Monday, August 15, 2011

The Gift and Path of Testimony (Part Three)

Here's the final part of my recent sacrament meeting talk. To read Part One go here. To read Part Two go here. BTW, all the present pictures on these posts are CAKES. Man, some people really know how to work their fondant! Blows my mind. . .

The gift of testimony isn’t just something that occurs inside us. Yes, we feel it through our emotions but testimony is more than that. True testimony is action. It is a conviction of truth that is so deeply rooted in us that we cannot help but act according to that truth. This is what Alma meant when he asked, “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change of heart?” (Alma 5:14). When our desires work in us to create spiritual experiences, experiences that we hold dear in our memories, then we are compelled to action.

While I was preparing this talk, one of my children asked me why “you always get up there every month and talk.” Now I’m not sure if this child was referring to people in general or me specifically, but seeing as I can really only speak for myself that is how I will answer the question. This is the answer: for me, testimony is action. Testimony is something I do. One way it is manifested is through standing up and sharing my feelings and experiences. Other actions I take for testimony are visiting teaching, family scripture study and family prayer, and fulfilling my Primary calling. I have had experiences where each of these things has blessed my life and the Spirit has borne witness to me that these things will lead me closer to Christ, so I take action.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said it this way, “Simply stated testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives. It changes how you think and what you do. It changes what you say. It affects every priority you set and every choice you make.”

This brings me to the final step on the path of testimony: choice. Because of the nature of faith, we cannot have a perfect knowledge of spiritual things. But a testimony is not a perfect knowledge of things. It is an act of faith. It is a choice to trust something outside ourselves, something bigger than ourselves, and hope that it is true.

Of course, testimony also isn’t thoughtless acceptance. President Howard W. Hunter, when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “I have sympathy for young men and women when honest doubts enter their minds and they engage in the great conflict of resolving doubts. These doubts can be resolved, if they have an honest desire to know the truth, by exercising moral, spiritual, and mental effort. They will emerge from the conflict into a firmer, stronger, larger faith because of the struggle. They have gone from a simple, trusting faith, through doubt and conflict into a solid substantial faith which ripens into testimony.” Strong testimonies grow out of difficulty and questioning. As long as we stay on the path each choice we make can be a step toward strengthening our testimonies.

The Lord has promised, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63). When we choose the path of testimony, when we desire a testimony, seek and remember spiritual experiences and take action on the witnesses we receive, the Lord will reward us with a priceless gift. We can feel the excitement, gratitude, and joy that come from getting the gift we wanted, and needed, most: a testimony.

I want us to try the little exercise we did at the beginning of my talk, but this time with testimony. I want you to think of something you have a testimony of. Maybe it is God’s love. Maybe it is the Savior’s love and his sacrifice. Maybe it is your testimony of prayer or the truth of the Book of Mormon. Maybe it is Joseph Smith and the teachings of modern prophets. Whatever it is I want you to try and envision your testimony. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What desires brought you to that testimony? What experiences did you have with that precept? How well do you remember it? What actions and choices do you make as a result of it? The way we answer those questions will help each of us know where we are on the path of testimony and how we can continue to grow in and appreciate this marvelous gift.

I close with the eloquent words of Nephi’s testimony, “Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. . . I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions . . . he hath filled me with his love. . . Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh . . . therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God” (2 Nephi 4: 16, 19-21, 35).

1 comment:

Josh said...

Found your blog/talk by chance and started reading it after coming home from school today. It helped bring the Spirit into my heart and allowed Heavenly Father to teach me a few things I've needed to learn, and need to continue learning each day. Thank you so much for sharing!