The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand how to obtain and build a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Open the meeting by having class members sing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” ((Hymns, no. 136; or Gospel Principles, 346).
A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the most valuable possessions we can have. President David O. McKay realized this in his youth. He said: “I hungered for it; I felt that if I could get that [a testimony], all else would indeed seem insignificant” (“A Personal Testimony,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1962, 628).
Our testimonies will sustain us throughout our lives when difficulties and trials come. At such times, we cannot be sustained by the testimonies of others, but will have to rely on our own testimonies in order to endure our trials in faith.
Perhaps we can recall meeting the missionaries for the first time and learning the gospel, or associating with a person who helped us gain a testimony. Or maybe we remember the warm feeling we had when we heard someone bear testimony to us. This feeling is the Holy Ghost bearing witness to our souls that what we are hearing is true. It is a feeling of calm, unwavering certainty. By this feeling, we know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth. This feeling can also give us a testimony of the Word of Wisdom, of the principle of tithing, or of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
As members of the Church in these latter days, it is also essential that we have a testimony of living prophets. President Harold B. Lee explained the importance of this knowledge:
“I want to impress this upon you. Someone has said it this way, and I believe it to be absolutely true: ‘That person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire.’ Until the members of this church have that conviction that they are being led in the right way, and they have a conviction that these men of God are men who are inspired and have been properly appointed by the hand of God, they are not truly converted” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 118; or Ensign, July 1972, 103).
Have the class members think for a moment about their testimonies. Ask them to remember when the truth of the gospel was revealed to them and how they received a spiritual witness that the Church is true, that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true. Invite them to share what these experiences were like and how they recognized that they had received a testimony.
A testimony is based on revelation from the Holy Ghost. It comes when the Spirit of the Lord speaks to our heart, mind, and spirit and confirms truth to us (see D&C 8:2–3). Christ explained to Peter that his testimony did not come from any human source, but from God (see Matthew 16:13–17).
Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote the following account of the testimony he received that the Book of Mormon was true:
“I opened [the Book of Mormon] with eagerness and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. … I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt , 37).
For some, receiving a testimony is a very vivid experience. For others, it is less spectacular, but it is no less important or valuable. Elder Loren C. Dunn said, “It may not come like a flash of light (I don’t know how the Lord is going to communicate with you), more than likely it will be the reassurance and a feeling in your heart, a reaffirmation that will come in a rather calm, natural but real way from day to day until you come to a realization that you do know” (“Watch Therefore: For Ye Know Not What Hour,” University of Utah Institute devotional, 10 Nov. 1972, 5).
President Marion G. Romney explained that this is the way he received his 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, 11).
There are several things we must do in order to receive a testimony. The five steps that follow are especially important.
Display a poster of the following five steps, or write the information on the chalkboard:
Desire to Believe. Alma explains that the first step in gaining a knowledge of the truth is to desire to believe (see Alma 32:26–27).
Search the Scriptures. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “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. … Read, for instance, the Gospel of John from its beginning to its end. Let the Lord speak for himself to you, and his words will come with a quiet conviction that will make the words of his critics meaningless. Read also the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, brought forth as a witness ‘that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God’” (“The Miracle That Is Jesus,” Improvement Era, June 1966, 531).
Do the Will of God. The Savior makes it clear that a man can know if a doctrine is from God by living the doctrine (see John 7:16–18).
Ponder the Principles of the Gospel. Pondering the principles of the gospel means studying and thinking about them, then praying with faith in Christ to receive knowledge from the Holy Ghost about what we have learned. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
Fast and Pray Often. The prophet Alma came to know for himself that the gospel was true because he fasted and prayed many days. After his fast, the Holy Spirit bore witness of the doctrines of God to his soul. (See Alma 5:45–46.)
Have the previously assigned class member tell of his experience in gaining a testimony.
Once we obtain a testimony, we must continue to strengthen it. President Harold B. Lee said: “Testimony isn’t something you have today, and you are going to have always. A testimony is fragile. It is as hard to hold as a moonbeam. It is something you have to recapture every day of your life” (“President Harold B. Lee Directs Church; Led By The Spirit,” Church News, 15 July 1972, 4).
To strengthen our testimonies each day and to remain happy in the gospel, we must strive to live righteously, perform our priesthood duties, and serve others. A testimony must be a principle of action if it is to increase in strength.
Show visual 26-a, “We can strengthen our testimonies by bearing them to others.”
Sharing our testimonies with others not only strengthens our own testimonies, but also strengthens the testimonies of those who hear us. We are given an opportunity to express our testimonies once a month at our fast and testimony meeting, but we should take advantage of every opportunity to bear our testimonies to our friends and family.
We must be valiant in our testimony of Jesus (see D&C 76:79). As members of the Church, we have the responsibility to share our testimony with others, both members and nonmembers. We demonstrate our testimony each day by what we say and what we do. Peter advised: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Our testimonies expose others to the truth and help them desire to know more.
Our testimonies can be a source of strength to our families. A father who was serving a mission in 1868 wrote to his son, “Oh, my son, may your father’s testimony be to you a guiding star through all your life” (quoted in Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser , 57).
Ask the class members how their fathers’ testimonies can be “guiding stars” for their lives. Ask the fathers how expressing their testimonies can help their children to gain testimonies.
Seek to obtain, strengthen, and bear your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Strive to live worthy of an increasing witness of the truth by living close to the Lord and serving faithfully in your priesthood calling.
Plan a family home evening on the subject of testimony. At the meeting, bear your testimony to your family.
Bear your testimony in fast and testimony meeting.
Before presenting this lesson:
Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.
Assign a class member to tell of his experience in gaining a testimony.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.