By Melody Coleman
Nearly two-thirds of BYU students completed President Gordon B. Hinckley”s challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. According to a survey by a BYU religion professor, 61 percent of females and 64 percent of males were able to complete the Book of Mormon before the New Year.
“I received exactly what President Hinckley said I would – an added measure of the spirit,” one student recorded on his survey. “I noticed that the spirit was with me more often and helped me with the smallest of decisions.”
In late December, professor Alex Baugh of the Religion Department was finishing up the last chapters in Moroni to be obedient to President Hinckley”s challenge. As he finished his reading he reflected on the ways he was blessed from being obedient to President Hinckley”s promise and wondered how many others were able to respond to the challenge.
With the help of his research assistant Meghan Mathews, Baugh conducted a survey to see how many BYU students did the Book of Mormon challenge.
Surveys were distributed to 1,303 students, approximately 4.3 percent of the student body. Baugh received responses from 784 females and 519 males. The surveys were given to religion classes and distributed randomly on campus and off-campus apartments.
Of those surveyed, 61 percent of females and 64 percent of males were able to complete the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. Thirty-eight percent of females and 35 percent of males completed a partial reading of the Book of Mormon. This means that 99 percent of the BYU student body completed at least part of the Book of Mormon, Baugh said.
“Hundreds of students shared their feelings in the survey about their experience of reading the Book of Mormon,” Baugh said. “They were genuine and heart-warming. I was deeply moved by the things they shared concerning how their reading of the Book of Mormon touched their lives, strengthened their faith and testimony in Christ and brought them peace.”
One student wrote, “I felt my family get stronger in the gospel. Even my father read, which he hadn”t done since his mission.”
Baugh conducted a similar survey in his own ward in Highland. Of the 144 adults surveyed, 41 percent read the entire Book of Mormon. Of those who read the book, 20 percent listened to it on CD or tape.
“President Hinckley kept emphasizing it,” Baugh said. “It was no light thing in his mind. He wanted us to step it up.”
This challenge was repeated many times throughout the year at General Conference, in the Church News, the Christmas Devotional and General Women”s Conference.
“In Doctrine and Covenants section five is says that those who believe in the word will be born again,” Baugh said. “I was born again – it was a great experience for me. I wanted to be able to say that I did what President Hinckley wanted me to do. It was not so much for power and discovery but to be able to see if we can obey a simple principle.”
BYUSA handed out 1,000 Book of Mormons to students before the Christmas break to provide a spiritual environment on campus. They also handed out 11,000 commitment cards to read the Book of Mormon with an invitation to send their testimonies when they were finished reading.
BYUSA received 520 testimonies from students that constituted 250 pages of testimonies that were sent to President Hinckley in a book, said Chris Giovarelli, spokesman for BYUSA.
“We are grateful for those who have shared their testimonies.” Giovarelli said. “As students, we have to look to see if in a year from now we have kept up our scripture reading. Hopefully the prophet”s challenge helped us to establish or reemphasize a habit of daily scripture study.”