In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hear the word “testimony” a lot. It’s what you get up and do on fast Sunday when your palms get all sweaty and you can’t sit in your seat any longer.
Testimonies seem like such simple things sometimes. You get up, tell people what you believe, and that’s that.
But a testimony can, and really needs to be more than just words we say. When we share it with others, it ought to be a result of what we have inside.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk in 2006 called “The Power of a Personal Testimony,” and in the talk, he said,
“It [a testimony] gives us assurance of the reality, truth, and goodness of God, of the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and of the divine calling of latter-day prophets. Our testimony motivates us to live righteously, and righteous living will cause our testimony to grow stronger.”Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Power of a Personal Testimony,” 2006
A testimony built on Christ covers every facet of belief we have in the gospel. It is our first and strongest protection against temptation.
For a testimony to serve its purpose, it needs to be solid, anchored in Christ. Christ is unchanging; if our testimonies are in Him, we will have an unchanging belief and protection. Christ is strong against temptation; a testimony rooted in Him will not give way to temptation.
Our relationship with Christ is a direct indicator of the state of our testimonies. And those characteristics we see in Christ can be reflected in our testimonies as we gain and maintain them.
Possibly the most important part of having a testimony in our stewardship is maintaining it. Alma 32 describes faith as a seed. In this context, we might as well make faith and testimony interchangeable. Because just like a seed grows to a tree with the right maintenance, so faith and testimony grow as well.
Let’s look at two examples of maintaining testimony – one that doesn’t maintain his testimony, and one who does.
In the war chapters in Alma, we read about Amalickiah, a Nephite defector who wanted to become king. Basically, think of Scar from the Lion King, but worse.
Amalickiah doesn’t manage to be king of the Nephites, so he goes to the Lamanites instead. He gets friendly with the king and convinces him to go to war against the Nephites.
Enter Lehonti. He and a lot of other Lamanites decided, “hey, we don’t really feel like going and killing people or getting killed ourselves, thanks,” so they head out of town and set up camp on top of a nearby hill.
Alma 47:6 says that Lehonti and his people were “fixed in their minds with a determined resolution that they would not be subjected to go against the Nephites.” It seemed that nothing could change their minds.
Amalickiah didn’t buy it though. He pursued them with an army, and asked Lehonti to meet with him at the bottom of the mountain.
Lehonti said no.
Amalickiah tried again. And again. But Lehonti would not come down the mountain to meet Amalickiah.
So Amalickiah went up almost to Lehonti’s camp. This meant that Lehonti only had to come down a little bit to meet him.
And he did.
Amalickiah convinced Lehonti to come down with his people and surround the army that Amalickiah had brought. Then, when everyone surrendered, Lehonti could be in charge and Amalickiah would be the second in command. Lehonti liked this idea, and did what Amalickiah wanted.
Not long after, Amalickiah had Lehonti poisoned, then went on to murder the Lamanite king and take his place as the definitely not rightful king of the Lamanites.
Now, had Lehonti stayed fixed in his mind with his determined resolution to not meet with Amalickiah, he wouldn’t have lost ground. He wouldn’t have been tempted, tricked, and murdered.
His testimony of what was right had a couple of problems. First, it wasn’t based in Christ. I don’t know if that’s really his fault, being a Lamanite born without the knowledge of the gospel, but nonetheless, he lacked the solid anchor that Christ is.
Second, Lehonti let his testimony be swayed by temptation. The idea of being in charge of a great army was more appealing to him than doing what he believed was right. Instead of relying on his beliefs, he chose to pursue an empty ambition.
When Mormon was only 10 years old, he was given the assignment to abridge the Nephites’ records (Mormon 1:2-5). Not many years later, at the age of fifteen, Mormon was made chief captain of all the Nephite armies (Mormon 2:1-2).
Though clearly a very capable and impressive person, the real strength of Mormon was in his testimony. As he faced the increasing wickedness of his people, he continually set a righteous example.
Mormon certainly had access to many scriptural records. While this may not have been true for all the people of his time, Mormon was able to study the scriptures. This opportunity to study the ancient holy records would have affirmed to him that he was doing God’s work and that obedience to the Commandments would keep him strong.
Mormon’s testimony didn’t only come from his study of the scriptures. Mormon also had to face many people in his time with his testimony. We know from Mormon’s own account that he was able to see Jesus Christ and was also ministered to by the three Nephites.
Despite this, it seems that what nurtured his testimony most may have been staying strong in his testimony even as everyone around him turned away from the gospel, from righteousness, and from their Savior.
Mormon’s example shows us two things. First, his study of the scriptures and his interactions with God show how strengthening regular maintenance of our testimonies can be.
Mormon did not sit back and let his testimony sit idle; instead he took efforts to ensure that his bond with our Savior remained strong and that he was doing what he could to fulfill his covenants.
Second, Mormon shows us that maintaining a testimony will likely be difficult. For Lehonti to come down the mountain, just a little bit, was easy. What is harder is holding your ground when temptation comes again and again and again.
Though his record doesn’t specify times when Mormon was tempted, we know that he was, if only because he was human. Considering the society he lived in and its continual descent to destruction, and with sin surrounding him at every turn, it’s likely that he had to actively defend his testimony on a day-to-day basis.
Situations that ask us to defend our testimonies are circumstances that force us to take a side. The action of choosing to defend a testimony strengthens it possibly more than anything else can.
Because if we’re being honest, it’s easy to read the scriptures. It’s simple to kneel down and pray.
But to look someone in the eye and tell them that you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ to be the true gospel on the Earth, and to do it sincerely and faithfully, challenges our strength.
A testimony must be based in Christ. If a testimony is not based in Christ it cannot stand.
Once our testimonies are based in Christ, then we simply continue the cycle we used to gain a testimony in the first place. We study the scriptures. We pray. We find answers and persevere through our questions.
No matter what we face, ensuring that we have anchored testimonies in Christ will give us all the strength we need to defend our testimonies.
So, we study the scriptures to gain a testimony of the words of the ancient prophets. But next week, we have a chance to build our testimonies from the words of LIVING prophets.
Yep, next week is GENERAL CONFERENCE! To prep for Conference, I will be posting links on Facebook to each talk given by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles last October.
Including today, we have six days until Conference. If we listen to three of these talks each day, we will have listened to all of the talks given by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles before this Conference starts.
Let’s make a goal to listen to their talks before Conference and to prepare ourselves to hear their coming words. Look for posts called “Conference Countdown” starting today!
Also, below I have a FREE, that’s right, FREE General Conference Study Booklet that I’ve put together especially for you awesome people who read the blog.
The booklet includes a Conference prep page, note pages, and post-Conference review and summary pages. Use whatever you like and spread the word!