This is a talk that I gave last spring (April 2011) in my home ward. I was rereading it last night and tonight, and it got me thinking about my own life and some things I can work on. Hopefully it can inspire some of you as well.
“If Necessary, Use Words”
I drive a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta. I love my car for a number of reasons, but one reason I love it is this: it has a cassette player. This has blessed my life so much because it allows me the chance to listen to the books and talks on tape that my parents would play for us in the car growing up. One of my favorite talks to listen to is by R. Scott Simmons, called “The Scriptures – Sleeping Aid or Power Source?”
In this talk, Simmons relates a story that I would like to share again. One week, he was with his wife visiting a ward on their way to somewhere else. That Sunday happened to be a mission farewell. Though they did not know the missionary, they gathered from his remarks, and the remarks of his family, that it had apparently taken a great deal of encouragement to get him to serve a mission.
As the young man addressed the congregation, he said “many of you might think that I don’t have a testimony. I want you to know that I do, and I want to tell you how I got that testimony.”
He said that one day, he went to his mother and said “Mom, I don’t think I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon.” She asked, “Would you like to?” He said “Yeah. Yeah I would.” So his mother told him that if he would read the Book of Mormon every day for a week, and then pray about it, he would receive his answer. The young man decided that he would give it a try.
He came back to his mother at the end of the week and told her: “I prayed, but nothing happened.” Instead of giving up, this wonderful mother instead simply said “Tell me about your scripture reading. When did you read?” The son replied, “At night.” She asked “How long did you read?” He responded, “Until I fell asleep.” She then suggested that they schedule a time, every day, when they could read together.
They decided that they would read every day after school. That is what they did, and at the end of the week, the young man once again knelt and prayed.
He then said, very simply, to the congregation: “I know it’s true. I know it’s true.”
Moroni 10:4 is a scripture most of us are familiar with, and many can quote by heart. It says: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
We often are so focused on the promise that the Lord will confirm the truths, that we forget what is required on our part. Not only are we required to “receive these things,” meaning we accept the counsel and promises that the Book of Mormon offers, but we must also pray in faith, with a sincere heart, and real intent—meaning that we intend to follow through and act upon the answer that we receive.
We are promised in John 7:17 “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” If we want to receive a testimony, we must put forth the required effort. Casual or halfhearted application of doctrine is not enough. For any principle we are seeking to gain a testimony of, we must live that principle completely and wholeheartedly, and the Lord will bless us in return.
Now, for those of you who think that this message is not for you, don’t tune out just yet. And for those who may be struggling and wondering whether you have, or still have, a testimony, because you cannot pinpoint a singular spiritual experience, do not fear. Cecil O Samuelson Jr explained in this past General Conference that gaining a testimony is an ongoing process rather than an isolated event. He said:
“A testimony is similar to a living organism that grows and develops when treated properly. It needs constant nourishment, care, and protection to thrive and prosper. Likewise, neglect or deviance from the pattern of living that a testimony clarifies can lead to its loss or diminishment.”
So how is it that we grow and nurture a testimony? Donald Staheli of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy said in a 2004 Conference that the first step is desire, followed by action and sustained effort, meaning we are continually communicating with and proving the Lord as we faithfully live His commandments. In Alma 32 we are encouraged to experiment upon the word, to allow it a place in our hearts so that we may determine whether or not it is true. Alma tells us in verse 28 that if it is true, or good, that it will cause our hearts to swell, it will enlighten our understanding, and become delicious to us.
Moroni cautions us, though, in Ether 12:6. He reminds us that “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen. Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” This is further evidence that we must exercise faith and choose to begin living the Gospel of Christ before we will receive our witness of it.
The Doctrine and Covenants gives us some direction on understanding the answers that the Holy Ghost gives us. Section 8 verse 2 states: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost which shall come upon you, and which shall dwell in your heart.”
And in section 9, verses 8 and 9 the Lord tells us “Behold, I say unto you, that ye must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” “But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong…”
Do not be discouraged if you have not received any dramatic revelations or overpowering spiritual experiences. Elder Bednar, in his conference talk this year, stated:
“I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you ‘cannot go amiss’ (D&C 80:3).”
So what do we do with our testimonies once we have grown and developed them? President Uchtdorf, in one of his talks this past General Conference shared a quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, which has become one of my favorites. He said: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”
In one of my communication classes, we learned that 65% percent of the meaning we convey in a message is transmitted nonverbally. With this in mind, the idea of “bearing testimony” to others should not be so intimidating. Our simplest everyday actions can and should demonstrate our faith in Christ and our commitment to follow him. Everything from the way we dress, to the language we use, to the choice to hold a door for someone or let them go ahead of you in line, can be an example to the world that we are different. That we are choosing to live like Christ.
1 Timothy 4:12 is a scripture that has been quoted a lot recently in the church meetings I have attended. Paul commands Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Basically, in all aspects of our demeanor we are to be an example of the believers.
This is something I have been working rather hard on, especially at work. Since there is not much opportunity for stumbling upon gospel topics in a food service environment, I try to be very aware of myself and take advantage of any opportunities that might come up. It is surprising actually, how many chances there are to bear testimony, even if it is just about something small. Though I can’t say I have handled every situation as well as I could or should have in retrospect, I have been able to explain to some of my coworkers our feelings about the Sabbath Day and the Word of Wisdom.
I would like to close with a quote by Henry B. Eyring, which was directed toward the young women of the church, but I feel is applicable to all of us today. He said:
“If you can look forward to such a day [meaning a celestial marriage, but we might say Eternal Life] with enough desire born of testimony, you will be strengthened to resist the temptations of the world. Each time you choose to try to live more like the Savior, you will have your testimony strengthened. You will come in time to know for yourself that He is the Light of the World.
“You will come to feel light growing in your life. It will not come without effort. But it will come as your testimony grows and you choose to nurture it. Here is the sure promise from the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.’
“You will be a light to the world as you share your testimony with others. You will reflect to others the Light of Christ in your life. The Lord will find ways for that light to touch those you love. And through the combined faith and testimony of His daughters [and sons], God will touch the lives of millions in His kingdom and across the world with His light.”