I relate my own experience, for those who have not yet read any of the Book of Mormon, or have read very little. In 1971, in Pasadena, California, I borrowed a copy from a neighbor family who had introduced me to the Church. I had just started taking the missionary lessons, but I felt no desire to follow another person’s dictation of what verses I should read. How could somebody else know what order I needed to read verses in the Book of Mormon? . . . Oh course, I had no idea myself. But at least I dived into the book where I want to dive in.
Before I relate what then happened with me and the Book of Mormon—what I received—consider what we might bring into a reading experience. For me, years before my encounter with that book of scripture, in my early teens, I had fed on teachings of the Bible, especially the words of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I understood the idea that God is perfect but people are imperfect, sometimes extremely imperfect. I was raised in a God-fearing family environment, in a home with my father and mother and eventually three younger sisters. But in my early teens I had tried to apply, in my daily life, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and experienced the peace that comes naturally from that application.
By the time I turned thirteen, I had long ago forgiven my oldest sister for being born [ 🙂 ] (it was not her fault; it was our parents doing). I was beginning to get over being dethroned as only-child. By around the age of eight I had forgiven her for her existence . . . (but it was her attitude about that). Nevertheless, throughout my teenage years I had recovered, and by age twenty-two, as I began to read the Book of Mormon, I had applied the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially the teaching to forgive.
Recognizing my own weaknesses and failings, of course, was part of the forgiving, and that was what I brought into my reading experience with the Book of Mormon, notwithstanding I had only just begun applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life: I was far from perfect. I began my reading with the concept that Jesus Christ was the only perfect person, with not even a speck of transgression, to have ever lived on this earth; I was not disappointed. I knew that God sometimes performs miracles but that he did not usually prevent us from having any unpleasant experiences; I was not shocked when I read the Book of Mormon.
After reading various passages, I came to realize that this was a true book about real persons who had lived in the past. I did not come to this perspective from anything the L.D.S. missionaries had told me. I came to it through my own communication with God. That is a key to how we should read the Book of Mormon: pray sincerely while reading it, with faith in Jesus Christ, gratefully remembering the good things that God has given us.