Lesson 5: Testimony

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 37–42


The purpose of this lesson is to help us obtain, build, and bear a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Is a Testimony?

  • Sing the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (see Hymns, no. 136, or Gospel Principles, 346–47).

A testimony does not come from our reasoning powers alone. President Spencer W. Kimball said that “testimonies are feelings, not merely the accumulation of facts” (quoted by Margaret Hoopes in “Community and Communing: The Power of Testimony Meeting,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 50).

A testimony of the gospel “is received when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within [us]; it comes when the whisperings of the still small voice are heard.” It comes with “calm, unwavering certainty. …

“Three great truths must be included in every valid testimony: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world (D. & C. 46:13); 2. That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and 3. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ‘only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.’ (D. & C. 1:30)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 785–86).

President Joseph F. Smith bore the following testimony: “My brethren and sisters, I desire to bear my testimony to you; for I have received an assurance which has taken possession of my whole being. It has sunk deep into my heart; it fills every fiber of my soul; so that I feel to say before this people … that God has revealed unto me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world; that Joseph Smith is, was, and always will be a prophet of God, ordained and chosen to stand at the head of [this] dispensation. … I know, as I live, that this is true, and I bear my testimony to its truth. … I know that this is the kingdom of God, and that God is at the helm. He presides over his people. He presides over the president of this Church, … and he will continue to preside over the leaders of this Church until the winding-up scene. He will not suffer it to be given to another people, nor to be left to men” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 501–2).

The prophets of God have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But a powerful testimony is not reserved for prophets alone. President Brigham Young said, “It is both the duty and privilege of the Latter-day Saints to know that their religion is true” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 429).

We each have the privilege and duty of gaining a testimony of Jesus Christ, of Joseph Smith, and of our living prophet. We can gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, of the principle of tithing, of the Word of Wisdom, and of every other principle of the gospel.

  • Ask the sisters to name gospel principles of which they have gained testimonies. As appropriate, ask them also to share how they gained their testimonies.

A Testimony Comes through the Holy Ghost

We receive a testimony when the Holy Ghost bears witness of the truthfulness of the gospel to our spirits, hearts, and minds.

For some, receiving a testimony is a vivid experience. This was true for Heinrich Stilger of Frankfurt, Germany. He had been visited by the missionaries and had decided to be baptized. But as the date drew closer, he began to question his decision. He had difficulty living the Word of Wisdom and the law of tithing. The missionaries were patient, but they could not convince him to set a baptismal date. Another missionary came and asked him to pray for a testimony. He finally did so. Brother Stilger said later, “I saw a bright figure and I heard a voice which told me that the Word of Wisdom and the law of tithing are commandments of God.” (“His Testimony Came through Prayer,” Church News, 17 Jan. 1970, 6).

For most people, a testimony comes in a less spectacular way. These testimonies are no less important or valid. Even prophets and apostles of the Church have received their testimonies in less spectacular ways. President David O. McKay explained how he received his testimony:

“I listened as a boy to a testimony regarding the principles of the gospel, the power of the priesthood, the divinity of this work. I heard the admonition that we, too, might get that testimony if we would pray, but somehow I got an idea in youth that we could not get a testimony unless we had some manifestation. I read of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I knew … what he had received was of God; I heard of elders who had heard voices; … and somehow I received the impression that that was the source of all testimony. …

“I remember riding over the hills one afternoon, thinking of these things, and concluded that there in the silence of the hills was the best place to get that testimony. I stopped my horse. …

“I knelt down and with all the fervor of my heart poured out my soul to God and asked him for a testimony of this gospel. I had in mind that there would be some manifestation, that I should receive some transformation that would leave me without doubt.

“I arose, mounted my horse, and as he started over the trail I … said to myself, ‘No, sir, there is no change; I am just the same boy I was before I knelt down.’ The anticipated manifestation had not come. …

“The testimony that this work is divine [came] … through obedience to God’s will, in harmony with Christ’s promise, ‘If any man will do his will, he will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself’ (John 7:17)” (“A Personal Testimony,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1962, 628–29).

President Marion G. Romney explained how he got 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).

No matter how a testimony comes, it will bless our lives and help us as we progress in the gospel.

We Must Prepare to Receive a Testimony

  • Display a poster of the following list or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    1. 1.

      Desire to believe.

    2. 2.

      Search the scriptures.

    3. 3.

      Do the will of God.

    4. 4.

      Ponder and pray with faith in Christ.

    5. 5.

      Fast and pray often.

Desire to Believe

The first step, having a desire for a testimony, is important.

Search the Scriptures

Scripture study helps us receive our testimonies. A testimony will not come if we do not work for it.

Do the Will of God

President David O. McKay received his testimony by doing the will of the Lord. Each of us can also gain a testimony as we do the will of the Lord.

  • Read John 7:17. How does following the commandments prepare us to have a testimony?

Ponder and Pray with Faith in Christ

To receive knowledge from the Holy Ghost, we must ask Heavenly Father for it. We must also trust that God loves us and that He will help us discern the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

  • Read Moroni 10:3–5. Why is prayer so important in gaining a testimony?

Fast and Pray Often

Fasting increases the power of prayer. Fasting and praying will help us gain our testimonies.

  • Read Alma 5:45–46. How do fasting and prayer help us gain a testimony?

One young woman, Annette Parkinson, had difficulty getting a testimony even after praying, reading the scriptures, and keeping the commandments. She said:

“I was beset by the fear that I might be deceived, that I might trick myself into thinking that I had a testimony instead of really obtaining one through the Holy Ghost. I feared and abhorred such deception almost more than anything else. The thought of exercising that trust in God seemed about as frightening as taking a leap into space and hoping that someone would be there to catch me. I could see, however, that if I ever wanted to gain a testimony, I would have to do something.

“Gaining faith, I discovered, was not an overnight process. But I sincerely tried to show and feel trust in the Lord. As time passed, something wonderful began to happen inside me. One day while I was sitting on my bed, a feeling came into me that I had never noticed before; yet it was not a totally new feeling. As I sat there, I remember saying in my mind, ‘The Lord has answered my prayers! I now know that he lives. I really know that he lives!’

“The feeling was deep, profound, yet sweet and peaceful. I knew that God lived; and how happy I was!

“Of course, this was not the end of my struggles. I still needed to know if Jesus Christ was truly my Savior, whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, whether the president of the Church is a prophet. …

“Since then, my understanding of the gospel has increased a hundredfold, and I have received a testimony of many things” (“Trust, a Key to Testimony,” New Era, Feb. 1978, 33).

  • Why is it sometimes difficult to develop trust in the Lord? How does our desire to gain a testimony or strengthen our testimonies affect our actions?

We Must Continually Strengthen Our Testimonies

Elder Heber C. Kimball said:

“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 time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (quoted by Orson F. Whitney in Life of Heber C. Kimball, 3rd ed. [1967], 450).

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” (quoted by J. M. Heslop in “President Harold B. Lee Directs Church; Led by the Spirit,” Church News, 15 July 1972, 4).

Elder George Q. Cannon wrote: “It is not enough that we knew of the truth of this work yesterday or the day before or a week or a month or a year ago; we ought to and must, in order to be happy, know it to be true to-day. … We can only retain the testimony of the truth in our heart by living near unto God” (Gospel Truth, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist [1957], 1:343).

Alma compared testimony to a seed that must be cared for in order to grow into a lovely tree.

  • Read Alma 32:37–38. What things could we do that would cause us to lose our testimonies?

  • Read Alma 32:41. How can we nourish our testimonies?

One way we can build our own and others’ testimonies is to bear them often. It is our duty to share our testimonies with members and nonmembers. Each month in fast and testimony meeting we can testify that we know certain gospel principles are true. We can also explain how we know. We can bear witness of the divinity and Atonement of our Savior, the calling of Joseph Smith as a prophet, and the calling of our present-day prophet. Bearing testimony helps us understand and value our feelings. It helps our testimonies grow within us. Often simply bearing testimony helps us realize we have one.

When we bear testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost, others can receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. Then they will know that what we say is true. They also can gain a desire to overcome their faults and become better. Good testimony meetings can draw the members of wards or branches together so they feel like one big family.

Conclusion

A testimony is one of a person’s most precious possessions. We should live righteously, serve others, and bear our testimonies. If we do, our testimonies will gain power and bring great joy, strength, and peace into our lives.

Challenge

Find opportunities to share your testimony with others.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Study Gospel Principles chapter 7, subsection “Why Is the Holy Ghost Necessary?” pages 37–39.

  2. 2.

    Study Alma 32:26–43 and Ether 12:6.

  3. 3.

    Plan to open the lesson with the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (see Hymns, no. 136, or Gospel Principles, 346–47).

  4. 4.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson or write the information on the chalkboard.

  5. 5.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.