“Captains of Ten,” New Era, Nov. 1983, 49
“Are you the one who has been calling my daughter each week?” was the question.
The answer, from Keri Peterson of the Bountiful 29th Ward, Bountiful Utah Central Stake, was simple and direct, “Yes, I’m a captain of ten, and your daughter is on my team.”
“Thank you,” was the response from a grateful father. “Thank you very much.”
The youth of this Bountiful ward were involved in a project called Moroni’s Promise. It came in response to a challenge from Elder M. Russell Ballard given to the youth of the Bountiful 29th Ward to adopt a meaningful and significant project for the year. This challenge was brought before the bishop’s youth committee for discussion. The youth leaders decided that reading the Book of Mormon would surely be a meaningful and significant project.
One Sunday evening, all of the youth and their parents were invited to a meeting to launch Moroni’s Promise. It was the young, valiant captains of ten who gave the vision, reviewed the promise (see Moro. 10:3–5), spoke of agency and obedience, explained the program, and called for volunteers to join one of their teams.
One young captain of ten, Michelle Gardner, referred to the promise made by President Gordon B. Hinkley to all the members of the Church who read the Book of Mormon. He promised those who read daily that “there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 9).
Appealing to the youth for whom she now felt a keen sense of responsibility, she added her own personal testimony. “I know when I read each day, especially when I study and don’t just skim over what I’m reading, I do feel a greater desire to live the commandments and to have the Spirit of the Lord in my life.”
Individualized packets were provided which included the quote from Moroni printed on parchment ready for framing, a system for recording progress, recommended target dates, helpful study methods, a promise of celebration stations, and a letter to be sent to a trusted friend or relative requesting support and continuous encouragement during the coming months as they read the Book of Mormon. An application form was also provided requesting the parent’s signature as well as the signature of a member of the bishopric.
Each participant was invited to add his or her own signature as an indication of willingness to be diligent in endeavoring to reach the goal of having read the entire Book of Mormon within the set time limit. This could be accomplished by reading approximately 16 pages per week. A captain of ten also signed the application indicating a willingness to be in touch each week to determine progress and provide encouragement to each member of his or her team.
Individual progress was not a public matter. However, increased interest was awakened when the aggregate “scores” of the teams were recorded on an attractive chart that was periodically displayed in the chapel foyer with pictures of various activities.
As eager participants finished the last verse of Alma 63, “And thus ended the account of Alma,” they would rush, regardless of the hour, to Sister Bonnie Guthrie, who helped with the records, assisted in making calls for captains as needed, and dispensed T-shirts to each one finishing the book of Alma. The T-shirts with “STOMP” (for “Students Trying Out Moroni’s Promise”) printed in bold letters across the front provided the incentive that urged many through the pages of Alma.
A celebration station was an event scheduled at regular intervals along the way to give strong incentives and provide continuous encouragement to the captains, who in turn, inspired their team members as they made their weekly contacts. The captains were to then give an accounting to the specialist in a brief weekly meeting following sacrament meeting. Many, many extra calls at various times were required to accomplish this necessary follow-up.
As the group completed Alma, a celebration station was scheduled. The snow had been falling all night, and it was unseasonably cold, but nothing would daunt the plans for the scheduled tree planting celebration. A flowering cherry tree had been selected. The hole was dug, and all ward members were invited to gather at the church.
Robert Davis stood before the group holding a scroll containing all the names of those who at that time had finished reading Alma. He rolled the scroll, put it in a plastic-coated container, sealed it, and then respectfully placed it in the hole at the base of the tree and explained, “You’re probably wondering why we are planting a tree. If you will recall in Alma the planting of a seed which became a tree has meaning because of the analogy to a growing testimony.” He then read Alma 32:27–41, “But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.”
On Mother’s Day following sacrament meeting, the entire ward was invited to gather around the flagpole for yet another celebration station. Richard Newman and Mike Bettilyon, both captains of ten, unfolded the beautifully designed flag with the large dark blue letters “Moroni’s Promise” centered in a white open field.
There were other names on that flag also. Those who had finished the Book of Helaman had added their signatures to the flag as an official Mother’s Day record. Bishop Bradford reminded everyone of the stripling warriors who did not fear death for they had been taught by their mothers that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them (see Alma 56:47). The captains attached the flag and pulled the ropes raising it to the very top of the long silver pole. Hearts were opened and feelings were tender as expressed by a younger member of the group, who whispering to a friend close by, said, “My name is on that flag,” and his friend responded reverently, “So is mine.”
By now the flowering cherry tree planted earlier was bursting into bloom nearby as a reminder of growing testimonies.
What difference has all this effort made? There have been 120 readers, 38 adults and 82 youth, participating in Moroni’s Promise.
Thirteen-year-old Wid Covey, standing before an audience, volunteered his testimony, “I’m thankful for this Moroni’s Promise program because it helps me understand the scriptures. When I sit down with my dad to read the Book of Mormon he helps me understand about it also. I’m thankful for Michelle Gardner. She calls me every week, and it helps me a lot and she encourages me.”
Sister Margaret Kirkham reported, “Our whole family looks forward to Richard Newman, our captain of ten, coming to encourage us. This project has been a great influence to our entire family.”
Bishop Bradford reflected on the past eight months. “It has made a great difference. There are few activities that could have unified our youth as well as this. I can’t say that all our youth now have a strong personal testimony of the Book of Mormon, but it’s a super beginning. With the help of our inspired specialist, a great number of young people will be better missionaries in every aspect of their lives, and all of them are better prepared to withstand the evils of the world.”