I was first introduced to this scripture in seminary as we studied church history. I was impressed with the basic promise of the Lord to Joseph and Sidney that he would inspire them and back up what they said when they spoke. “That’s wonderful for them,” I thought at the time. I’m glad the Lord gave them this promise because it must be hard to always know the right thing to say.
A powerful mission president
One of the joys of my mission was being taught by a man whom I already greatly admired for his devotion to religious education. I had attended several Know Your Religion lectures presented by Joseph C. Muren in the year before I left for Central America. Halfway through my mission I was delighted to learn that he had been called to preside over the mission in which I was serving.
Zone conferences with President Muren were simply amazing. I don’t know how or why I was so blessed, but I will never forget the excitement I felt as President Muren taught us the principles of the lacing together effect. He helped us to understand how natural it is for new converts to want to share their newfound faith with beloved family members and friends close to them.
A unique interpretation of scripture
During one particularly spiritual Zone Conference, President Muren taught us the importance of being teaching and testifying missionaries. We weren’t having too much success getting the investigator to pray in the first discussion. He powerfully demonstrated how he would like us to conclude the first discussion by kneeling in prayer and inviting the family to join us as we did so.
He then shared section 100:5-8 and testified that the Lord would put words into our mouths to know what to say that would bless the family the most with what they needed at that exact time we were there. I remember thinking to myself at the time that this was going to be a leap of faith for me to go from something the Lord gave to Joseph to something I should use in my labors.
Applying the scripture in our work
So out we went to be a bit bolder in our teaching, testifying and challenging. I vividly remember the first time we went to our knees at the end of a first discussion. The family looked more than a little surprised but followed our lead. After explaining what we were about to do, I opened my mouth to pray. Something special and sacred happened at that moment that is hard to explain.
After thanking Heavenly Father for the blessing of being able to teach that particular family about Joseph Smith’s first vision, I began to bless the family. I found that I was not asking Heavenly Father to bless them, but that I was pronouncing blessings upon them that I knew they needed. I was astonished, as was my companion, but not nearly as much as that special family.
Powerful results of faith
At the conclusion of the prayer, I opened my eyes and witnessed a grown man sobbing as he was overcome with the spirit. His wife and three children, who were teen-agers, still on their knees, moved closer to him and we quietly watched as they shared a sacred family hug. Slowly, we stood and silently waited. When the man stood, he extended his hand and thanked us profusely.
“How did you know?” he asked. “What do you mean?” I replied. “How did you know to say those things you did? You blessed us that we would have family unity and good communication between us. You blessed us that our love for one another would be strong and that we would be able to overcome any financial difficulties that we might be experiencing at this time.”
The Lord stands by his promises
“I didn’t know,” I responded, “but your Heavenly Father did and he inspired me with what to say that you needed to hear.” We made an appointment to return in a few days and quietly excused ourselves as it was evident that the family had some things that they wanted to discuss among themselves at that time. The spirit was strong with all of us and we fairly floated out of there.
As my companion and I talked about this sacred experience I found myself saying, “You know, President Muren was right. The Lord sends His spirit to bear witness to whatever we feel inspired to say when we do it in the spirit of solemn meekness and love.” Now, not all of our discussions went like that but we sure had a lot more of them after that with similar results.
Service over the years
Fast forward seventeen years. By this time I had a family and had served in several teaching and priesthood leadership positions in the church. Our little inner-city ward was dwindling and I was juggling multiple callings because of lack of people to share the load. I was beginning to feel a little burned out when we were privileged to attend a multi-stake conference with Elder Holland.
This was 1994, just before the death of President Benson and before he was called as an apostle. I greatly admired the man, having read many of his BYU talks over the years. I was impressed that Elder Holland was concerned about the one, even though his assignments brought him into teaching environments where there were hundreds, if not thousands who gathered to hear him.
Taught by a General Authority
As we gathered in our conference priesthood leadership session, Elder Holland began to teach us the importance of speaking and teaching under the influence of the spirit when we are standing in front of a congregation or a class. He then quoted D&C 100:5-8 and promised us that as we exercised faith in teaching the gospel, we would know what to say at the moment it was needed.
Even though I had witnessed this scripture fulfilled in my mission, I had not been as successful in my teaching assignments over the years since then. I tended to over-prepare and always had more material than I could possibly present. As a result, I found myself rushing through the lesson in an effort to fit as much in as possible. I always felt exhausted after these experiences.
Pause while bearing testimony
Elder Holland then did something that I have rarely seen anyone do with such effect either before or since. He told us that it is important that we pause after we teach a principle of the gospel so that the spirit can work on the people. He then dramatically demonstrated this by slowly bearing his testimony and pausing to let the spirit sink it. It was profound. Silence can be so powerful!
This was an answer to prayer. I was going so fast when I taught that the spirit didn’t have time to settle in people’s hearts when I bore my testimony. I felt extremely grateful and wanted to get back to my ward to try this out. I didn’t have to wait that long because Elder Holland asked for a volunteer to demonstrate this principle in action. I soon found myself at the front of the chapel.
Practice is part of preparation
He asked my name and said, “Brother Malone, I want you to simply bear your testimony, but I want you to pause after each sentence as you look your brethren in the eye. Now, go ahead.” I turned and faced hundreds of priesthood leaders including Bishops, Stake presidents, Elder’s Quorum Presidents and lowly ward executive secretaries and quorum instructors like me.
Maybe it was because I had a man who was about to be called as an apostle standing next to me but something sacred and special happened on that occasion that has rarely happened quite so powerfully since. I did as Elder Holland taught and watched in amazement as men quietly began to wipe tears from their eyes as I bore witness to the truths of the restored gospel that I love.
Give the spirit a chance to work
When I was finished, Elder Holland invited me to sit down and then said very slowly and very quietly, “You see brethren, the Lord stands by his promises. When we teach and bear testimony in solemnity of heart and in the spirit of meekness, the Holy Ghost is shed forth in bearing record to whatsoever we say because it is what the Lord inspired us to say at that moment.”
It was another one of those sacred moments for me. I was immersed in the spirit while I was bearing testimony. The Lord was strengthening me and bearing witness to me at the same time that I was bearing my witness to others. I love that special and sacred experience and wish that it occurred more often in my life. It took an apostle to teach me how to bear testimony with power.
Summary and conclusion
President Packer has said, “A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.” Because this is such a powerful principle, it has been attacked by the adversary through enemies of the church, many of them former members who never quite got it. They like to call it lying for the Lord and claim that the bearing of testimonies to one another is simply a form of brainwashing in an evil cult.
President Packer is right. There is nothing that can equal the experience of testifying of the truths of the gospel while under the influence of the spirit of the Holy Ghost. D&C 100:5-8 can be one of the most difficult scriptures to internalize. It takes a great deal of faith to trust that the Lord will inspire us but I know from experience that he does send his spirit to bear record to our words.