Pure Testimony


Joseph B. Wirthlin
Adapted from an October 2000 general conference address.
Do you wish to know—really know—the truth? Then follow Moroni’s counsel.

One evening in April 1836 Elder Parley P. Pratt had retired early with pressing worries and a heavy heart. He didn’t know how he was going to meet his financial obligations. His wife had been seriously ill, and his aged mother had come to live with him. A year earlier the house he had been building had gone up in flames.

While he was deep in thought, a knock came at the door. Elder Heber C. Kimball entered and, filled with the spirit of prophecy, told Elder Pratt that he should travel to Toronto, Canada, where he would “find a people prepared for the fulness of the gospel” and that “many [would] be brought to the knowledge of the truth” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 130–31).

Despite his worries, Elder Pratt departed. When he arrived in Toronto, at first no one seemed interested in hearing what he had to say. Among those he met was John Taylor, who had been a Methodist preacher. John received Elder Pratt courteously but coolly. John Taylor had heard distorted rumors about a new sect, their “golden bible,” and stories of angels appearing to an “unlearned youth, reared in the backwoods of New York” (B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, 34).

A wise man, John Taylor had been seeking the truth all his life. He listened to what Elder Pratt had to say. Among other things, the stranger from America promised that anyone who investigated the gospel could know for himself, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, that it was true.

At one point John Taylor asked, “What do you mean by this Holy Ghost? … [Will it give] a certain knowledge of the principles that you believe in?”

The Apostle replied, “Yes, … and if it will not, then I am an impostor” (Deseret News, Semi-Weekly, Apr. 18, 1882).

Hearing this, John Taylor took up the challenge, saying, “If I find his religion true, I shall accept it, no matter what the consequences may be; and if false, then I shall expose it” (The Life of John Taylor, 38).

Not only did he accept the challenge, but he “received that Spirit through obedience to the Gospel” (Deseret News, Semi-Weekly, Apr. 18, 1882). Soon he knew for himself what millions of others have since known, that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. Eventually, this man who had devoted his entire life to seeking the truth became the third President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How do you get a testimony?

Over time, much in the world has changed. One thing, however, remains the same: the promise Elder Parley P. Pratt made to John Taylor 165 years ago is just as valid today as it was then—the Holy Ghost will confirm the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. A loving Heavenly Father would not abandon His children without providing a way for them to learn of Him.

A testimony of your own

How does one acquire a personal testimony?

Study the words of Moroni. He had little time and space on his plates to write a few final words. Since his own people were destroyed, Moroni wrote for our day. To us, he inscribed his precious words of farewell—his final words of counsel:

“Behold, I would exhort you,” he wrote, “that when ye shall read these things … ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men … ponder it in your hearts.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moro. 10:3–4).

Do you want to know the truth of the holy scriptures? Do you wish to know—really know—the truth? Then follow Moroni’s counsel and you will surely find what you seek.

Be sincere. Study. Ponder. Pray sincerely, having faith.

A testimony of the truth of the gospel does not come the same way to all people. Some receive it in a unique, life-changing experience. Others gain a testimony slowly, almost imperceptibly until, one day, they simply know.

Don’t be discouraged

President David O. McKay tells how, in his youth, he knelt and “prayed fervently and sincerely and with as much faith as a young boy could muster” that “God would declare to [him] the truth of his revelation to Joseph Smith.”

President McKay related that when he arose from his knees, he had to admit that “no spiritual manifestation has come to me. If I am true to myself, I must say that I am just the same [boy] that I was before I prayed.”

I don’t know how young David felt in his heart at that time, but I’m sure he must have been disappointed—perhaps frustrated that he didn’t receive the spiritual experience that he had hoped for. But that didn’t discourage him from continuing his search for that knowledge.

The answer to his prayers did come, but not until years later, when he was serving as a missionary. Why was the answer to his prayer so long delayed? President McKay believed that this spiritual manifestation “came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty” (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Claire Middlemiss, 16).

The Savior taught a similar principle. When the truth of His message was challenged, He declared, “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Don’t you be discouraged if the answer to your prayer does not come immediately. Study, ponder, pray, sincerely having faith, and live the commandments.

“Dispute not because ye see not,” Moroni taught, “for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

Take a leap of faith

President Boyd K. Packer said: “A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it. Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith.’ It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and step into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two” (That All May Be Edified, 340).

Making a determined and confident public statement of your belief is such a step into the unknown. Bearing testimony drives your faith deeper into your soul.

Now, I would like to bear my testimony—I know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, that the heavens opened and God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to an unlearned youth reared in the backwoods of New York.

As a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world, I promise you that if you seek the Lord, you will find Him. Ask, and you shall receive. I pray that you may do so and testify to the ends of the earth that the gospel of our Lord and Savior is restored to man!

The Scriptures Help

I have always known that the Church is good and right, but there came a time when I wanted to know for myself that it’s true. I really wanted a testimony. One night I was reading in Alma 32. In verse 27, it says to “exercise a particle of faith,” and that “even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe.” It helps me to know that if I keep praying and searching the scriptures faithfully, my testimony will grow. I can now say with all my heart that I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true!

Kate Webster, 16 Kaysville, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann

[photos] Photography by John Luke. Posed by models