Lesson Sixteen: Gaining a Testimony through the Holy Ghost

Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997), 69


For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded to them, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
[1 Nephi 10:19]

PURPOSE

Help family members realize that the Holy Ghost can help them develop a testimony if they sincerely desire it.

FOR THE PARENT

We must receive a testimony of the gospel by revelation through the Holy Ghost. It doesn’t just happen. We have to work and live for it. We have to study and practice the gospel principles and pray to our Father in Heaven for that knowledge.

Perhaps more than anything you would like to give your children a testimony of the gospel. But every person must get a testimony for himself, and this is not always easy. Although you cannot give your children a testimony, you can inspire them to desire one. Many young people have a testimony and do not realize it. You can help them realize they have one.

PREPARATION

  1. 1.

    Have family members prepared in advance to take one or two minutes to tell about something they wanted very much and how they worked to get it.

  2. 2.

    Get some fast growing seeds. Prepare containers (planter boxes, flower pots, or plastic or paper cups) in which you can plant these seeds.

SUGGESTED HYMNS AND SONG

“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (Hymns, no. 136).

“I Know My Father Lives” (Hymns, no. 302; Children’s Songbook, p. 5).

SUGGESTED LESSON

We Work Hard for Something We Really Want

Ask each family member to take one or two minutes to tell of something they wanted and what they did to get it. If they can’t think of anything, tell the following story:

Christopher’s Puppy

Nine-year-old Christopher went shopping with his mother. At the pet store, he saw a puppy that he wanted.

He asked his mother to buy it for him. She told him if he really wanted it, he would have to earn his own money to buy it. His mother told Christopher that a puppy required lots of care and attention and Christopher would have to be responsible for doing this.

Christopher wanted the puppy very much, so for the next several weeks he did every job he could find for his parents and neighbors to earn the money. He was very excited when he finally had enough money to buy the puppy.

He enjoyed the puppy and took good care of it. He learned that it took lots of work to keep it healthy and happy. Tell your family that they are going to learn about something that is much more important than a pet or any worldly possession. It is something that no one can injure or take without their consent. It is something that will influence our lives forever. It is a testimony.

Why would you want a testimony? (Bring out that a testimony can give us purpose, peace, and joy in our lives.)

How We Can Gain a Testimony

Help your family define a testimony. Guide them to discover that it is a knowledge of the reality of God, the Eternal Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ. This testimony can come only by revelation through the Holy Ghost.

  • Can our parents, brothers, sisters, or friends give us a testimony?

  • What can we do to gain our own testimony?

Help your family bring out the following points:

  1. 1.

    The first step in gaining a testimony is to want one (see 1 Nephi 2:16).

  2. 2.

    We must ask our Heavenly Father to help us gain a testimony (see D&C 42:51).

  3. 3.

    We must want a testimony enough that we are willing to work to gain one (see Ether 12:6).

  4. 4.

    We will enjoy our testimony as we study and grow and increase in our knowledge of the truth (see John 8:32).

  5. 5.

    We must care for our most prized possession, our testimony, by keeping the commandments of our Heavenly Father (see Mosiah 2:41, Alma 32:41).

  • When a person strongly desires a testimony, what must he do?

In the discussion include attending church meetings, listening attentively, living the gospel principles taught at church, studying the scriptures to gain a greater knowledge of these truths, and fasting and praying—praying in faith that you will learn the truth by revelation through the power of the Holy Ghost (see Alma 5:45–47).

Gaining a Testimony Is an Ongoing Process

We must not be discouraged if it takes a long time to gain a testimony. Many have this problem, but they are stronger after struggling. The testimony they gain is worth the struggle.

In the Book of Mormon we read about Alma who was a great and righteous leader. He told his people that the gospel (the word of God) is like a seed that needs caring for every day so it will grow (Alma 32:28–43). Our testimony of Heavenly Father is like that seed. We must care for it every day.

Alma continued to say that if a tree is just beginning to grow, we will nourish it with great care so that it will grow more roots and produce fruit. But if we neglect it and do not nourish it, it will not bear fruit.

Encourage the family to nourish the word of the Lord in them, thinking of the fruit that will come—everlasting life.

Have one of the family read Moroni 10:4 aloud.

Then have another member of the family read what President Spencer W. Kimball said of this scripture:

“That is no casual promise. It is a positive one, and every soul in this world may have a revelation. … That revelation will be a testimony, a knowledge that Christ lives, that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of this world. Every soul may have this assurance, and when he gets this testimony, it will have come from God and not from study alone. Study is an important element, of course, but there must be associated with study much prayer and reaching, and then this revelation comes.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, p. 4.)

Tell your family the following story in your own words:

Rose

Rose lived in a small city in Germany. She was only fourteen years old when she first met some Mormons. As she listened to them, she became interested in many of the doctrines of the Church, but she did not know if the Church was true. Her friends and even her parents began to turn against her because she associated with the Mormons.

When Rose was sixteen years old, some of her Mormon friends told her President David O. McKay was going to come to Hamburg. They were very excited and talked about nothing else. They all started to save their money for their train fare to Hamburg. Some of the members asked Rose to go with them. She was very interested in the Church and felt she just had to see this man that the Mormons told her was a prophet. She had such a strong desire to see the prophet that she felt she would do almost anything to make the trip.

The Saturday arrived that President McKay was to come, and still Rose did not have permission to go. Her father, thinking she could not possibly get any money or a way to go, told Rose, “If you can get the money to go, try it.”

Rose hurried to work and told her boss she wanted to go to Hamburg. She told him her train left at 3:00 P.M. and she would get all of her work done before she left. Rose said, “I prayed hard all that day. A prophet was coming, and I needed to know the truth.”

She watched the clock, upset when it was 2:40, and her boss had still not given her permission to leave.

When he thought it was too late for her to make the 3:00 P.M. train, her boss said, “Why don’t you see how far you can get to see your prophet?”

Rose ran hard to get to the station. She still had no ticket and no money. When she got to the ticket counter, the clerk selling tickets said, “Go right on in, Rose.” Her father was a railroad official, and the ticket agent had seen Rose with her father and recognized her. When Rose came to the platform, the train was ready to pull out. She still had no ticket.

Someone said, “Hi, Rose. Are you going to Hamburg?” Rose turned and there stood one of her father’s friends who was the conductor of the train. Rose told him she was going, but she had no pass. He said, “That’s okay, Rose. I’ll take you to Hamburg because I know your father, but you won’t have a way back home because no one in Hamburg knows you.”

Rose hurriedly got on the train and sat down. She was so exhausted from running so hard that she just trembled and cried. She got to Hamburg and still had to find the convention hall where the prophet was to speak. Again she had to run all the way because she had no money for bus or train fare.

When she arrived at the convention hall, she found a place by a window where she could stand. The building was crowded with people. Suddenly she saw a movement, and the whole congregation stood up as if they were one person. They began singing, “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet.” Rose said, “I saw a man with white hair smiling kindly. No voice told me. But a feeling engulfed my whole being; and I knew that this man whom I had never met before, never spoken to before, nor even heard speak was a prophet of God. The Holy Ghost made it known to me.

“Little did I realize that this testimony would in time cause me to lose my family and my friends. But no matter what, I knew this man was a prophet of God, and I could not deny it.”

Rose’s two years of studying, fasting, and praying were not in vain; her desire to know was fulfilled. She had received this witness from the Holy Ghost.

Our Own Testimony

Explain to your family that our testimony from the Holy Ghost may not come as dramatically as Rose’s did, but if we earnestly desire, seek, and pray, we will receive the same witness.

Explain that some of us come to that understanding in a different way. Tell the story of Charles or one like it, and have your family identify how he received his testimony:

Charles

Charles and Ruth were members of the Church, and everyone considered them good, active members. They enjoyed the meetings and frequently commented on the spirit that seemed to prevail in the Church gatherings.

One day after fast and testimony meeting, Charles said, “Why don’t I have a testimony like others in our ward seem to have? They are always eager to bear testimony to the truths of the gospel—that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the Christ, that God lives. Why can’t I say those things? I guess I just don’t have a testimony.”

Ruth responded, “You do have a testimony.”

“If I do, why don’t I get up and say so? Why do I feel that I don’t have one?” countered Charles.

The discussion was dropped, and the days and months passed by for Charles and Ruth without much change.

One day their young son, Mark, was involved in a bicycle accident and was rushed to the hospital. When Charles and Ruth arrived at the hospital and saw the condition of their son, Charles quickly said, “Ruth, I’m going to call our home teacher, Brother Reed, and have him come help me administer to Mark.”

Soon Brother Reed arrived, and they gave Mark a blessing. In time the bruises and broken bones healed, and Mark was able to move about normally.

Ruth and Charles often spoke about the accident. Once Ruth asked, “Charles, why did you call Brother Reed to help you bless Mark?”

“Because,” replied Charles, “I knew that we held the priesthood and that if we blessed Mark he would be well again.”

“I thought you said that you didn’t have a testimony. Charles, don’t you see that you called Brother Reed because you do have a testimony, or you wouldn’t have had that faith.”

Charles thought a moment, and then smiling with surprise he said, “I do, don’t I? I knew Mark would be all right. I do have a testimony!”

  • How did Charles get his testimony? (In a slow, quiet way as he lived the gospel each day.)

  • What showed that Charles desired a testimony and that he earned it?

Discuss this with your family. Remind them that in the first story you talked about, Christopher’s desire for a puppy was so great that he was willing to work hard to earn money for it. He cared for his puppy daily and enjoyed it. Help them realize that the worth of a testimony is not to be compared in any way to the worth of any worldly possession, a but the story pointed out how important desire is in obtaining and nurturing a testimony.

Bear your testimony of how you desired to have a testimony, how you now desire to know the gospel is true, or how you desire that your testimony will grow.

After you are through, have your family plant the seeds. Compare this to the growth of a testimony.

  • What must we do to make the seeds grow? (Give them sunlight and water.)

  • What must we do make our testimonies grow? (Study, pray, and live the gospel principles.)

Plant the seeds in several containers. After the seeds begin to sprout, put one container in a dark closet for a few days and see what happens to the plant. Then don’t water another container for a day or two and see what happens to it. The seeds will start to shrivel and die. As this happens, explain to the family that this is what will happen to their testimonies if they don’t do the right things to keep them growing. Have a time each day when you water your seeds, put them in the sun, and watch them grow. Reinforce the importance of doing something each day to help your testimonies grow.

ADAPTING FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Although the word testimony is a big word, you can explain to small children that it means to know that something is real.

  • What does real mean? (Something that is not pretend or is not make believe. Something that is true.)

  • Is your shirt (or any other article of clothing) real?

  • Is the chair you are sitting on real?

  • How do you know they are real? (You can see them and feel them.)

  • Is the sun real?

  • How do you know it is real? (You can see it in the sky, and you can feel its warm rays when it shines on you. Even if you couldn’t see it, you would still know it was real because you can feel the warmth from its rays.)

Show your children the Bible.

  • Is this book real?

Tell them the book is. Explain that the Bible tells us about Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. We know they are real because the Bible tells us they are, but there is another way we can tell they are real just as there is more than one way we can tell if the sun is real. That way is a testimony or a feeling we get inside us when the Holy Ghost tells us these things are true. It is a good, warm feeling inside us. When we do what is right, we get that good, warm feeling. When we help someone or do what our mother or father wants us to do we get that feeling. That is the Holy Ghost letting us know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are real.

  • Can you think of a time when you had that good, warm feeling inside of you?

Direct your children in their answers toward a time when they had a special experience that made them feel good. If they can’t think of anything, tell the following story:

Lindsay’s New Brother

Five-year-old Lindsay could hardly wait for her father to bring her mother and new baby brother home from the hospital. Even though she enjoyed having grandmother stay with her, she still missed her mother. When she heard the car, she ran out the front door as fast as she could. It seemed it took her father forever to get her mother and the new baby in the house. When her mother was all settled on the couch, her grandmother told Lindsay to sit in the big chair.

“Would you like to hold your new brother?” grandmother asked Lindsay as she placed the baby on her lap. “Lindsay, you know this baby boy was with Heavenly Father just a few short days ago. Heavenly Father sent him to our family to love, guide, and train. You must always be kind and good to him.”

As Lindsay held her new brother and looked at him, she had a good, warm feeling inside. She knew Heavenly Father had sent her little brother to their family.

Bear your testimony to your children. Tell them of things that make you know that Heavenly Father and Jesus are real. Encourage your children to tell of things that make them know Heavenly Father is real, and explain to them that this is a testimony.

Each day when you help your children with their prayers, ask them what has happened that day to help them know that Heavenly Father is real. Keep reminding them that the feeling they have that he is real is called a testimony.

ADAPTING FOR TEENAGERS AND ADULTS

You may want to start by telling your family the story of Christopher. Ask them to identify what in the story parallels the steps in gaining a testimony as they listen.

Read and discuss Alma 32:28–43 in depth. Also encourage your family to participate in a discussion about Moroni 10:4 and President Kimball’s statement regarding this scripture.

Tell your family the story of Rose. After you have talked about Rose receiving the witness from the Holy Ghost that David O. McKay was a prophet, continue the story:

Rose (Continued)

For seventeen-year-old Rose to be baptized when her parents gave their consent so reluctantly was very difficult for her. She had been raised in a religious home and had always been taught to honor her father and mother. Now she was going against their desires. Her parents allowed her to live at home after she was baptized, but there was little communication between them.

When Rose turned eighteen, her branch president called her on a local mission. Her parents were very upset and told her that if she went they would no longer consider her their daughter. Rose was torn, but she finally decided to go. She served a mission, never missing a week of writing to her parents, but she never heard from them.

After her mission, she did not return to her hometown but got a job in another city. She met a young man who was a member of the Church, and they were married in the Swiss Temple. She sent word to her parents, still she heard nothing from them. She continued to write faithfully to her parents although they never answered her letters.

Finally, nine years after she was baptized, she heard from her parents. Her father had a heart attack. He was afraid he was going to die, and he wanted to see his daughter again. Rose says of those years when she was separated from her parents whom she loved dearly, “It was very difficult for me. I never doubted or wondered if I had made the right choice. I had had the witness from the Holy Ghost that the Church was true, and there was no choice to be made. I had to do the things I did because I knew it was true and I knew God knew that I knew it was true!”

President Spencer W. Kimball has told us, “You have to fight for a testimony. You have to keep fighting!” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, p. 6.)

  • What does his statement mean to you?

Discuss your own testimonies as suggested in the regular lesson.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE HOME EVENINGS

The Testimonies of Others

Invite grandparents in for an evening, or make arrangements to go to their home. Let the grandparents tell of their experience in having a witness or guidance from the Holy Ghost in their lives. Let your family ask questions so that the discussion will help them realize how the Holy Ghost may work to help them in their own lives. Relate experiences that you have had with the Holy Ghost.

Be sure to create a reverent atmosphere for this lesson.

Compiling a Family Record of Inspiration

Have each family member record in writing an experience where he received inspiration or promptings from the Holy Ghost. Children can refer to their confirmation. You may need to help them with the ideas and writing.

After reading the experiences during family home evening, bind them in a folder so they can be reread by family members at other times. As family members have further inspirational experiences they may wish to add them to the folder.

Inviting the Holy Ghost to Be with Us

After discussing or explaining how important it is that we have the Holy Ghost with us always, have family members suggest items for a list of things we might do that would restrain the Spirit and a list of those things that would bring us closer to the Spirit and build our testimonies. After completing the lists, find scriptures that complement the things listed (see the example below).

Things That Restrain the Spirit

Things That Invite the Spirit

Scriptures

Speaking unkind or harsh words in anger.

Working through a serious problem, using consideration and kindness in guiding the discussion.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. …

“If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:19–20, 26.)

Gaining a Testimony through Scriptural Examples

Make a list of persons in the scriptures who gained a testimony. Discuss such items as what they did, how old they were, and how the witness came. Some examples might be—

  1. 1.

    Samuel (1 Samuel 3).

  2. 2.

    Moroni (Mormon 1:13–15).

  3. 3.

    Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20).

  4. 4.

    Nephi and Sam (1 Nephi 2:16–24).

Then explain that each person must gain a testimony in his own way but that each person is entitled to a testimony if he seeks it sincerely and honestly. Parents of young children may want to use the illustrated books of scripture stories published by the Church.

The Difference between Testimony and Conversion

Discuss the following passages from an address by Elder Marion G. Romney:

“Membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Being converted, as we are here using the term, and having a testimony are not necessarily the same thing either. A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of the truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith; that is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion, on the other hand, is the fruit of, or the reward for, repentance and obedience. (Of course one’s testimony continues to increase as he is converted.)

“Conversion is effected by divine forgiveness, which remits sins. The sequence is something like this. An honest seeker hears the message. He asks the Lord in prayer if it is true. The Holy Spirit gives him a witness. This is a testimony. If one’s testimony is strong enough, he repents and obeys the commandments. By such obedience he receives divine forgiveness which remits sin. Thus he is converted to a newness of life. His spirit is healed. …

“Somebody recently asked how one could know when he is converted. The answer is simple. He may be assured of it when by the power of the Holy Spirit his soul is healed. When this occurs, he will recognize it by the way he feels, for he will feel as the people of Benjamin felt when they received remission of sins. The record says, ‘… the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, …’ (Mosiah 4:3.) …

“Getting people’s spirits healed through conversion is the only way they can be healed. I know this is an unpopular doctrine and a slow way to solve the problems of men and nations. … Nevertheless, I know and solemnly witness that there is no other means by which the sin-sick souls of men can be healed or for a troubled world to find peace.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1963, pp. 24–26.)