The Church’s collective study of the Book of Mormon in 2024 comes at a time when that book’s distribution hits a significant milestone.
Its first printed edition included 5,000 copies in 1830. The Church had distributed 100 million copies by the year 2000. And as of summer 2023, that number has doubled. More than 200 million copies of the Book of Mormon have now entered the hands of individuals worldwide seeking to know more about Jesus Christ and His role in their lives.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the increasing distribution of the Book of Mormon is a fulfillment of prophecy and a sign that Heavenly Father is hastening the work of gathering scattered Israel.
“President [Russell M.] Nelson has said that the Book of Mormon is the tool of the gathering. As the Book of Mormon increases in distribution, it is a manifestation of the Lord hastening His work,” Elder Renlund recently said in a Church News interview. “We have so many channels in which we can receive, learn about or share the Book of Mormon. The Lord is giving us tools to use to hasten His work. One of those tools is the Book of Mormon.”
Elder Renlund said it is good to recognize this milestone, but the book’s purpose goes unrealized unless individuals use it to be converted to the Savior.
“It is a remarkable achievement, but I do not think it is an achievement that we should be satisfied with. What is the Book of Mormon to achieve? It is to invite people to come to Christ, be converted to Him, become His disciple, and get on and stay on the covenant path,” he said.
A healthy diet
It takes sustained, regular effort to be converted and to strengthen one’s testimony of the Savior, Elder Renlund explained.
“President Nelson has talked about daily immersion in [the Book of Mormon], daily study.”
Why such an emphasis on studying each day? In an analogy, Elder Renlund compared scripture study to maintaining a healthy physical diet.
“If we think of our spiritual health, daily [Book of Mormon study] is better than not studying six days and then bingeing for one day. Similarly, it is not good for my health if I choose to fast for six days and then gorge myself on the seventh day. Instead, a recipe for good health is eating a good diet every day. In the same way, daily immersion in the Book of Mormon is the right way to acquire the spiritual nourishment that we need,” he said.
‘Come, Follow Me’
Each year, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints study from one of four collections of scripture — Doctrine and Covenants, the Old Testament, the New Testament or the Book of Mormon. As the Church moved to a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum model, some individuals and families made a smooth transition. Others have found new challenges. Elder Renlund said he hopes Church members don’t complicate their scripture study.
“The wonder of ‘Come, Follow Me’ is that it is terrific even for busy moms and dads because of the way it is organized. If we are really busy, one of the worst things we can do is to make it overly complex — to think that it has to be done in a certain way, that it has to be a lesson,” he said.
He gave a few suggestions of how a family could study together. They may choose to read one verse and share what each family member learns from it. They may watch a video linked in the Gospel Library version of the week’s outline. They might search for the answer to a question together. And, he said, they may also pray together about what they are studying.
“I think the biggest challenge is thinking there is a huge preparation that is needed, whereas, just getting into it, just starting it — picking the week, looking through and seeing the piece you want to read and discuss helps.”
And while some parents or teachers have measured success in the past by how many chapters were read in the year or how quickly they were read, Elder Renlund suggested a different metric.
“Success as a parent is measured primarily by your commitment to helping your children become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. [The Book of Mormon] is the tool by which it can be done.”
Reading strictly from the verses of each chapter might not be the right way for every individual to learn the stories and gospel principles taught in the Book of Mormon. Resources like the Book of Mormon app, the Book of Mormon Videos and the recently revised, illustrated Book of Mormon Stories can provide different learning experiences.
“We think of these Book of Mormon Stories as being for children. I find them fascinating because they are so engaging. If I were new to the Church — either as a friend or as a new convert — these Book of Mormon Stories and illustrations give a broad overview so I can get the big picture,” he said. “… I do not think it is just for children. I think it is for all of us.”
‘In his own tongue’
The Church has published the Book of Mormon in 113 languages — 92 full translations and 21 Selections from the Book of Mormon. Elder Renlund said the Savior set the groundwork for translating scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants 90:11, when He said, “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Renlund said the Church has historically taken that direction seriously.
“I think the foundational principle used for translation is that the Book of Mormon should be available in the language that touches an individual’s heart. We are translating as fast as we can so that everybody can receive the Book of Mormon in their own tongue.”
Elder Renlund’s Book of Mormon testimony
Reflecting on his personal experience as a young man studying the Book of Mormon, Elder Renlund said it is a miracle to find out the book is true.
“It is a profound miracle in my life that I have come to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that it was received and translated as Joseph said it was. I know this for myself. And I know that everyone can know for themselves that the Book of Mormon is true. That blessing is available to all.”
He recalled living in Sweden with his family as a young man and being invited by a visiting mission president at church to study the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true.
“I remember the very night when it happened for me. I remember waiting until my brother had gone to sleep, kneeling on a very cold floor, to ask if what I was reading in the Book of Mormon was true. This amazing warmth filled me, as if I were being told, ‘I’ve been telling you all along it is true.’ That was the beginning for me.”
Elder Renlund said his testimony of the Savior’s Atonement and the plan of salvation has grown stronger as he has continued to study the Book of Mormon throughout his life.
“I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Because of that witness, I know of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ. I absolutely know it is true. I have learned that He is intimately involved in directing His Church on the earth today. I know this. But that does not help you very much. … The real miracle happens when you come to know for yourself. That is what changes lives. That is what changed my life. And so, I encourage everyone to read the Book of Mormon this year, to find out for themselves that it is true, and thereby come to know that Jesus is the Christ.”