I have just finished reading the Book of Mormon backwards . . . yes backwards! Let’s just say, it was quite the unique experience. I am grateful however that I endured it to the end, or beginning that is, but now that I am finished, guess what I get to do!!!!
START ALL OVER AGAIN!
I don’t know why I have such a difficult time “re-reading” the Book of Mormon. I have honestly battled with this problem the entire 20 years that I have been active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. No matter how much I have fallen in love with this book, for this book is TRULY the way I became converted, I struggle restarting this book again and again (especially the first 3 books – after that, I am usually hooked).
So, I was trying to prepare myself with what I knew was coming. My goal to finish the Book of Mormon backwards came the week before October’s General Conference. It also, ironically, came at the same time my oldest “graduated” from his 9th grade Seminary course and would no longer need to be taken to the church at 5 am. That was when “I” would read. Now I was afraid that my personal time would vaporize all together. But, instead of worrying, I decided to try to pump myself up with the goal of “studying” the Book of Mormon this time, taking it slowly, rather than having a date to reach my goal. I also prayed to know WHEN I would be able to find time to study and WHAT I should study. I trusted the answer would eventually come and instead of panicking that I didn’t “have a plan”, I relished 1 Nephi and tried to prepare myself to re-read these same pages after General Conference was over.
Ironically, receiving the answers to my righteous desires didn’t come as fast as I thought they would. . . but thankfully they are coming. Interestingly, my first prompting wasn’t “when to read” or even “what to read,” rather it was HOW to set up my day so that reading would become something to look forward to. And that came prompting came from our early rise hours, which is a wonderful relief because that first week after General Conference was AWFUL!
Instead of “sleeping-in,” I was prompted to ask Paul to go walking with me for 30 minutes. That meant we were waking up at 4:50 am still, but our bodies are already starting to feel so much better AND our sleep is much more complete. The second prompting I received was to make sure I DID NOT TEACH anyone until AFTER I said a heartfelt prayer. Remember,“If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). That has been critical to my last 2 weeks. So, now I am practicing prayer, practicing patience and practicing receiving inspiration to know what to do day to day and not “stressing out” about HOW MUCH I read the scriptures but more about USING what I have learned and referencing it with my kids while we learn each day. Then, when I run out, I find myself reading, and reading, and reading to gain more information to share – kind of like going to well and filling my bucket and returning when I need more. It is a rather different approach, but today, I learned something SO BIG and it only took reading one verse, three days in a row.
No, I’m not THAT slow of a reader. I was doing my best to follow along with the Institute Manual and had 5 chapters to read. I decided to not race through each lesson with the ideal “One lesson per week” mentality. Instead, I decided to sit down and learn, to ponder, to pray, to seek answers to my daily life and if it meant I was in one chapter for 90 days, than I was in one chapter for 90 days. And with THAT mentality, I found the coolest thought! “WHY should we teach our children to read and study the scriptures?”
The answer came from studying 1 Nephi 3:7 “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I awill go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no bcommandments unto the children of men, save he shall cprepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
I have been pondering quite a lot on what made Nephi tick? Why was he so faithful? Is it just his personality? Is he just one of those “SUPER SOULS” that has amazing faith and can do anything and was so good in heaven that OF COURSE he can be THAT GOOD on earth too? But then I thought back during the times of my life that I related to Nephi’s faith. I can still feel those times. I suppose I want them back but were they only there because of the trials I was facing? Or can I have Nephi-like faith no matter what the day may bring? So, I pondered those thoughts for a few days and today, I found an interesting answer?
Have you ever looked at the funny tiny letters at the bottom of your scriptures? (They look like this . . .1 Sam. 17:32; 1 Kgs. 17:15 (11–15).TG Faith; Loyalty; Obedience.) Have you ever taken time to just READ the scriptures that are listed, or even look up one of the words in the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary . . . or ANY dictionary for that matter? Well, I did today. I don’t know what prompted me to but I found myself in just the first footnote, awill.
What I found was AMAZING! I actually found 2 of my favorite scripture stories; sadly, I did not know where to find them before today. The first was the story of Daniel fighting Goliath and the second was the story of the Prophet Elijah and the widow’s last meal. Even though I already KNEW these stories, this time it was different because the Spirit guided my thoughts to “liken these scriptures to Nephi, instead of myself.” “WHAT?,” I thought!
But I did and the most amazing thought hit me . . . Nephi ALSO read these SAME stories. Yes, they might have been slightly different but the stories are ancient and not only does Nephi know them but people ALL OVER THE WORLD do! The only difference I could find between anyone else and Nephi was that Nephi knew these stories so well, and prayed to know and understand them, that when the time came to stand up and choose to be obedient, there wasn’t any battle with his heart. He was able to simply OBEY!
He KNEW that obedience brought blessings. He KNEW that obedience not only blessed him but those he loved. And he KNEW that obeying commandments from God (which keeping commandments was a HUGE theme during the October General Conference) was the BEST WAY for him to learn to be like God, than any other way available to man.
The feeling I was left with was utter HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT that if I continued to do what I was doing (early morning & night family prayer, family scripture study, personal scripture study, FHE, attending the temple AND researching our ancestors) my kids COULD have Nephi-like faith too! Of course, if they want it. But at least I realized that it is possible and it is possible for me as well.
I am truly grateful for living Prophets and Apostles. Without them, I would continue to feel hopelessly lost and worried that “all this work” I am putting into my family is pointless. I am so grateful that we, as women, have been given so much power and authority from God. Being a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a neighbor, an eternal sister, a ward member . . . just a woman, is so incredible. The world NEEDS more women who love, teach and forgive than ever before. I know it is TOUGH WORK but we are NOT alone! I believe in the power of prayer.
Heavenly Father KNOWS our gifts and talents. He KNOWS what upsets us too and He KNOWS our limits. I find that the more honest, upfront but humble (willing to do His will, giving up all my discomfort to help Him and obey – like Nephi) that my answers come and that they are a more pleasant of an experience, than one that was learned through much suffering, due to my unwillingness to obey or simply ask for help.
Another thing I have learned, is that we MUST ASK! I learned this from the follow-up story with the Prophet Elijah and the widow’s son. I remember the moment I realized that the Prophet Elijah beseeched Heavenly Father, because of his faithfulness, to do something he felt needed attention. Now, we must be VERY CAREFUL when we do this. We MUST NOT “tell” Heavenly Father what to do but simply use our faith to ask for favors and blessings, that we might not be aware of, that Heavenly Father is in NEED of us to ask, that He might properly bless us.
I compare it to a child, getting from one room to another. If that child is completely capable of getting to the next room on his own, why would any parent bend down and pick him up? As parents, we are here to teach and practice each day what the child is already enabled to do on his own. With our help, guidance and encouragement, our children CAN walk on their own and learn to walk safely too. So, whenever I feel that Heavenly Father isn’t “answering my prayers or pleas for help,” I stop and ask myself . . . “I wonder if this is something I can do on my own? I may not know how but if I ask, maybe Heavenly Father will remind me and then I can do it?” And surprisingly, I already DO know HOW to do it, I just forgot or didn’t think that my knowledge was good for this situation too.
We were created to LEARN!
I am truly grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost and for personal revelation. I am incredibly grateful that I am living during the dispensation of the fulness of times. We are truly blessed to have so much information about the gospel so easily available to us. I am even MORE grateful that I KNOW who I am, I KNOW where I want to be in the eternities and that I have a Savior to help me make it all possible. I am deeply grateful for the connection I feel to my Heavenly Father as I partake in studying the scriptures, listening to and applying conference talks, participating in family prayer and scripture study, holding (sometimes crazy) FHE’s and attending the temple. It seems like a lot to do but in reality, they are the BEST CHOICES I could make every week. Yes, they come with a sacrifice of my time, talents, energy and faith but what better gift could I give to my Father in Heaven. I leave these thoughts and feelings with you, in the sacred name of our Savior, even Jesus Christ, Amen.