My second time teaching Book of Mormon in Gospel Doctrine, I chose to approach the year as “Book of Mormon Therapy”, the idea that there were many problems in our lives we could find answers to, solutions for, and even minor soul-repair in the scriptures. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. A new family moved into the area, and the wife set about carving out a niche for herself by breaking up other friendships. She became quite divisive as she weaseled her way into friendships, and she had singled out two of my closest friends, trying to get closer to them by talking about me behind my back. I had a hard time having any kind feelings at all for this woman, and my heart was hardening toward her. But as I read the Book of Mormon I realized the one who perhaps most needed this “Book of Mormon therapy” was me. Over several months of intense study, I rediscovered that one of the strongest overarching themes of the Book of Mormon was love, and that it was impossible to sincerely study without being touched by that love and radiating it outward. This woman eventually became a friend, and my heart had been softened and changed by the word of God.Then she asked, "So, how can we practice "Book of Mormon Therapy" on a daily basis? I'm not saying that the Book of Mormon can cure everything. Even C doesn't say it in her talk. But how can this help us? I just was looking at our struggles and wondering how The Book of Mormon could help us. And how we might be able to pay more attention and see if we have any insights we could share. I've had all sorts of questions enter my mind. "
"How can Book of Mormon Therapy help me control my eating? How can Book of Mormon Therapy help me maintain control of my temper? Have the desire and/or motivation to exercise? Strengthen my marriage? Keep my priorities in order? Help me manage my time? Help me manage my finances? I'm feeling the head to heart gap in a big way today, perhaps. "
Oh, what great questions! How can a rich study of the Book of Mormon directly affect life's day-to-day challenges? There is nothing a good teacher (and God himself) loves more than a hungry heart! This was my lengthy and perhaps overenthusiastic response:
I'm so glad that paragraph resonated for you! These are great questions. I have about a thousand answers running through my head, faster than I can possibly type them.
1. First of all, hungering and wanting answers, wanting to make progress is an all-important first step.
2. Wendy Watson Nelson recommends simply beginning with a specific question in mind and reading until you get your answer. Another book she wrote more recently is titled, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. So there is something about finding and asking the RIGHT question, and then reading until you get an answer, that strikes me as key.
3. Message of the Book of Mormon (Elder Holland)
"Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32)."
Jeffrey R. Holland, "Safety for the Soul," Ensign, Nov. 2009, 88
4. I left a comment on K's last post about my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Ann Frost, who had an apparent addiction to snuff. She said that whenever she was craving it, she would open the Book of Mormon, and reading from it would make the cravings vanish. I believe that we can apply that same principle to foods we crave that are unhealthy--particularly sugar.
5. Sometimes the answers and help and actual therapy aren't in the words themselves, but in the giant dose of the spirit that comes when we dive into the Book of Mormon.
6. A few times when we've had financial struggles I have studied the Book of Mormon paying particular attention to the word Bondage (as a metaphor for debt) and also work, labor, and industry. What I learned was fascinating and perspective-broadening, if not life-changing. I've embarked on other searches for specific instructions in the Book of Mormon as well: Instructions to and examples of families with wayward children; first-hand witnesses of the Savior; etc.
7. "The moment you begin a serious study of the [Book of Mormon], you will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path....When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."
--President Ezra Taft Benson Ensign, November 1986, page 7.
8. The phrase "Line upon line" from 2nd Nephi has inspired me to exercise, practice the piano, do all kinds of difficult things, using the concept of a little at a time and consistent daily effort.
9. President Gordon B. Hinckley:
"Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."
("The Power of the Book of Mormon", Ensign, June, 1988, p. 6)
10 & 11. "Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, who celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday last month and who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:
'I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness' (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).
"These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God."
12. I'm wondering if we could have a Book of Mormon Therapy study group right here on the Blog. We could just start commenting on this post, or start a new one. Maybe each of us could post a particular problem, question, or personal struggle and then we could all dig in and start finding answers and making progress through a serious study of the Book of Mormon. Or just post something we're excited about that we learned each day. I just finished reviewing every talk in the conference Ensign and am ready to start a new scripture study program. I'm getting pretty excited about the idea of joint Book of Mormon Therapy here.
Here are a few responses:
N: What amazing friends I have. Your comments are better than gold, Charrette. I think sharing the impressions we receive while studying The Book of Mormon will be a tremendous blessing for us all.
E: These thoughts are awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. And I would love to do a Book of Mormon Therapy study for all of us. I love this idea. I'm really good about reading through the Book of Mormon, but I'm not so good at actually diving in and I would love to have an excuse (as pathetic as it is that I need one) to dive in more. I'm going to ponder your thoughts today.
K: This has me in tears. I need this so much in my life and I've been letting so much get in the way of what my soul is really hungering for. I've been told in my patriarchal blessing, and in more than one priesthood blessing that I need to turn to the scriptures. That my Heavenly Father is waiting for me to, so that he can pour forth the blessings He has in store for me.
And so our Book of Mormon Therapy begins.