How to Gain a Testimony

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When a person loses testimony, our traditional response is to tell them to do one or all of the following:

  • Study the scriptures
  • Pray
  • 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.

Les Miz

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

12 thoughts on “How to Gain a Testimony

  1. Hi Sam. You seem to be inferring that a valued or true Testimony is one associated with obedience to Christ’s will, and not the kind of Testimony associated with just reading and praying. Firstly, the reading and praying technique (as stressed and recommended by the Brethren to both investigators and members) is flawed, because it works for anybody in any denomination. There are far more ‘Testimonies’ discovered through sincere prayer, that other faiths are TRUE, than the LDS church can ever match. It’s an emotional – feel good, self induced effect upon the mind. In reality, it is the worst and the most perilous way to ascertain religious truth imaginable. I think the other method you recommend has more merit – at least here, people are ‘practising’ or ‘living out’ their faith, but here again, I see a recurring problem –– most people thus convinced, extrapolate that whatever level of Testimony they have gained ‘proves’ their church is True! I did the opposite; I proved (at least to myself) that God still remained, as the church slowly diminished.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      I’m probably doing a poor job. What I’m trying to communicate is that the ‘truth’ of Christianity is in a way of life. And if all religious and the non-religious agree that kindness and love are a good way of life, then I’m going to call it true. I don’t ‘know’ if Christ is divine, nor if he resurrected. But, I have found his teachings to be a wonderful guide to direct my life. It’s my contention that all of us can and likely do embrace this ‘truth.’ If so, I think that is way more important than the many issues that we debate. This is the bond that should bind all Mormons together. All Christians together. All humans together.

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      1. Sam – your not sure about the divinity of Christ?? Or if he was resurrected?? U obviously are not sure about the divinity of the book of mormon !! Got a second witness of the divinity of Christ- u got too much time on your hands!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Janice. As you probably know, I have been rejected from helping those with questions inside the church. I’m hoping that this and other pieces that I plan to write can be used as resources for leaders and members alike.

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Sam. When I left the LDS church one of my thoughts was if “doing his will” is supposed to prove the truth, yet one don’t know if the LDS teachings aren’t in fact synonymous with doing his will, then it doesn’t help much. In fact, wouldn’t one have to sample all religions and all life philosophies, and who has the time for that? But, despite that thought, I figured I owed it to the truth to at least try something different, since living as taught by the church hadn’t brought the promised knowledge. I have to say, so far I am satisfied with the experiment. Not that I think I’ve discovered God’s will. But I am confident where I am now feels more right and true to me than were I was before. I don’t mean that as a dig to my Mormon friends. Only that each one has to do what feels right to themselves, and YMMV.

    I appreciate your pointing out that encouragement to pray harder, read scriptures more, be more patient, or repent more fully (you left those last two out… but they are often included by members) while well meaning run the risk of coming across as condescending. Particularly to those who have prayed and read scriptures, and repented, etc. often over a long period of time. Unfortunately no matter how much one has done, one can always pray harder, read a little more, or live a little better for just a little longer. There is no measure for what is enough. One can never dis-prove, because there is always something more to be done. The only measure is “be ye therefore perfect”, yet no man is perfect for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory”. It is either an impossibly vague or a waffling requirement. I came to the conclusion that a reasonable effort is all that is reasonable. There is something inherently wrong with anything that can’t even be theoretically proven wrong because of an infinitely expanding yard-stick. No! If the promise is that we can know, and after a reasonable effort one doesn’t know, the right conclusion is obvious, to me. And it is *NOT* pray more, read more, be more, etc.

    But you always say it in a much gentler and kinder way than I do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Gerry,

    Not sure about the divinity of Christ? Until a couple of years ago, I was certain about everything. I KNEW that all things about our religion were true. Then I started to discover many things about our history and doctrine that I had never heard of. Some things that I KNEW were true were actually false. In fact, the church now CONDEMNS the racist teachings that I was brought up with and KNEW to be true until just 3 years ago. In summary, I’ve been burned by KNOWING what’s true. I’ve been burned by simply believing what other’s told. I’ve been burned by the ‘burning in the bosom.’

    My approach to truth is much different today. I subscribe to the definition of faith as given in the Book of Mormon. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for that ARE true. Substantial evidence of truth must be present before I’ll put my faith in something. Otherwise, hope is the operative vitue. For example, I have 64 years of evidence that cause the teachings and example of Jesus to ring true. As a result, I put my faith in His teachings and example. Is Jesus divine? How would I know that? Feelings? They have badly betrayed me in the past. The witness of church leaders? They have been amply wrong in the past. So, I apply the second great virtue as defined by Paul…hope. I hope Christ is divine.

    And hopefully this helps explain where I’m at. I blogged all about this in July of 2016. Here’s the link: https://invisiblescubit.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/my-choice-choice/

    Thanks for trying to keep me on the straight and narrow, Sam

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  4. The idea that we find belief and testimony through obedience always rang hollow to me. It feels like someone is simply yelling at me, “Stay in line. Do NOT get out of the line. Don’t slow down the line”. It is a institutional approach. I want a personal and real relationship with God that includes a straight and narrow path that varies in speed.

    The God of my understanding is less concerned about my obedience and more concerned with my motives and understanding.

    The bigger question is this: Is it more important to have a spiritual relationship with God or is it more important to identify with a particular organized religion?

    The religion would qualify their answer by stating that it is important to have the spiritual relationship but only through their institutional approach. They own the trail and they decide how fast each person is expected to travel.

    As an individual, I find my relationship with God doesn’t require involvement in organized religion. The cameraderie of fellow believers is pleasant, but just as traveling with a group always changes the travel plans, involvement in an organized religion changes where I stop to rest and changes my end goals in some small ways.

    Right now, my journey needs to be my own, without the influence of an institution. That doesn’t make me any less faithful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Long, Slow, Deliberate….and Steady Clap!! Extraordinarily well done!! I LOVE (and totally agree with) this article, Sam. Simply beautiful!!

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