We are in the early weeks of a new year — rich with promise as is every new beginning. And though there are troubles and rumors of war, the world always seems to look up with hope as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
“There is something incredibly hopeful about a fresh start,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf declared in the January 2014 First Presidency Message published in the Ensign magazine. “I suppose at one time or another we have all wanted to start again with a clean slate.”
Every January, we are presented with a “fresh start.” Thus, the annual New Year’s resolutions. That many people are serious about New Year’s resolutions is no surprise. But what might be surprising is that religious resolutions lead statistically in the United States.
According to Nashville-based LifeWay Research, for many faith groups, seeking a better relationship with God is more important than health. In a Dec. 29 article on Lifeway’s Website, the author writes: “Older Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Christians are all more likely to say they’ve made resolutions about God than about health.”
To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the new year brings a prophetic promise — the potential of a renewed or closer relationship with our Heavenly Father and with our Savior, Jesus Christ. For the next 12 months, members throughout the world will be studying the Book of Mormon in gospel doctrine classes and in classes for older Primary children. And teachers of our youth will certainly be gleaning from its pages.
It is hoped this focus will bring resultant spiritual feasting in the homes of Latter-day Saints — both individually and as families. And with that feasting comes the promise, as stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church 4:461.)
A search of LDS.org reveals myriad references to that statement, as well as additional enriching counsel from modern-day Church leaders. Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School general president, recently told the Church News, “Our hope would be that people would read it on a daily basis, pray about it and, as a consequence, they would get closer to God than they’ve ever been in their lives” (LDS.org, Dec. 29, 2015).
In a tender general conference address in October 1983, then-Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recalled the worn copy of the Book of Mormon owned by his mother. “No one had to tell her that one can get closer to God by reading the Book of Mormon than by any other book. She was already there.”
Today, the Book of Mormon is available in 82 languages and printed copies have totaled more than 150 million. But many members in the world remember when they could not read this beloved volume in their own language.
To members in Hungary, the Christmas of 1991 was one never to be forgotten. A 1996 Ensign article by Jeffrey S. McClellan relates the miracle of the Book of Mormon being printed and distributed in Hungarian in time for Christmas. A touching part of this account is the response of the members as full-time missionaries distributed the copies.
“For the next couple of hours the members of the Debrecen Branch didn’t leave the room,” Brother McClellan wrote. “They pored over stories they had heard about from missionaries but had never been able to read for themselves and they signed their names and testimonies in other people’s copies … .”
One member wrote: “It is inexpressible the happiness that fills this day. I’ve waited for a long time for this moment.”
One of the elders that day almost two decades ago was Thomas D. Watson, who later served as a young bishop in Utah. Recalling those moments in Debrecen, he related: “I recall watching several of the members hold the Book of Mormon to their hearts. There were tears of joy and prayers of gratitude.
“I wondered to myself, ‘Do I love the Book of Mormon the way they do? Do I long to read its pages?’ I committed to myself to reading the Book of Mormon again with a different purpose. I read with a greater understanding that what I was reading was indeed a treasure. Reading the Book of Mormon with new purpose helped me get closer to my Heavenly Father.”
Many of us recall the urgency expressed by President Ezra Taft Benson to make the Book of Mormon the focus of daily scripture study. In the April 1987 general conference, he declared, “God uses the power of the word of the Book of Mormon as an instrument to change people’s lives.”
And our living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, has stated that the message of the Book of Mormon “spans the earth and brings its readers to a knowledge of the truth. It is my testimony that the Book of Mormon changes lives. May each of us read it and reread it. And may we joyfully share our testimonies of its precious promises with all of God’s children” (LDS.org, “Prophets and Apostles”).
This sacred book, indeed, changes lives. Perhaps we can follow the example of a Primary girl who said simply, “I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon. It brings me to the Savior.”
Let us all follow her example in the coming months and come “to the Savior” through a daily feasting on the precepts taught in the Book of Mormon.