Gordon B. Hinckley, “Words of the Prophet: Building Your Testimony,” New Era, Apr 1999, 4
The marvelous and wonderful thing is that anyone who desires to know the truth may receive that conviction.
This thing which we call testimony is the great strength of the Church. It is the wellspring of faith and activity.
Wherever the Church is organized its power is felt. We stand on our feet and say that we know. We say it until it almost appears to be monotonous. We say it because we do not know what else to say. The simple fact is that we do know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that this is Their cause and Their kingdom. The words are simple; the expression comes from the heart.
It is something that cannot be refuted. Opponents may quote scripture and argue doctrine endlessly. They can be clever and persuasive. But when one says, “I know,” there can be no further argument. There may not be acceptance, but who can refute or deny the quiet voice of the inner soul speaking with personal conviction? (from Ensign, May 1998, 69–70).
Read, serve, pray
The acquisition of understanding and enthusiasm for the Lord comes from following simple rules. I should like to suggest three.
The first is to read—to read the word of the Lord. I know that with the demands of your studies there is little time to read anything else. But I promise you that if you will read the words of that writing which we call scripture, there will come into your heart an understanding and a warmth that will be pleasing to experience.
The next is to serve—to serve in the work of the Lord. Spiritual strength is like physical strength; it is like the muscle of my arm. It grows only as it is nourished and exercised.
The cause of Christ does not need your doubts; it needs your strength and time and talents; and as you exercise these in service, your faith will grow.
The third is to pray. Speak with your Eternal Father in the name of His Beloved Son.
It is unlikely that you will hear voices from heaven, but there will come a heaven-sent assurance, peaceful and certain.
If you will read the word of the Lord, if you will serve in His cause, if in prayer you will talk with Him, your doubts will leave [and] the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is in very deed the Son of God, born in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world resurrected from the grave [will come]. It is your opportunity so to know. It is your obligation so to find out (from Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 87).
Passive acceptance is not enough. Vibrant testimony comes of anxious seeking. Strength comes of active service in the Master’s cause. Jesus said, “Learn of me.” He further declared that he that doeth the will of the Father “shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
And so, while you read math and physics and chemistry, read also the Gospels of the New Testament. And read the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, which was brought forth by the power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and the gentile that Jesus is the Christ” (from Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 118).
The Book of Mormon
Each time we encourage a man to read the Book of Mormon we do him a favor. If he reads it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, he will know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the book is true. And from that knowledge there will flow a conviction of the truth of many other things.
For if the Book of Mormon is true, then God lives. Testimony upon testimony runs through its pages of the solemn fact that our Father is real, that He is personal, that He loves His children and seeks their happiness (from Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 123).
Testimony and conviction
When I was a boy, 12 years of age, my father took me to a meeting of the priesthood of the stake in which we lived. At the opening of that meeting, the first of its kind I had ever attended, three or four hundred men stood and sang “Praise to the Man.”
Something happened within me as I heard those men of faith sing. There came into my boyish heart a knowledge, placed there by the Holy Spirit, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of the Almighty. In the many years that have since passed, years in which I have read much of his words and works, that knowledge has grown stronger and ever more certain. Mine has been the privilege of bearing witness across this nation from sea to shining sea, and on continents north and south, east and west, that he was and is a prophet of God, a mighty servant and testifier of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That testimony I reaffirm to you this day and I leave my testimony in the name of Him of whom Joseph Smith was a witness and of whom I also am a witness, even the Lord, Jesus Christ (from Ensign, May 1977, 66).
It takes work
The marvelous and wonderful thing is that any individual who desires to know the truth may receive that conviction. The Lord himself gave the formula when he said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
It will take study of the word of God. It will take prayer and anxious seeking of the source of all truth. It will take living the gospel, an experiment, if you please, in following the teachings. I do not hesitate to promise, because I know from personal experience, that out of all of this will come, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a conviction, a testimony, a certain knowledge. There must be effort. There must be humility. There must be prayer. But the results are certain and the testimony is sure (from Ensign, Nov. 1981, 8).
Do not be ashamed of your testimony
And now I come to the Apostle Paul’s great statement:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:7–8).
It is not God who has given us the spirit of fear; this comes from the adversary. So many of us are fearful of what our peers will say, that we will be looked upon with disdain and criticized if we stand for what is right. But I remind you that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Evil never was happiness. Sin never was happiness. Happiness lies in the power and the love and the sweet simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need not be prudish. We need not slink off in a corner, as it were. We need not be ashamed. We have the greatest thing in the world, the gospel of the risen Lord (from Ensign, May 1997, 49).
To every young man and woman I commend this stirring injunction—“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord”—This is the spirit that will reform the world (from Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 118).
[photos] Photography by Jed Clark and Steve Bunderson
[illustration] Painting Joseph Smith by Alvin Gittins^ Back to top