Sunday, January 23, 2011

Testimony: A Spiritual Witness

At the tender age of seventeen I received a firm witness to the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being Christ's fully restored gospel here in this day and age. Something in me had always known the gospel I had been taught since before I could talk was not only important, but vital to my very being.

This is not to say I took it seriously at all times throughout my life. Yet never did I rebel against it. The term "Choose the Right," the motto of our Primary program (set up to teach children ages 3-11), had set itself almost in stone in my soul. I didn't always choose the right, or makes choices with my Savior in mind. Too often I made some very wrong decisions and managed to get myself in a whole lot of trouble. Fortunately I learned from these choices. The greatest lesson, one that has stuck with me for years after, has been this: When we choose the right, or truly focus on what it is the Lord wants us to do, peace and happiness follow.

Now I'm not saying life suddenly becomes easy when we focus on the Lord. Temptations, trials and the impact from choices others make will be a constant throughout our lives. They are necessary if we are to learn all we possibly can before returning to live with our Father in Heaven, for it is through opposition, and our learning to deal well with opposition, that our greatest lessons are learned.

During our main church meeting today (Sacrament Meeting) a sweet woman and friend named Shellie spoke of the horrible year 2010 had proven to be for her. It had been a huge struggle from beginning to end, especially the end. Her grandmother, a woman with whom she shared a beautiful and intimate bond, had passed away. Shellie considered this the last straw - she simply could not handle any more. Her faith was shaken. Her testimony had grown so fragile. To Shellie it had grown apparent God had abandoned her, had turned His back and left her to wallow in misery. How could this have happened?

Shellie talked with her husband, who I imagine was lost in what to tell her. Yet his answer to her distress came in the reply of one question: "Do you have a testimony of the gospel?" She replied, "Yes." It was, indeed, still there. It had become crumpled under the pressures of the year, but it was still there. "Well then," he continued, "you have two options. You can either trust in everything you've been taught and rely on Heavenly Father to help get you through this, or you can turn your back on Him and be miserable.

His words, though hardly comforting, resonated in my friend. Here she'd been thinking God had turned His back on her. Was it possible she'd been the one who had turned? After much time contemplating the awful year, she began to see how seemingly unrelated circumstances had been provided by Heavenly Hands to help her get through all the rough times, in particular when it came to the death of a most beloved grandmother.

I can guarantee you as she continues to heal from the trials and tribulations over the last year she will find her testimony stronger than ever before.

When is this curious thing we call a testimony? I believe most religions refer to it as a witness of the Holy Spirit of the truthfulness regarding spiritual things. Testimonies, or witnesses, come after the trials of our faith. Testimonies are living things, like muscle. Muscle needs to be worked, stretched, developed if it is to remain strong. Muscle needs to be broken down so it might gain greater strength. We cannot gain a strong muscular testimony if we go through life never acting on the things we believe are true, if that faith is never broken down at times so it might gain in strength.

A testimony is more than faith. It is the culmination of knowledge given through spiritual confirmation. In other words, belief is no longer necessary because the Holy Spirit has told us it is truth. That is a testimony.

The tricky thing about a testimony is it cannot be held in your hand. It is not a physical object you can show people so they can see what it is you know. It is intangible, personal, and for you alone. You can share this precious gift by word of mouth and through deed. Others can be impacted by the strength of your testimony, but it doesn't mean they will accept it as truth. They have to discover those spiritual truths for themselves.

Brigham Young, a leader and prophet of our Church many years ago once stated, "No one can make me deny what I know." This has become one of the most important statements for me to live by. It is this little truth that helps me to realize why developing a testimony of our very own is necessary if we are to stay strong throughout this life, especially when the winds of persecution, doubt, and trials blow. This testimony is what will keep us firmly in place when everyone and everything around us whirls with the pressure to change. It is what helps me to trust in the Lord even when the tides of affliction come pounding down upon me.

I know. Two simple, yet powerful words. What do you, who have acted upon your own faith, who have experienced the trials meant to strengthen your belief into knowledge, know to be true?

This is what I know. This is what the Holy Spirit has witnessed to me. Here is what I cannot deny. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know He lived as the immortal Son of God and the mortal son of Mary. I know He endured more than we can ever imagine so that we might have the chance to repent of our sins. I know He died on the cross. I know that regardless of what others may say, He did in fact rise from the dead, freeing us all from the bonds of eternal death. I know He loves us without reservation, and is always looking for the day we will stop turning our backs to Him, and will enter into the circle of His love and forgiveness. This, my friends, is what I know.


Gold Rush said...

Thank you Laurie!! You summed it up beautifully, as always!

Debbie said...

You have fed me spiritual manna once again :D Love you!

Ellen said...

This is beautiful. I'm so grateful for my testimony, and for that of my parents and others who have taught me. Thanks for sharing.