03483_000_007Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.
I don’t have a testimony, but sometimes I feel real pressure to say that I do just to fit in. Sometimes I “bear” my testimony just because it’s the thing to do. Is there any room in the Church for somebody who doesn’t know for sure? How can I gain a testimony and be sure of it?
New Era Answer:
Yes, absolutely there is a place for you in the Church. You must be fair to yourself and give yourself the opportunity to learn. By attending church you place yourself in a position to be taught.
It’s hard to know where to start when you don’t feel you have a testimony. But there is an answer—there is a place to start. You start by wanting to find out and by living the gospel principles as you are taught them. It is vital for you to take responsibility.
People long ago on the American continent were also wondering about how to gain a testimony. The prophet Alma gave them this advice: “If ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27).
Alma told them to try an experiment—try living the Lord’s words. You are doing the first part, wanting to gain a testimony, but you have to include the second part of the experiment, living by the gospel.
In verse 28 Alma goes on to compare gaining a testimony to planting a seed. [Alma 32:28] If you plant it and care for it (that means listening to the word of God, reading the scriptures, and learning more about how he wants us to live), and don’t dig it up and throw it out through unbelief when it begins to grow, then it will begin “to be delicious” to you. In other words, you’ll have the beginnings of a testimony.
You do not have to feel pressure to say more than what is true while bearing your testimony. You don’t have to bear your testimony exactly like you hear others do it. Just talk about what you have learned. You can say you desire to know the truth and you are striving to live the gospel. And you don’t need to avoid bearing your testimony. Often it is while talking about what is closest to our hearts that we find out we have come to believe and our faith has increased.
As long as you love the Lord and follow his commandments, I think you will be able to gain a testimony. Don’t feel pressured into bearing your testimony. Remember that it doesn’t matter what others think; it matters what the Lord thinks. I have doubts many times, but I turn to my Heavenly Father in prayer to confirm the truth. You can gain a testimony and be sure of it by praying, fasting, pondering, and studying.
Didi Gilchrist, 15 Highland, Indiana
I don’t think you should feel that you have to bear your testimony. At some point in their lives, many young people are going to have serious doubts and not know if what they’ve always been taught is true. It just takes some time to sort out your own feelings and accept what you know and feel is true.
If you honestly want to gain a testimony, kneel down and talk to your Father in Heaven. He really cares. Also, reading and studying the scriptures can help you find your answers.
Ruth Evans, 16 Bridgeland, Utah
By wanting to gain a testimony you have taken the first step toward getting one. However, there is not a one-two-three recipe which if followed will quickly produce a testimony. A testimony comes after much prayer and fasting and even trails. By having your faith tested through trial and opposition, your testimony will grow and develop.
I know that you have a Father in Heaven who loves you and is concerned for you and who is also very proud of your desire to know the truth. I will never forget when I finally knew of the truthfulness of the gospel. I have never been the same since.
Don’t feel pressured to say things you don’t feel in your heart.
I would encourage you to do three things:
My testimony is a very sacred and precious thing to me. Nothing of this earth gave me that testimony, and nothing of this earth can take it away.
Richard Brunson, 18 Taylorsville, Utah
There comes a time in all of our lives when we question the existence of our testimony. For me it came when I discovered that though within my mind I knew the Church to be true, within my heart there had been no such witness, or so I supposed.
I wanted my own special witness. I prayed and fasted, fasted and prayed. Finally one day, as I sat in sacrament meeting, my heart began to tremble and my eyes began to water. This is something that often happens to me in testimony and sacrament meetings. I realized then that this was my witness that the gospel is true. I knew that I had always known the Church to be true.
Do not be ashamed to admit you do not know the Church is true. We all must be converted to the gospel spiritually, no matter how many generations our families have been in the Church.
Tony S. Rolls Westmead, Australia
Yes! There is room for people in the Church who don’t have a sure testimony of it. I know myself because I am a convert to the Church. I was baptized two years ago, and when I was baptized I did not have a sure testimony. But something felt good inside of me and I held on to it. Over time my testimony began to grow. Hold strong to the parts of the gospel that you do feel right about. I promise that through prayer, scripture study, and strong goals, you will begin to understand what you are being taught. It will become a part of you, you will start to live what you believe, and before you know it, you will have a real strong testimony to bear. Please don’t give up.
Christie Bone, 17 Taylorsville, Utah
I know how you feel. I used to feel the same way. I think that the only way to gain a good testimony is to commit yourself to the Church. That means not just praying and fasting, but really helping. I mean things like going out with the missionaries, involving yourself in Church activities, etc. Don’t worry; your testimony will come when you’re ready for it.
Carrie Hinkle, 12 Buckhannon, West Virginia
I am a missionary, and I didn’t gain my own testimony until I was four months in the field. I know what you are going through, and it isn’t easy. I wish, however, that I, like you, had had enough courage to ask someone. I would have been better prepared for my mission.
It’s not wrong to feel the way you do. Asking the question shows that you are willing to do what it takes to gain a testimony.
I like to liken a testimony to a seed. Most of us who were raised in the Church begin by relying on the testimonies of our parents, which is really not bad. We figure that since they know what they are talking about, then it must be true. So here the seed is planted.
How do you help a seed to grow? By nourishing it with the proper food. So it is with a testimony. If you want a testimony of the Church, then go to the keystone of our religion, the Book of Mormon. Read it. I don’t mean for you to sit down and in one big swoop read the whole thing. Try this method instead. It worked for me and many of my investigators.
Pick a topic—say faith, for example.
Look in the Topical Guide under faith. Write down all the verses listed.
Look up each verse. Read the chapter in which that verse is located. This will give you a better idea of what’s going on.
Once you finish this, go back and just read the verse, but this time apply it to you.
Now do what Moroni said to do in Moroni 10:3–5. Pray about it. I promise you that Heavenly Father will answer you through the Spirit.
I wish I had done this before my mission. All I did was read straight through, and I didn’t gain much from it. Then when I came on my mission I relied on my companions’ testimonies, which didn’t do me any good, so I decided I’d better get my own.
I nourished the seed that was planted inside my heart, and I continue to nourish it by reading, studying, pondering, and praying about it so that I might have a better understanding of what is being said. Just like a seed, if a testimony is not nourished it will die. As you nourish the seed it will swell within you. Let it happen. Then you can honestly say you are bearing your own testimony. I hope this works for you.
Elder John Hodge, 21 England London South Mission
I went through a time when I began to wonder if the Church was really the only true church on the earth. My friends all seemed to believe that their churches were true, and they are good people with high standards.
I set a goal to gain a testimony. I knew it would take time. I prayed, studied the scriptures, and made sure I attended all my Church meetings and activities. I really listened and asked questions, and I thought about all my parents had taught me. After I truly understood the gospel, I began to learn more about my friends’ churches. As I talked with my friends, I realized how fulfilling the gospel is in my life. As I shared with them my beliefs, I realized that I did know that the Church is true. A feeling came over me that was so great.
Don’t ever give up. A desire to gain a testimony is a sign that you are building one already. “And they did pray for that which they most desired … that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Ne. 19:9).
Kerianna Copeland, 14 Franklin, Pennsylvania
Yes, there is room for you in the Church. I’m sure there are lots of people in the Church who don’t have very strong testimonies (some inactive members for instance). These people are encouraged to attend church.
Study the scriptures daily. Then pray about them. Ask the Lord (believing that you will get an answer) if the scriptures are true. If you do this, the Holy Ghost will help you know that it’s true.
Jared Nelson, 15 Rio Linda, California
I don’t think you should testify about something you aren’t sure about. On the other hand, I am sure there are some things you do know for sure. Even if they are small and simple, testify about those things.
If you really have the desire to gain a testimony you can! You have that right. Also, there is the possibility that you really do have a testimony. The fact that no great revelation has come to you doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know the gospel is true.
Ruth Richardson, 17 Taylorsville, Utah
For years I felt that I didn’t have a testimony. But a dear bishop pointed out to me that perhaps I didn’t know the Church was true, but I felt good at church and I knew I was doing the right thing when I was there. I came to realize that a testimony isn’t always a burning in your bosom. It can be a quiet, peaceful feeling that dwells within you when you know you’re doing the right thing. If you feel good about the Church, you probably have the seeds of a testimony already within you.
Miya Waycott Arvada, Colorado