Each young man will understand that we gain a testimony when we carefully study, pray, and obey God’s commandments.
Scriptures for each young man.
A pencil for each young man.
Ask someone with a strong testimony, such as the father of an Aaronic Priesthood holder, to share his experience in gaining a testimony and to explain how he finds it useful in his life now. Ask him to take no more than five minutes.
Make a copy of the handout “Testimony Quiz” for each young man (see page 131).
Suggested Lesson Development
What Is a Testimony?
Give each young man a copy of the “Testimony Quiz” (see page 131) and a pencil. Ask the class to respond to the true and false statements by putting a “T” or an “F” in front of each number.
It is easy for everyone to obtain a testimony. (False)
One must have a vision or hear a voice to receive a real testimony. (False)
Each young man should seek to obtain his own testimony that the gospel is true. (True)
An essential part of a testimony is knowing that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored. (True)
Another basic part of a testimony is knowing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church today. (True)
Some people gain testimonies of the gospel more quickly than others; however, this does not mean that they are more righteous. (True)
A testimony includes knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world. (True)
Each prophet of the Church has had to gain his own testimony of the gospel. (True)
The Lord will give us a testimony with no effort on our part. (False)
A testimony comes through revelation from the Holy Ghost. (True)
True testimonies always come all at once rather than gradually. (False)
If your parents have a testimony, you will automatically receive one. (False)
You should share your testimony only in fast and testimony meetings. (False)
A person born in the Church does not need to worry about his testimony. (False)
Once you have a testimony, you must continue to study, pray, and live worthily for it to grow. (True)
Read the statements and have the young men indicate their answers. Give them the correct answers and allow for brief discussion as needed. Explain that the lesson will help them to better understand the answers.
What is a testimony of the gospel?
Let the young men answer, helping them to understand that a testimony is a personal knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that his teachings are true.
What are some truths that you should know as part of your testimony?
Elder Charles Didier gave the following definition of a testimony:
“[A testimony] is knowing by the power of the Holy Ghost that God lives and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (see D&C 20:12) and that ‘this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3). A testimony is not only a witness that Jesus is the Christ, but also a statement or affirmation of the fact that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son; a conviction that the Book of Mormon has a divine origin and is another testament of Jesus Christ; and a knowledge that the Church of Jesus Christ, with its gospel and holy priesthood, was in truth and fact restored” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, pp. 84–85; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 62).
We Each Need Our Own Testimony
Quotation and discussion
Explain that each young man will face difficulties and will need to have his own testimony to help him overcome them. Share the following statement by President Heber C. Kimball:
“To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand. …
“… The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light [someone else’s testimony]. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (in Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945], p. 450).
Why does each person need his own testimony of the gospel? (To be able to overcome the problems he will face.)
In what situations might you need to know that the gospel is true? (To help in keeping the commandments, when you are talking to others about the gospel, when teaching about Christ, when serving a mission, when facing temptation.)
Is it possible to have a testimony and not know it?
Remind the young men that one of the statements in the quiz at the beginning of the lesson was that each prophet of the Church has had to gain his own testimony of the gospel. Explain that each one did, but each had to desire and work for a testimony just as anyone else must.
Story and discussion
Explain that Joseph F. Smith, who became the sixth President of the Church, served his first mission when he was fifteen years old. Have a young man read the following story of how President Joseph F. Smith gained his testimony.
“When I as a boy first started out in the ministry, I would frequently go out and ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, until he made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. … He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this. … By the whisperings of the still small voice of the Spirit of the living God, he gave to me the testimony I possess” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 7).
How did Joseph F. Smith expect to gain a testimony at first? (By receiving a vision.)
Explain that later in his life, when he was President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith did receive marvelous manifestations from the Lord. He was given a vision of the redemption of the dead that can now be found in Doctrine and Covenants section 138.
How did President Smith’s testimony develop? (By the gradual whisperings of the still, small voice.)
Explain that most people receive their testimonies a little at a time. President Marion G. Romney made the following statement about testimony:
“Sometimes a testimony comes to a person slowly, over an extended period of time. I do not remember a testimony coming to me suddenly. … I cannot remember when I did not have a testimony. It has, of course, been strengthened through the years, but I can never remember when I did not believe. But whether a testimony comes suddenly or by degrees, it does something to a person. One is different after he receives a testimony” (“How to Gain a Testimony,” New Era, May 1976, p. 11).
Explain that another prophet gained his testimony in a similar way. President David O. McKay often told of his struggles in seeking a testimony. Have a young man read the following story.
“One day in my youth I was hunting cattle. While climbing a steep hill, I stopped to let my horse rest, and there, once again, an intense desire came over me to receive a manifestation of the truth of the restored gospel. I dismounted, threw my reins over my horse’s head, and there under a serviceberry bush I prayed that God would declare to me the truth of his revelation to Joseph Smith. I am sure that I prayed fervently and sincerely and with as much faith as a young boy could muster.
“At the conclusion of the prayer, I arose from my knees, threw the reins over my faithful pony’s head, and got into the saddle. As I started along the trail again, I remember saying to myself, ‘No spiritual manifestation has come to me. If I am true to myself, I must say I am just the same “old boy” that I was before I prayed.’
“The Lord did not see fit to give me an answer on that occasion, but in 1899, after I had been appointed president of the Scottish Conference, the spiritual manifestation for which I had prayed as a boy in my teens came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty” (Clare Middlemiss, comp., Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], pp. 6–7).
What do you think President McKay meant when he said, “The spiritual manifestation for which I had prayed … came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty”?
Let the young men respond, helping them understand that President McKay’s prayer was answered by the Spirit as he did his priesthood work.
How were the experiences of President Joseph F. Smith and President David O. McKay similar in gaining a testimony? (Neither of the testimonies came at the first request; both men had a strong desire for a testimony; both expected marvels; both lived worthy lives and received their testimonies in a simple way.)
An Aaronic Priesthood Holder Can Strengthen His Testimony through Prayer and Work
Scripture, chalkboard, and discussion
Emphasize that the scriptures explain how a person can come to know the truth.
Have different class members read the following scriptures while the others follow: Alma 32:27; Moroni 10:3–5; and John 7:17. Write these scriptures on the chalkboard and suggest that the young men mark them.
As the scriptures are read, have the young men identify the steps for discovering truth. List the steps on the chalkboard. Possible answers include the following:
Read and study.
Think about it and ponder it in your heart.
Ask Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ.
Ask with a sincere heart and with a desire to know.
Ask with faith in Jesus Christ that you will know the truth.
Meditate after prayer to listen to the Spirit.
Keep the commandments.
The power of the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth.
Help the young men understand that they may already have a testimony of some gospel principles.
What are some principles or teachings of the gospel that you know are true?
Answers might include Word of Wisdom, tithing, and being honest.
Explain that when we know a certain teaching is true, we make it part of our thoughts and actions. We then have a testimony of that teaching.
Scriptures and discussion
How can the Holy Ghost manifest that something is true?
Have a young man read Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3. Explain that the Holy Ghost may cause us to feel a warm or a burning feeling when something is true.
Have a young man read Doctrine and Covenants 6:22–23.
What does this scripture tell us about the way the Holy Ghost sometimes communicates with us?
Introduce the guest speaker, who is to share with the young men how he gained his testimony.
Testimony and challenge
Bear your testimony of the Savior and the truthfulness of the gospel. Testify that each class member can gain his own testimony through prayer and study and by living in obedience to the commandments of God.
Challenge each young man to follow the steps outlined in the lesson to gain a testimony. Emphasize that they may not get an instant answer to their prayers. However, as they continue to fulfill their priesthood duties, they will eventually be blessed with the firm testimony that they desire.