Chapter 23: Receiving a Testimony of Jesus Christ

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, (2011), 201–209


It is necessary for us to have the testimony of Jesus Christ in our hearts and to do the things that He has commanded.

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

Throughout his ministry President Joseph F. Smith testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He taught that all the sons and daughters of God could receive this personal revelation, this gift of the Spirit.

“When I as a boy first started out in the ministry,” he explained, “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, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did he have to speak with the trump of an archangel. By the whisperings of the still small voice of the Spirit of the living God, he gave to me the testimony I possess. And by this principle and power he will give to all the children of men a knowledge of the truth that will stay with them, and it will make them to know the truth, as God knows it, and to do the will of the Father as Christ does it.”1

President Smith testified: “I have received the witness of the Spirit of God in my own heart, which exceeds all other evidences, for it bears record to me, to my very soul, of the existence of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I know that he lives, and that in the last day he shall stand upon the earth, that he shall come to the people who shall be prepared for him.”2

Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

A testimony of Jesus Christ comes as a glorious gift of God.

I consider that every principle of the Gospel which we have received is in itself a glorious gift of God unto the children of men. The gift of wisdom, the gift of understanding, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, the gift of healing, the gift of testimony, the gift of knowledge, all these are designed by the Almighty to come to us through our obedience to the principles of life and salvation.3

Men do not receive the gift of … a testimony of the Spirit of the Living God in their hearts, [unless] they seek for it. The principle is: Thou shalt knock and it shall be opened unto thee; thou shalt ask and receive; thou shalt seek if thou wilt find [see Matthew 7:7–8]; and if you want wisdom, ask for it, as Solomon did; if you want knowledge and the testimony of the spirit in your hearts, seek for it earnestly. Put yourself in a position whereby you will be worthy to receive it, then it will come to you as a gift of God, and His name should be praised for the same.4

[A testimony] comes to us … because we put ourselves in harmony with the principle of communication from God to man. We believe, we repent of and confess our sins, we do that which the Lord requires in order to gain a remission of our sins, and thus we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our minds become attuned to the Spirit of God, and to the method which God has instituted for revealing His mind to the children of men.

Now, it is a great thing for one to receive the witness in his heart of the divine mission of the Son of God and of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. … We feel in our souls the truth of the principles which were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and we feel it because we have, in some degree at least, put ourselves in a position to be in communication with the Spirit and hear the voice thereof when it speaks to us. The Spirit of God speaks to our spirits. The Lord does not communicate to us very often through our natural senses, but when He speaks He speaks to the immortal part; the spirit of man receives the communications the Lord sends to His children, and we must therefore be in harmony to receive them.5

We must obtain this light [of testimony] by revelation, we cannot do it by our own wisdom. God will give us knowledge and understanding, he will lead us in the path of truth if we put our whole trust in him and not in man.6

A gift from God, if neglected, or unworthily used, is in time withdrawn; the testimony of the truth will not remain with one who, having received, uses not the sacred gift in the cause of individual and general advancement.7

This unmistakable assurance, which is derived through yielding obedience to and practising the principles of eternal life, is continually being confirmed, as it were, by “line upon line and precept upon precept,” through the revelations of the Holy Spirit, which is a continuous and unfailing source of intelligence, of joy and happiness, drawing him who possesses it nearer unto God, and will eventually cause him to appear like unto his Maker.8

The Holy Ghost bears witness in our hearts that Jesus is the Christ.

Jesus … is our fore-runner, he is our exemplar. The path which he marked out we have got to walk in, if we ever expect to dwell, and be crowned with him in his kingdom. We must obey and put our trust in him, knowing that he is the Savior of the world.

It is not a difficult thing for me to believe this; I read the Bible in which I find narrations of many of his doings, sayings, precepts, and examples. And I do not believe that any upright, honest man or woman, possessing common intelligence, can read the gospels of the New Testament and the testimonies therein given of the Savior, without intuitively feeling that he was what he professed to be. For every upright, honest person is possessed, more or less, of the Holy Spirit, and this holy messenger in the hearts of men bears record of the word of God; and when all such read these inspired writings, with honesty of heart and meekness of spirit, divested of prejudices and the false conceptions arising from traditions and erroneous training, the Spirit of the Lord bears witness in unmistakable language that burns with conviction, therefore, I believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior, the only begotten of the Father; and this too through reading the Bible.

But do we depend upon the Bible for this conviction and knowledge? No, thank the Lord we do not. What else have we to impart this knowledge and confirm this testimony? We have the Book of Mormon, the “stick of Ephraim,” which has come to us by the gift and power of God, which also testifies of him, and which reveals an account of his mission to and dealings with the inhabitants of this continent, after his resurrection from the dead, when he came to this land to visit his “other sheep,” to unite them in the one fold, that they might also be his sheep and he their great shepherd. Besides the conviction that the Book itself carries with it, we have the collateral testimony of him who translated it, who sealed his testimony with his blood; also that of other witnesses, who testify to the whole world that they saw the plates and the engravings thereon, from which the Book was translated. …

Here, then, are two witnesses—the Bible and the Book of Mormon, both bearing record of the same truth, that Jesus was the Christ, that he died and lives again, having burst the bands of death and triumphed over the grave. This latter additional evidence the Latter-day Saints have of this fact, over and above that possessed by the Christian world who do not believe in the Book of Mormon.

But is this all? No. We have here another book, the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains revelations from God through the prophet Joseph Smith, who lived contemporary with ourselves. They are Christ’s words, declaring that he was the same that came to the Jews, that was lifted up on the cross, was laid in the tomb, burst the bands of death and came forth out of the grave. … Here, then, is another testimony of this divine truth; hence we have three witnesses. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, we are told, all things shall be established; and by the testimony of two or three witnesses shall we stand, or be condemned.

But would this satisfy me? It might, if I could obtain no further light or knowledge. But when greater light comes, and I have the privilege to make myself possessor of it, I could not remain satisfied with the lesser. We could never be satisfied nor happy hereafter, unless we receive a fulness of the light and blessings prepared for the righteous. …

It is given to us to know these things for ourselves. God has said he will show these things unto us; and for this purpose the Holy Ghost has been imparted to all who are entitled to it through submission, which bears record of the Father and the Son, and also takes of the things of God and shows them unto man. Convictions that we may previously have had respecting the truth the Holy Ghost confirms, giving us a positive assurance of their correctness, and through it we obtain a personal knowledge, not as one that has been told, but as one that has seen, felt, heard, and that knows for himself.

Then, in standing before you, my brethren and sisters, as a humble instrument in the hands of God, I testify, not by virtue of the knowledge I may have derived from books, but by the revelations of God to me, that Jesus is the Christ. I know that my Redeemer lives; I know that although the worms may destroy this body, that I shall in my flesh see God, and I shall behold him for myself and not for another. This light has come to me, and is in my heart and mind, and of it I testify, and through and by it I testify, and I know whereof I speak. …

Am I alone? No; there are tens of thousands to-day that can bear this testimony. They, too, know it for themselves; God has shown it to them, they have received the Holy Ghost, which has borne witness of these things in their hearts, and they likewise are not dependent upon books, nor upon the words of another, for they have received a knowledge from God themselves, and know as he knows and see as he sees in relation to these plain and precious things.9

A testimony of Jesus Christ inspires us to do the things He has commanded.

We speak of the Savior, of Jesus the Son of God, and we feel safe and solid in him, and that our feet have rested on the very foundation of eternal truth when the spirit of Christ is in our hearts.

I want to say to my brethren and sisters, that if there is a man in all the world who has received more deeply and more keenly in his soul the love of Christ than I have, I would love to see him, I would love to be associated with such a man. Christ is indeed the Savior of my soul, the Savior of mankind. He has sacrificed his life for us that we might be saved, he has broken the bands of death, and has bid defiance to the grave, and bids us follow him. He has come forth from death unto life again, he has declared himself to be the way of salvation, the light and the life of the world, and I believe it with all my heart. I not only believe it, but as I know that the sun shines, so I know that belief in him inspires to good and not to evil; and as I know that his spirit prompts to purity of life, to honor, to uprightness, to honesty and to righteousness, and not to evil, so I know by all the proofs that it is possible for me to grasp that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Savior of mankind.

Yet with all this, with this assurance in my heart, with this knowledge that I have received, if I stop here, what good will it do me? Of what good will this knowledge be to me? What will this knowledge alone avail? It will avail this, that having received that testimony in my heart, having received in my soul the witness of the spirit of the living God, that Jesus is the Christ, and I stop there and go not any further, that very witness in my soul will add to my eternal damnation. Why? Because it is not only our duty to know that Jesus is the Christ but to keep the influence of his spirit in our souls. It is not only necessary to have his testimony in our hearts, but it is necessary that we should do the things that he has commanded, and the works of righteousness that he did, in order that we may attain to the exaltation that is in store for his children who do as well as believe; and those who stop short of this will most assuredly fail. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” [Matthew 7:21.]

The Savior said: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” [Matthew 7:22–23.] And why? Because you profess to love me, with your lips, you professed to receive me, with your mouths, or with your words, but you did not the things that I commanded you to do; you did not repent of your sins, you did not love God with all your heart, mind and strength, you failed to love your neighbor as yourself, you failed to be baptized by one having authority to baptize for the remission of sins; you failed to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; you failed to identify yourselves with my people; you did not come into my fold; you are not numbered with my chosen ones, and I do not know you, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” To know to do good and not do it is sin. (James 4:17). This will be the case with those who simply believe. Believing, why don’t you do the things that he requires? …

… It will not do for you to assume that you are Latter-day Saints while in your practices, in your course of life, in your deeds or acts, you are imitating … the unbeliever in God and in the divine mission of Jesus Christ. It will not do. The devil will take advantage of you, he will mislead you, and destroy you if you do not repent of deeds or acts that are not in harmony, or are inconsistent, with the gospel that you have received.10

Our whole heart and soul should go out in love for the Savior.

A pure testimony is a tower of strength through all time.11

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, and would be pleased to have the privilege of saying it before the whole world, that God has revealed unto me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world.12

I have absolute confidence in [Jesus Christ]. My whole heart and soul goes out with love for him. My hopes are built upon His glorious character and His word. He was without sin; He was spotless, and possessed power unto life eternal; He opened the way from the grave to everlasting life for me and all the children of men. My confidence in Him is boundless. My love for Him surpasses all else on earth, when I possess the Spirit of the Gospel as I should, and He to me is first and foremost. He is the greatest of all that has ever sojourned in this world of ours, and He came to be our beacon light, our guide and exemplar, and it is our business to follow Him.13

Suggestions for Study

  • What is a testimony? How do we receive a testimony of Jesus Christ? What part does “obedience to the principles of life and salvation” play in the development of a testimony?

  • How has your testimony grown “line upon line and precept upon precept”? What blessings come to those who receive the continual revelations of the Holy Spirit?

  • Under what conditions might the gift of testimony be withdrawn? How can we nurture our testimonies? What consequences follow the failure to nurture our testimonies?

  • How can we show gratitude for the gift of testimony?

  • How does studying the scriptures help us gain a testimony of Jesus Christ? In what spirit should we approach the scriptures in order for our testimonies to grow?

  • How can we gain a personal knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, “not as one that has been told, but as one that … knows for himself”?

  • How does a testimony received through the Holy Ghost exceed all other evidences? When you have been blessed with a witness from the Holy Ghost, how have you felt?

  • Why is it necessary to do the things that the Savior has commanded as well as believe in Him? How has your testimony been strengthened by works of righteousness? How can we “keep the influence of [the Savior’s] spirit in our souls”?

  • How has President Smith’s powerful witness of the Savior touched your heart? How have the testimonies of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles blessed you? As we bear our own testimonies, why should we center our thoughts on Jesus Christ?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 7.

  2.   2.

    Gospel Doctrine, 506–7.

  3.   3.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 14 May 1895, 1.

  4.   4.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1903, 4.

  5.   5.

    “Discourse by President Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star, 6 Sept. 1906, 561–62.

  6.   6.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 29 Jan. 1878, 1.

  7.   7.

    Gospel Doctrine, 206.

  8.   8.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 28 Nov. 1876, 1.

  9.   9.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 30 Apr. 1878, 1; paragraphing added.

  10.   10.

    “Testimony,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1906, 806–8; paragraphing added.

  11.   11.

    In Brian H. Stuy, comp, Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 2:356.

  12.   12.

    Gospel Doctrine, 501.

  13.   13.

    In Collected Discourses, 5:55–56.