Gregory L. Smith over at Mormon Scholars Testify discusses his passion for reading. He’s a book addict who needs help, he says. He humbly states that he may not know much, but he does know books.
Brother Smith mentions that Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was an inspiring book for him–a “deeply spiritual experience” when he first read it. Then he compares its power and value to that most despised of books, the Book of Mormon:
I’ve read Lewis’ book twice since. The second time was after my mission, and the third was a few years ago. In both cases, I enjoyed rereading it—but, it didn’t seem to have more to teach me. It had taught me what it could (which was, and continues to be, very valuable), but the spiritual power and transformation of the first reading was not repeated. (Granted, this may say more about me than Lewis.)
I first read the Book of Mormon with any seriousness more than two decades ago. I’ve continued to read it ever since—I’ve lost count, but I’m sure I’ve read it cover-to-cover at least once a year for more than a quarter century, and many sections much more often. Remember, I’m an addict—I can’t help myself. I need help.
As for the Book of Mormon, the truly amazing thing to me is that more than twenty-five years later, it’s still doing the same thing. Lewis was educated in the great universities of the world. He read and spoke multiple languages. He was a subtle thinker and gifted communicator. And, yet, his book seems to have done all it can for me after only a reading or two.
By contrast, this Book of Mormon, produced by a backwoods farm boy with three years of formal education, dictated over a period of about two months—one continuous run-on sentence, no punctuation, grammatical errors and all—continues to enlighten and transform my life.
If it wasn’t helping me, I’d have quit reading it. There’s too much to read—and I love reading too much—to read things that I don’t get anything out of. Life’s too short, and no one knows that better than a book-addict in a library.
Any book that could get me to read it that many times, that often, and still benefit would have to be something special—an astonishing production, a work of staggering genius even if there were no divine claims with it at all. No other book has ever done that, save the gospels and parables of Jesus.
I may not know much—but I do know books.
I occasionally hear critics dismiss the Book of Mormon as trivial, or not terribly complex or impressive—well, there are people who don’t see what the fuss about Bach or Shakespeare is either. Such dismissiveness says far more about the critic than it does the work being dismissed.
My experiences with the Book of Mormon have been similar to Brother Smith’s, both in terms of its converting power and its power to satisfy, enlighten, instruct, and amaze day after day, reading after reading, over decades. I think it’s fair to say that I know less that Brother Smith, but have a similar love and respect for the intellectual and spiritual depth of the Book of Mormon. To dismiss it casually is a terrible mistake. To exert great energy in ignoring it or in dismissing it, as some critics do, is an even more foolish mistake. It’s a book that deserves to be read with an open mind and heart, and to be studied and applied with real intent and care. Then one can have the courage to turn to God for knowledge about the divine origins and power of this sacred text, another witness of Jesus Christ from the ancient New World that confirms and strengthens the witness of the Bible from the Old.
None of us knows much, but if there’s one book you really should get to know this year, I would suggest it’s the Book of Mormon.