How to testify
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The Book of Mormon records an occasion when Alma bore pure testimony:
"For I am called to speak … according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come.
"Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit, …
"I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name" (Alma 5:44, 48).
Alma provides a model for the bearing of testimony. By the power of the Holy Ghost, he spoke with boldness and directness of that which he knew, not of what he thought he knew. "I know of myself ..." he declared.
In coming years, Paul would teach, "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Latter-day Saints can speak by this same power, and often do. We call it bearing testimony.
A testimony is usually defined as knowledge or assurance of a truth that a person declares by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost.
Sharing testimonies is an important part of the Latter-day Saint experience. We bear testimonies in many settings — in the home with family and among friends and associates or in missionary experiences. In Church, one Sunday is set aside every month for the bearing of testimonies during sacrament meetings.
In a letter dated May 2, 2002, and sent to priesthood leaders, the First Presidency wrote:
"We are concerned that in some instances, members who desire to bear their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting do not have the opportunity to do so. Bishoprics are encouraged to help all people learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration, so that more members may have the opportunity to participate.
"Parents and teachers should help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for them to express it. It may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies at such times as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so in a fast and testimony meeting.
"We encourage bishoprics to teach these important principles to priesthood and auxiliary leaders and to all ward members."
Those stated principles — brief, heartfelt, based on the Savior, His teachings and the Restoration — are not merely to ensure brevity in meetings and enhance increased participation. They are also the foundations of a powerful witness and expression in a public testimony.
When we share our testimonies, we ought to avoid anything that detracts from the spirit of a worship service.
In his address at the October 2004 general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve declared: "Personal testimony is the foundation of our faith. It is the binding power that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique in the lives of its members, as compared with all other religious denominations of the world. The doctrine of the Restoration is glorious in and of itself, but the thing that makes it powerful and imbues it with great meaning is the personal testimonies of Church members worldwide who accept the Restoration of the gospel and strive to live its teachings every day of their lives.
"A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primary ministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son."
Elder Ballard said that his experience throughout the Church leads him to worry that too many members' testimonies linger on "I am thankful," and "I love," and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, "I know." As a result, he noted, meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.
He referred to the First Presidency's statement quoted above, and counseled, "We need to replace stories, travelogues and lectures with pure testimonies. Those who are entrusted to speak and teach in our meetings need to do so with doctrinal power that will be both heard and felt, lifting the spirits and edifying our people."
A testimony employs verbs such as: know, testify, certify, declare, affirm, bear witness, bear record.
As we listen to general conference this October, we will hear many bear pure testimony. Numerous times over the years, we have heard President Thomas S. Monson, first as an apostle and now as president of the Church, bear such testimony. May we, as Primary children sing, be inclined to "follow the prophet" in our endeavor to nurture, strengthen and share our testimonies that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, that Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was the prophet who was raised up to restore the fullness of the everlasting gospel, that the Book of Mormon testifies of these truths and is, indeed, "Another witness of Jesus Christ." And to this, may we add testimony that we are led by a living prophet today.