I love Come, Follow Me. I’m a girl who likes a schedule and the lovely manual gives me just that. I am also rather charmed by the idea that all around the world, my faith community is reading about Nephi building the boat or Abish saving the queen at the same time I am. All in all, I am a big fan.
As we start a new year of Come, Follow Me in the Book of Mormon, however, I am making a different commitment to myself than I have in years past.
Before, I’d commit each year to reading every single chapter outlined. January me really believed we could do it! We could stay on track the whole year. I mean—it shouldn’t be that hard, right? The length of the readings is manageable. So (January me would always say) grab your cute highlighters, stickers, and floral-print Book of Mormon and let’s get started.
But I’ve never quite done it. In the past four years of Come, Follow Me, I haven’t read every single chapter. And I probably don’t even need to tell you how I’ve felt about that fact. Disappointed. Frustrated. A sometimes even a little guilty.
The lists of chapters I committed to read are right there, printed in that familiar, comforting Church font, and I didn’t read them. I’d once again missed the very obvious mark!
Gratefully, this year I think I’ve made a breakthrough.
To put it simply, this year I am taking off the pressure to read every single chapter. Instead, I am embracing what I’ve always expected—reading every chapter just isn’t the point.
But I am not lessening my commitment to Come, Follow Me. I love this! I love learning about the Savior and finding peace through what I really do believe is an inspired program. I am committed. But my marker for success is no longer going to be getting through all the chapters. Now, my focus will be on filling my cup, not checking the box.
Because let’s state the obvious: I will not get a magical bestowal of A Better Emily on December 31 because I checked off each chapter. Deeper faith and conversion “requires consistent, daily efforts to understand and live the gospel,” as says our lovely manual. The time I spend in the scriptures and trying to live as Jesus taught is more important than getting through it all in one year.
We have our whole lives to learn what these books say. That happy fact is not a free pass to procrastinate, but it is a very good reason to take a deep breath and try to enjoy the journey.
In the Come, Follow Me manual, it has a section at the beginning with advice for those teaching classes at church. It invites teachers to let class members share their thoughts, experiences, and questions about the scriptural passages. Then it says, “This is more important than covering a certain amount of material.”
I think that applies to us too! Focus on what you are learning and feeling, unburdened by the pressure of “finishing.” I absolutely love this thought from Jared Halverson: “Too often we feel like we can’t close the book until we’ve reached a closing point. We have to get past that because one of the best days of scripture study is when you realize that you’re never ‘done,’ that you never finish the text. You just spend your lifetime connecting with God through it.”
So I am still going to open that manual week after week. I am still going to grab my highlighters, my floral Book of Mormon, and my stickers. But this is no longer about finishing. It’s about feeling.
Maybe I will read every chapter by the end of the year. Great! That could totally happen—it just isn’t going to be my goal. Instead, I am striving to see scripture as rest, as a refill. In 2021, I interviewed Emily Belle Freeman for a Q&A in LDS Living magazine. I considered her a scripture study expert, so I asked her a question that felt very pressing to me and my friends, especially those of us who had served missions and wanted to keep up our habit of scripture study.
I essentially asked her for advice on how to really give myself permission to carve out time for scripture study. (And, frankly, how to help myself really want to do it.) Her response has lingered in my mind for years. She said:
“Scripture is my rest. It is how I rejuvenate. It is my respite from the heaviness and the hectic of my life. In the beginning years, I carved time into my day for it. Now my soul craves it. When life feels like too much, I sit down in my favorite chair—even if it’s just for a few short minutes—and commune with Him.”
That doesn’t sound like someone preoccupied with checklists. And it sounds like the type of experience I want to have. And the type of person I want to become.
So as I go into 2024, my prayer for Come, Follow Me is that it will become my respite. My rejuvenation. And that sounds very much to me like hitting the mark.