I saw the curriculum in the schools become more about social and political engineering than academics, the Book of Mormon provided a springboard for discussion about the Lord’s way versus the world’s way. Having a daily dose of the pure doctrines of Christ helped them to recognize their daily saturation of the philosophies of men, and provided them a contrast between truth and error that was unmistakable.
One of the most powerful things provided by the Book of Mormon being ever present in my children’s lives was the imagery of a soft versus a hard heart. It was probably our first time all the way through the Book of Mormon as a family that it hit me how often this image appears. In some of our fiercest battles with our natural man selves, the Spirit empowered me by recalling this image to my mind, enabling me to stop in mid rant at times, or helping me reach out to one of my children with a spiritual lifeline. As tensions ran high, it saved our spiritual lives to be able to draw upon that image in saying, “This is what Nephi (or whoever) was talking about! Your heart is hard, and this situation will not improve until the Spirit can help you to be humble again! Everything will change in a second if you are obedient to the Spirit, and soften your heart.” And as any one of us was obedient in the moment of tension, everything did change, and the Spirit was able to come back into our home. I felt such gratitude for the mighty weapon the Lord had placed in my hands to defend my children and my home against the power of the destroyer.
The Book of Mormon does all that the prophets have promised. It helps us battle our natural man selves and overcome temptation. It teaches with clarity the pure doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It brings an added sensitivity to the Spirit, allowing us to better recognize, and respond to, its promptings. It strengthens our resolve to be obedient to the Lord, and especially strengthens our testimonies of the atonement of Christ, enabling us to use it every day. As the Holy Ghost sanctifies us, we will eventually qualify for the blessing of being in the presence of the Lord.