If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, here are some answers.
Do I have to share a story or experience when I bear my testimony?
People often share stories or personal experiences when they bear their testimonies, and these can be a great way of describing how a testimony grew. But a story is not a testimony. A short, relevant story can help you illustrate a point, but make sure to include how that story enlarged your testimony and what gospel truths you learned from that experience. A testimony is what you know about the gospel, not about where you’ve been or what you’ve done.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “A testimony is what we know to be true in our minds and in our hearts by the witness of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2). As we profess truth rather than admonish, exhort, or simply share interesting experiences, we invite the Holy Ghost to confirm the verity of our words.”1
Also, be careful about the experiences you share. Some are deeply personal to yourself or others, including stories about sin, repentance, and sacred spiritual experiences. Stories like these should not be shared in a public setting unless you feel prompted to. When you do feel prompted, keep them general, focusing on what you learned from the experience rather than the specific details of what happened.
Do I have to express thanks or love in my testimony?
While it is not inappropriate to express love or appreciation when you bear your testimony, these expressions are not considered a testimony. Testimonies focus on what you have learned spiritually about the gospel. Expressions of love or gratitude should not replace a testimony.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “[I] worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on ‘I am thankful’ and ‘I love,’ and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, ‘I know.’”2
Do I have to cry or show emotion to have a real testimony?
Many people cry or show emotion when they bear testimony or feel the Spirit strongly, but not everyone has the same emotional reaction when he or she feels the Spirit. You do not have to express emotion the same way as others when you bear testimony.
President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) said: “I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.”3
If I’m not sure I have a testimony, do I still try to share it?
It’s easy to feel like your testimony isn’t strong enough or worth sharing, but as you share your testimony, you will find how much of a testimony you really have! Do not be afraid to bear your testimony. You will find that the more you share your testimony, the more it grows.
President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:
“It is not unusual to have a missionary say, ‘How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’
“Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!
“Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.”4
- David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 19.
- M. Russell Ballard, “Pure Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 41.
- Howard W. Hunter, in Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 99.
- Boyd K. Packer, “The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge,” New Era, Jan. 2007, 6.