Like many Latter-day Saints around the world, Christopher Corcuera in Lima, Peru, has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in his life and the life of his family.
He lost a close family member to the virus, and some in his family lost their jobs. He was told he wouldn’t be paid until work resumed. His children haven’t left the house in almost 100 days.
“At times, I felt that this situation was too much. I felt like giving up,” said Corcuera, a father of two young children who lives in the San Miguel Ward, Lima Peru Maranga Stake. “But it was a time which helped me become closer to my kids.”
Corcuera said he found strength by studying the Book of Mormon with his family and remembering how other families overcame challenges. “For example, Nephi when he broke his bow and they didn’t have food to eat,” he said, then expanding his insights to Lehi’s family. “Or when they left Jerusalem to go to the desert, it was a difficult time for them.”
“By reading again the same stories that I have read many times, I have found counsel to keep going,” he said.
Six months ago, the Sunday School general presidency kicked off a new year of “Come, Follow Me” study with the Book of Mormon. With the 200th anniversary of the First Vision and focus on the Restoration, they hoped it would be “a year of powerful scripture study unlike any other.”
Amid global unrest and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other events, many Latter-day Saints have found strength and comfort by studying the Book of Mormon individually and as families — and studying more deeply than perhaps they ever have.
“One passage of scripture which strengthened me is the one of father Lehi when he counsels his children that inasmuch as they keep the commandments, they will be blessed,” Corcuera said, referencing 2 Nephi 4:4.
As a BYU-Pathway student, Corcuera learned to save six months’ income — a blessing that has allowed him to continue to provide for his family both temporally and spiritually.
“It’s been a blessing to apply the teachings of our Church leaders, even in the old times as in the Book of Mormon, and also the counsel of our prophets in these latter days,” Corcuera said. “I think that was the key for my family to not feel overwhelmed.”
The prophets have prepared us with ‘Come, Follow Me’
In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, a “mighty famine” came in the land when the younger son frivolously wasted all he had. “However, there is no spiritual famine in the land today among the Latter-day Saints,” said Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace.
“We haven’t been sitting together in our Church buildings, but make no doubt that we have been growing spiritually and families have been blessed and prospered and watched over as they’ve been studying the scriptures with ‘Come, Follow Me.’”
With the introduction in October 2018 of an adjusted Sunday meeting schedule and home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum, “the prophets have prepared us, the Saints have been doing it, and they’ve been blessed,” he said.
“I have seen it with people in my employment, I’ve seen it with members of my family, I’ve seen it with people in my neighborhood. They are thriving spiritually. It is marvelous.”
Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, has been impressed with his young grandchildren’s increased knowledge of the Book of Mormon and doctrines of the gospel as they’ve studied in their homes.
“Those who are taking advantage of this moment, in studying and doing their best, they are going to be really strong,” he said. “And those who are just ‘Ok, vacation time!’ they’re not going to be as strong.”
Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, said Church members have been blessed as they’ve taken advantage of the “Come, Follow Me” resource to “dive deep” in the Book of Mormon this year.
“When you do that, the Lord pours out His blessings, and all of a sudden, you become very familiar with how the Spirit teaches and prompts you,” Brother Newman said. “And that brings spiritual strength to the members.”
Challenging times aren’t over, he said, but “if we anchor ourselves to the word of God, it really won’t matter.”
President Pace added, “This is a season of rejoicing. When the world has all sorts of uncertainty, we don’t have to worry. We’re following the living prophets.”
‘Home can be a heaven on earth’
In Esteban Ventura’s home in Montevideo, Uruguay, his 10-year-old and 8-year-old children have been preparing their family home evening lessons. Using “Come, Follow Me” as a guide has improved their understanding of the Book of Mormon, he said. They also enjoy watching the Book of Mormon Videos together.
“When my children were isolated for 90 days and when they couldn’t see other children or go out or go to school, that the was the biggest thing for me — to see how the scriptures and then ‘Come, Follow Me’ came to aid us, to help us feel prepared, even happy during this pandemic time,” said Ventura.
The transition to working from home has been challenging, he said, but reading the Book of Mormon every morning “helped me to have the Spirit and prepare for being isolated the whole day.”
Shortly before Church meetings and school were temporarily suspended in March, Anita Pulsipher said the lyrics of the hymn “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth” went through her mind over and over.
“Once I heard that we would be holding Church in our home, school in our home, and that we were to remain at home, the lyrics to this hymn came back full force and filled my heart with immense comfort,” said Pulsipher, a mother of three who lives in the Highland 36th Ward, Highland Utah West Stake. “It was as if the Lord was preparing me for the news and reassuring me that He knew all of this would happen.”
“I have felt the Spirit permeate our home, and although we are not perfect and sometimes we have the family squabble, the Spirit quickly fills our hearts and home when we read each night from ‘Come, Follow Me’ and the Book of Mormon or when we pray over meals or anytime together.”
Since returning to Church activity after falling away for several years, Losehina Kofler, a member of the Odessa Ward, Odessa Florida Stake, has noticed a difference in her home when she reads the Book of Mormon daily with her husband and 14-year-old son.
“It’s been such a blessing in our family, in our lives, especially with this pandemic going on, and the riots and all this uncertainty,” she said. “It has really brought so much comfort and so much appreciation to our family.”
They learned from Abinadi’s example in preaching to King Noah to not fear people; instead, “Are we pleasing our Heavenly Father?”
“We are grateful for this time to learn together and increase our spiritual self-reliance,” Kofler continued. “The Book of Mormon, along with ‘Come, Follow Me,’ has strengthened our bond as husband and wife, as a family.”
Jordan Watson, 17, also in the Odessa Ward, said she has found particular strength in the 2020 youth theme scripture 1 Nephi 3:7. “This time may be hard, but He has prepared a way for us to ‘go and do.’ And I think the way is working,” she said.
Despite the uncertainty he’s facing with job prospects, George Ferreira dos Santos, a young adult in the Bandeirantes Ward, Rio Verde Brazil Stake, said he finds comfort in knowing he can feel the Spirit and find answers to his questions by reading the Book of Mormon.
“It makes our life in these times possible,” he said. “I wouldn’t even know who or how I would be if it weren’t for the Book of Mormon and all that the gospel brings.”
Santos continued, “Because President Nelson is a prophet, he knew — even though it might be he didn’t know there would be a pandemic — God had warned him somehow that we would need the Book of Mormon now more than ever.”
President Harold Teivao, president of the Faaa Tahiti Takaroa Stake, said he recently found inspiration in the Book of Mormon as he met with a couple going through marital struggles. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, he could not meet with them physically, but he sent them thoughts from his daily “Come, Follow Me” study related to overcoming trials. He prayed and fasted for the couple.
“I received help from heaven to be an instrument to make the miracle really happen,” he said. “I know for sure that the Book of Mormon is a book of miracles. It’s a book that repairs and softens everyone’s heart.”
President Teivao added, “I am grateful for the Book of Mormon that brings me the spirit, the right words, the comforting words in due time to save souls. Thanks to the daily study of the Book of Mormon, I can bring joy in the lives of families in difficulty.”