How did December come so fast? How is it going by so fast?
These are the thoughts I have in my head when I sit down each day to read the Book of Mormon. After President Russell M. Nelson issued a challenge to “read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year,” I was determined to give more to the Lord. While I’ve been able to maintain a daily study habit for the past year and a half, I feel like my heart hasn’t been as deeply invested as I want it to be. Here was an opportunity to pour some gasoline on the fire and see if I could truly learn what it means to consecrate my time to the Lord.
It hasn’t been easy. It really has felt impossible. But I’m on track to finish the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.
Recently, I’ve noticed many women on social media sharing how bad they’ve felt about being so far behind. I’ve noticed others sharing it was never President Nelson’s intention for us to read the entire Book of Mormon by the end of the year. They take his words and come to this conclusion because he did not say the word “finish.”
Reading these posts have been interesting for me and I believe it reflects the sad pervasiveness of perfectionism we’ve taken on as a Church culture. I’d like to provide a different perspective.
I believe wholeheartedly that no one should be beating themselves up for this challenge. It breaks my heart to find so many women have felt stressed and shameful and lost in the task. I agree the this is not the intention of the prophet or the Lord. We cannot allow the Book of Mormon to become a tool for the adversary. I am grateful for all of those who have shared this positive message meant to encourage and bolster women who may be feeling low.
However, I also believe President Nelson’s challenge was clear and he intended us to finish reading the Book of Mormon. He even described the task as one that may feel “impossible.” If this was simply about reading every day, I believe he would have said that.
How terrible it is that we cannot be merciful with ourselves! How twisted it is that we turn to our own interpretations rather than the mercy of Jesus Christ! The Lord knows we are imperfect. He knows each circumstance is different and knows our limitations and capabilities. His expectations are different for each of us.
Yet, in the most charitable way possible, I think it’s a disservice to try and interpret what the prophet has said to make us feel more comfortable and at ease with our perfectionist tendencies. I also think it takes us away from learning more about Jesus Christ’s true nature.
Instead of saying, “I haven’t been able to finish the Book of Mormon, so let’s look at every word from the prophet to make it clear that finishing was never the goal,” I’ve found much more power in: “I haven’t been able to finish the Book of Mormon, but I tried my hardest. I am focusing on the grace of Jesus Christ to make the difference where I fall short. The blessings will be mine because of my honest, earnest effort and faith in Christ.”
I know every person who has been sacrificing their time to just try and read the Book of Mormon daily will be recipients of God’s blessings and that the Lord is so pleased with them. I also know the pain and sacrifice I’ve experienced reading more and more to finish the entire Book of Mormon has been very eye-opening and life-changing.
I believe if I was still on 1 Nephi today, December 12, the Lord would provide a way for me to finish by December 31.
I believe a key to reading the Book of Mormon is not to see it as a checklist or a race to the finish line. The only thing that has allowed me to read as much as I have is the grace of Christ. The love of Christ. My belief that Christ simply wants to spend a little more time with me.
I recognize this response is my own interpretation and I hope whatever you believe about President Nelson’s challenge, that this message of Christ’s love is what comes through. Christ wants to spend time with you and he’s asking you to choose him. I hope women and men trying to seek after Christ through the Book of Mormon can internalize that truth and find him, regardless of what page count you reach.