Institute director Luke Kerr saw a note written by a student during a Book of Mormon reading challenge:
"We only have 531 pages in our Book of Mormon compared to the vast 541 in the Turkish Book of Mormon. Oh to be Slovakian, that we would only have 513 pages to read!"
"It was incredible to see students marking their scriptures with their pencils and pens all around them," Kerr said. "I found myself in awe of their ability to stay focused for so long."
It was all part of a recent 24-hour Book of Mormon reading challenge completed by institute students in Manchester, England. Kerr said after studying the Book of Mormon for two semesters, the students felt "such a love and excitement for the Book of Mormon" they suggested a 24-hour reading challenge. Kerr arranged for the challenge to be in two 12-hour parts across two days, as he was concerned about students driving home after a straight 24 hours without sleep.
Kerr said 30 students participated in the challenge, with 18 students staying the whole time. They began by reading verse-by-verse around the room, then changed to page-by-page after several hours, with two students keeping track of their pacing.
The local YSA senior missionary couple also attended, as well as missionaries in their district who visited the challenge during their dinner break on the second day. The students themselves didn't stop for meals but read as they ate, and they began and ended both days on their knees in prayer. Kerr said they prayed again at the conclusion of the challenge "for the confirming feeling of the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of the things that we read."
They ultimately finished in 23 hours and 55 minutes.
"It was exciting, fun, challenging and rewarding," Kerr said. "The overriding feeling was not one focused on completion and speed."
Kerr said there's power in studying and discussing scripture block-by-block, but there's also great power in reading the Book of Mormon as a book.
"It is a tremendously challenging task to read the book from beginning to end in such a short period of time, but I can testify that it is extremely rewarding and moving to hear the prophets of the Book of Mormon testify, encourage and offer blessings to the reader in such quick succession," he said. "I felt that I understood the people more, I felt of their love, the love of Christ and the urgency of their message."
He also said anyone planning a similar event should "plan good meals, (have) lots of sugar and make sure you keep a notepad near at all times."
Chantal Barton, an institute student who participated in the challenge, joined the Church only about two months ago. The 24-hour challenge was her first time reading the Book of Mormon all the way through, an experience which she said reminded her of the excitement she felt reading the Bible as a child.
She also said the experience reminded her of Luke 1:37 — "For with God nothing shall be impossible" — and the Book of Mormon is a testament of that scripture, reminding her she can do hard things.
"It was exciting to share this experience for the first time with my friends," she said. "I felt so spiritually connected to all of the people we were reading about. To hear the trials that they had endured showed me that with faith in Jesus Christ, I can also have the strength to get through my trials."
Institute student Georgia Roberts said although she could only attend the second half of the challenge, she "truly felt the Spirit and my Heavenly Father's love for me personally."
"I loved devoting 12 hours to reading the Book of Mormon with so many amazing friends," Roberts said. "I am so grateful for the examples of love and guidance that are shown throughout the scriptures, and for the important truths that are given for us in our time."
Ruth Teal, another participating institute student, called it "a wonderful, exhausting, brilliant experience" that she got more out of than she thought she would.
And if anyone wants to try a Book of Mormon challenge, "Do it," Teal said. "You will not regret it. There is a healing power in that book. If you want peace, real peace, read and study this book."