The word “testimony” looms large in the vocabulary of Latter-Day-Saints. We are frequently reminded by our leaders that having, and maintaining a vibrant testimony is essential to our salvation. The importance of a testimony is highlighted by the fact that each month, one Sunday meeting is set apart for the “bearing” of testimonies.
At these monthly Fast and Testimony Meetings members stand and bear witness that they have a testimony of the truthfulness of the church.
Whence cometh a testimony?
A testimony is very personal, very sacred, and is a gift. Experience teaches that a testimony is acquired in various ways. In general terms members refer to the source of their testimony in one of three ways:
1. I was born with a testimony
2. I had to seek, and work for a testimony
3. I was given a spiritual experience that resulted in my testimony
However, when members share specific details about their testimonies it becomes apparent that the initial source of their testimony only tells part of the story. For example, those who testify they were born with a testimony often reveal that they had a spiritual struggle discovering their testimony-it was there all along they just weren’t aware of it.
If one is born with a testimony it may take a moment of discovery before they understand the full extent of their testimony. It might come on a church mission or at some point where they are brought to their knees through a life event-like the death of a loved one, health challenge, job loss, severe disappointment, etc.
Those who testify they had to seek, and work for a testimony will often reveal that there was some kind of stirring within their heart that motivated them. If we need to seek after a testimony then we’re in good company. It took Brigham Young two years of studying the Book of Mormon before he acquired his testimony. It took John Taylor only three weeks to acquire his testimony-while it took six years of searching before Wilford Woodruff found his. David O McKay’s sincere prayer as a young boy to know the truth wasn’t answered for many years until he was on his mission in Scotland.
Those who testify they were given a spiritual experience that resulted in their testimony might also relate that their parents and/or others were pleading with the Lord in their behalf.
Testimonies are not one-dimensional. Being multi-dimensional many things need to be taken into account before we can understand our testimonies. There is much we don’t know about ourselves because of the veil, but we are taught that what we did,or even volunteered to do, prior to our birth impacts our mortal experience in profound ways.
A word about loaned and logical “testimonies”
In addition to the three kinds of testimonies described above there are two others that need to be noted. These are the kinds of testimony that Alma spoke about when he referred to those who had “a desire to believe”.
First, we can own our testimony or we can have one on loan. A loaned testimony is borrowed from someone else-mom, dad, the prophet, a friend, a teacher, our wife or husband, and so on. Sometimes this is referred to as living on “borrowed light”.
Second, this testimony is derived from the “logic” of the church. The values and way of life that the church teaches are logical, wholesome, and good, and the idea that God is there gives hope.
If a loaned or hopeful testimony is the foundation of our commitment then it might be a good time to seek after a testimony that comes from the Holy Ghost.
Testimony-like a living thing
Whatever the initial source of our testimony might be we’re taught that it needs to be cared for. In this sense our testimony is like a living thing-it needs to be nourished. When it is properly nourished it increases, when malnourished it stagnates or can even decline.
Nourishing our testimony is best accomplished by diligently seeking God and thereby receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And when the gift of the Holy Ghost is received it fulfills the purpose for which we were baptized and is the greatest gift we can receive in this life.
Diligently seek-how is it done?
Those church members who diligently seek to know God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and a testimony. To diligently seek means to hunger and thirst after something. This creates an intense desire that draws the seeker to “feast upon the words of Christ” and “wrestle” with God in mighty prayer to obtain the desires of his/her heart.
To diligently seek means more than to merely seek. When the word diligently is used to emphasize the kind of seeking the Lord requires before a desired blessing can be obtained, it’s telling us it won’t be easy. Obtainable, yes, but the Lord will make the judgment when we have risen to the level of “diligently seeking”. Then, and only then, will a blessing be granted. As every missionary knows not everyone who seeks-obtains.
• Seek divine light in humility
• Exercise faith, especially in Jesus Christ
• Strive diligently to keep his commandments
• Repent constantly
• Pray continually
• Hearken to spiritual guidance
• Express gratitude for guidance received
There are many varieties of testimonies
Enos sought diligently to obtain a blessing from the Lord and when he received the blessing he asked a question: Lord, how is it done?
How the Lord chooses to manifest a testimony-giving experience to a seeker varies. The scriptures and the testimonies of Latter-Day-Saints illustrate how testimonies originate.
Joseph Smith received a visitation from God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ
The Apostle Paul received a visitation from Jesus Christ (Acts 9:3-6)
Nephi states that the Lord did visit him with the manifestations of his Holy Spirit (1 Nephi 2:16-17)
Lorenzo Snow was enveloped from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet by the Spirit of God (Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow by Eliza R. Snow P. 7-8)
Jacob who was sold into Egypt was given the gift of dreams (Genesis 37:6 )
Alma the older believed the testimony of Abinadi (Alma 17:2)
Alma the younger and the 4 sons of Mosiah were brought to the knowledge of the truth by an angel (Alma 36:6)
Abish and her father were converted to the Lord because of a vision her father was given (Alma 19:16)
Lamoni was astonished by the power Ammon showed forth in battle (Alma 18:2)
Aminadab a Nephite dissentient experienced a parting of the veil (Helaman 5:39)
Amulek who hardened his heart against the Holy Ghost (many times) is visited by an angel (Alma 10:6-7)
Women of Samaria taught by Christ (John 4:7-26)
The Lord really means what he says
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that Heavenly Father is not like us. He is perfect in every way-we’re not. This brings me to my point: God is no respecter of persons… Acts 10:34. The Lord really means what he says in this scripture! It’s hard for us to understand and accept this about Heavenly Father because men are “respecter” of persons. It’s natural for men to respect one man/woman above another-this is evident nearly everyday and even at church on Sunday.
However, in the sight of God it doesn’t matter who we are, we’re guaranteed and entitled to receive a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost if we diligently seek to do so. A rank and file member of the church has the same right, as those in leading positions, to these gifts and blessings when he/she abides the law.
Satan really doesn’t want you to have a testimony
We’re taught that there is opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11). Satan opposes God and has influence in each of our lives. When Heavenly Father, through the Holy Ghost, gives us a testimony, or in other words, light and truth, then we can expect that opposition of some kind will arise. Once we’ve received a testimony Satan will attempt to overthrow this gift from God. Elder Holland describes this as follows:
…after great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness… as the adversary tries…to make us doubt the light we have received.
Joseph Smith told Heber C. Kimball that “The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifest by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes.” Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), p. 132.
The power and influence of the adversary is necessary and turns out to be a blessing to those who follow Christ.
The key to dealing with the adversary is found in the gifts of the spirit.
“There is, however, an ample shield against the power of Lucifer and his hosts. This protection lies in the spirit of discernment through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift comes undeviatingly by personal revelation to those who strive to obey the commandments of the Lord and to follow the counsel of the living prophets.” James E. Faust, “The Forces That Will Save Us,” Ensign, Jan 2007, 4-9.
I’ve heard it said, “that people are at their best when things are at there worst”. If this is true then it could also mean, “when things are at there best, people are at their worst”.
The scriptures support this last thought:
…we may see at the very time when [the Lord] doth prosper his people…doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God…and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. Helaman 12:2
I think that many people living in this generation are experiencing prosperous times, times of ease compared to our ancestors. For some church members this can result in an anemic testimony. An anemic testimony develops when we find ourselves relying on “experts” to solve, or help solve problems and challenges that we encounter instead of turning to the Lord. In times of difficulty do we find the distance between ourselves and God increasing? Do we “rely” on doctors, bankers, family, friends, church leaders, counselors, and etc and remember the Lord last, or not at all?
Elder Wirthlin observed:
Prosperity can deaden us to spiritual things. It can give us the illusion of power. When we are sick, we can go to a doctor and get healed. When we are hungry, we can feed ourselves. When we are cold, we can get warm. In short, most of the problems of life we can solve ourselves–we can answer many of our own prayers.
Because of the relative ease many have in acquiring their daily bread, they can become deceived into thinking they are saviors unto themselves. In their pride and foolishness they feel they have little need of a Heavenly Father. They think little of the power that created the universe or of Him who gave His life that they might live. Joseph B. Wirthlin, Brigham Young University, 21 January 2003.
Those church members who choose to follow the path of least resistance will miss spiritual opportunities that might have been their’s.
The Lord describing this said:
They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me. D&C 101:7-8
Those church members, who on the other hand, choose to hearken unto the voice of the Lord and take the Holy Spirit for their guide will find the Lord. They will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the attending gifts of the Spirit to aid them in their daily walk.
The Lord has said:
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. D&C 112:10
As members of the Lord’s church we have much available to us. It is my hope that we can have strong, vibrant testimonies that will see us through all the challenges of life so that we can hear the words spoken to us: Well done, thou good and faithful servant… Matthew 25:21
 George Q. Cannon always believed he was born with a testimony of the gospel…”Did you ask how I got my testimony of the truth of Mormonism? Why, I never got one. . . . The reason why I received none was because I did not have to get one. It was born with me. (Young Woman’s Journal 4:123.) In addition see D&C 46
Marion G. Romney said: “I cannot remember when I did not have a testimony. It has, of course, been strengthened through the years, but I can never remember when I did not believe.” Marion G. Romney, “How to Gain a Testimony,” New Era, May 1976, 8
 …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. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. Alma 5:45 – 46.
 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. Acts 9:3 – 6
 This reminds me of a story about two fish. One fish starts telling the other of a strange experience it had.
“I was swimming along and noticed a tasty morsel. I grabbed it, but a sharp, shiny, hard thing got stuck in my mouth. Suddenly, I was pulled from the water and the next thing I knew, I was in a whole new world. A great big thing grabbed me and pulled the sharp, shiny, hard thing from my mouth and threw me back into the water.”
The other fish looks shocked and asks, “Water? What water?”
 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit… Mosiah 3:19
 Robert D. Hales, “The Importance of Receiving a Personal Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 20.
 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith. Mosiah 27:14
 And this is the manner after which they were ordained-being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared… Alma 13:3 – 5
 The term “savior on Mount Zion” is ordinarily reserved for those engaged in vicarious work for the dead. Truly, Saints who selflessly devote themselves to genealogical and temple work deserve the title. They perform Christlike service in lovingly opening the gates of exaltation to others who without their work would not have that opportunity.
But I believe that the term might also be applied to another group of the Saints. These have been called to sacrifice for the sake of saving the living, often of their own household.
I first began to think in these terms as a result of counseling two women who had hard life assignments. The first had convinced her boyfriend to join the Church and one year later to marry her in the temple. Unhappily, the conversion didn’t “take,” and soon thereafter he returned to his worldly ways, which included all of the minor vices and several of the major ones. They had children who seemed to elect their father’s life-style rather than their mother’s. I watched this good sister struggle with her rebellious family over the years, and I am ashamed to admit that I had sometimes judged her harshly. For example, if she had asked my opinion, I could have told her before she married him that her husband-to-be was more committed to her than to the gospel. Also, I felt that she had been overly permissive with her children. In short, I self-righteously judged that if she had made better choices (as I had, for example) her life would have turned out better (as mine had, for example).
It eventually became necessary to excommunicate her husband, and in agony of spirit she asked me, her stake president, for a blessing to guide her as to what her duty was under the circumstances. In that blessing I learned a few things that even now make me burn with shame for my earlier spiritual arrogance toward that sister. The Lord told her that she was a valiant spirit in the premortal existence who had volunteered for hazardous duty on earth. Not for her was the safety of a secure marriage to an equally valiant partner. Not for her was the relative ease of rearing naturally obedient children. She had (perhaps rashly) volunteered to live her life in the front lines, as it were, of the continuing battle for men’s souls. Twice, the Lord continued, she had been given the option of an honorable release from this difficult assignment. (After the blessing she confirmed this.) Twice she had been on the operating table at death’s door and was given the free option of coming home or going back to face her challenging responsibilities. Twice she had squared her shoulders and returned to her difficult family. In the blessing she was told that the Lord loved her husband and her children despite their rebellious spirits and that if they were to have any chance at all it would be because of her Christlike patience and long-suffering with them.
When I took my hands off her head I bowed my head in shame, realizing that I stood in the presence of one of the Lord’s great ones, truly a savior on Mount Zion.
True to her promise, she is succeeding against all odds in her mission. To everyone’s surprise, her rowdy eldest son straightened out his life and went on a mission. He came back on fire with the Spirit and committed to the gospel. Her second son, who had often stated his intention of playing football instead of going on a mission, was helped by his elder brother and has also completed a successful mission and is headed for a temple marriage. Her daughters are slower to turn around, but I begin to see some softening there. Even her husband, the toughest of all, is beginning to mellow at the edges and to talk about putting his life in order (no action yet, but I am prepared to believe in miracles in this family). Carlfred Broderick, One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage, 50-53.
 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Alma 32:27
 President Joseph F. Smith said, “One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light [and] to permit … the light within them to be reflected, rather than original” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 87).
 Honestly evaluate your personal life. How strong is your own testimony? Is it truly a sustaining power in your life, or is it more a hope that what you have learned is true? Is it more than a vague belief that worthwhile concepts and patterns of life seem to be reasonable and logical? Such mental assent will not help when you face the serious challenges that will inevitably come to you…A strong testimony cannot be built upon a weak foundation. Therefore, don’t pretend you believe something when you are not sure of it. Seek to receive a ratifying witness. Wrestle in mighty prayer, living righteously, and ask for a spiritual confirmation. Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 87
 “…A testimony must be constantly nourished and defended, or it will waste away.” Robert D. Hales, “The Importance of Receiving a Personal Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 20
 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. D&C 88:63
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
…I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him…1 Nephi 10:17
 President Wilford Woodruff called the gift of the Holy Ghost the greatest gift we can receive in mortality (see The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham , 5).
When I first read President Woodruff’s statement I thought about D&C 14:7 where eternal life is called “the greatest of all the gifts of God”. On reflection I determined that the gift of eternal life isn’t received in mortality it is received in the resurrection for those who acquire it. In addition, how could we receive the gift of eternal life without first receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost while in mortality?
Note: It’s possible to receive our calling and election in mortality, but that is a promise that will be fulfilled in the resurrection.
 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. 3 Nephi 12:6
 Our Father expects us to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and in His Holy Son. Were we to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, we would become weak and ever more dependent on Him. He knows that essential personal growth will come as we struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit. That struggle develops our immortal character as we perfect our capacity to identify His will through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. What may appear initially to be a daunting task will become much easier over time as we consistently strive to recognize the feelings awakened by the Spirit. Our confidence in the direction we receive through the Holy Ghost will also become stronger.
Easy things never produce much beneficial fruit. Neither our Father in Heaven nor His Holy Son take delight in seeing you struggle to overcome obstacles, resolve questions or find solutions to complex and challenging problems. However, they do rejoice when you willingly recognize that these steps are steps to growth which lead to action that molds your character. Elder Richard G. Scott, “To Learn and To Teach More Effectively”, BYU Campus Education Week August 21, 2007, Elder Richard G. Scott
 The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. Mark 4:14 – 20
This parable describes the types of soil onto which seeds of truth are sown and nourished. Each type of soil represents our degree of commitment and ability to endure.
The first type of soil, that of the “way side,” represents those who hear the gospel but never give the truth a chance to take root.
The second type of soil, “stony ground,” represents those in the Church who, at the first sign of sacrifice or trial, run away offended, not willing to pay the price.
The third type of soil, “sown among thorns,” represents some members of the Church who are distracted and obsessed by the cares, riches, and lusts of the world.
Finally, those on “good ground” are those members of the Church whose lives reflect their discipleship to the Master, whose roots go deep into gospel soil, and thereby produce abundant fruit. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Press On,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 101
 I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that I could give you… that…would immediately facilitate mastering the ability to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Nor do I believe that the Lord will ever allow someone to conceive a pattern that would invariably and immediately open the channels of spiritual communication. We grow when we labor to recognize the guidance of the Holy Ghost as we struggle to communicate our needs to Our Father in Heaven…Each time we do that we are taking another step in fulfilling the purpose of our being here on earth. Our Father expects us to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and in His Holy Son.
Elder Richard G. Scott ,”To Learn and To Teach More Effectively”, BYU Campus Education Week August 21, 2007, Elder Richard G. Scott
 Elder Richard G. Scott “To Learn and To Teach More Effectively”, BYU Campus Education Week August 21, 2007
 Enos 1:7
 …revelation is not restricted to the prophet of God on earth. The visions of eternity are not reserved for Apostles-they are not reserved for the General Authorities. Revelation is something that should be received by every individual. God is no respecter of persons, and every soul, in the ultimate sense, is just as precious in his sight as the souls of those who are called to positions of leadership. Because he operates on principles of eternal, universal, and never-deviating law, any individual who abides the law that entitles him to get revelation can know exactly and precisely what President Kimball knows, can entertain angels just as well as Joseph Smith entertained them, and can be in tune in full measure with all of the things of the Spirit…we are entitled to revelation. I say that every member of the Church, independent and irrespective of any position that he may hold, is entitled to get revelation from the Holy Ghost; he is entitled to entertain angels; he is entitled to view the visions of eternity; and if we would like to go the full measure, he is entitled to see God the same way that any prophet in literal and actual reality has seen the face of Deity…Would you like a formula to tell how to get personal revelation? It might be written in many ways. My formula is simply this:
1. Search the scriptures.
2. Keep the commandments.
3. Ask in faith.
Any person who will do this will get his heart so in tune with the Infinite that there will come into his being, from the “still small voice,” the eternal realities of religion. And as he progresses and advances and comes nearer to God, there will be a day when he will entertain angels, when he will see visions, and the final end is to view the face of God.
Bruce R. McConkie, “How to Get Personal Revelation,” New Era, Jun 1980, 46
 As we commune with our Father in humble prayer, our hearts receive the gentle outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Lord tells us, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Improving Our Prayers,” Liahona, Aug 2004, 16
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one. D&C 93:36 – 37
 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. D&C 93:39
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Remember How You Felt,” New Era, Aug 2004, 5
In addition he said:
I wish to encourage every one of you regarding opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose.
Paul said to those who thought a new testimony, a personal conversion, or a spiritual experience would put them beyond trouble, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Heb. 10:35-36).
In LDS talk that is to say, “Sure it is tough. But don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had.” That tenacity is what saved Moses when the adversary confronted him, and it is what will save you.
This opposition turns up almost anyplace something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage.
Yes, there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.
 But we cannot clear ourselves from the power of satan; we must know what it is to be tried and tempted, for no man or woman can be exalted upon any other principle… Brigham Young JD 3:365