A Salt Lake City attorney reads it in Japanese and reads nothing else. A BYU student downloaded it onto his MP3 player and listens to it wherever he goes. A Provo couple took their book, blanket and picnic basket to the park and read for 15 hours.
Call them the “Book of Mormon-challenged.”
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When Hinckley speaks, faithful Mormons obey. So riders are taking TRAX to read Mosiah, hopping on UTA buses to roll through Alma or hooking up with carpools to plow through other portions of the 531-page book on CD or cassette. Some churchgoers even play catch-up in sacrament meetings instead of listening to sermons or, dare we say, snoozing.
“I’ll be riding the bus or TRAX and pull my book out, and everyone else will pull theirs out, too,” says LDS Business College sophomore Cameron Coppin.
At a recent devotional, LDS General Authority Marlin K. Jensen joked about the deteriorating social skills of church employees who always have their heads buried in the book. Even so, The Challenge is no laughing matter for the challenged.
University of Utah senior Don Dowdle of South Jordan is navigating through 3 Nephi in Portuguese on daily train trips, striving to overtake his parents. “They have been keeping a 10-chapter lead on me for three or four weeks,” he laments.
Stuck in 2 Nephi, Mark Sorensen of West Jordan, 23, frets that he should be in Helaman by now, several hundred pages and, seemingly, endless light-rail trips away.
“I probably won’t make it,” he concedes. “But I’m reading the book on faith that I will be blessed if I try to follow the prophet.”
Reading the Book of Mormon is Kelli Snow’s just desserts – literally. Every 10 chapters she digests, she treats herself to a Lindt chocolate bar.
“You’ve heard of the Freshman 15?” the Utah Valley State College student asks. “I’ve put on 15 pounds reading the Book of Mormon.”
That’s the spirit, says Ashley Llavina, who works for Brigham Young University’s Center for Service and Learning, passing out “Y Read” cards with Hinckley’s challenge printed on them. Problem is, the BYU junior confesses, she’s not practicing what she is passing out or preaching.
“I’m still in 1 Nephi [the beginning of the book],” says Llavina, who vows to cram over the holiday break to catch up.
Sacrifice, though, brings blessings for West Jordan bank clerk Sarah Hintze, who says she is “happier” for reading each day – although she struggled to wade through all the “wars and stuff” in Alma.
The Book of Mormon, which members see as a companion to the Bible, brings slumber for BYU student Collin Simonsen when listening to his wife, Tessa. “That’s why she has me read.”
BYU defensive end Tyler Berry wasn’t going to tackle the challenge when his Book of Mormon instructor told class members they could read the first half of the book and still satisfy Hinckley’s charge. After the October General Conference, however, the professor decided students best go the whole nine yards.
“Now I’m having to double time my way through it,” Berry says.
Trey Hall of Littleton, Colo., gathers his family and pet Labrador Spike on the bed each night to read. “Spike’s not as reverent as our old Lab,” Hall says. “His predecessor was very spiritual. But Spike is improving. He listens better now.”
Sandy father Kevin Pasker’s children perk up during their read-a-thons to and from picking up a sibling at dance class, particularly during parts when they “know another Lamanite will die.” Listening to the scriptures on tape takes any rage out of road trips for Pasker’s co-worker, Carl Bohn of Cottonwood Heights.
– by Richard John Neuhaus
Such peace comes at a price. Doggone, some say, they have to be dogged to endure to the end of, say, the book’s hard-to-finish but even harder-to-fathom Isaiah chapters.
“There should be some Sparknotes for the Book of Mormon to make it easier,” says U. freshman Megan Whitfield, who jests she plans to call in sick for two weeks so she can finish reading and meet the challenge.
Heck, even hell-and-damnation sermons can’t propel some to crack the book. West Valley City resident Dan Bassett says there are so many “it came to passes” in the book’s beginning, he decided to pass on reading it.
The diligent disciples labor on, though, whenever and wherever possible.
Everywhere 19-year-old Jessica Armstrong of Salt Lake City goes, “Everyone has their Book of Mormon out, trying to get ‘er done.”