I’ve been reading Eugene England’s amazing Reader’s Book of Mormon series. This is a reprint of the Book of Mormon (in 7 volumes) in which the text is printed in paragraphs, not chapters and verses. I haven’t actually been reading that part; I’ve been reading the introductions to each book, which were written by prominent Mormon scholars. I found the series because I was preparing for an appearance on a panel dedicated to celebrating the work of poet and teacher Susan Elizabeth Howe, and I discovered that she had written one of the introductions (which I enjoyed very much). Others who have introduced sections of the Book of Mormon include Claudia Bushman, Bill Wilson, Douglas Thayer, Linda Hoffman Kimball, and Steve Walker. And Robert A. Rees, whose introduction to the first part of Alma I read this morning. I highly recommend the series. Bill Wilson’s discussion on King Benjamin’s sermon about helping the poor was enlightening to me—really, all of them have been enlightening and nourishing and have sparked my mind in new directions as I consider anew this book that I have read so many times.
Today, as a consequence of reading the Bob Rees intro, I’ve been thinking about how much the Book of Mormon is a story about stories. I’ve noticed this before, one time marking everything that mentioned books, stories, telling or reading throughout the text because I was preparing an Enrichment Night presentation on the value of stories (including, gulp, that frivolous thing called fiction). Rees talks about the weight that past family issues carries for people (in this case, the Lamanites), about how it seems to be human nature to carry with us the scars of our family histories, the perceived wrongs we suffered, how we keep the stories of our injustices (perceived or real) alive. And we see, when it comes to the Lamanites, the ill effects of such negative story-telling. (When confronted by missionaries, they ask, “What are you doing with these liars who stole our inheritance from us?” even hundreds of years later, thus keeping themselves from the joy of progression in light and truth (in other words, damning their own progress, or experiencing damnation). And yet the Book is also full of examples of the benefits of positive storytelling. It seems that the prophets regularly suggest, as a first step in conversion, that we take time to “remember” what the Lord has done for us, and for our families in the past. “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things . . . that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children ofmen, from the creation of Adam . . .” (Moroni 10:3).
So, the stories we choose to tell ourselves about the past are powerful. We can choose negative ones and be forever stuck in our progress, or we can choose positive ones and be launched on our way forward. I want to have more self-control in my life about the stories I choose to carry with me, and I want to make sure that I’m making plenty of time to fill myself with positive stories from the scriptures.