Today I'm finishing off Moroni 10, so I've finished reading the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover for the first time in years (usually I just jump around). As part of us preparing ourselves for Pageant, the Pageant Presidency asked us it read it through before we got to the Hill. So I started over. It's been cool to read it through again. I've gained some cool insights and it has put some things in perspective. I also learned some cool facts that I'd never considered before. I'd like to share some of them.
First off, just a cool fact (mixed with speculation), did you realize Alma the Elder was in his 70s at the time his son was converted? I always thought he was middle aged. Also, if Alma the Elder was that old, how old was his son? I'd always thought he was a teenager... Instead he was more likely middle-aged).
On a related note, one of the stories that really impressed me during this read of the Book of Mormon was Alma the Younger's conversion. We get Mormon's abridged version in Mosiah, but I love Alma's first-person re-telling of it in Alma 36. In addition, I love what he says in Alma 5, that though he saw an angel, he attributes his conversion to having "fasted and prayed many days" (Alma 5:46). As we see through the scriptures, signs do not convert: Laman and Lemuel saw an angel (1 Nephi 3:29) and only moments later doubted God's power (1 Nephi 3:31), Korihor was struck dumb (Alma 30:49) but had that curse been taken away he would not have changed his behavior (Alma 30:55), and the list goes on.
Sometimes I really want something concrete that without doubt the Lord is there or to simply give me a sign. At times I think I have gotten these little signs, but those things are easy to forget. More important for me than concrete signs is to consistently connect with God and feel His love. His love is always available, but I have to be willing to seek after it through scriptures, prayers, hikes in nature, looking at the stars, reading my patriarchal blessing, etc. If I look He is always there.
Another story I loved in this read of the Book of Mormon was 3 Nephi 9-10. Simultaneous with the crucifixion, the Nephites and the Lamanites were hit with destruction throughout the Americas. Cities sank into the sea, others were burned, earthquakes, floods, etc. After through destruction stopped, the voice of the Savior permeated the land. His sweet merciful voice pleaded with those who were "more righteous than [those who perished]" (3 Nephi 9:13) to "repent and return unto [Him] with full purpose of heart" (3 Nephi 10:6).
I have two thoughts from this that I want to share. First, these were the more righteous people of the Nephites and the Lamanites. And yet, the Lord implored them to repent. It is tempting for me to think that I'm doing well and to feel really good about it. It is good and healthy to recognize my progress and not discount my positive traits just to make myself feel "humble" (which in my opinion is a shadow form of humility). However, I need to not get complacent and forget the need that I have for the Savior and His Atonement. I need to continually "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ" (2 Nephi 31:20).
I love the Book of Mormon. It is truly the word of God. I have felt such peace as I've read through it over the past six months. I'm excited to share my testimony of this volume of scripture with those who attend the Pageant this summer. :)