The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is unique among the world religions of our day in several ways. First, we believe that a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon joins the Bible in teaching about Jesus Christ and His teachings. Second, we believe that one can gain a testimony of not only the Book of Mormon by reading it, but can also gain a testimony and understanding of Jesus Christ and His teachings. A third, but certainly not the last, thing that makes the Church unique is our belief in modern day prophets.
Since the time of Joseph Smith, who translated and published the Book of Mormon many of these modern day prophets have testified of the power of the book and promised blessings to those who read the book. One such prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, made a promise in 2005, and I took the challenge. Here is my story.
There were many small miracles that came with completing the Book of Mormon challenge. There was the miracle of the youngest child of the family being the first to complete the book. There was the miracle of two daughters reading all day New Year’s Eve just so that they could finish on time. There was the miracle of a little more kindness, a little more respect and a little more forgiveness between siblings. But the big miracle came in the most unexpected way, at the most unexpected time.
I started reading as soon as I read his words, “There will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord.” With grown children still at home, mixed with testy teenagers and the added challenge of learning to be an extended family to our married children and their spouses I had found, that at times, our relationships were strained and tense. If there was anything I truly needed it was an added measure of the Sprit of the Lord in my home. So I began my reading according to the plan that President Hinckley had proposed.
As time progressed I became aware that many others were taking this challenge. Stakes passed out reading plans, wards discussed how to help the members complete the challenge, my husband challenged our children to complete the reading and many speakers at conferences and sacrament meetings reaffirmed the challenge. But in my mind this was a very personal challenge from a prophet of God to me. When President Hinckley gave the challenge, it was as if he knew my personal needs and gave me a promise of how I could have them met.
As I came nearer and nearer to completing my goal I began to look earnestly for the added measure of the Spirit in my home that I had been promised. It seemed that there was more kindness and tolerance between the family members living at home, but as these relationships grew, others seemed to be more strained. Small misunderstandings and thoughtless comments had driven a wedge right through our extended family. As the Christmas season approached I began to fear that tense feelings would taint the happiness of the season. I began to pray, as I continued my reading, that hurt feelings could be set aside so that we could enjoy the company of our entire family on Christmas. I gave sincere thanks for the small improvements I had seen, but now I needed a slightly larger miracle. I needed the added measure of the Spirit to help everyone at least tolerate one another over the Christmas season.
Being a good LDS mother I decided I had to do more than sit idly by and wait for my family to get along. Surely there was something I could do or say to make them see the error of their ways. And so, I worked on a child here, and a child there. I talked to the married kids and the adult age kids. “Couldn’t you just try to get along for a little while?” or, “It might be nice if you bought a little Christmas gift for so and so,” were some of my suggestions. Unfortunately, it seemed the harder I tried the worse it got. Quiet tolerance began to be replaced by outright intolerance. I became more and more agitated as I began to wonder how we could have our entire family together during the Christmas season. I began to doubt that the miracle of a greater measure of the Spirit in our home could really happen.
Finally, everyone agreed to try. We would have a family gathering a few days before Christmas. I was sure that this would do the trick and tempers would be soothed. It started out wonderfully. Everyone was laughing, enjoying each other’s company, just as I felt it should be. Then comments were made that inadvertently hurt feelings. Others were hurled to counter those. My husband and I steered the conversation toward safe small talk, the evening quickly ended, then everyone retreated to their own homes and rooms. As members of my family later expressed how much they were hurt by what had been said that night it seemed more hopeless than ever that my family would be able to heal their wounds before Christmas. But for some reason the feelings of agitation and dread that I had carried for the last few days were gone. I had done all that I could, and it was now up to my children to patch up their relationships, or not. Suddenly I realized that the greater measure of the Spirit in my home was there. I felt comforted, and sure that eventually all would work out. This Christmas was not the event that would make or break our eternal relationships. Building eternal relationships would take time, and I could be patient. I could feel the comforting Spirit of the Lord, even if those around me could not. Perhaps this was the miracle I sought. I had followed the prophet, I would now trust in the Lord and show patience.
The next day we were all in final preparations for Christmas. We were busy wrapping, preparing and arranging the last minute details. A phone call came, and our married children made an unexpected visit. Suddenly, all were there, and earlier apprehensions began to creep into my heart as I worried about what would be said. And then, without warning, the unexpected miracle occurred. A sweet daughter offered a heartfelt apology, hearts were softened, forgiveness was extended, tears flowed and hugs were offered. The greater measure of the Spirit of the Lord flowed freely in our home, not just on a limited basis, but to all members. Because a lovely young woman felt the tug of the Spirit of the Lord and humbled herself enough to make the first move, sincere communication was able to take place and all were healed. We could now spend Christmas together as a family in peace and harmony.
I finished the last chapter of Moroni a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. As my husband and I ate a few snacks and relaxed before celebrating the new year, two daughters continued to read to finish before midnight. The youngest child reveled in having been the first one done. Yes, it was wonderful to have so many family members, and so many fellow members of the church, complete this challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the close of 2005. But in my mind, this had been a very personal challenge that I had personally completed, and I had received much more than I ever dreamed of the blessings promised. I had witnessed a mighty miracle of a family being healed through the gifts of the Spirit of the Lord.