Sunday, May 22, 2016

What is a Testimony?

In preparing my Sunday School lesson for today on 'testimony' I have compiled the following excellent information for my students ages 16-18, whom I love and care for deeply. I desire for them to know and understand these beautiful truths as I do.  I know that as we are each prayerful and humble and sincere, the Holy Spirit will teach us what is right and what is error. He helps us to discern between the two and then teach and 'testify' to others' the things which we have learned.

What Is a Testimony?  -  It is important to understand what a testimony is and what a testimony is not. First, it is not an exhortation, a call to repentance, a travelogue, a sermon, or an instruction. It is a simple, direct declaration of belief—a feeling, an assurance, a conviction. It is usually stated in the first person, I, followed by a strong verb expressing belief, such as “I know that …,” “I testify that …,” “I bear testimony that …,” or “I have a strong assurance that …” You probably have heard special witnesses of Jesus Christ use the words “I give you my witness that …” or “I witness that …” Testimonies are often most powerful when they are short, concise, and direct.

Elder Oaks: 2008, Testimony. A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness borne to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true. Such facts include the nature of the Godhead and our relationship to its three members, the effectiveness of the Atonement, and the reality of the Restoration.
A testimony of the gospel is not a travelogue, a health log, or an expression of love for family members. It is not a sermon. President Kimball taught that the moment we begin preaching to others, our testimony is ended.

Consider the following examples from the scriptures.

This is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24; italics added).

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” (Alma 5:48; italics added).

“And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Alma 34:8; italics added).

“For I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3; italics added).
Other examples are found in Jacob 7:12, Alma 7:8 and Alma 36:30, and Joseph Smith—History 1:25.

To be able to teach by the convincing, converting power of the Holy Ghost, you must have a testimony of what you are teaching. President David O. McKay said: “It is your duty to teach that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that to him in this last dispensation there appeared God the Father and his Son in person. Do you believe it? Do you feel it? Does that testimony radiate from your being? … If so, that radiation will give life to the people whom you go to teach. If not, there will be a dearth, a drought, a lack of that spiritual environment in which the Saints grow. … You can teach effectively only that which you yourselves feel” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 190).
You can obtain a testimony and continue to strengthen it by (1) studying the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets, (2) praying, (3) fasting, and (4) obeying God’s commandments. You will also see that your testimony becomes stronger as you continue to share it.

What does it mean to 'bear testimony'?

A testimony is a spiritual witness, given by the Holy Ghost, of the truthfulness of the gospel. When we bear testimony, we declare to others what we know to be true by the power of the Spirit. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that His gospel has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s true Church.