It has been almost exactly 50 years since I first finished reading the Book of Mormon. The year was 1968 and our Church leaders had encouraged the members to read it in its entirety. That worked out well because in the printed edition of that day, there were 521 pages. So, 52 weeks @ 10 pages/week would exactly do it! I was eight years old that year and I decided to take the challenge. I remember making a reading chart for my family and faithfully reading each week and marking off the progress each Monday night in Family Home Evening. More than reading to know of its truthfulness, I was probably more reading to mark it on the chart!
I read the Book of Mormon several more times as a youth. One time was as we studied it in 9thgrade seminary. That year I joined a Seminary Bowl team where we competed with other schools in our area as to our knowledge of the names, facts, and events of the Book of Mormon as well as memorizing 40 of its most meaningful scriptures and then competing to see who could locate those scriptures the quickest given a variety of clues. I feel a little bad at this point because, even though this study and competition was well meaning, we probably focused a bit too much on irrelevant facts and we did not treat our copies of the Book of Mormon with the respect they deserved as we raced to locate the scriptures.
There is promise made by one of the Book of Mormon’s prophets, Moroni, on one of the last pages of the Book of Mormon, that if we seriously desired a witness of the truthfulness of this Book, God would grant that to us. For me, it was not a case of reading the entire Book and then receiving an unmistakable witness. But as I continued to read the Book as a youth, my witness of its divine origin and its importance in my life came bit by bit. As I would read the teachings and sermons by ancient prophets on Christ–His life, mission, ministry and Atonement–and on other teachings like faith, repentance, grace, and service, I could just feel these things were true. Sometimes I would be touched by a warm/comforting feeling that would come over me, occasionally I had a tingling up/down my back as I read/discussed the Book, and yet other times I just enjoyed new and related thoughts and insights that would enter my head as I studied the Book.
So, even though I cannot pinpoint an exact day I knew the Book of Mormon was truly God’s word, that witness certainty did come. I loved my time as a young missionary in Japan where it was my privilege to carry around copies of Morumon Keiand teach the people in Japan of Jesus Christ as it is taught so clearly in the Book. It strengthened my testimony of the power of this Book to personally see many dozen people read it and be touched by its spirit, power, and truth. I saw many of these people then change their lives and join the Church which was founded by the Book’s translator, Joseph Smith.
In the nearly 40 years since I returned from my mission, I have read the Book of Mormon many times – sometimes over a whole year, other times, over just a couple of weeks. I have marked inspiring and instructive verses in several printed copies and now on my phone and tablet. I have read the Book with my children and now they are regularly reading it with theirs. I have attended classes, seminars and conferences on the Book and have had the privilege of speaking about and teaching from the Book numerous times. I have read many books by both Church leaders and scholars on various aspects of the Book. I have also spent much time and effort getting to know its inspired translator, Joseph Smith, and the means and events whereby the Book of Mormon came to be. Through all this, I can unequivocally state, where I could not 50 years ago, that the Book of Mormon is truly a divinely inspired book and it is the word of God. I love this Book and I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, whom I have come to know through the study of this Book.