To a Latter-day Saint a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel is the most precious possession he can have. It cannot be purchased. No one can give it to him. It can only be secured by prayer, by study, by repentance, by righteous living, by listening to others bear their testimonies, and through the manifestation of the Spirit.
If we have a testimony of the gospel, we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and our Redeemer. We know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. We know that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is indeed a second witness for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel is the motivating force that helps us live the commandments and carry out our responsibilities.
I frequently have the privilege of associating with the members of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and with the other General Authorities. I hear them bear their testimonies of these great truths. They have had a strong influence in my life and in the lives of the members of my family. During the years I was a stake president in California, nearly all of the General Authorities visited our stake. They stayed with us in our home. They ate with us. They prayed with us. I have continually been strengthened to see their devotion, to feel of their spirit. It is inspiring to hear them bear testimony that God lives, that we are His children, created in His own image, and that if we keep His commandments and are valiant in His cause, we can obtain salvation, exaltation, and eternal life, which are the greatest of all the gifts of God.
You may ask, “How did these men get their testimonies?” Like all of us, they developed their testimonies through study, through prayer, through sacrifice, through keeping the commandments, and through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Admittedly, it is easier to talk about a testimony than to obtain one. The Lord intended that we should work hard to obtain a testimony for that will make our testimonies stronger and they will be more apt to remain with us. Always remember that no good thing comes without effort and sacrifice. When we are required to work for these blessings, we gain knowledge, we develop our skills and our characters, and we learn to overcome evil—all of which are significant parts of our purpose in life.
To any of you who do not have a testimony or who would like to strengthen your testimony, I would recommend a few things that you can do to develop or strengthen a testimony.
1. Study the scriptures and other books written by Church leaders.
2. Keep the commandments, which includes being honest and upright, paying a full tithe, and being morally clean.
3. Attend sacrament meeting and other Church meetings in which you can listen to the testimonies of faithful members of the Church.
4. Associate with good people.
5. Stay out of the devil’s territory by shunning anything that does not lead toward Christ.
6. Repent of all sins and imperfections. Repentance includes both confession and forsaking of such sins.
7. Pray to the Lord.
To obtain and retain a testimony of the gospel, a person must live the gospel; and to live it, he must know it; and to know it, he must study it. We cannot have a testimony of a subject about which we do not have some understanding or knowledge. When we have prepared ourselves, the Holy Ghost, who is also known as the Spirit of Truth, will manifest the truth of all things to us.
As we seek to develop and strengthen these testimonies, we must always rely on the Lord and place our highest priority on spiritual values:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.)
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5–6.)
We must not forget, however, that a testimony does not, in and of itself, guarantee that we will inherit the celestial kingdom. We might know the gospel is true, but unless we live righteous lives and work to build the kingdom here on earth, we will not gain the blessings we seek. In the epistle of James this principle is clearly taught:
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18, 20.)
President Kimball has said that the price we pay for happiness is keeping the commandments. The greatest blessings of this life, together with eternal salvation and exaltation, are available to us only when we keep the commandments the Lord has given us. Remember, the Lord has told us, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10.) And remember also the great promise recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants 14:7 [D&C 14:7]: “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
Once we have developed and obtained a testimony, we can never cease working to strengthen it. We would all do well to remember the statement of President Harold B. Lee concerning a testimony: “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.” (Church News, July 15, 1972, p. 4.) When a testimony is not growing, it is in danger of becoming weaker.
I would like to bear my testimony: I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fulness, that President Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God, that he receives revelation from God that makes it possible for him to guide our efforts in establishing the kingdom throughout the world.