Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will study the Book of Mormon individually and collectively during 2024. This book is an additional witness of Jesus Christ and his role in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation for all His children.
Before the year begins, the Church News staff selected stories, chapters and verses from the Book of Mormon that have blessed their lives.
Kaitlyn Bancroft: ‘For behold, ye are free’
Helaman 14:30 — especially the phrase, “for behold, ye are free” — reminds me of one of the most important experiences of my life.
During the summer of 2018, I found myself grappling with if I should serve a full-time mission. Several years earlier, I had prayed, fasted, pondered and made my peace with the question; but that summer, as my brother prepared to answer his mission call to the Philippines, I became uncertain again. I had big dreams for a journalism career after graduating college, but my patriarchal blessing spoke of my responsibility to share the gospel and of the many opportunities I’d have to share my testimony. What could that mean but missionary service?
I studied testimonies of sacrifice, from scripture stories to personal accounts, but as the summer passed, my uncertainty turned into crippling anxiety. The future I so deeply wanted felt at odds with my patriarchal blessing, and heaven had never seemed so silent.
Two major turning points came as the summer ended and I returned to Brigham Young University for my senior year. One was the decision to receive my temple endowment. I’ll never forget bawling in my car after my stake president approved my temple recommend, feeling Heavenly Father teach me that the endowment is inherently a gift — not something I earn by serving a mission or getting married.
The second came through a blessing in which a particular promise was repeated again and again: “You are free.” Too often, I’d felt like God begrudged my agency, holding Himself apart from me until I submitted my will to His. But learning that He and I build my life together — that He supports my righteous desires, whatever they might be — changed my entire perception of who He is.
Following graduation, Heavenly Father opened door after door for me in journalism. I didn’t know it then, but He was preparing me for when Church News would come knocking — preparing me for the day that I would share the gospel and my testimony in ways I never imagined.
Vanessa Fitzgibbon: ‘We do not doubt our mothers knew it’
Since I joined the Church of Jesus Christ at 16, the Book of Mormon has been the catalyst for the best of two worlds. My parents were very religious and faithful, and although I broke some family traditions by changing my religion, my family fully supported my decision.
My first time reading the Book of Mormon was a tender experience. I started it with a deep faith that the Lord would send His Spirit to help me understand foreign concepts I had never heard as I dug into it. People who know me also know that my life was not easy, but the examples, stories and testimony of the Book of Mormon helped me through it.
The first scripture I memorized was 1 Nephi 3:7: “… I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” In my limited experience in life at that time, I knew that if I stayed faithful, the Lord would give me the strength and ability to reach my mission on this earth. But I was still far from seeing the whole picture.
Becoming a single mother of four small children in a foreign country was not what I had planned for our family. After considering my professional background and skills, I decided to pursue a doctorate in Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After many long days and years of study, tears, prayers and unimaginable challenges, I received my degree. I returned to Utah, where I started to teach as a full-time professor.
However, one more time, things were not what I expected. To balance and accomplish my responsibilities, raise faithful and obedient children, and meet the demands coming from the academic world, I found a scripture that became my motto for many years. It’s in 2 Nephi 9:28-29, but the last verse gave me great comfort: “… to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”
I’ve always put God, Jesus Christ and the gospel at the center of our family. My children knew, and still see as they take their paths, that despite the challenges, our faith is still the most important thing, and we have never doubted the Lord has taken care of us. As I always hoped, the four of them served missions, and their obedience and faith in the Lord is tangible. Alma 56:47-48 always comes to my mind regarding the strength the Lord gave me to raise them all in the gospel: “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” And I’ve never doubted the Lord knows us by name and has guided and helped our small family to be instruments in His hands.
Nadia Gavarret: Drawing closer to the temple
The book of 3 Nephi records the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the birth, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon are found in 3 Nephi because it contains teachings the Savior delivered directly to the people.
One of my favorite stories is found in 3 Nephi 11, which recounts the appearance of the Savior to the people in the ancient Americas.
One thing that has always caught my attention when reading 3 Nephi 11 is found in verse 1: “And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.”
Ancient inhabitants of the Americas were found gathering at the temple. We know, from other passages in the Book of Mormon, that other temples had been built. After the destruction that signaled the death of Jesus Christ, the people of Nephi gathered at the temple in search of refuge, comfort and understanding. The Savior appeared there, and those naturally drawn to the temple were the first to witness and interact with Him.
In the October 2022 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson said: “It is significant that the Savior chose to appear to the people at the temple. It is His house. It is filled with His power. Let us never lose sight of what the Lord is doing for us now. He is making His temples more accessible. He is accelerating the pace at which we are building temples. He is increasing our ability to help gather Israel. He is also making it easier for each of us to become spiritually refined. I promise that increased time in the temple will bless your life in ways nothing else can.”
Just like the people in 3 Nephi, we need to make the temple our focus, our place of refuge and comfort. The temple is the house of the Lord. It is a place where I can always find comfort and peace and a refuge from the storm. A place where I can draw closer to Him and receive guidance from above.
Rachel Sterzer Gibson: Being grateful when ‘buried in the depths’
The ocean crossing of the Jaredite barges sounds arduous and terrible to me. The scriptures say the barges were many times “buried in the depths” with “mountain waves” and “great and terrible tempests” (Ether 6:6-7).
I thought about those barges as my husband and I experienced rough seas on a whale-watching tour on our honeymoon. As the boat began to heave with the waves, a sailor passed a plastic bag to my poor husband, whose face had turned green. After a turbulent two hours, we were grateful to set foot on solid ground. I can’t imagine being in those vessels “tight like unto a dish” and “encompassed about by many waters” for 344 days (verse 11).
I’m always impressed, however, with the Jaredites’ response to their circumstances. First, they “did cry unto the Lord,” and He brought them to the top of the waters again.
What does that teach me? Sometimes deliverance from trials is a process, not instantaneous. If we can turn to the Lord throughout our journey, He can help bring us up to the top again so we can catch our breath until we finally make it through to the other side.
Second, throughout their journey, the brother of Jared and his people “did sing praises unto the Lord … they did not cease to praise the Lord” (verse 9). If I were a Jaredite, I don’t think I’d be singing praises. More likely, I’d be complaining about being sick or tired or restless or how much I wanted the journey to be over.
The Jaredites, however, instead of feeling resentful at the end of the journey, “did shed tears of joy before the Lord because of the multitude of his tender mercies” (verse 12).
What does that teach me? Too often, I think I wait — or want to wait — until I’ve been delivered from a hardship, when I’ve made it to the other side of a difficult journey, to express any gratitude. If I can find gratitude throughout the journey and notice His tender mercies, even in the abyss, even when I feel encompassed in the depths, I can find greater joy, not only at the end but throughout all of life’s experiences.
Ryan Jensen: Reciting the theme
My family moved into a new ward shortly after I received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon at age 12.
I didn’t know much about what to expect from my transition from Primary to participating within the youth programs of the Church. I had quickly learned how helpful maps were in knowing where to pass the sacrament in an orderly way each Sunday. I knew each quorum had its own classes on Sunday and weekly activities during the week. And I knew that the young women had a theme they would recite at the beginning of each meeting.
In this new ward, after the young women stood to recite their theme and recount their virtues, the young men were invited to stand and recite their theme, as well.
How? What? We didn’t have a theme, I quickly told myself.
But all of the young men quickly stood and began to recite their theme as diligently as had the young women.
“And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all — they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” they repeated in unison from Alma 53:20-21.
For the next six years, these verses laid out a path for me. They included virtues I needed to develop. They gave me direction for what I needed to learn. They helped root me in the Book of Mormon and my study of God’s commandments. While I am not so young anymore, I still strive for those ideals and the guidance they provided.
William Matheson: He will still deliver me
Through the various situations and circumstances that life brings there is a guarantee that trials will come, varied in size and impact, but present nonetheless. Alma the Younger’s testimony to his son Helaman offers the perspective of one who endured more than most in the trials of his life.
Alma 36:27 — “And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.”
Despite the things he had gone through, Alma was prepared to move forward even if he had to go through all those same trials again, all because of his faith. This verse has given me strength to “press forward with faith” in the trials of my life with a more joyful attitude for when I have trusted in God I have been delivered as Alma “and he will still deliver me,” time and time again.
Joel Randall: All are invited to the spiritual feast
Take a moment to picture your favorite food. What does it look like? What does it taste like?
Maybe you’re thinking of a thick pastrami burger with an extra slice of cheese and golden fries salted to perfection. Or perhaps you’re remembering a loaded baked potato stew you had one frosty evening. For me, it would be meaty lasagna with bubbling mozzarella cheese and a side of soft, buttery garlic bread.
Now, let me ask you: “Are you hungry?” I’m assuming “yes.” Yet, your stomach probably wasn’t rumbling before reading the analogy. Maybe you didn’t want your favorite food a minute ago, but now that I brought it to your attention, you’ll do anything to satisfy that desire.
I’ve found the same is true with the gospel. As a missionary a few years back, I met many who thought they had all they could possibly want through worldly pursuits. Then an attribute of the gospel is brought to their attention that just resonates with them in a personal way, and everything changes. They realize there’s a “food” they do indeed desire, even if they didn’t recognize that desire before talking with the missionaries.
This “food” could be as simple as desiring uplifting friendships or be as complex as knowing a deceased loved one will be seen again. More hope, more peace, more testimony, more answers — whatever it may be, Heavenly Father is willing to give it to us through the gospel of His Beloved Son.
My favorite proof of this is in 2 Nephi 26:28: “Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” All are invited to the spiritual feast.
There’s always something out there for anyone who comes with a humble heart and a desire to grow their seed of faith. I figure our loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t even bother creating a gospel that didn’t apply to each one of His children. By turning to the Savior Jesus Christ, we can fill our spiritual hunger with the food we desire most — a sustenance we never knew we needed until it’s right in front of us.
Christine Rappleye: Small and simple things
“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” — Alma 37:6
This is one of the things that’s recorded of Alma’s instructions about the plates to his son Helaman. The phrase “small and simple things” is what sticks with me. When there are many things going on that are bigger than me — political climate, conflicts, humanitarian needs — it’s easy to get discouraged about the needs I see and what I can’t control.
But it’s those “small and simple things” that I can control in my life, including my attitude, my faith, my relationship with the divine, how I develop my talents and abilities, ministering to others and how I spend my time. Even in those things I can control, it takes prioritizing and working to make sure I am consistently doing and strengthening the seemingly small and simple things.
It’s through consistent effort on the small and simple things in life that I see the greatest results.
President Russell M. Nelson taught in a social media post on Jan. 1, 2022: “The Lord loves effort. The Lord loves consistency. The Lord loves steadfastness. While we surely will come up short from time to time, our persistent efforts to hear Him and follow the inspiration He gives us will help us to ‘wax strong in the Spirit’ (Mosiah 18:26).”
Mary Richards: ‘Can ye feel so now?’
While living in rural northwest Missouri, my family had long drives to make any time we went anywhere. Our van had no modern entertainment system, but my parents did purchase several hymnbooks. And so our drives through rolling hills of farmland became filled with singing.
Not only did I learn many hymns by heart after singing them so often, my heart became full of the gospel truth in the words of the hymns — and my testimony grew because of the spirit I felt from the music.
Alma 5:26 says, “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”
In this chapter, Alma is teaching about repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ — evidence of Christ’s “redeeming love.” Alma’s question in this verse is an invitation to me to remember my conversion, my covenants, and the times when the Spirit has testified of truth to me.
I remember what I learned and what I know — for I have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, and I still feel so now.
David Schneider: Words of the prophet fulfilled
We are taught that we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6), and the scriptures are replete with examples.
At Christmastime, I like to reflect on what the Book of Mormon tells us was happening in the Western Hemisphere regarding those who believed the prophet Samuel’s teachings regarding the birth of the Messiah, and the threats leveled against believers. In that atmosphere, religious leader Nephi implores God on behalf of his people.
“And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
“Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
“Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world ... . And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given” (3 Nephi 1:12-14).
Scott Taylor: Baptism invitation — and response
Mosiah 18:8-10 is an appropriately oft-quoted verse about baptism, with its questions powerfully detailing the covenant, commitment and blessings of the gospel’s first saving ordinance.
As a missionary serving in Texas, Venezuela and Curacao four decades ago, I first became acquainted with the next verse — an overwhelming response in the affirmative. As my wife and I presided over the Arizona Phoenix Mission 12 years ago and later as leaders of missionary training center branches and a young single adult ward, we have tried to help missionaries and members appreciate verse 11.
Read all four together — and see how the last verse completes the first three.
“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
”Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
”And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”
Trent Toone: A foundational scripture for life
In his October 2011 general conference talk, “The Power of Scripture,” Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that scriptures “can become stalwart friends.”
“They are always available when needed. Their use provides a foundation of truth that can be awakened by the Holy Ghost. Learning, pondering, searching and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world,” he said.
That is how I feel about Helaman 5:12.
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
I was introduced to this verse as a young man in seminary and I heard it referenced many times at camps and Young Men activities. The more I read or heard these powerful words, the more it resonated with me and strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ. It was easy to memorize then, and I can still recite it to this day.
The verse teaches two key truths that have become foundational blocks of my testimony: First, Jesus Christ is our sure foundation. Second, if we build our foundation on Jesus Christ, the devil will have no power over us.
These truths continue to inspire and give me hope as I think of these words from President Russell M. Nelson: “If you and I are to withstand the forthcoming perils and pressures, it is imperative that we each have a firm spiritual foundation built upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”
Valerie Walton: A disciple of Jesus Christ
For a year and a half, I would begin my mornings by reciting aloud the following:
“Third Nephi 5:13: ‘Behold, I [Sister Johnson] am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.’”
So when the 2024 youth theme was announced in October, my first reaction was, “Behold I, Sister Walton, am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. ...”
It’s been nine years since I returned from serving in the Florida Jacksonville Mission, which had this scripture as its theme, and I can still recite it by heart. It was a rousing call to action, a daily reminder of the seriousness of my calling as a missionary. And now, as a youth Sunday School teacher who serves with my husband, that excitement and energy is stirring again.
One of the best things about working for the Church News is that as my first real job after my mission, it was just like being back in the mission field. I’d spent a year and a half talking to people about their testimonies and teaching the gospel, and here I was getting paid to do just that again.
And with 3 Nephi 5:13 being the youth theme in 2024, I’m reminded that I’m still called to “declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” Only in addition to writing about the gospel and the news of the Church of Jesus Christ for a potentially worldwide audience, I also have a responsibility to teach the youth of my ward about the scriptures every other week. My job and my calling can be hard, but both have been incredible blessings in my life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: A loving God shares His light
I have had a favorite scripture since I was a new seminary student: Moroni 10:4-5. From the first time I read it I was struck by the miracle of the Book of Mormon and, by extension, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
It is a scripture we have all read thousands of times. But it is powerful.
A loving Heavenly Father trust His children — all of us — with the same stunning promise. We can know for ourselves if the scriptures are true. We can know if prophets, modern and ancient, speak for God. We can know if the Lord’s plan for happiness will bring us joy.
We don’t need to be a scholar or a preacher. We just need to receive truth and ask God, in the name of Jesus Christ, if it is indeed true. And if our questions are sincere and our intent is real, we will, by the power of the Holy Ghost, come to know those truths for ourselves.
In a world full of opinions and divisions and darkness, a loving God shares His light, His grace and His hope among all His children — who without exception can choose to claim His promises.