Overcoming “Roadblocks” to Reading the Book of Mormon

Reading the Book of Mormon daily (or on a routine basis) is a spiritually rewarding experience.  It can inspire us with examples of faith, obedience, courage, strength, and hope.  And, if we are faithful, it will lead us to the Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen our testimonies of Him, and teach us of His Doctrine, “the Doctrine of Christ.”

However, for some, faithfully reading the Book of Mormon daily has been a difficult practice to maintain.  For various reasons, they find it difficult to continue a regular reading schedule.  For example, they may be distracted by a busy life, or they may see parts of the book difficult to read and understand, and their original commitment to reading may wain.  I would like to address a few of these possible “roadblocks” to regular reading of the Book of Mormon.

But first, please remember, the Book of Mormon is an ancient and Holy book of scripture.  In addition to just reading the book, we should always begin our sessions with a personal and sincere prayer to our Heavenly Father.  In our prayers, ask specifically for His aid in reading and understanding what you read.  And, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts.  (Note: For a more detailed approach to why and how to best prepare and study the Holy Scriptures, please see the post “Why and How to Study the Holy Scriptures.”)

Over the years, I have noticed there are at least a few (probably more) challenging obstacles or “Roadblocks” to reading the Book of Mormon.  These are not all bad.  Mostly, they are more of a challenge, and they can be educational.  I would like to address three.

FIRST:  The “Stop and Go and Repeat” Problem.

Several Latter-day Saints have told me they “…love the Book of Mormon and want to read it more regularly,” and occasionally read it “cover to cover.”  However, they often admit they have never been able to read the entire book “cover to cover,” nor read much beyond 1st Nephi.  They claim to have read 1st Nephi many, many times.  Each time, they get distracted and begin to waver in their resolve to continue.  This wavering usually occurs near the end of 1st Nephi, or when they reading 2nd Nephi.  Then, their daily reading begins to diminish.  Typically, several days or even weeks later, when they attempt again to read the Book of Mormon “cover to cover,” they feel they must restart back at the beginning by rereading 1st Nephi.  While this is a noble idea (finish what you start), too often it just adds to the number of times they have read 1st Nephi ONLY …and stopped, …again!  I call this the Stop and Go and Repeat” problem.

Let me share two possible solutions to this “Stop and Go and Repeat” problem.  First, avoid the tendency just to start over each time …all the way back at the beginning!  Suppose you are stuck reading somewhere in the first two or three books of the Book of Mormon.  Well, just jump on over to the Book of Omni and the Words of Mormon.  These are handy little books within the Book of Mormon that will help to clear much confusion and restart your reading.

The two books contain only one chapter each.  Yet, they summarize and tie together the major events from the Land of Nephi to the beginning of the Zarahemla period (a gap of about 200 years).  The Book of Omni includes very brief entries from five different individuals, most notably Amaleki, who touched on the origin of the peoples of Kings Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi.  The Words of Mormon chapter was written about 500 years later by the Prophet Mormon (about AD 385) near the end of his life.  Mormon wrote and inserted this writing just before the Book of Mosiah to tie all other Book of Mormon records together.  In these valuable little books, the writers introduce King Benjamin (a Holy Man), a great Nephite King.  He fought and destroyed the Lamanite Army in battle and established peace in the land of Zarahemla.

So, this time, I suggest you “restart” your reading of the Book of Mormon by first reading The Book of Omni and The Words of Mormon; and then allow yourself to flow into the Book of Mosiah.  That may be all you need to get your reading back on track.  Later, you can return and reread the entire Book of Mormon from the beginning; and of course, take on the “Isaiah Chapters” another day!

NOTE:  Another possible solution to the “Stop and Go and Repeat” Problem.

You can try reading and pondering ponder some or all the bulleted items below.  These eleven items are an excellent selection of significant events and/or teachings you can read about in the Book of Mormon.  To be sure, there are many more throughout the Book of Mormon, but these are some great reads that are sure to inspire additional reading.  Try reading these rewarding references in order, but that is not necessary.  Each reference can stand alone and be inspirational!

      • Read 2nd Nephi 28-33: Nephi’s final message.  He speaks of our day.
      • Read 2nd Nephi 31-32: Nephi explains “the Doctrine of Christ.”
      • Read Mosiah 1-6: King Benjamin’s powerful sermon.  Serve our God and become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
      • Read Mosiah 7-8: Ammon finds the lost people of Limhi and teaches.
      • Read Alma 5-16: Alma’s missionary message (repent and keep the commandments), and his experiences.
      • Read Alma 17-27: The missionary work of the Sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites.
      • Read Alma 32-34: Alma and Amulek teach about faith, repentance, and redemption.
      • Read 3rd Nephi 9-30: Jesus Christ visits the Nephites and teaches “His Doctrine.”
      • Read Mormon 7: Mormon’s last recorded words of counsel.  He speaks to the “…remnant of the House of Israel” in the Last Days.
      • Read Mormon 8-9: Moroni’s inspiring completion of his Father’s record.  And finally,
      • Read all ten chapters of the Book of Moroni:  Moroni’s final words that seal the Book of Mormon and speak directly to us (all of us) in this dispensation).

These are all inspiring references to look up and read.  You could even treat these as inspiring “stand-alone” reads.  I hope you will be inspired and gain additional insights from and about our Redeemer Jesus Christ; and, some of the greatest men who have ever lived.  And, I hope they will inspire you to read more.

SECOND:  The “Isaiah Chapters” Challenge.

Sadly, for some individuals, another barrier to successfully reading and enjoying the entire Book of Mormon is the so-called “Isaiah Chapters.”  The challenge of understanding the writings of Isaiah is very real …and very understandable, whether you are a new reader of the Book of Mormon, or not.  I have heard several individuals express something like: “I struggle with the Isaiah chapters.  I do not understand them.”   Or, “…I cannot get through the Isaiah chapters.”  In addition, others have also asked, “How can I get through the difficult Isaiah chapters and begin to enjoy more of the Book of Mormon?”  They claim the “Isaiah Chapters” are like a wall to them.

As with the “Stop and Go and Repeat” problem, I also have two possible points/solutions (or a few) to help one read and maybe understand Isaiah and the “Isaiah Chapters.”

     First, do not fret about it!

If you find yourself struggling with the “Isaiah Chapters,” just move on for now.  They are not going to go away.  You can return to them when you are ready.  For now, be flexible.  Keep the Book of Mormon handy and refer to it often.  And try reading some of the referenced bullets above.

     Second point or solution concerns the mystique surrounding the writings of Isaiah. 

If you are still struggling to read Isaiah, please do not give up.  I hope the following quotes and insights will help you strive more to understand the many direct citations and references to the Prophet Isaiah found in the Book of Mormon.  Of course, the inspired scriptural guidance (listed below) applies equally to all the Isaiah chapters, as well as the frequent references to Isaiah by other Book of Mormon Prophets (such as Nephi and Jacob).  But more importantly, the first two bullets below are commandments from our Savior Jesus Christ Himself.  Please, if you are struggling to read Isaiah, prayerfully and seriously consider these four scriptural references:

      • The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us that we “…ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1).
      • The Lord added: “…ye have them before you, therefore search them” (3 Nephi 20:11).
      • The Prophet Nephi wrote, “Isaiah saw the latter-days.” He added, the writings of Isaiah are “…plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4).
      • The Prophet Nephi also taught, “…they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them” (2 Nephi 25:8).

These scriptural references should help motivate each of us to continue our quest and not let the “Isaiah Chapters” overwhelm us.  Remember, Jesus Christ has commanded us to read them diligently.  Isaiah saw the “latter-days.”  Many of His writings and prophecies were written for our time and provide prophetic warnings and guidance to us.  Isaiah’s prophecies are vital and of “…great worth” to us in these, the “…last days!”

Now, I recognize the writings of Isaiah are a challenge for many of us, but it is well worth our efforts to try to understand them.  The four bulleted items above should motivate us to continue reading, but if we sincerely want to “understand Isaiah” better, I believe it will require much greater study and understanding of Jewish traditions, including historical and political events at the time of Isaiah.  I feel I am beginning to understand a little more, but I also know I have a long way to go.  Over time, I hope to gain a much clearer understanding and a greater appreciation for the Prophet and his prophetic writings.  I am especially encouraged by Nephi’s comment: the books of Isaiah are “…plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4).  Each day, may we all be found more worthy of the influence of the Holy Spirit; and thus, more “…filled with the spirit of prophecy.”

THIRD:  The “War Chapters” Challenge.

I also know that some readers of the Book of Mormon have had problems with the “War Chapters.”  Thousands and thousands of bodies (men, women, and even children) slaughtered on both sides of the battles.  “Oh, the humanity!”  Human bodies are heaped up in mounds or thrown into the river to allow an army to cross over to the other side …or just wash out to sea: so much hand-to-hand violence, death, and the smell of death all around.  I understand the visual problem, and I wish it were not necessary.

I do not clearly understand the necessity for all the carnage.  As a retired military man myself, I have seen and participated in wars and conflicts.  My eyes have taken pictures my mind cannot erase.  Nevertheless, I still struggle to get some of the images out of my mind.  And at times, they still trouble me even today.  However, I accept the counsel of “the Spirit” to young Nephi: “The Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Nephi 4:13).  And, like Nephi, “I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16-17).

I am comforted somewhat when I read about Nephi stumbling upon the drunken body of Laban in the night (1 Nephi 4:6-18).  Laban was the “keeper of the plates of brass.”  The plates contained the language, genealogies, and histories of the House of Israel.  Nephi was commanded by his Father to return to Jerusalem and get the Plates of Brass from Laban.  In their first attempt, Laban threatens Laman (Nephi’s oldest brother) with his life, …and Laman fled.  Later, they showed Laban their family gold, and silver, and all their precious things, and offered to exchange them for the plates of brass.  That effort also failed.  The brothers fled again, and Laban stole all their valuable items.  In their third attempt, Nephi went alone, “not knowing beforehand the things he should do.”  After he stumbled upon the drunken body of Laban, Nephi was “constrained by the Spirit” to “Slay him.”  Nephi hesitated, but the Spirit said again, “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.  It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:12-13).

And, if it is of any additional consolation, I have another thought on the “War Chapters.”  I can see some analogous bits of wisdom that we can learn and apply in our daily fight against evil influences.  Perhaps, these “bits of wisdom” can be of benefit to the Saints in the Last Days.  The bulleted items below may be a bit of a stretch, but consider how valuable they would be if we would learn them from the “War Chapters” and apply them in our personal and family lives.

      • Anticipate and be prepared in advance (while you can) to battle evil.
      • Plan and maintain a personal strategy to defeat evil in all forms.
      • Build fortifications, walls, and barriers to protect yourself, your family, and your home from evil.
      • Build up and strengthen your defenses against evil.
      • Do not allow evil spies or enemies to infiltrate your strongholds.
      • Sharpen and fine-tune your weapons/tools to fight against evil.
      • Train before the battle.  Build strength and endurance for the fight against evil.
      • Put on the whole armor of God.  Protect the “vital parts” from evil.
      • Avoid laziness and remain vigilant against the infiltration of evil.
      • Stay healthy.  Eat wisely, drink water, exercise, and get your sleep.
      • Be self-reliant.  Have a good supply of necessities.
      • Stay out of unnecessary debt.  Build and secure a financial nest egg.
      • Have Faith in the Lord and keep the Commandments.  The “Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Nephi 4:13).

The wars and carnage recorded in the Book of Mormon were actual events.  They occurred many years ago and ultimately destroyed the Nephite Nation.  We know there will also be conflicts in the last days.  I believe the evidence of present and future wars are all about us in the world.  I am not sure the nature of the coming battles, but I know many will be wars waged between good and evil.  And I am confident they will be wars fought both spiritually and temporally.  We need to prepare by firmly establishing ourselves on the Lord’s side.

The messages and lessons of the Book of Mormon are a great blessing to us living in the “Last Days.”  We can learn from the prophets.  They warned us of wars (and the causes of wars) in their days and ours.  Additionally, we can learn much from the records of the battles fought in the Book of Mormon, and from the examples of great heroes like King Benjamin, General Moroni, General Mormon, Helaman and his stripling warriors, and many others.  And we can better prepare for whatever will come.  We must prepare ourselves, be skilled, and firmly on the Lord’s side.  Today, we are fortunate and blessed to have Prophets and Apostles to guide us.  I am confident if we follow the Prophet and stay on “the Covenant Path,” all will be well for us.

In conclusion, the Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  It was prepared and preserved by ancient Prophets of God.  These were some of the greatest men who have ever lived.  They were inspired and guided by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation.  The Book of Mormon has come forth in our day by the gift and power of God.  It contains the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ and will lead the faithful children of God home to Him, our Heavenly Father and His Glorified Son, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon is available today for all to read.  Learning and following the “Doctrine of Christ,” as presented and taught in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11), will lead the honest in heart along the path of redemption in this life …and exaltation in the world to come.  We should prayerfully read and study the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ!

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