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On Ella Adkins' 70th birthday, her nine children combined resources to buy her a special surprise: four cases of copies of the Book of Mormon - 144 books in all.

It was an unusual birthday present, but they knew it was exactly what theirD mother wanted.In addition to supporting her ward's Family to Family Book of Mormon program, Sister Adkins also personally gives away copies of the Book of Mormon. She is currently working on her 99th case. (Each case has between 36 and 40 books, depending on whether they are hardback or paperback. Sister Adkins estimates that she has distributed more than 3,600 copies of the Book of Mormon.)

"I started giving copies of the Book of Mormon about four years ago when I was working at the Ogden Temple," explained Sister Adkins, a member of the Coalville 2nd Ward, Coalville Utah Stake. "Pres. Keith Wilcox was president of the temple, and he had just been called as a General Authority. Before he left, he brought a case of copies of the Book of Mormon into prayer meeting. He put them on the table and asked each one of us to take a book and put our testimony in it."

Sister Adkins decided she could do better than that. At home was a case of the books. She put copies of her testimony in each book, included a picture of herself and her husband, John, who had recently passed away, and gave the whole case to Pres. Wilcox. "Then I thought, `Well, if one case is good, lots would be better.' And I've been doing it ever since."

Sister Adkins has sent a case of books to every English-speaking mission in the world, as well as six books to every Spanish-speaking mission. "It's just mushroomed," she explained.

In addition, Sister Adkins took 41/2 cases with her when she left on her own mission to the Georgia Atlanta Temple. She distributed them at the Missionary Training Center.

"I stood in front of one of the buildings and gave them away to those young missionaries," she remembered. "They loved it. It only took me 21/2 hours. I could have given away 40 cases."

Sister Adkins, who started serving at the Ogden Temple again after returning from her mission, also takes copies of the Book of Mormon to the temple with her and gives them to fellow workers. She advises them to take the copies to their own wards and encourage the wards, especially Relief Societies, to get more involved in the program.

"There're so many places you can put the Book of Mormon you wouldn't believe it," Sister Adkins commented. "Nobody should go on any trip without taking a bunch of books with them. You never know when you can give one away.

"For example, one day I was out in front of the house pulling weeds. Some people were camping nearby and they walked past my house. They stopped and visited. They'd never even heard of the Book of Mormon, so naturally, I gave them one."

On another occasion, Sister Adkins invited missionaries from another church into her home. "They were hot and tired," she explained. "I listened to them and they wanted me to buy their book. I told them if they'd take mine, I'd buy theirs. They did."

Each Book of Mormon distributed by Sister Adkins takes about an hour to prepare. Included in the books are the picture of her and her husband, her testimony, testimonies of several Church leaders, a copy of the 13 Articles of Faith, plus several other inserts. In addition, Sister Adkins and her family (who assist her with her Book of Mormon project) mark 36 scriptures in each book. "It's a family project," she said. "I couldn't do it without them."

It hasn't been cheap to send out so many copies of the Book of Mormon. But Sister Adkins is not worried about the cost.

"I don't keep track of the money at all," she explained. "The Lord has provided it so I don't keep track of it. Besides, I've got my family trained well. If they keep giving books to me for my birthday, that will be a great help."