His Other Sheep
by Kathy Penrod
I grew up in a Mormon household. My dad descended from what Mormons call “Pioneer Stock.” Meaning, his family was right there from the beginning, endured all the persecutions with the rest of the saints, mourned with the church when Joseph Smith was martyred and walked the few thousand miles to settle in Salt Lake City. My mom converted when she was 19 and, no matter what trials life threw at her, she stayed true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ her whole life.
One thing our church leaders encourage us to do in our families is to have regular family scripture study. Oh, it’s such a beautiful principle. But, until I became a parent of teenagers, I never understood how difficult it was to actually accomplish.
My parents worked hard to make sure we did it every morning. My mom’s first marriage failed and I believe she often blamed herself for that. She would always tell me she wasn’t going to have that happen again so she, and my dad (whose first marriage also failed) had to work really hard. They “wanted to do things right,” she would say.
I don’t know how they did it. There were some mornings we were up at 5:30am reading from the Book of Mormon. I wasn’t a terribly cooperative child and I made sure to voice my complaints through perfectly timed sighs, moans and eye rolls. And yet, my parents kept insisting on having family scriptures in the morning. Very. Early. Morning.
At first, I didn’t understand anything. I would stumble and struggle as I read the words. I got so annoyed when my mom would correct a pronunciation or catch me when I skipped a word. Sometimes, I would mispronounce words on purpose just to get under her skin. (Yeah, I was that kind of child.)
But through it all, I learned something. Well, several things actually. I slowly began to understand what all the “Thees and Thous” meant. I began to pronounce names and places more correctly. I learned who the people were in the Book of Mormon and could tell you what they did.
But mostly, I just learned to love the Word of God. I learned to love the Book of Mormon. And, I learned to love my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I have talked with people who are concerned that Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon replaces the Holy Bible. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Book of Mormon is meant to compliment the Holy Bible – to be used hand in hand.
We know that God loves ALL His children and wants them all to return to Him. He doesn’t care if they live in Jerusalem or Santiago. God could not give instruction to one group of people and not another – it would contradict His loving nature. When the Savior was on the earth, He taught,
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
The other sheep the Savior was speaking of were the people on the American continent. And, just like their Middle Eastern counterparts, they kept a record. The Book of Mormon IS that record. Through a great many miracles - miracles wrought by God – this sacred record was found, translated and published.
Now, I have heard the concern, “But what about the scripture in Revelation?” John the Revelator wrote in Revelation 22:18-19 that no man should add or take away from this book. Both well-intentioned people and those with malicious intent, since the very beginnings of the LDS church, have worried about this. President Howard W. Hunter describes it best when he says,
“A careful reading of the words makes it clear that the warning against adding to or taking away does not refer to the whole Bible or even to the New Testament, but to use John’s words, only to the words of “the book of this prophecy.” That is, the prophecy contained in the book of Revelation. This is substantiated by the fact that some of the books of the New Testament had not yet been written when John wrote the book of Revelation, and even those that had been written and were in existence at that time had not yet been gathered into one compilation.” Read the talk here.
Accepting the Book of Mormon as the word of God is something I was taught to do from a very early age and I am so grateful for parents who were willing to teach me. That said, there came a time in my life that I had to really decide if it was something I believed to be true. Did I really believe that this record was one kept by ancient American prophets? Did I really believe that God talked to Joseph Smith and told him to translate this record? Did I really believe that Jesus Christ, after His brutal murder and glorious resurrection, visited the people here on THIS continent.
For some, belief in this kind of thing comes immediately. They just know. But it wasn’t that way for me. For me, it took years. I would have to say my personal testimony of the Book of Mormon came just a little at a time. It came while I read about the travels of Lehi’s family in the wilderness, Nephi’s refusal to give up, Abinidi’s strength, Alma’s humility, Ammon’s faith, Moroni’s courage and the Brother of Jared’s unyielding trust.
Little by little, the people’s lives in the Book of Mormon began to matter to me. I began to feel what they must have felt. I began to gain peace and strength from reading about their trials. I began to feel my Heavenly Father’s love for me while I read. I wanted to be better. I wanted to live a more Christian life. I wanted to know my Savior. Over time, I began to feel that small flicker of a testimony, grow a little at a time into a flame and then into a fire that fills me with warmth today.
I understand now why my mom and dad worked so hard to make sure we had family scriptures. And I am so, so grateful. My life has been truly been blessed through this sacred scripture. I want that for my own children. I want them to learn to love the people in the Book of Mormon as I do. That way, when the trials come, they will gain strength from those who have gone before and left a record behind for us to read.