Real Testimony

Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you (D&C 19:38).

I dreaded testimony meeting each fast Sunday. Time moved slower than Gertie, my pet turtle, especially on those sticky hot summer days when folks’d rather lean back and wait for somebody else to do the talking. The waiting always made me squirm in my seat. Sometimes I’d watch the big wall clock and time how long it took until somebody’s conscience finally dragged him up the aisle.

Most of the time, though, so many people wanted to bear their testimonies that the meeting went five or ten minutes over the usual time. Some of them would start crying in the middle of their testimony, and that really drove me nuts.

But the worst part was Molly Prentiss. She had been bearing her testimony almost every month for two years. She always used fancy words and went back to her seat with a contented smile on her face.

One day I got a great idea: I wrote up a testimony that even a returned missionary would be proud of and practiced it for days until I had it memorized. I even practiced how I’d walk to the front with just the right combination of confidence and humility. I hadn’t ever born my testimony before, but how tough could it be? I’d just walk up, deliver my brilliant speech, then go back to my seat amid gasps of admiration from the whole ward. Yup—that’d show Molly Prentiss, all right.

On fast Sunday, before we left for church, I stood in front of the full-length mirror and practiced one last time for good measure. Wow! Even I was impressed! For once even my braids stayed neatly in place.

I decided I’d save the best for last and give my performance right at the end of the meeting. What I didn’t count on was how many butterflies could hatch in my stomach in such a short amount of time. When the moment came, I tried to boldly walk up the aisle, but my confidence had become about as solid as warm gelatin.

It was when I was nearly to the pulpit that Sister Johnson and I noticed each other for the first time. Both of us had thought we were the only one headed for the front. I knew that I should let her go first, but I also knew that I would never make it back up that aisle if I had to sit down. Sister Johnson took matters into her own hands and with an understanding smile waved me on and sat in an empty seat on the front row.

When I stepped up to the pulpit, I was suddenly gripped with panic. There must have been a thousand people at church that day, and that meant that there were two thousand eyes staring at me! I opened my mouth, only to discover that the butterflies in my stomach had flown off with the wonderful speech I had prepared. I couldn’t remember one word of it. I closed my mouth and squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, hoping I could find the words better that way. When that didn’t work, I opened my eyes again, and there was Sister Johnson down on the front row, smiling encouragingly.

That was when the ultimate humiliation happened. I felt tears pricking at my eyes. And try as I might to hold them back, they burst out and flooded down my cheeks. Knowing how bad my freckles stand out when I cry, and feeling a strand of hair suddenly spring from a braid, there was only one thing I could do. I turned and stumbled back down the aisle to the pew where my family was sitting. Mama put a comforting arm around my shoulders, and I heard Sister Johnson saying something about how her testimony affects her the same way sometimes. But there was no consoling the burning embarrassment I felt. I vowed then and there that I would never try to bear my testimony again for the rest of my life.

I was surprised that when church was over, no one from my Primary class teased me about what had happened. Molly Prentiss gave me a sympathetic look.

The next few weeks were busy ones. School started again, and then my eighth birthday came along almost before I realized it. After my baptism and confirmation, a few things began to change. I started getting up a little earlier each morning to read the Book of Mormon before I headed off to school. That was tough because I hate getting up in the morning, but I was determined to make it all the way through that book.

I also started fasting each month on fast Sunday. There aren’t many things I like to do more than eat, so I slipped up sometimes, but even so, I started noticing a difference in how I felt about testimony meeting.

I began paying more attention to what each speaker was saying, and that made the meeting a lot more interesting. I found out that Sister Johnson had joined the Church when she was twenty-six years old. I thought she’d been a member all her life! And I loved it when old Brother Badger bore his testimony. He had exciting stories to tell about his life and about miracles he had witnessed.

I finished the Book of Mormon early the next summer. There were great stories and teachings in it, and I was happy that I’d reached my goal. But Moroni had written in the last chapter that if you read the Book of Mormon and want to know if it’s true, you should ponder it in your heart and pray to Heavenly Father about it. He promised that if you do that with faith in Jesus Christ and with a sincere heart, the Holy Ghost will help you know that it’s true. I decided to try it out for myself.

The rest of that week I prayed every morning and night. Sometimes I even said a quick prayer in my head when I was at school, but I never saw a vision or even heard a voice that told me the Book of Mormon was true. I felt like giving up, but I really wanted to know, so I just kept on praying.

The next fast Sunday, I fasted to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I spent a lot of time on my knees, and I reread some of my favorite parts. It was amazing how seldom I thought about food.

Testimony meeting was going along great that day. I was even happy for Molly Prentiss when she went up and bore her testimony. Then Brother Badger went to the front to speak. His quiet voice trembled as he spoke of his great love for the scriptures and how he knew of the truth of the gospel.

As he spoke, a strange feeling started in a little spot in my chest. It got warmer and bigger until my whole body was filled with glowing, tingly warmth. When he finished, that warmth seemed to pick me up and carry me right to the pulpit. The lump in my throat loosened into a few words that came right from my soul: “I know that the Book of Mormon is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robyn S. Officer