Stake Book of Mormon reading program and the role of mysticism and logic

My stake in Colorado has asked everybody — but especially teenagers — to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the school year.  The stake estimates that if every member of the stake reads the book 5-10 minutes a day, they will finish by May.  The plan is to then send a letter to President Monson — signed by the members of our stake — giving our testimony as to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Last night the stake held a youth fireside attended by hundreds of my stake’s young men and women in which they were given the Book of Mormon challenge.  Some responded by saying they will finish the Book of Mormon in a month, easy, others seemed overwhelmed by the prospect of reading a 500-plus page book at all.

The second counselor in the stake presidency read letters from missionaries urging the youth to read the Book of Mormon before leaving on their missions.  Apparently, they are still many missionaries being sent out who have never read the Book of Mormon, which I find astonishing.

I think sometimes we do a poor job of articulating to our young men and young women why they should read the Book of Mormon.  We sometimes seem to take the “mystical” approach — if you read the Book of Mormon you will have a mysterious, inexplicable response.  But what happens if you read the Book of Mormon and you don’t have that experience?

On the other hand, we can’t expect members to uniformly respond to the purely logical approach either.  I read the Book of Mormon again and again because I find the stories heartening and faith-promoting (who can’t cheer on Abinadi or Capt. Moroni, for example?) but also to remind myself that the greatest triumph of the Book of Mormon is its very existence.   I think members need to be reminded that it is not logical to suppose that Joseph Smith wrote the book in a little more than two months by himself, so we must be reminded that God must have been involved in the process somehow.  But I also realize that this purely logical approach doesn’t work for many young people either.  Logic dictates a lot of things that teenage brains have not yet understood.

It seems to me the magic of the Book of Mormon for those who read it is the combination of the two — the mystical and the logical.  Some of us, like myself, never get washed by the Spirit as Moroni 10:3-5 promises — but others do, and their testimonies are truly inspiring.  Others like myself need to be reminded again and again of the importance of our time and the earth-shattering role of the Book of Mormon in gathering in the House of Israel.

So, in the end, our stake presidency is right on in asking the members to read the Book of Mormon, either for the first time or the twentieth.  Something good is likely to happen.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

15 thoughts on “Stake Book of Mormon reading program and the role of mysticism and logic

  1. Interesting post. Reading the Book of Mormon is a great opportunity for the reader for feel the Spirit, even if they don’t gain a testimony of the book immediately after they read it.

    I think adults and youth can learn great truths from reading the book. Sometimes it takes more than a reading or two for a person to gain a testimony of it. Other feel a strong testimony after they begin reading. I was in the latter group, my husband in the former. He heard the missionary discussions three times before he joined, but has been a faithful member and leader since he joined the Church. The experience of gaining a testimony is unique for everyone. I also believe humility and sincerity are key components to obtaining a testimony.

  2. I wonder how Thomas Monson was selected to be the recipient of the stake’s testimonies. Maybe it was felt that he will be particularly receptive to this message.

  3. On the mission we were told to promise people blessings that they would recieve by keeping commandements. I think this is a good way to bridge the gap between the mysticism and logic. I rarely get that warm and fuzzy feeling when reading the Book of Mormon but often I will recieve some little tid bit of knowledge or just feel better about my self. I logicaly know if I read the Book of Mormon I will get those little blessings.

  4. I once read the Book of Mormon in two days. I read Alma on the first, and everything else on the other. It’s about all I did on those two days, but I did it. That was my second time through. My first time through, I read Alma through Moroni in 27 days. I was doing a “consecutive club” program, and almost messed it up because I was done and had three days left. But somewhere in Alma I knew it was true and I had a testimony, and I’ve known it ever since, no matter how many times I would rather have not known that (right now, I’d settle for understanding what “true” and “know” mean in that sentence).

  5. I am not a big fan of the read the Book of Mormon as fast as you can club. For example, read the BofM in 45 days program. I can see the merit of such an idea, but I prefer the nice and slow way your stake is going about it. Sometimes it is better to stop and ponder the meaning of a particular scripture.

    I have not experienced a profound spiritual experience in regards to the Book of MOrmon as a whole, but have received answers or impressions about certain passages. My testimony is logical. Joseph Smith could not have written that book as a young man on the frontier with limited education and experiences; unless he was inspired of God.

  6. In some ways I’m a poster boy of the mystical side of Book of Mormon effects. I’ve had a testimony of the BoM since I was a child, and it’s been reconfirmed many times over. The book, its message, and its provenance have each had a profoundly spiritual influence on my life and its course.

    In some ways I’m a poster boy of the logical side of Book of Mormon effects. I’ve been overwhelmed time after time with the internal consistency, puzzling questions, and impossible* origin of the Book of Mormon. The book, its message, and its provenance have each had a profoundly practical influence on my life and its course.

    *Luke 1:37

  7. I have a much-younger brother who is serving a mission right now, and I was rather surprised to hear that quite a few elders in his MTC group hadn’t ever read the Book of Mormon. Seems to me they could raise the bar a bit more and at least have these kids know what they’re teaching. Is there a question in the missionary application that asks whether the applicant has read the whole book? I would find it difficult to apply for the licensure required of missionaries in many countries if the applicant hadn’t even read the Book of Mormon.

  8. We sometimes seem to take the “mystical” approach — if you read the Book of Mormon you will have a mysterious, inexplicable response.

    I think in the right circumstances there will be an effect but I’m not sure I’d call it mystical.

  9. Peter, there’s the ideal, and then there’s the reality. You can join the church at 18 and go on a full-time mission at 19. And it may be a bit much to ask an 18 year old college freshman to read the BoM in addition to all his course-work.

    Requiring the reading of the whole BoM would be a good policy for those who are baptized at 8 and remain continuously active. But what’s the _doctrine_ on the matter? What were the missionary requirements in 35 AD ? Did they have to read the entire Old Testament?

  10. Clark, my point is that this is sometimes how we describe it to our youth: “read the Book of Mormon and something marvelous will happen to you.” Well, if you haven’t had a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost, this seems like a mystical experience.

  11. Geoff: Mysticism and mystical are good title words to bring in the navel-gazers via the LDS blog aggregators. 😉

    In my view, mystical and magical are just other words, though not entirely accurate, that people try to apply to spiritual, miraculous and divine. Sometimes I’ve used the word magical to convey a sense of awe and wonder about religious topics.

    I think I’ve started to understand why General Authorities in the recent past have spoken out somewhat against intellectualism. The gospel is a feeling. It’s closer to an emotional thing than a mental thing. The breadth of the various dimensions of what’s been revealed so far about the gospel (of Jesus Christ) cannot be fully comprehended via intellectual means, because intellectual/mental efforts only view a limited spectrum of limited dimensions of the gospel.

    Perhaps we use mystical as a loose synonym for spiritual, a shortcut to bridge understanding, much like Ammon agreed with Lamoni that God was The Great Spirit: not entirely accurate, but close enough to get the discussion rolling.

    IQ smarts are not enough to digest, understand and comprehend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Great numbers of highly intelligent people subscribe to a wide variety of religions, and a wide variety of Christ-believing religions.

    The retort I want to make when I read atheists condescendingly and antagonistically accuse Christians as being stupid for believing in the supernatural is that, logically, such an accusation applies against almost all religions. Yet the anti-Christian atheists rarely direct similar invectives to Jews, Buddhists, Siks and Muslims.

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