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Episode 170: The Sunday School general presidency on personal conversion, the 2024 ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum and the Book of Mormon

The Church News podcast features President Mark L. Pace and his counselors — Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman

Since President Russell M. Nelson announcedCome, Follow Me” in October 2018, the unified scripture study experience has revolutionized home and church study in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has strengthened personal testimonies and created a transformative experience for partakers of the program.

Now, as Latter-day Saints study the Book of Mormon in 2024, this episode of the Church News podcast features the Sunday School general presidency, President Mark L. Pace and his counselors — Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman — talking about the value of the Book of Mormon and all they have learned from “Come, Follow Me.” 

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Transcript:

President Mark L. Pace: Every time we read the Book of Mormon, the Lord teaches us and makes known to us additional understanding, wisdom, and insight and light that we’re ready for. And it was there last time, but there’s more there this time, and there’ll be more there the next time. The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost bears testimony. And it brings about conversion in our lives again and again, and conversion in my life again and again. I know of its truthfulness. And I’m grateful that the Spirit witnesses that to me and to all of us as we sincerely read and ponder and ask. I rejoice in our opportunity this year. I love the Book of Mormon.

0:59

Sarah Jane Weaver: This is Sarah Jane Weaver, executive editor of the Church News, welcoming you to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Sunday School general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sunday School general presidency: President Mark L. Pace, center, Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor, left, and Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor, right. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Since President Russell M. Nelson announced “Come, Follow Mein October of 2018, the unified scripture study experience has revolutionized home and church study, strengthening personal testimonies and becoming a transformative experience for partakers of the program. Now Latter-day Saints prepare to study the Book of Mormon in 2024.

This episode of the Church News podcast features the Sunday School general presidency — President Mark L. Pace and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman — talking about the Book of Mormon and all they have learned from “Come, Follow Me.” Welcome, brethren, to the podcast.

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you. Thanks for the invitation.

1:55

Sarah Jane Weaver: It’s sort of a fun tradition for us to have you on every year as we approach a new course of study. And this year, we get to study the Book of Mormon at sort of an exciting time to study the Book of Mormon, because the Church just announced that we have now printed 200 million copies of this sacred scripture. So, if you’ll just start, President Pace, and tell us some of your feelings as we dive into the Book of Mormon again.

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Episode 169: Elder Dale G. Renlund on his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Church’s distribution of 200 million copies of the sacred text

2:23

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you, again, for the invitation. It’s an honor for us to be here. What a sacred time; 200 million copies of the Book of Mormon that have been printed. You know, out of all those, the most important one is mine and yours and all of ours, and the influence it has in our lives.

We’re excited about this coming year to study the Book of Mormon as individuals, families, as a Church, particularly since last time we studied it, we only were able to go to Church for a couple months. And then that was it with COVID, for the better part of the year and beyond that. And so what a thrill to be able to study the Book of Mormon, study it with “Come, Follow Me,” study it with those that we love, and study it with the influence of the Lord’s Spirit guiding and directing us. This is going to be a fabulous year.

3:13 

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I would love to have Brother Camargo also share some of the things on his mind as we approach this new book of study.

Brother Milton Camargo: The Book of Mormon has been a marvelous scripture in my life, maybe because it is simple for me to understand. Yeah, I do understand all of the other scriptures, but for some reason, when I read the Book of Mormon, it’s so clear, and it’s so personal. So, for me, the Book of Mormon is the Lord talking to me in different ways, giving instructions, teaching the doctrine and, at the same time, giving me comfort and the feeling that I am known by Him.

So I think this opportunity for us to go back to the Book of Mormon next year is — hopefully it’s going to be similar to many of the members, that they will feel the love of the Savior for them, that they can understand the simple doctrines through the scriptures, and feel edified and have their testimonies strengthened.

4:20

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Newman, how about you?

Brother Jan E. Newman: If you think back to the testimony of just about every Latter-day Saint, the Book of Mormon is there; they read it, they prayed about it. And that’s what the missionaries invite everybody to do. And at some point, you have to come to know for yourself. And so, this will be one of those moments, I think, this next year, that we’ll all revisit that moment when we came to know that the Book of Mormon truly was the word of God, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Those moments are sacred to everybody. And hopefully that renews faith and strengthens the members as we think about that process.

The other thing I just love about the Book of Mormon is the great wisdom in Heavenly Father knowing the way our minds and our hearts work, that we needed something physical and tangible to hold in our hand and to look and read the words that have been preserved so faithfully by so many of these great prophets for our well-being in the latter days. So, I’m just grateful for that blessing and really, really look forward to reading some of those words that I will remember in sacred moments of my life that have brought me closer to the Savior.

Elder Samuel Nagliati, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holds a Book of Mormon as he and his companion make contacts in Bologna, Italy, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

5:33

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so happy that President Pace noted that the last time we studied the Book of Mormon was during the pandemic. I remember “Come, Follow Me” was announced, we got to study the New Testament — which was so fun to launch that, with a deep dive on the Savior — and then we started the Book of Mormon. We hit a point where we could no longer gather with other Saints on Sunday. And we started to feel for ourselves the magic of “Come, Follow Me,” the relevance and the timing and the inspiration of that program.

Talk about what you’ve learned as you have seen, in the past more than four and a half years, “Come, Follow Me” be implemented and embraced the way it has been for Latter-day Saints.

6:18

President Mark L. Pace: The Church has many products that are very successful. The first two most successful products are the scriptures and general conference. And the third most successful product is the “Come, Follow Me” manual, that the Saints have used it to help them in their study of the scriptures. And they’re using it around the world, and they’re using it as individuals and as families. And what a great blessing that has been.

I’ve been thinking about that when the Saints were studying the scriptures during the pandemic, there was no spiritual famine in the land. Perhaps we weren’t meeting together, because we weren’t able to. But as we were in the scriptures, as we were in the Book of Mormon, there was no diminishing of faith. There was no diminishing of the influence of the Spirit in our lives. There was no spiritual famine in the land. And that continues to be true today for the Saints who are rejoicing in the blessing of reading the scriptures.

I also wanted to share a thought, If I could, Sarah Jane, about the way the Lord reveals His will to us. I’m sort of coming up with about five different ways. One way is that He could reveal His words to ancient prophets, and they’ve been printed and been handed down through thousands of years. Another way He could reveal His will to us is that He could have ancient prophets write it, and then it could be buried in a hill and preserved for thousands, almost 2,000 years, and then it’s revealed to us. Another way He can reveal it to us, He can speak it to the living prophet, who can relay it to us. Or He can speak it to our minds.

And in all of those ways, the Lord is giving us His scriptures. And the goal is that the Holy Ghost would be with us. We’re not in the information business. We’re in the inspiration business. And we seek to give the Saints an opportunity as they study the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me” a chance to draw close to the Lord and feel of His inspiring guidance and influence in their lives. And in that, we rejoice.

8:28

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I’d love to hear what your counselors have also learned in this process of seeing the Church embrace “Come, Follow Me.”

Brother Jan E. Newman: From my perspective, the one thing I love about studying the scriptures in “Come, Follow Me,” it’s a home-centered, Church-supported program. And sometimes the “home-centered” part can be a little challenging for families. But the main message is: Do the best you can. Find something that works for you, and then do the best you can.

The other thing that I love about the home-centered, Church-supported part is the members that are studying and being taught by the Holy Ghost at home are coming to church. And when those who are teaching the classes just ask them simply, “What have you learned this week in your study of the scriptures using ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and what has the Holy Ghost taught you?” And when they share that, it becomes a very personal, revelatory experience for all the members in the ward, in the class, whether it’s an adult Sunday School class, youth, Primary or whatever.

Also, we’re bringing back all of this power and inspiration that’s happening in the home, and it’s blessing the lives of the members at church.

A first edition of the Book of Mormon (1830) is on display at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

9:35

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Camargo?

Brother Milton Camargo: One thing that is good to see in this period of time that we’ve been here is there are some objective measures that we can see that more members are reading the scriptures. Of course, the Gospel Library app, we never identify who’s reading, who is not, but we’re able to know how many are connecting to the scriptures every day, and that number is growing. So that shows, in a very objective way, that, “Yeah, more members are enjoying the scriptures and are learning from the scriptures.”

In fact, using the Book of Mormon, Nephi the prophet said, “The words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3). So that means that more members know what they have to do by reading the scriptures. And those that use in print, which is great, also; reading the scriptures in print. We also have surveys that show that the frequency of members reading more and more in the week is growing through this period of time.

So, it is great inspiration from a prophet when he released the program “Come, Follow Me” five years ago. And it is a great thing to see that members are putting in practice, improving in their studying, in their learning and in their conversion and their personal revelation from the Holy Ghost.

11:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: I know in my own ward, we saw an instant change when “Come, Follow Me” started, because Sunday School turned from being someone talking at us to us talking together. Now, we’re also seeing even more changes coming up in 2024. And those include a unified manual that everyone can pull from, whether they have responsibility for the youth or for adult Sunday School or are studying for themselves as an individual or for their family. And we also have Book of Mormon videos. I’d love for you to talk about some of these things.

11:38

President Mark L. Pace: You know, for the last five years, we’ve had a manual for individuals and families, another manual for Sunday School, another manual for Primary, and then another manual for Young Men and Young Women. And one of the reasons we had such a robust set of manuals was that when “Come, Follow Me” was initially put together and got its traction, we were a three-hour church on Sunday. And so Primary was every week. And Young Men, Young Women was every week. And Sunday School was every week. And Primary still is every week. Anyway, but when it was announced and the Brethren said, “Let’s go forward,” then they said, “By the way, we’re going to be a two-hour church.” And so we really had this big armor of manuals.

And so after four years, after we went through the whole cycle, it seemed to be right as we start the Book of Mormon, to consolidate down. And so you’ll have in the manual for individuals and families, you’ll have for teaching adults, you’ll have for teaching youth, you’ll have for teaching Primary. And so we maintain that the best resources we have are not just being given to teachers, but they’re being given to parents and to individuals. And the best we have is found in one manual. We used to have three manuals for use at church and one for at home. Now we have one that’s used at home, and it’s also used at church.

We would also point out that there’s a — as you go through each week — there’s a little blue scripture icon, like someone opened up a book of scripture, and that’s blue. That is exactly where we would like youth teachers to start their lessons. All the book is written in English, except for that little symbol. That’s not written in English, and so we’re deciphering it for you, that that is for people to understand that it’s for the youth and particularly for that class. It’s the same manual for teaching that we’re using in all the youth classes all four weeks. So we use it in Sunday School first and third Sundays, but we also use it in Aaronic Priesthood quorum and the Young Women classes on the second and fourth.

So, it’s great. it’s simplified. It’s united. There’s power in unity, and we’re rejoicing in it. And we’re rejoicing that it’s being sent out to every active household in the Church. This manual has come to a ward clerk’s office close to you. Get your copy, and enjoy it. It’s going to be a great blessing to the Church.

13:58

Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah, I guess the good point of this combination or consolidation of all the manuals is that focus on the study at home. This is the best place to study. So, instead of going to church — and even in Primary and waiting for the teacher in Primary to give all of those nice pictures to draw, or even any activity that they can come up in a class — we can do this at home. Our children can do this at home, because the manual is exactly the same. Parents will have access to everything, and the best place to have a learning experience in the gospel is at home. And then when we go to church, we can share what we learned.

14:42

Brother Jan E. Newman: One thing I really love about this consolidated manual is it gives us a lot of resources that are focused on these different audiences, whether it be generally for everyone, the youth and for children. There’s a section in the new manual that’s focused on teaching children, which I love. And that’s — you think about a parent at home, all of a sudden, I’ve got all these resources available just focused on how I can help teach my children. And in the electronic versions, you have these links you can just click on that take you to additional material: talks in general conference, articles in the Friend magazine or the For the Strength of Youth, as well as music. And I just think there’s some great resources there.

One thing I hear from people as I’m out and about is, “Well, Brother Newman, I used to have a manual that would help me as a Sunday School teacher, and you just took that away.” And I go, “No, we just gave you a better one.” And everybody’s going to be teaching out of that. And if you think about it, you teach in church once every two weeks. So you have two weeks of material. And the most important piece of material that you have is the scriptures themselves. The manual is going to guide us to focus on certain things in the scriptures.

But you think about how many chapters and verses are available to a teacher, there’s a lot over a two-week period of time. I used to have people say, “Well, what do I teach? Do I teach the first week of ‘Come, Follow Me’ or second?” And I say, “Find out what the Lord wants you to teach to the people that you’ve been given the stewardship to teach, whether it’s your family or students in your class.” And I just promise anyone out there: You will not run out of material. You’ll be fine.

Sister Natalee Cannon, from Falls Church, Va., reads the Book of Mormon out loud in Polish to work on her pronunciation as she prepares to serve a mission in Warsaw, Poland, at the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Thursday, June 22, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

16:19

Sarah Jane Weaver: I had never contemplated this idea that this is still home-centered, Church-supported, but more home-centered, Church-supported, that now in our homes, we have every resource that is available to anyone with any calling or in any place where they have a stewardship for certain teaching.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Book of Mormon videos.

16:42

President Mark L. Pace: It was interesting that four years ago, when we were studying the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon videos were in process. And then with COVID, there was a little of a shutdown on that, and we weren’t able to go forward. So now those are continuing to be finalized and continuing to be available. They’re available in the Gospel Library app, and they’re a great blessing to us. And we’re excited that this time, we’ll have the videos to go with the study of the Book of Mormon.

17:10

Brother Milton Camargo: And the videos, they bring the motion. Of course, the scriptures bring the motion, but one thing is to read “And they cried when they saw the Savior.” The other one is to see a video and see the emotion on the people. And they went there one by one, and He blessed each one and healed them, and then He hugged the children. Lots of emotion in the videos. The videos; outstanding, all of them.

No, I’d never imagined Nephi — well, I always imagined Nephi in my mind. But when I saw the video, wow, that is so good, building that ship and then, you know, following the inspiration and having the help of his brothers, even though they didn’t want at the beginning. It’s lots of emotion in the video. The videos are outstanding and help the youth, help the children, to engage in the scripture. And so when they will have the experience of reading later on, they recognize, “Oh, I know this!” And they can feel it again, the same feeling they had when they saw the video. So I think it is a great resource.

18:13

Brother Jan E. Newman: I love the fact that the Book of Mormon videos, they tell stories, and they take a section out of the scriptures and they tell a story. And that’s just not a story; it’s doctrine, and it’s principles and it’s things to build faith. And we were at the First Presidency one time, and we were talking about teaching. And President Nelson said, “You know how I taught my children?” He says, “I used to use one of those little filmstrip projectors, where it beeped and you turn it.” He says, “That is how I taught my children the gospel, was using that to tell these little stories.” Now we have these beautiful videos that can do the same thing.

And I will never forget when the second group of videos came out and President Nelson talked about them in conference. And we sat down and watched, and the one that just was so touching to me was when the Lord said, “Behold your little ones” (3 Nephi 17:23), and the angels descended out of heaven and ministered to them. And as we sat and looked and listened — I’ll never forget my wife, she goes, “I had the impression that these people that were descending out of heaven knew these people. They were family. They were ancestors. They were people that really knew them. They just weren’t someone that was random, but they were very special to the people that they appeared to.” And as we thought about that, and we shared that with our family, it was just really a touching moment for us.

19:39

President Mark L. Pace: I would like to share something about “Come, Follow Me.” It’s being sent out to every active household in the Church, and there are some reasons why we want to have a physical copy in your home. We’re glad that you have a copy on the Church website, and we’re glad that you have a copy on the Gospel Library app, but we love having a physical copy in your home. We love that it’s a physical reminder in your home, sitting on your kitchen counter or on your nightstand. It’s a physical reminder to be in the scriptures. And you know, when it’s sitting around, children and youth just might pick it up and read it too and enjoy it like that.

And it’s also a distinguishing artifact of Saints in the household of faith, that in addition to the scriptures, we have with us this wonderful manual, which helps us in our understanding of the scriptures. Now, having said so, the experience isn’t the manual; the experience is the scriptures, and not to get one ahead of the other. The one that’s ahead is the scriptures. The “Come, Follow Me” manual helps us.

When you think about the scriptures, the scriptures are written basically at a 12th-grade reading level, and the average member of the Church reads at a fifth-grade reading level. And so, the “Come, Follow Me” manual helps bridge that distance and bring it together. And it helps all of us in our understanding of the scriptures. We’re excited that the Saints would have this in their home this coming year.

Sunday School General President Mark L Pace greets missionaries after his devotional at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Tuesday August 8, 2023. | Adam Fondren, for the Deseret News,

21:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I actually love, as I study “Come, Follow Me,” the idea that members around the world are studying the same material in their language. It feels like it just unifies this global church, that wherever I am on a Sunday, I could be anywhere in the world, and people would be talking about the same verses.

When you talk about a physical copy of the manual, tell us about how these resources are available to a global church. I’m sure they’ve been translated in multiple languages.

21:40

Brother Jan E. Newman: So, when you think about availability, I love one of the verses in the Doctrine and Covenants where it talks about that “every man [will] hear the ... gospel ... in his own language” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11). And boy, this Church is all about that. The amount of effort and time and expertise that’s put in place to provide every person to hear the gospel in their own language is pretty remarkable — the Book of Mormon, “Come, Follow Me,” general conference, whatever it be.

But when you think of one of the great blessings of going to one manual in the Church is that the Church translates the “Come, Follow Me” manuals into 71-72 languages, and you take that over four years and do the math, there’s a lot of translating going on, a lot of effort there. So this will simplify that in a pretty significant way. So I think availability is going to be easier for us to get that turned around. And the electronic version, the blessing of electronic is you can update that thing anytime you want. The hard copy is a little more difficult. In fact, it’s impossible to update it after you released it, until maybe a year or four years later. But I love the fact that we can quickly update things electronically and add additional resources there if we need to.

22:52

Brother Milton Camargo: You also mentioned the fact that we all walk at the same pace. All the Church, in any place we go, we have the same class, you have the same chapters. And one thing that I had the blessing — we had the blessing — to see during the pandemic, with all of the hardship we had in the pandemic, is that we were able to watch Sunday School classes all over the world from my home, from our homes. So we watched classes in the Philippines, in Brazil, in Mexico, in Spain. And we were all going through the same program, same scriptures, and listening to the testimonies of the members in their own language, and each one of those contributes something marvelous. We are one Church, one God, one Savior, and one set of scriptures, and we’re walking all together and preparing for the Second Coming. That’s amazing.

23:47

Sarah Jane Weaver: Last week, we released a podcast with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talking about the 200 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon. He also shared some very touching things about what happens when members are allowed to study the scriptures in the language of their heart and how the Lord is so generous to want to communicate to people in their own language, in their own tongue.

And so I’d love for each of you to share some experiences that you’ve had as you’ve studied the scriptures in the language of your heart, as you’ve felt these studies of “Come, Follow Me” and the Book of Mormon personally.

24:27

President Mark L. Pace: The Book of Mormon hasn’t just been an important thing to me this year, it hasn’t just been an important thing four years ago; it’s been an important thing in my life ever since I was a young boy and my mother pulled me aside one day and asked me if I had received my own witness from the Holy Ghost that these things were true. And I told her no. And she already knew what the answer would be. And then she said, “Heavenly Father wants you to know, but you have to put in the effort,” and after that, everything changed in my life. She said, “You need to read the Book of Mormon. and you need to pray, and you need to ask Heavenly Father to let you know if it’s true. And if you’re sincere about it, He will let you know that it’s true.”

That started a process for me of reading the Book of Mormon, and the experiences in prayer and the experiences of feeling the warm embrace and witness from the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of this wonderful book of scripture that has continued with me every time I’ve read it throughout my life. I’m not a young boy anymore. I’m often the oldest person in the room now, and how grateful I am for the blessing of the Book of Mormon.

25:50

Recently, I finished up reading at the end of October. I finished reading the Book of Mormon, and I didn’t want to start reading it again until January, because I didn’t want to start and stop. And so I went to the Gospel Library app, and I went to the Book of Mormon, and I went down to a thing that’s really fascinating, which some of your listeners might be interested in. I went into the Book of Mormon, and I went down to the bottom of it, and it says “Reference Guide to the Book of Mormon.”

I clicked on that, and it says, “Reference Guide to the Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon, above all else, bears witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ and contains the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The following topics and references provide insight into the peoples, places, doctrines, and events of the Book of Mormon.” And then it goes through a myriad of scriptures about Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. And that is what I’ve been studying the last two months, all about Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. I’m now on my second time through.

The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost bears testimony of the teachings of the Book of Mormon, and it brings about conversion in our lives again and again, and conversion in my life again and again. I love the Book of Mormon.

Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

27:08

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo? 

Brother Milton Camargo: When I think on the experiences I have had — individually or with my family — with the Book of Mormon, it’s so interesting. I just remember years ago, I was serving with my wife as mission leaders in the south of Brazil. And one specific night, my wife had a physical problem, a strong headache or something like that, and asked for a blessing. And then after that experience, she brought Alma 7, when the Lord says, “He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11).

I’ll just jump down to Alma 7:12 now: “He will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” And my wife reminded me of that verse and said, “Yeah, the Lord can help me in my infirmities, because He has been through that.” We never forgot this verse ever because of that experience.

Another one, very recently, in 2023, my youngest granddaughter was baptized. And my daughter gave a talk. In her talk, it was the best talk I have ever heard about baptism. And she explained that she, my daughter, had a name that she praised, and then she got another name when she got married. And she honored that last name. And then she was talking to my granddaughter that was just baptized: “Now, you have those two names too, of my father and of my husband, you have those two names. But now that you’ve been baptized, you receive another name.” And then she quoted King Benjamin in Mosiah 5:7 and said, where he says, “Because of the covenant which ye have made,” the baptism you just have been baptized, “ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters.” And she asked her to be faithful and honor that new name she was receiving.

29:21

My goodness; great experience. So yeah, I have, of course, if you ask, “What is your own experience?” My own is also in King Benjamin. After his talk, he asked what they thought about, and they said, well, they “cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us” — this is Mosiah 5:2 — “and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” That is my challenge, personal challenge, my whole life: How can I change my heart so that I have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually? It is the Spirit that can do that to me.

And so, the Book of Mormon is a blessing individually in many other cases. And also as a family. It has taught me so much through other people; my wife, my daughter and even my grandchildren.

30:25

Brother Jan E. Newman: When I think about people hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ — and specifically the sacredness of the Book of Mormon — in their own language, it’s really touching to me. And we were talking about this earlier. Brother Camargo said, “I don’t know what it is, but the Book of Mormon just is so easy to read.” And I think one of the reasons that is is it was given to us first in English, straight from the Lord — through the Prophet Joseph Smith, translating it into English — and then one more time into every other language. It’s not like 20 different translations to finally end up at a language. It’s one time after the English translation. So it’s very, very pure in nature. And I think that there’s something about that that makes it really easy to read and to understand.

Now, each of us served missions in different places, and we have, kind of, at least two — Brother Camargo’s got like 20 languages that he’s really good at. OK, three, maybe four. OK. But anyway, we all have different languages that we speak. And that’s been a blessing for us as we’ve gone out and ministered to the members around the world.

But the one thing I love to do is to pick up a Book of Mormon in French and read those sacred words in my love language to the Saints outside of English, which is French. And when I think about those Saints reading those words in that language that I love, it just touches my heart. And it’s so pure, even though the way they write scriptures in French, it’s a different type of tense that they use, and it makes it a little more difficult to read, but you get it. And it’s just as touching in French as it is in English. I love that.

32:12

President Mark L. Pace: You know, sharing these stories of what the Book of Mormon has meant to us, I think one thing to remember is every time we read the Book of Mormon, the Lord teaches us and makes known to us additional understanding, wisdom, and insight and light that we’re ready for. And it was there last time, but there’s more there this time, and there’ll be more there the next time. And with that in mind, one of the things that I really felt as I was just reading the Book of Mormon earlier had to do with the period of time after the Savior was born until He came. Now, those chapters are found in 3 Nephi 1 until 3 Nephi 11. But during the period of time from 3 Nephi 1 and through 3 Nephi 7, there is a cycle of turmoil and all sorts of things happening in their society and their government. And it’s quite packed during those 30-33 years of what was going on.

But what I found so inspiring as I was into Chapter 7 was realizing that in the midst of much wickedness in the world, the Lord had raised up a righteous people prepared to greet the Savior when He came again. And as I was reading the Book of Mormon, last time, all of a sudden, I was feeling a parallelism to the world in which we live; a time, as the prophets tell us, of turmoil and difficulties and worries and concerns and all sorts of things. But that in 3 Nephi and now, the Lord knows how to raise up a righteous people to greet and be worthy to greet His Son when He comes again. And that was a powerful thing for me.

And how many times have I read the Book of Mormon and I never saw that or I never felt it? That’s the joy about what’s going to happen this coming year as we read the Book of Mormon, that for each one of us, the Lord will make known to us additional light and understanding that we’re ready for, and it’ll be such a blessing to us.

34:24

Sarah Jane Weaver: I love that when President Thomas S. Monson invited the whole Church to study the Book of Mormon, that President Russell M. Nelson, who was then president of the Quorum of the Twelve, took that invitation so seriously. He would have read the Book of Mormon so many times before, and yet he started anew because of that invitation. Then he spoke to us in October 2017 general conference about that experience, and he asked those powerful questions about what we wouldn’t know if we didn’t have the Book of Mormon, and what wouldn’t we have. And he said, “What would your life be like without it?”

And so there are so many resources out there. President Pace, for people approaching “Come, Follow Me” study, how would you recommend that they approach that?

35:16

President Mark L. Pace: In the mid-1970s, President Spencer W. Kimball taught in his marvelous message of “When the World Will Be Converted.” And he talked about that the Lord had prepared to put in our hands technology of which we could hardly have a glimpse as His gospel would be preached to all the world. And I think for many of us, we thought that was accomplished when there was a satellite dish in the parking lot of all of our stake centers, that that technology had been realized, and we were seeing it there. But there is so much more that we’re seeing, as almost everyone is carrying around a copy of their scriptures in their mobile device. And there’s great resources, including, I think, the ability for you to share your testimony with others. And for our message here today to be put together and shared with the Saints, I think that’s a wonderful thing.

The only challenge with that is if, by chance, someone stops working on their own and they just rely on your testimony, or our testimonies, because, in fact, all of us need to gain our own testimonies, as my mother encouraged me: “Do you know for yourself? You need to know for yourself.” So, we are grateful for the technology, and we’re grateful for the heartfelt efforts. But the primary source is an individual’s own experience with the scriptures and the Holy Ghost. That’s the primary source, and the secondary sources are wonderful, but they’re not primary. They’re secondary.

36:48

Now, the story of the chickens. Well, I enjoy having some chickens. And if you’re lucky, you can get some baby chicks to hatch. And what I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes the process of a baby chick hatching is not simple. It takes 12 to 18 hours. And often the baby chick is resting, is going from one stage to another. And they have on their beak, they have an egg tooth. And when they get to about Day 18, the egg is full. And then they start on Day 20, they start moving, and they start using this egg tooth that’s on their beak to poke a little hole. And as they wiggle around, pretty soon, over 18 hours, they’ve made this hole, these little cracks all the way around. And then they stretch their legs, and they just sort of push themselves out of the egg. How do they know that? I don’t know how they do that.

But many times, I thought, “They’re going to die. It’s not going to work. I’ve got to help them.” And I’ve started to peel off the eggshell. And all I can tell you is that every time I have endeavored to do it for them, instead of them doing it for themselves, they die. They make it out, they may live for several hours. But there is something about the physical process of them coming out of the egg on their own that gives them the strength to stand up and walk and adjust to life outside the egg. And there’s just no way you can do it for them. And I guess I’ve just shared that story, if the analogy works at all, that in reality, everyone needs to do it for themselves.

Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, speaks during the Saturday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 191st Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on April 3, 2021. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

38:18

Brother Jan E. Newman: If that’s the only thing you’re doing, is listening to other people, you’re missing out on the very best part of studying the scriptures. And that’s you — like Brother Pace said — you and the Holy Ghost and the word of God, there’s nothing that can even come close to that. And so, if it helps you to get a little information or some direction through some of those things, wonderful. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to really kind of figure this out on your own.

And the other thing is it helps you to understand the voice of the Spirit. And that’s what President Nelson taught us recently, right? That we will not survive in the coming days if we don’t have the Holy Ghost with us and we really understand His voice and can be guided by Him. So that’s probably one of the greatest things that comes to us as we learn to study the scriptures with the Holy Ghost.

39:07

President Mark L. Pace: The story of the baby chicks hatching was an analogy of what was happening in my ward with the youth, that the baby chicks need to hatch within a period of time. If it doesn’t happen, it’s too late. But it has to happen. And they have to do it by their own influence. I felt very strongly that the youth in my ward that I had them — I wasn’t the bishop the whole time, but we had them in the youth program, you know, from 11 to 12 to 18. And we had a period of time, and it needed to happen in that period of time. And it needed to happen the sooner the better. But it needed to happen. And it needed to happen by their own efforts. And there was no other alternative than their own efforts.

And so I felt very strongly about encouraging, encouraging, encouraging, encouraging them, and that’s why I’m so excited about the Book of Mormon this year, and all the blessing it’s going to be to the members of the Church throughout the world and, in a very sweet way, particularly to youth who haven’t had a chance to do that before.

40:03

Sarah Jane Weaver: And then I would love for each of you to comment as well on teacher council meetings for parents and what a blessing they can be in our wards and for our families.

Brother Jan E. Newman: So, the one thing with teacher council meetings for parents is we’re trying to put something in place so parents don’t feel alone. And that could be grandparents, it can be single parents, it can be anybody that is working in their home to teach family members. And I think sometimes we just feel really alone. And it really is a council meeting.

So, the first little part we spend counseling together, sharing what we’re experiencing; the good and maybe some of the challenges. And we take 15 minutes or so, and we do that. And that’s one of my favorite parts. I do this all the time with members, and I love listening, especially when people are kind of raw and really honest, and they just say, “We are really struggling with this.” And they say what they’re struggling about, and someone says, “You know what? I remember our family was like that one time. Here’s what we did.” And all sudden, all of this great momentum comes together, right?

The next one is you learn together, take 15 minutes, and you take a principle out of “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” Christlike teaching, whether it’s “Love Those You Teach,” “Teach the Doctrine,” “Teach by the Spirit,” “Invite Diligent Learning.” And you learn together, and you share ideas and thoughts. And then the last thing, for 15 minutes or so, you talk about the things you learned that day. And then you invite people over the next three months or so to implement those things. 

And I think the best thing we can do is we create a group that can then talk to each other, outside of that teacher council meeting, about what’s going on, and they can support each other. But once that happens, the fact that the curriculum is shrunk down to one manual doesn’t even matter anymore, because we’re all in this together, and we’re going to find ways that we can improve teaching in our home.

41:51

Brother Milton Camargo: I’d like just to add what I understand also is important for teacher council meeting for parents, that we have many different types of parents in the Church. You have those that have never studied the scriptures in their homes; they’re just new members that were just baptized with their family. And so, going to a teacher council meeting for parents, for them, is at least good for them to have one idea. If they go home, “Oh, I know how to start now. I can try one or two ideas,” that they will listen from the others, and that will be a good experience.

Then you have parents that have different — all of us — different phases in life. Now, when they had their small children, yeah, we kind of know, “Let’s read a scripture all together with a little bit of each one, and then we talk.” But then they become adolescents, they become teenagers and they become young adults. And then now they have questions, deeper questions. “I don’t know how to do it anymore,” and they have different schedules. So just having the teacher council meeting for others that have similar experiences, they say, “Yeah, well, what I do is 10 minutes during lunchtime or during dinnertime, and I ask a question, and then we’ll discuss.” “Oh, I can do that.”

And so, I think it is good for all kinds of parents that we have in the Church; those that are new, those that are in different phases and moving on in life, and the situation changes. And those teacher council meetings for parents can give hope and little suggestions, then they will start again.

43:25

Sarah Jane Weaver: As we all contemplate those things, I think that’s a good place to conclude today. And at the Church News podcast, we have a tradition. We always ask our guests the same question, and we always give them the last word. And we’ll start with Brother Newman and go to Brother Camargo and end with President Pace.

And I would love for you to answer the question: What do you know now that you have learned as you’ve served in the Sunday School general presidency and been so involved with “Come, Follow Me” and had an opportunity to study the scriptures?

43:59

Brother Jan E. Newman: I wish I could take all the members of the Church, just let them tag along with us and watch what happens at Church headquarters and what the focus is. The focus of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy, all the general officers, all the employees — everybody — it’s all about doing things that help each of us come unto Christ. That’s it. That is the focus at Church headquarters. And unfortunately, a lot of members never get to see that or really feel that, but it’s something that has been really, really touching to me, to see the vastness and the grandeur of the kingdom of God here upon the earth. And that extends every stake and to every ward and to every branch. And I’m just so grateful for that.

I have seen the lift that studying the scriptures using “Come, Follow Me” has given to families, where before, I don’t know that we really knew what to do sometimes. And there’s always people who have figured it out, but I think this has just really evened the playing field for so many people that kind of wonder, “Well, how can I do this? Is there a way I can do this to bless the life of my own children and family?”

And I would just give a promise to the members: If you will just do your best, find something that works for you and your family, you will find the promised blessings that have been given.

In fact, one of the first quotes in the very beginning of “Come, Follow Me” this year was going back to this talk that President Nelson gave about “what would your life be like without the Book of Mormon?” He says, “I promise that as you ponder what you study [in the Book of Mormon], the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life.” What can be better than that?

What a blessing it has been to serve in this sacred calling. And thank you for allowing us to come here every year and talk about this next year. It’s been a blessing. Thank you so much.

Sunday school general president President Mark L. Pace speaks at BYU’s Education Week in Provo on August 15, 2022.
President Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at BYU’s Education week in Provo on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

45:56

Brother Milton Camargo: Hard to say what we have learned in this period of time. I would say what I have observed as we visit with the members all over the Church, it comes to me a song from the Primary songbook, when they say, “I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you. That’s how I’ll show my love for you.” And normally, we think, “Yeah, we’re talking about the children that should accept everyone.”

But for some reason, one day when I was listening to this, I said, “Oh, I think it is the Savior talking to us.” I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you. That’s how I show my love with you. I can see the love of the Savior holding the hands of the members and helping them in their challenges. And as they do their best effort to study as a family individually, they will have that experience of walking with the Savior, of talking through the Holy Spirit. And it’s how He shows His love to us.

I’m still not finishing the Book of Mormon yet this year. I hope I finish before the end of the year. But it is interesting; it’s sticking to my mind when the Savior showed up to the members in America after His Resurrection, He was so marvelous. And they didn’t want Him to go up again. But He said to them, “No, you go home and ponder what I have said, because you cannot understand everything. And ask the Father that He can help you understand.” And so they went home.

47:36

The next day, He came back. And I just wanted to read this very quickly. It’s 3 Nephi, Chapter 19 and Verse 33. So, He came back the next day, and He started praying with them. And it says, “And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.” So, most likely, the members went home, pondered, prayed, and the next day, they understood. “Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written” (3 Nephi 19:34).

Even though they would not be able to write everything He said, they understood in their hearts. And that’s the blessing I’ve seen with the scriptures with the members and their families: As they do their best effort, they start to understand the will of the Lord for them. And they have that experience of working with Him and talking through the Spirit with Him and sharing and experiencing the love of the Savior. Wonderful years. Thank you.

48:41

President Mark L. Pace: It is certainly a blessing to have a chance to add our testimony to the testimonies of others of the truthfulness of the scriptures, which the Lord Jesus Christ has prepared for us. If you think about the thousands of years of history of this earth, what has the Lord prepared or what has He given us over thousands of years of time? What has He given us, for this time, to allow us to navigate the world in which we live? And He has given us the scriptures. And it’s the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and it’s the Book of Mormon. He’s given all of them to us, and they’re all marvelous.

The Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion.” It is the evidence that the gathering of Israel has commenced. It is such a blessing to have it in our lives and to read it always, as we’ve been encouraged to do so by leaders of the Church, and it’s a great blessing to read it this year. We are thrilled with what happens at home and at church as the Saints are reading the scriptures.

Sometimes, we think that it all depends on the teacher. But we learn in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 50, that it is the teacher needs to have the Spirit, but the receiver, those that are learning, need to have the Spirit, and as they both do, they rejoice and are edified together. And you mentioned earlier that you are seeing things different in your classes. That is what is happening, that we are rejoicing and edifying together, because the success of the class doesn’t depend just on the teacher. It also depends on what all of us bring to the class, by the Spirit we bring, by our efforts in studying the material and studying the scriptures in the prior week.

The Book of Mormon is the topic of 2024 “Come, Follow Me” curriculum.

50:24

I also wanted just to share what is in the introduction of the Book of Mormon. I was reading that again today and trying to prepare for our visit here. And I was touched by this paragraph at the bottom of the page, that “we invite all men everywhere” — and that is the Lord’s invitation this year — “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true.” To read, to ponder and to ask; that is the invitation from the Lord through His Prophet Joseph Smith to us.

I testify that as we read and we ponder and we ask, all of our questions can be responded to, and the Lord will guide us. I invite us to get a clean copy of the Book of Mormon. I invite us to read it with questions that we have. And I invite us to mark and see how the Lord answers our questions as we read the Book of Mormon.

When I was a bishop, I had a list of all the youth in my ward, and I wrote down all their names. And then on the other side of the page, I wrote “Those who have read the Book of Mormon.” And as I interviewed the youth, I would ask them, “Have you had a chance to read the Book of Mormon?” “Well, we’ve read it as a family.” I said, “Have you had a chance to read it yourself?” “Well, no, I haven’t.” I said, “I would encourage you to read it yourself. You need to know.”

51:46

And as we’d have subsequent interviews, I would ask them about that. And sometimes I’d have an interview, and Sarah would look at me, and she’d say, “Aren’t you going to ask me?” And I’d say, “Sarah, yes, I was. How are you doing on reading the Book of Mormon?” And she said, “I just finished it.” And then there was a Spirit that rested down over us. And I said, “And how was it, Sarah?” And she said, “It was wonderful.” Then I wrote Sarah’s name over on the other side of the piece of paper. Sarah had read the Book of Mormon, and on and on and on.

And my effort as a bishop was to get as many of the youth’s names from the left side of my piece of paper to the right, because as their names came over on the right-hand side of the page when they’d read the Book of Mormon, my “fears did cease concerning [them]” (1 Nephi 4:37), because they were in a different level spiritually, and their lives had changed.

Those are the wonderful blessings that aren’t just available for the youth, but they’re available for every one of us this coming year as we read the Book of Mormon. I know of its truthfulness, and I’m grateful that the Spirit witnesses that to me and to all of us again and again and again, as we sincerely read and ponder and ask. I rejoice in our opportunity this year. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

53:14

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News executive editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so it can be accessible to more people. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests; my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen; and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channels or with other news and updates on the Church on TheChurchNews.com.

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