reviews – The Reader’s Book of Mormon.

Zulu-spearsBy Common Consent J. Stapley
I remember walking from the Mission Training Center in Provo to the Temple during my compressed weeks of language inculcation. One morning as we strolled along the curved sidewalks approaching the carrotesque spire (these were the days before sandblast rejuvenation), what seemed like an ancient lady approached us and grabbed my arm. She declared with solemn triumphalism: “This week, I finished the Book of Mormon for the one hundredth time.”

I remember the awe and humor I felt being so randomly accosted one early P-day morning. I thought about that day again when near the end of my mission I stopped counting at twenty-two, the number of times I had read the Book.

Thirty minutes every day. I think that there is a paper to be written on the ritualization of Book of Mormon reading. The impact of President Benson’s firm exhortations had dramatic effect:

Over a quarter of a century ago I listened in this Tabernacle to these words: “A few years ago as I began to practice law, members of my family were a little uneasy. They were afraid I would lose my faith. I wanted to practice law, but I had an even greater desire to keep my testimony, and so I decided upon a little procedure which I recommend to you. For thirty minutes each morning before I began the day’s work I read from the Book of Mormon . … and in just a few minutes a day I read the Book of Mormon through, every year, for nine years. I know that it kept me in harmony, so far as I did keep in harmony, with the Spirit of the Lord.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1949, p. 36.) It will hold us as close to the Spirit of the Lord as anything I know. That was President Marion G. Romney. I echo his counsel.

Though the falsehoods of “socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, [and] humanism” are perhaps less false or less daunting than one might have thought, there is a power to Book and reading it. After my mission, I sat in the Marriot center listening to a general authority, L. Tom Perry I think–though I am not certain. He declared that we should all be reading the Book of Mormon for thirty minutes a day. He asked what one should do if they did not have thirty minutes to devote to the endeavor. Read twenty minutes. And if you don’t have twenty minutes? Re-evaluate your life.

And so we read. Beyond the supernatural exultation that the words transfer to our souls, if we are to realize Benson’s vision–to make the Book a greater part of our culture and selves–we require more than mechanics. Grant Hardy’s The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition is an excellent tool to see the Book with fresh eyes. Similarly, Eugene England, after reading the Book of Mormon in the original non-versed, non-columned 1830 format had a vision of the Book patterned after the Pocket Cannon edition of the Bible–single book volumes introduced and commented on by great writers.

Eugene passed away before the project was finished and Robert Rees took over the editorial reins.