When we say, “I would like to bear my testimony, what do we really mean? The various uses of the phrase “to bear” in scripture suggest that there may be at least five meaningful ways in which one can “bear” a testimony.
1. To “bear” may mean to express or tell. The scriptures speak of bearing testimony of His word (2 Ne. 27:13), bearing witness to His words (D&C 20:16), and bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16). This meaning is also used in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants in the expression “bear record.” (D&C 67:8; D&C 76:14, 50; 1 Ne. 11:32; 3 Ne. 17:15.) To express or to tell is the meaning most people think of when they refer to bearing a testimony.
2. To “bear” may mean to carry—either in a literal way, such as bearing a gift, or in a figurative sense, such as bearing malice. One scriptural example of the literal carrying of an object refers to Moses’ tabernacle—“they should bear it with them in the wilderness.” (D&C 124:38.) Examples of a more figurative carrying are, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 38:42) or “Bear the keys of your ministry” (D&C 27:12). To carry our testimony means that we should bear it with us in our everyday lives; it should influence us in all of bur day-to-day activities.
The needy Zoramites told Alma they could not worship God because they had been cast out of their synagogues. Alma’s reply was, “Do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?
“And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?” (Alma 32:10–11.)
What he was saying to the Zoramites, as others have said to us today, is that if we do have testimonies we should bear them with us seven days a week.
3. To “bear” may mean to suffer, stand, or endure, as when we speak of bearing our burdens, or bearing pain. “He that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:31), “bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8), “more than we are able to bear” (1 Ne. 16:1) are scriptural examples.
Why would a person want to suffer or endure a testimony? The answer is suggested by the following: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3.) James expressed the same idea when he wrote: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17.)
With a testimony comes the responsibility to act in harmony with what we know to be true. “I would like to bear my testimony” may mean “I would like to be able to bear the responsibility that comes with having a testimony.”
4. To “bear” may mean to exhibit or show, as when we speak of “bearing a resemblance.” While bearing record usually means verbal expression, there is at least one scriptural reference where it must mean showing a record; that is when the Lord said all things “bear record of me.” (Moses 6:63.) We show our testimonies by our actions.
The elders sent out as missionaries in the early days of the Church were told to “bear testimony of the truth in all places.” (D&C 58:47.) Every member of the Church can do the same; we may not always get the opportunity to bear our testimonies in the sense of telling them, but we can always bear our testimonies in the sense of showing them in our behavior.
5. To “bear” may mean to give birth, produce, or bring forth, as when we speak of a woman bearing a child or a tree bearing fruit. The scriptures refer both to women bearing children (1 Ne. 17:1, 2 Ne. 3:1) and to plants bearing fruit (Jacob 5:17, Gen. 1:29, John 15:2). Undoubtedly many members of the Church who do not have burning testimonies would like to bear a testimony in the sense of giving birth to one.
Alma described to the Zoramites some of the steps they could take to increase their faith and give birth to a testimony. (Alma 32.) Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy has outlined three steps to obtaining a testimony: read, ponder, and pray. “Any person, either member or nonmember, who wants to know,” he says, “can know.” (Ensign, January 1973, 85.)
I have suggested that to bear a testimony may mean to tell, to carry, to endure, to show, or to give birth to a testimony. Remembering these distinctions, perhaps we should sometimes ask ourselves, “How well am I bearing my testimony?”