Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book of Mormon Reading Marathon

We called it a Read-a-thon because it was a marathon reading of the Book of Mormon:  
531 pages in 23 hours and 59 minutes.
There were 24 of us who were there for basically the whole time (a couple had to leave for basketball practice, but they came back when it was over) and three more who could only come for one day.
They were praiseworthy days.
(The apostle Paul would have approved.)

After doing my research, I discovered that reading 24 hours in a row wasn't the best way to accomplish the goal.  Not only am I not a big fan of sleepovers (I don't even think the Church allows them anymore), but reading through the night means people are sleeping through too much of the book.  
Our hours were 8 am-8 pm, Friday, January 2nd and Saturday, January 3rd.  
It was before school was back in session, but after most people were home from Christmas trips.
We had almost all of our youth attend, which, admittedly, isn't a giant group, but I was thrilled with the turnout.  The turnout was so good, in fact, that I feel really bad for the small handful of kids who missed out.
I've already had requests that we make it an annual event, so maybe they will show up next year.

I told the youth to wear comfortable clothing and to bring yoga mats, sleeping pads, pillows and blankets--whatever they would need to make the hard floor bearable.  As it was, the couches and chairs from the foyer were dragged in after only one hour!  I did make the stipulation that only siblings could share a blanket and no one could wear pajamas.

I prepared and prepared and finally went to sleep at about 11 o'clock the night before the event.  I usually don't wake up on my own if I have to get up early.  I needed to be up by 6 to get showered,younger kids ready to go to the grandparent's house for the night and to the church for final preparations.  I awoke in a panic, realizing I had forgotten to set my alarm.
It may seem lucky, but when I saw the time, 5:58 am, I knew that the Lord wanted the event to happen.
Heavenly Father is in the details of our lives!

We read in the gym because I wanted the kids to experience this together.  I'd heard of other youth groups meeting separately, boys at one house, girls at another, but I thought it was worth the discomfort of the hard floor to be together.
The being together turned out to be one of the very best parts of the read-a-thon.
The unity of our group was mightily fortified.

The gym was decorated simply, with every Book of Mormon story depiction I could find.  I raided my own supply and that of the library and tacked them to the walls.  At different times during the two days, I saw young people staring at a picture,
with new eyes, methinks.

I posted signs on the doors of the gym since our church building hosts regular visitors, meetings, and worshipers.  This is what I posted:

I emphasized paper scriptures for fewer distractions and only had to confiscate one phone.
Everyone was generally compliant with the no electronics rule.

There were long tables with butcher paper at one end of the gym for meals.
On one wall was a giant standard that my husband drew up for us.  
Every time we finished a book (Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, etc.), we gave up a giant cheer,
then marked off the books on our chart.
It proved to be an motivating progress report.
On the second day, we began adding quotes, scriptures, and references to the poster as well.

The actual reading was done several ways.  We listened to the downloaded audio version about 75% of the time because we could listen to it fast.  1.7x was about as fast as we could go, I thought 1.5x was optimal.  I've heard other groups listened to it at 2x speed, but we felt that was too fast and made it hard to focus on anything.  It took some getting used to since there was no time for pondering, questions or discussion.  That is a different type of study for a different time.  All ways have good effects.

The other 25% of the time, we either took turns reading (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 verses each, we'd switch it up) round robin style or had one person read a couple of chapters to us.  A few parents came for 30 minutes here, an hour or two there.  We had them read when they came.  It was nice to have variation.

I'm not great at cute stuff, so there was no twine, scrapbook paper, origami or centerpieces.  If you do that kind of thing well, there are lots of ideas out there.  For my sanity, I went simple on the handouts.
Each reader got a small notebook, a scripture marking pencil, a regular pencil and a Book of Mormon reading chart, with boxes for each chapter that could be checked off as we progressed.

One thing that I did go all out on was the food.  I knew that if they were hungry, they wouldn't be listening.  I also knew that if they had a ton of junk food, they would be sleeping and their bodies would feel crummy.  This is where I got the ward involved.  While I provided (through the ward budget) and prepared the snacks, the auxiliaries provided the meals.  Everyone ate breakfast at home, then we provided the rest.
(I did have hot water with cocoa and apple cider packets when they arrived in the mornings.)
Here is the menu, with instructions for the least amount of interruption as possible.

Those providing the meals did an excellent job.
I was so grateful for them.  I'd mostly prepared the snacks ahead of time so I wasn't in the kitchen very much.  I really wanted to be reading with the others!  It could have been very easy for me to be in the kitchen all day.  I decided to let the messes happen so I could participate.  If the members of the ward didn't bring in meals, I for sure would have been in the kitchen all day.

You'd be surprised how hungry you can get sitting around!

We had a strict reading schedule, but we are still human.  I made sure we had a break at least once an hour.  As respectful and reverent as the youth were during the reading, things were different during our breaks.

The afternoons were especially hard so we found ourselves pacing the gym while following along, running outside in the snow during breaks, snowball fights, camel fights, basketball, jumping jacks and lots of laughter.

You can only hold so still for so long!

Can you guess which one is the dancer? Ha.
Here is our schedule.  
We mostly kept to it, though several times we voted to delay a break or a meal if we were close to finishing a book.  They were really committed to finishing!

We were much slower when we read, versus the sped-up audio file.  There was better focus and concentration when we read, though, so I did try to have us read as much as possible.  I got us a little ahead of schedule with the audio file so that we could read much of 3 Nephi together.

Most of the time we were scattered all around the floor and stage.
For this part, though, we put chairs in a circle, knees practically touching.
We started in Chapter 10.

I felt the Holy Spirit burn in my heart as he declared to my spirit the truth of the words.
Jesus Christ did come to the people.
They did feel the prints in his hands and feet.
He did pray for them and bless their children.
I know it is true.

I learned so much reading the Book of Mormon this fast.  You know the book's title is The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  In this speed-reading version, I was astounded by the frequency of the witnesses of Christ.  It seemed like every five or so chapters, someone else was adding their witness to the record, either through a personal visitation by Jesus Christ himself (pre-mortal or post-mortal) or through a vision of his birth, life, death or resurrection.  Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Mormon, Alma, Abinadi, and the list goes on.  The book truly lives up to its name.

There were some kids who attended who I'm pretty sure did not have a testimony of the Book of Mormon prior to the event.  In fact, one mother was especially concerned her son was going to want a way out.
She sent me a text telling me that.
I responded, in complete honesty, that her son didn't want to leave.  He was all in.
They all were. 

 By hour 22, things were starting to get a little dicey with the younger boys, but it never got out of hand.  A snap of the fingers and a bit of stink eye and the boys shaped up again.

Beautiful, fun and virtuous young women.
We enjoyed being together, but it was more than that; we were united under the same ensign.
We were marching in the same army, fighting for the same cause.
We were there because we wanted to be there--
even if those who didn't want to be in the beginning, they did by the end.

At 7:55, we sat back in the circle to read the final chapter of Moroni together.
I took the liberty of reading it to my so loved youth.
I challenged them to accept Moroni's challenge:

We completed the Book of Mormon in under 24 hours.
We made it!  It was by the skin of our teeth, but we made it!
There was a lot of clapping, cheering, and general merry making.
This incredible group of the Lord's mighty army accomplished a difficult goal.

By this time, even the chairs weren't high enough to reach the topmost of our chart.

And here we are.  
(There were three more that could only come for the first day.)

I love these people.
Every one of them.
I'm so thankful that I was able to serve with them.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

We will remember this for the rest of our lives.
The friendships that were strengthened.
The testimonies that grew.
The Spirit that was felt.

With this manual as our guide,
the future is in good hands.


  1. I love everything about this Emily. What an incredible experience

  2. Awesome- I'm sending a link to our YW/YM leaders for consideration. Good work!

  3. This is so awesome! I can't believe you pulled this off! I think in an effort to not push away our youth, we don't push them enough...this is the kind of impactful experience that stays with you and shapes you for your entire life! I would love to live in your ward and have you teach my kids. Your love and testimony of the gospel is contagious and so inspiring!

  4. That is just amazing! Congratulations on a great accomplishment!

  5. I just found a link to this blog post on Pinterest. This is amazing!! Congratulations!! I'm sure their lives were changed forever. I have been wanting to do something like this for quite some time but have always been nervous to, for fear of failing to do it in 24 hours, but this post made me realize that in the beginning it may seem necessary to finish in 24 hours, but a little ways in, and the meaning of the challenge changes. What a beautiful thing!!

  6. Love your determination to inspire your youth and thank you for sharing. Sure it's a great way to help our youth to love the Lord. Thank you to all your youth for their example of holding on to the challenge of reading the BOM in 24hrs. So it's possible. Got to challenge our youth as well here in French Polynesia.

  7. Thank you for sharing your challenge of the BOM. It is so awesome. Congratulations to you all, especially the youth. Great way to help them love the Lord. Sure gave me some ideas to challenge our youth here on Raiatea, island located in French Polynesia. I love the book of Mormon. it is a powerful book to heal and uplift our soul.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing in such detail - we've been contemplating doing this in our ward - this will make planning so much easier! THANK YOU!

  9. Thank you SO much for including such detail. We are planning to have a Book of Mormon read a thon with our youth soon and this will make it a lot easier to do. I especially like your schedule so we can know if we are on target. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

  10. I just have to say THANK YOU!!! I was so happy to come across your page when researching and planning this activity. It was a huge success and the schedule was a life saver!! Thank you so much for sharing online. Love, a stranger from Texas :)

  11. Thank you so much for this! I will pass it on to my ward's youth leaders! You're amazing and I just want you to know that people are still reading this post and being inspired by it. <3