Chapter 43: Our Search for Truth and Personal Testimony

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 314–22


President Brigham Young’s search for the truth of God was finally resolved by the sincere and simple testimony of a “man without eloquence … who could only say, ‘I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord.’” Said President Young, “The Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me” (DNW, 9 Feb. 1854, 4). Throughout his life, he sought to live gospel truths, declaring, “As I advance in years I hope to advance in the true knowledge of God and godliness. I hope to increase in the power of the Almighty and in influence to establish peace and righteousness upon the earth, and to bring … all who will hearken to the principles of righteousness, to a true sense of the knowledge of God and godliness, of themselves and the relation they sustain to heaven and heavenly beings. … I pray that this may be the case not only with myself but with all the Saints, that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth and be made perfect before Him” (DNW, 10 June 1857, 3).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Many desire to find the truth, but not all embrace it.

The greater portion of the inhabitants of the earth are inclined to do right. That is true. There is a monitor in every person that would reign there triumphantly, if permitted so to do, and lead to truth and virtue [see Moroni 7:15–17] (DBY, 423).

Honest hearts, the world over, desire to know the right way. They have sought for it, and still seek it. There have been people upon the earth all the time who sought diligently with all their hearts to know the ways of the Lord. Those individuals have produced good, inasmuch as they had the ability (DBY, 421).

Until they sin away the day of grace, there is something in all persons that would delight to rise up and reject the evil and embrace the truth. There is not a person on the earth so vile but, when he looks into his own heart, honors the man of God and the woman of God—the virtuous and holy—and despises his comrades in iniquity who are like himself. There is not a man upon the earth, this side of saving grace, unless he has sinned so far that the Spirit of the Lord has ceased to strive with him and enlighten his mind, but delights in the good, in the truth, and in the virtuous (DBY, 421).

It is recorded that some have eyes to see, and see not; ears to hear, and hear not; hearts have they, but they understand not. You who are spiritually-minded, who have the visions of your minds opened, … can understand that the power that has given you physical sensation is the power of the same God that gives you understanding of the truth [see D&C 88:11–13]. The latter power is inward. … Thousands and thousands know, by their inward and invisible sensation, things that have been, things that are, and things that are in the future, as well as they know the color of a piece of cloth by means of their outward or physical vision. When this inner light is taken from them, they become darker than they were before, they cannot understand, and turn away from the things of God (DBY, 421–22).

The spirit which inhabits these tabernacles naturally loves truth, it naturally loves light and intelligence, it naturally loves virtue, God and godliness; but being so closely united with the flesh their sympathies are blended, and their union being necessary to the possession of a fulness of joy to both [see D&C 93:33–34], the spirit is indeed subject to be influenced by the sin that is in the mortal body, and to be overcome by it and by the power of the Devil, unless it is constantly enlightened by that spirit which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which is imparted through the Gospel (DBY, 422–23).

Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached, either in these or former days, it has met with a class of men to whom the truth looked lovely and God-like, and the spirit within would prompt them to embrace it; but they find themselves so advantageously connected in the world, and have so many interests at stake if they should embrace it, they conclude that it will not do, and here comes the warfare again. Some few will overcome the reasonings of the flesh, and follow the dictates of the spirit; while the great majority of this class of persons are won over by sordid considerations and cleave to their idols (DBY, 434).

Joseph Smith reading Bible

Joseph Smith, a careful reader of the Bible, asked God for direction.

Each of us is responsible to seek knowledge and a witness of the truth.

What are we here for? To learn to enjoy more, and to increase in knowledge and experience (DNW, 27 Sept. 1871, 5).

We shall never cease to learn, unless we apostatize. … Can you understand that? (DNW, 27 Feb. 1856, 2).

If we can have the privilege we will enrich our minds with knowledge, filling these mortal tenements with the rich treasures of heavenly wisdom (MS, Oct. 1862, 630).

All our educational pursuits are in the service of God, for all these labors are to establish truth on the earth, and that we may increase in knowledge, wisdom, understanding in the power of faith and in the wisdom of God, that we may become fit subjects to dwell in a higher state of existence and intelligence than we now enjoy (DNSW, 25 Oct. 1870, 2).

It is possible for a man who loves the world to overcome that love, to get knowledge and understanding until he sees things as they really are, then he will not love the world but will see it as it is (DNW, 28 Nov. 1855, 2).

Let us seek the Lord with all our hearts, then shall we be weaned from the world; no man will love this, that, or the other thing, except to do good with it; to promote the eternal interests of mankind, and prepare them to be exalted in immortality. … It is for you and I to receive wisdom so as to be prepared for exaltation and eternal lives in kingdoms that now exist in eternity (DNW, 14 May 1853, 3).

A man or woman desirous of knowing the truth, upon hearing the Gospel of the Son of God proclaimed in truth and simplicity, should ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, if this is true. If they do not take this course, they try and argue themselves into the belief that they are as honest as any man or woman can be on the face of the earth; but they are not, they are careless as to their own best interests (DBY, 430).

Wait until you have searched and researched and have obtained wisdom to understand what we preach. … If it is the work of God, it will stand [see Acts 5:38–39] (DBY, 435).

It is both the duty and privilege of the Latter-day Saints to know that their religion is true (DBY, 429).

Let every one get a knowledge for himself that this work is true. We do not want you to say that it is true until you know that it is; and if you know it, that knowledge is as good to you as though the Lord came down and told you (DBY, 429).

It is a special privilege and blessing of the holy Gospel to every true believer, to know the truth for himself (DBY, 429).

I do not want men to come to me or my brethren for testimony as to the truth of this work; but let them take the Scriptures of divine truth, and there the path is pointed out to them as plainly as ever a guideboard indicated the right path to the weary traveler. There they are directed to go, not to … any Apostle or Elder in Israel, but to the Father in the name of Jesus, and ask for the information they need. Can they who take this course in honesty and sincerity receive information? Will the Lord turn away from the honest heart seeking the truth? No, he will not; he will prove it to them, by the revelations of his Spirit, the facts in the case. And when the mind is open to the revelations of the Lord it comprehends them quicker and keener than anything that is seen by the natural eye. It is not what we see with our eyes—they may be deceived—but what is revealed by the Lord from heaven that is sure and steadfast, and abides forever (DBY, 429–30).

We must have the testimony of the Lord Jesus to enable us to discern between truth and error, light and darkness, him who is of God, and him who is not of God, and to know how to place everything where it belongs. … There is no other method or process which will actually school a person so that he can become a Saint of God, and prepare him for a celestial glory; he must have within him the testimony of the spirit of the Gospel (DBY, 429).

You and I must have the testimony of Jesus within us, or it is of but little use for us to pretend to be servants of God. We must have that living witness within us (DBY, 430).

Truth commends itself to every honest person, it matters not how simply it is told, and when it is received it seems as though we had been acquainted with it all our lives. It is the testimony of the majority of the Latter-day Saints that when they first heard the Gospel preached, “… although entirely new to them, it seemed as though they already understood it, and that they must have been “Mormons” from the beginning [see John 10:27] (DBY, 432).

The Holy Ghost grants us knowledge of the truth.

Men rise up here and say they do know that this is the work of God, that Joseph was a Prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the revelations through Joseph Smith are true, and this is the last dispensation and the fulness of times, wherein God has set his hand to gather Israel for the last time, and redeem and build up Zion. … How do they know this? Persons know and will continue to know and understand many things by the manifestations of the Spirit, that through the organization of the tabernacle it is impossible otherwise to convey. Much of the most important information is alone derived through the power and testimony of the Holy Ghost. … This is the only way you can convey a knowledge of the invisible things of God [see 1 Corinthians 2:9–14; 1 Corinthians 12:3] (DBY, 430).

Nothing short of the Holy Spirit … can prove to you that this is the work of God. Men uninspired of God cannot by their worldly wisdom disprove it, or prevail against it; neither can they by wisdom alone prove it to be true, either to themselves or to others. Their not being able to prevail against it does not prove it to be the Kingdom of God, for there are many theories and systems on the earth, incontrovertible by the wisdom of the world, which are nevertheless false. Nothing less than the power of the Almighty, enlightening the understanding of men, can demonstrate this glorious truth to the human mind (DBY, 430–31).

How are we to know the voice of the Good Shepherd from the voice of a stranger? Can any person answer this question? I can. It is very easy. To every philosopher upon the earth, I say, your eye can be deceived, so can mine; your ear can be deceived, so can mine; the touch of your hand can be deceived, so can mine; but the Spirit of God filling the creature with revelation and the light of eternity, cannot be mistaken—the revelation which comes from God is never mistaken. When an individual, filled with the Spirit of God, declares the truth of heaven, the sheep hear that [see D&C 29:7], the Spirit of the Lord pierces their inmost souls and sinks deep into their hearts; by the testimony of the Holy Ghost light springs up within them, and they see and understand for themselves (DBY, 431).

There is but one witness—one testimony, pertaining to the evidence of the Gospel of the Son of God, and that is the Spirit that he diffused among his disciples. Do his will, and we shall know whether he speaks by the authority of the Father or of himself. Do as he commands us to do, and we shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God or not [see John 7:16–17]. It is only by the revelations of the Spirit that we can know the things of God (DBY, 431–32).

Be diligent and prayerful. It is your privilege to know for yourself God lives and that He is doing a work in these last days and we are His honored ministers. Live for this knowledge and you will receive it. Remember your prayers and be fervent in spirit (LBY, 245).

My testimony is based upon experience, upon my own experience, in connection with that obtained by observing others. … The heavenly truth commends itself to every person’s judgment and to their faith; and more especially to the sense of those who wish to be honest with themselves, with their God, and with their neighbor. … If persons can receive a little, it proves they may receive more. If they can receive the first and second principles with an upright feeling, they may receive still more (DBY, 433).

My testimony is positive. … I know that the sun shines, I know that I exist and have a being, and I testify that there is a God, and that Jesus Christ lives, and that he is the Savior of the world. Have you been to heaven and learned to the contrary? I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that he had many revelations. Who can disprove this testimony? Any one may dispute it, but there is no one in the world who can disprove it. I have had many revelations; I have seen and heard for myself, and know these things are true, and nobody on earth can disprove them. The eye, the ear, the hand, all the senses may be deceived, but the Spirit of God cannot be deceived; and when inspired with that Spirit, the whole man is filled with knowledge, he can see with a spiritual eye, and know that which is beyond the power of man to controvert. What I know concerning God, concerning the earth, concerning government, I have received from the heavens, not alone through my natural ability, and I give God the glory and the praise (DBY, 433).

Having received a witness of the truth, we should seek righteousness in the kingdom of God.

It is one of the first principles of the doctrine of salvation to become acquainted with our Father and our God. The Scriptures teach that this is eternal life, to “know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent [see John 17:3];” this is as much as to say that no man can enjoy or be prepared for eternal life without that knowledge (DNW, 18 Feb. 1857, 4).

We have the promise, if we seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, that all necessary things will be added to us [see 3 Nephi 13:33]. We should not be distrustful, but seek first to know how to please our Father and God; seek to know how to save ourselves from the errors that are in the world, from darkness and unbelief, from the vain and delusive spirits that go abroad among the children of men to deceive, and learn how to save and preserve ourselves upon the earth to preach the gospel, build up the kingdom, and establish the Zion of our God (DNW, 11 Jan. 1860, 1).

I … love to reflect and talk on eternal principles. Our salvation consists in knowing them, and they are designed in their nature to cheer and comfort us. Is that eternal existence in me, that feeds upon eternal truth, organized to be destroyed? Is that organism ever to come to an end, so long as it lives upon eternal truth? No. … Seek unto the Lord for his Spirit, without any cessation in your efforts, until his Spirit dwells within you like eternal burnings. Let the candle of the Lord be lighted up within you, and all is right (DNW, 11 Jan. 1860, 2).

We have the words of eternal life, we have the privilege of obtaining glory, immortality, and eternal lives, now will you obtain these blessings? Will you spend your lives to obtain a seat in the kingdom of God, or will you lie down and sleep, and go down to hell? (DNW, 1 Oct. 1856, 3)

Strive to be righteous, not for any speculation, but because righteousness is lovely, pure, holy, beautiful, and exalting; it is designed to make the soul happy and full of joy, to the extent of the whole capacity of man, filling him with light, glory, and intelligence (DBY, 428).

Suggestions for Study

Many desire to find the truth, but not all embrace it.

  • According to President Young, what leads “the greater portion of the inhabitants of the earth” to do what is right and search for the truth?

  • Why do many people fail to live righteously even after receiving a witness of the truth? What has helped you most to live according to the testimony that you have developed?

Each of us is responsible to seek knowledge and a witness of the truth.

  • What should be the purposes of our educational pursuits? What can we do to overcome the love of worldly things?

  • How can we know God’s truths for ourselves? How does a testimony of Jesus Christ help us discern between truth and error?

The Holy Ghost grants us knowledge of the truth.

  • What is the only way we can know that the gospel is true, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we are engaged in the work of the Lord? What experiences have taught you that the Holy Ghost can and will influence your life if you allow Him to do so?

  • Why can worldly wisdom neither prove nor disprove the existence of God and the truth of the gospel? Though our physical senses may be deceived in the search for truth, what did President Young say “cannot be mistaken”?

  • Why was President Young able to bear such powerful testimony? How can we strengthen our testimonies? What can you do to become a more powerful witness of the truth of God?

Having received a witness of the truth, we should seek righteousness in the kingdom of God.

  • What promise does the Lord make to those who “seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness”?

  • How does knowing the things of God help us gain salvation? How can we “obtain a seat in the kingdom of God”?