When a person loses testimony, our traditional response is to tell them to do one or all of the following:
- Study the scriptures
- Read General conference talks
By the time a person has reached this point, they have likely already done everything on this list and more. If we make these recommendations, it’s safe to assume:
- That…this will be viewed as a trite way of being dismissive of their concerns.
- That…they are very familiar with the scriptures. As their faith journey progressed, they often returned to them and studied them in more depth than ever before. Many verses now confirm the new conclusions that they have reached. Rereading may only solidify their opinions.
- That…much prayer has already been offered in painful sincerity. Of course, prayer is always good. Admonishment to pray backfires when one has already poured out their soul in heartfelt and heartsick prayer. Telling them to pray more can come across as a judgmental slap in the face.
- That…they have diligently studied past and present talks. Often a person in transition will have been fixated on listening to all current conference sessions. Searching for answers to their questions. Looking to find validation for their concerns. Hoping that there might be a place for them in the church.
What Did Christ Say?
In John 17, a pertinent story is recounted about how to gain a testimony.
During the feast of the Tabernacles, “there was much murmuring among the people concerning him (Jesus): for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.”
Today, we face a very similar situation. There is much murmuring about the church’s truth claims and even the divinity of the Savior. Some defend our assertions of truth. Others proclaim that we have been deceived. Out of fear, almost no one speaks openly.
Jesus went to the temple and offered His divine and common sense solution. “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
What was Christ’s counsel? He didn’t say go pray. He didn’t suggest scripture. He didn’t point to the prophets or their writings. Amazingly, He didn’t bear testimony. His prescription was to simply follow His doctrine. That is the effective way to know whether it comes from God or man. In other words, this is the way Jesus provided for mankind to gain a testimony…a testimony of His teachings and example.
The Savior declared that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” We come to know the truthfulness of His doctrine by living according the way of life that he taught and exemplified. In the LDS version of the Bible, the chapter heading for John 17 contains these words, “Truth may be known through obedience.” Exactly what Christ advised. Truth may be known through obedience to His teachings and example.
In Victor Hugo’s classic novel, a story is told of a catholic priest’s interaction with a recently released prisoner, Jean Valjean. Jean was a lost and broken man with no where to go. The priest beckoned him to shelter for the night in his parish home. At first light, Valjean was gone. He’d pilfered a cup of silver. The law found him and suspected the valuable goblet was stolen. To confirm the crime, he was taken back to the priest. The compassionate bishop did not speak of theft. Rather, he brought out candlesticks of silver and said…
“You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
So Monsieurs you may release him
For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
May God’s blessing go with you.”
Of course, there is no comparison between some one leaving the church and a thief. They are simply wonderful members who are choosing a different path. May they take with them the most valued treasures of our church…the teachings and example of Christ.
Whether a person stays in the church or leaves, all that Christ asks is that we follow the way, the truth and the life. Living in this manner gives us the most important commonality of all…Christ’s way of living. This is the true path to a testimony of what is most important in life