Recently, we’ve been studying how the Mormons are teaching their teenagers to live a virtuous life. The girls-and in some areas, the boys-work to achieve goals in a number of areas known as values. The newest value is virtue. As part of completing the Virtue Value, the teenagers are asked to read the entire Book of Mormon.
They are not reading through the Book of Mormon rapidly in order to complete the goal. This is a detailed and complex project. As they read, they are to “liken the scriptures unto themselves.” This is a concept that was taught in the Book of Mormon by the first prophet whose writings we have in the Book of Mormon. His name was Nephi. He taught us that as we read the scriptures, we should ask ourselves how we can apply what we find there to our own lives. For instance, a teenager reading the Bible might come to the parable given by Jesus Christ of the lost sheep. She would then ask herself, “Am I a lost sheep right now, or am I a shepherd? What does the Savior want me to do about it?
The girls record their thoughts, experiences, and testimony of what they’re reading in their journals. They can also use this space to evaluate how they’re going to use what they read.
As they read, they are also asked to specifically take notice of writings relating to Jesus Christ, and to notice what He and His followers did to live virtuous lives. At the end of their reading, they are asked to record their testimony of the book.
Mormons do not treat the Book of Mormon as the “Mormon Bible.” The Mormon Bible is the King James version in English, and other popular translations in other languages. The Book of Mormon is a companion to the Bible, serving, as the recently added subtitle says, as another testament of Jesus Christ. The title page, written in ancient times, says the Book of Mormon is written, “And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
Nephi wrote in the Book of Mormon: “26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25)
The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, contains a mixture of stories and sermons. From each of these, the teenagers can find role models to guide their own choices, and scriptures that speak to their hearts in moments of challenges and decision.
One role model the girls will encounter is Abish. She worked in the palace. As a convert to Christianity, she faced the daily challenges of living her Christian religion when no one else did. She was forced to keep her beliefs private, but to live them anyway, without support from church leaders or friends. During the time of her service, a young missionary named Ammon came to work for the king as a shepherd. After Ammon saved the king’s flocks, he was brought before the king and given an opportunity to teach the gospel. The king was converted, and the Holy Ghost was so strong, the king lost consciousness. Everyone thought he was dead, but his wife was certain he wasn’t, and called Ammon in to advise her. Ammon prophecied that the king would wake up soon. The queen developed her own testimony and again, the spirit was so strong, both she and Ammon fainted. This was Abish’ moment. Her faith was so strong she knew great miracles would happen, and she wanted others to see them and to be converted. She rushed out to tell everyone to come to the palace.
At first, she must have thought she made a mistake, because everyone began to say terrible things about Ammon and the gospel. However, she was able to awaken the queen, and then the king and Ammon awakened. They preached the gospel and although many left, others stayed and were converted.
Many conversions happened in that day, and it was all due to the courage and faith of a servant girl. From this, the teenagers of today can learn to hold strong to their faith, even if no one around them shares it. They can learn to prepare for opportunities to share their faith and to make a difference in the world simply by doing what they know is right.
Abish and other men and women of the scriptures set an example of virtue Mormon teenagers can follow in their own lives. However complex their lives might be, people throughout history have experienced equally complex challenges and although times change, truth doesn’t. We can apply what those of the past chose to help our own lives.
Reading the entire Book of Mormon in a thoughtful and meaningful way will help Mormon teenagers survive their teen years and prepare for a virtuous life.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.