Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Gain a Testimony – A General Conference Review

The talk entitled “Testimony” by Cecil O. Samuelson will go down in history as one of the most influential talks of 2011.  Nothing will influence a member of the church as much as his or her solemn testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.

Please follow along his talk as you read this post to ensure I do not in any way misrepresent his inspiring words. The talk can be accessed from this link:

In this talk Brother Samuelson correctly defines a testimony as follows; “In our Latter-day Saint context, we refer to our testimonies as our sure witness of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is obtained by revelation through the Holy Ghost.”

He then clarifies who is entitled to have a testimony; “Everyone who is willing to pay the price—meaning keeping the commandments—may have a testimony.”

This is very important to all those who investigate the church and current members who are having doubts or who have not yet obtained one. I would ask you all, have you paid the price? A testimony is available only to those who keep the commandments.  We must first accept the gospel requirements (commandments), after which we will become eligible to know through revelation that the church is true.

Some may think of this as being backwards and may ask ‘why should I have to keep the rules of a church first before God will reveal to me that it is true?’  But this is how it is and the Lord does not excuse Himself.

I recently became aware of an investigator that enjoyed a glass of red wine with his meal three or four times a week. When the missionaries taught him that this was wrong he claimed that the best medical research of our day shows quite the opposite, and that this is in fact a very healthy habit.  He further pointed out that men of God from Noah to Jesus partook. The missionaries explained to him that the Lords requirements for our day and age were that we should abstain from all alcoholic beverages. The man liked the missionaries and enjoyed the gospel discussions but never became eligible to receive a spiritual witness of the truth of the gospel because he was too stubborn to sincerely test the promises of the missionaries and abstain from drinking his occasional glass of wine. He never joined the church and will miss out on untold blessings because he was unwilling to pay the price for a testimony, by keeping the commandments.  I should mention that he did actually abstain for one week to test a promise the missionaries had given that he would come to know for himself that this was the Lords way; but no such confirmation from the spirit came to the man and Brother Samuelson clarified why in his talk; “You must have a firm commitment to follow the answer to your prayer.  If you are keeping the commandments, studying and pondering and then ask in prayer for an answer as to whether it is true, but have not committed in your heart to follow the church when the answer is confirmed then no such testimony will be accorded.”

The man in question tried out the invitation from the missionaries as a test, but had evidently never committed in his heart to actually follow the counsel given if indeed such a revelation occurred. His faith wavered and he was likely convinced that his ways were better than the Lords ways. He did not understand that God doesn’t reveal Himself to the uncommitted and insincere. 

We must understand that gaining a testimony often occurs gradually, rather than instantaneously. It could take years of committed gospel living and faithful payment of tithes and offerings to obtain a firm testimony of the gospel.  It is an ongoing quest which needs constant nourishment, care, and protection to thrive and prosper. Brother Samuelson made it clear that any deviance at all from the pattern of living can lead to its loss or diminishment. The scriptures warn that transgressing or breaking the commandments of God can result in the loss of the Spirit and even to one denying the testimony he or she once possessed. 

We must at all costs do the little but necessary things daily and regularly. Prayers, scripture and gospel study, attendance at Church meetings, temple worship, fulfilling visiting teaching, home teaching, and other assignments all strengthen our faith and invite the Spirit into our lives. If you are neglecting any of these privileges (and yes they are privileges), you are placing your testimony in serious jeopardy.  Please stay away from this danger by keeping your life in complete obedience and harmony to the gospel. 

If we are uncertain of our testimonies a key thing to remember given by Brother Samuelson is that “when you share your testimony, it strengthens and increases.”

This is compatible with President Packer’s counsel who explained as follows:
It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would it not be dishonest?”
Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!”

As suggested some might see it as dishonest, but since an apostle of the Lord has taught us this method there can be no dishonesty in saying that you know the church is true even if you don’t.  I would plead with all readers of this blog including all current and future missionaries - if you don't yet know that the church is true please take every opportunity to tell others that you do know this. Soon you will have said it enough times that you will come to believe it.  This will lead you and many others to salvation and will in time suppress all the doubt and disbelief that you have allowed Satan to put in your hearts.

In closing I would echo the words of Brother Samuelson and say that if you are struggling and have doubts you can rely on the testimonies you hear from the pulpit at general conference. In 2 Nephi 4:34 we read “for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man”. Do not put your trust in the philosophies of men but in the leaders of the church. As an authorized servant of the Lord and president of a stake in Zion I stand with the General Authorities and equally welcome all to rely on my testimony.

If your testimony is not strong enough to stand on its own I want you to know that you can put complete trust in those of us who lead the church; for we do know of a surety that these things are true, we have reached a point where we no longer doubt and we are the true disciples of the Lord upon this Earth.  Of this I bear solemn testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

"if you don't yet know that the church is true please take every opportunity to tell others that you do know this. Soon you will have said it enough times that you will come to believe it. "

That's my favorite part.... Classic.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to cover the subject of people living on the moon and the sun? I'd like to hear your perspective on our galactic brothers and sisters. Do they build temples there too? When will our missionaries be sent there to spread the good word?

Bjorge Queen said...

One common tactic used by apostates like anonymous is to point out the flaws and follies of past prophets. For example, they will cite embarassing and even blatantly racist quotes (as anon has done in pointing out that past prophets taught about people living on the sun and the moon). It's important to remember that sometimes prophets can speak "as men". It's also important to remember that it's never okay to disregard counsel given by those in authority for these latter days because we suspect they might be speaking as a men. In very very rare situations, it might be discovered decades after the fact that a prophet or other man in authority was, in fact, speaking based on a limited personal knowledge. However, only those holding the proper authority are allowed to make such revelations, and they should be made only after all other apologetic efforts have been exhausted. Heavenly Father appoints people in authority to tell us the right things to believe, and in cases where those people end up being wrong, he will appoint people in authority to reveal that to us as well. In the mean time, we should take comfort in knowing that if we obey without question, we won't be held accountable for obeying; we will only be held accountable by our judges in israel if we arrogantly try to decide for ourselves what is best.

Catherine Pillinger said...

>>>We must understand that gaining a testimony often occurs gradually, rather than instantaneously. It could take years of committed gospel living and faithful payment of tithes and offerings to obtain a firm testimony of the gospel.<<<

Oh my! President, this may be your most powerful admonition yet! I am absolutely in tears here....

Sweetie said...

Thanks for wonderful blog-group contributors & comments!

I want to know when you can tell if a prophet or propht being a man is speaking.

Paul said...

President: If I have to pay a price, then what I need to know is how will I profit by following the prophet if the prophet I will profit by wants too much of the profit I was hoping to profit by following the prophet?

Daniel said...

Elder Samuelson: Too often we may let the mistakes or failures of others, especially leaders or Church members, influence how we feel about ourselves or our testimonies.

This is so important. I am grateful that we have church leaders to teach us of the importance of not criticising church leaders.

Stake Pres. said...
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Anonymous said...

If Neil Armstrong had discovered thousand year old Quakers on the moon you would have hailed this as more evidence of prophetic vision. However the moon is not inhabited and as such you claim the words of the prophet were merely the words of a man. You can’t have it both ways – it’s too convenient. When he’s right he’s a prophet when he’s wrong he spoke as a man? What kind of a standard is that?

And if the distinction between speaking as a man or prophet is so important then when the prophets speak as “men” they need to add the disclaimer. They should at least have this foresight no? People in your Sunday School, RS and Priesthood lessons do it all the time when they say “This the gospel according to me….” Or the “Gospel according to Stephanie…”

Citing things with the cover of being able to use “I spoke as a man” when your wrong is just too convenient. Heck, that makes everyone prophets and the meaning of the title loses all meaning.

President: in terms of never hearing about this, Joseph Smith stated that people live on the moon, that they are taller than us, live to about 1000 years old and have the manner of dress like the Quakers.

Brigham Young was confronted about this years later and asked if it were true and he said that not only do people inhabit the moon but the Sun also for if not then why were they created?

He didn’t say Joseph spoke as a man.

Quite the imaginations....

Stake Pres. said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your response concerning the moon people President. I was having a hard time making sense of these old teachings until you suggested that these extraterrestrials could have been "taken up" like the good people in the city of Enoch. Although the "taking up" of the moon people was probably easier for the Lord (due to less gravitational pull), I am sure attaining perfection was just as hard for these stalwart saints. One can only assume that they struggled with their own versions of hot/strong beverages, pride, vanity, and heavy petting during their time on the moon. I eagerly await hearing their tales when we eventually meet in the next life. I would not be surprised if many of them are preaching to the spirits in spirit prison right now. What a beautiful thought that is!

Sweetie said...

Anonymous thank you for answering my question when apparently the good president totally bypassed it on accident!

I like what you said, "you claim the words of the prophet were merely the words of a man. You can’t have it both ways – it’s too convenient. When he’s right he’s a prophet when he’s wrong he spoke as a man? What kind of a standard is that?"

And so I too ask, President! what kind of standard IS THAT?


Then when you said, "Citing things with the cover of being able to use “I spoke as a man” when your wrong is just too convenient. Heck, that makes everyone prophets and the meaning of the title loses all meaning.


YES! The meaning of the title loses all meaning. YES, it is far too convenient!

President! What say ye?!?

David_K said...

This can't be real, surely you must be joking?

Daniel said...

Anonymous (not the most recent Anonymous, the one before that): That is ridiculous. I certainly have never heard of any doctrine about moon people in church. Look through any of our approved correlated materials and see if you find any reference to moon Quakers.

However, we must not be stiff nekkid and disbelieve in them, if Brother Brigham saw fit to reveal of their whereabouts unto us. After all, there could be Quakers on the moon, and our instruments are just not sensitive enough to detect them. Or they hide when they know we are looking. We can't prove they don't exist, so it's just as likely that they do. It would be just as difficult to disprove their existence as to disprove -- say -- a flying teapot circling the earth, or the existence of Heavenly Father Himself.

Perhaps the Moon Quakers are more lost descendants of the Tribe of Joseph with their own scripture. I for one look forward to the day when their scripture will come forward unto us in the latter days.

Sunshine said...

Hey Patternoster,

I may decide to follow the folks in SLC, but after seeing you in action at last week's service project, I wouldn't follow you out of a paper bag.

Half our stake youth is still recovering from poison ivy and wasp stings, the other half are spending their mission savings on laser tattoo removal.

I never knew how exciting roadside cleanup could be though. I think I'm hooked.

Cognitive Dissenter said...

I'm afraid red wine kicks the mormon god's hiney when it comes to knowing the truth of all things. Every time I drink it I have a buzzy spiritual experience including but not limited to a burning in my bosom(s). None of that "pretend to know and endure to the end" crap. I know wine is true. In fact I have a perfect knowledge of it. (Suck on that, Packer.)

In the Name of Old Vine Zinfandel, even Gnarly Head, Amen.

Mr. Smith said...

Why is the LDS church so hasty in getting people baptized and signed up? Why can’t an investigator take a few months or years to do their due diligence? Are they trying to hide something?

Joseph’s older brother Alvin Smith died before the church was established in 1823. Yet a vision revealed to Joseph that he will be saved because in his heart he would have joined and received all the necessary saving ordinances had the church been established prior to his untimely passing.

If this be the case, then why not afford someone ample time to investigate, learn and evaluate whether or not to join? They will be just fine, and their salvation assured, should their intentions remain noble and genuine while investigating. There are missions in your church that state if someone hasn’t been signed up for a baptismal date after 2 weeks drop them from your teaching pool.

For a church that claims to be the alpha and omega on which eternity has no hold; for even in this life or the next the church has power and the authority to save; I say settle down and act a little more mature and established instead of an insecure child trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

The more likely explanation is that there are things in the Church’s history or doctrine which when presented would have potential members fall away thankful that they did not take the plunge. Admit it – there are things you would rather not discuss with potential members; but would rather inform them after they have been baptized. It’s a classic sales technique.

The fact is, if I smoke and drink all I have to do to join the church is take 6 discussions, stop smoking or drinking for 7 days, read two chapters from the book of mormon go to church once or twice and pray once or twice. The whole process can be done in about 10-14 days.

Stake Pres. said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow, Mr. Stake Prez, there's a pic of you on your blog that has a huuuuge halo which makes you look as wise and Godly as you are obviously wanting us to believe you are!

Niiiiiice...which Photoshop option was used to create it? You really oughta suggest all the Church Authorities do that...it will help to bolster waning confidence in their vain preachings!

Boo ya!!! Go Prez!!! You show 'em, dude.

Love and huggers,

Jeanne'

Bro Jenssen said...

A testimony is developed with much bareing and what spirit will not rise then? Angels rejoice when out of the mouth of a babe a sweet sound occurs.
Let's keep our Church pure.