A different kind of knowledge

I could have sworn that I already wrote this essay but realized after some digging that the main points were developed as part of a long dialog with my Evangelical friend in the comments section of several of my early articles.  I also thought about entitling this, “Why we say ‘I know’ and not ‘I believe’,” but I’m not sure that it fully describes what I want to cover in this post.

The main thesis for my essay can be taken from a story about tasting salt and this statement from Boyd K. Packer: “My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like.”  You would have to read “The Candle of the Lord” again to get the background if you don’t recall it.

The bearing of testimonies

A huge bone of contention and point of offense with some within the church is the fact that we get up each Fast Sunday and say to each other, “I know the church is true.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today” and various other statements that start with the phrase “I know…”

They especially cite the practice of little children at the podium with a parent or sibling standing behind the child whispering the above phrases in their ear for the child to repeat out loud.  If you have been to an LDS Sacrament service on the first Sunday of the month you know what I am talking about.  Having grown up in the church this little ritual does not seem at all strange to me.

Direction from the Brethren

However, apparently enough people thought it wrong that the Brethren issued a letter to be read in all wards advising that little children practice their testimonies at home or in Primary classes instead of at the pulpit in fast and testimony meeting.  Even though this was issued more then five years ago, the practice continues and so it bears re-reading by bishoprics on a regular basis.

To quote: “It may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies in settings such as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so unassisted in a fast and testimony meeting.”  Yes, little children can and do feel the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to their souls of the truth but learning to express it may take some time.

Brainwashing or groupthink

But it’s not just the children’s testimoniesthat bother some within the church.  It is the idea of saying, “I know” that such and such a thing is true when logically, they cannot possibly know of the veracity of historical events because they weren’t there.  To these people, a thanktimony or a travelogue is preferable to hear rather than to have someone say that “they know” something.

Let’s investigate that.  The claim is brainwashing or group thinking without any real thought as to what is actually being said.  Is there any validity to this claim?  Of course there is.  You and I have both seen people get up to the pulpit and just repeat what they have heard other people say without sensing any depth of meaning behind what they are saying.  What do they really know?

Discovering a testimony

And yet, consider that President Packer taught us that “a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.”  Isn’t it possible that when our children and youth get up there and say what comes into their hearts that they are entitled to receive revelation that what they are saying is good and true?  It is my personal experience, shared in a previous essay that knowledge can be obtained like this.

Growing up in the church, we are taught in Primary and Sunday school all the basics we need to know to form a foundational testimony of the goodness and truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am a product of this system of indoctrination and training.  I can tell you from my own experience that it works, or at least that it worked for me to a certain point in my young life.

A testimony must grow

I believe that most people who grow up in the church come to a point in their lives where they must advance beyond the basic testimony of their youth.  I also believe that the many natural circumstances of life will require us to make decisions about our testimonies that can be hard and perhaps even painful.  In my opinion, it is the same process through which a convert must pass.

In other words, the testimony of the youth obtained from repeating what was heard from others, is going to be tested and tried.  Was that childish testimony invalid?  No, a testimony obtained as a child is sweet and innocent and pure.  It is valid and real but does not have the depth to sustain us as we move through our lives into a world that challenges such innocent testimonies as naïve.

The influence of leaders

Unfortunately, it is about this point that some of our young people in the church struggle with the transition to the kind of testimony that can weather the storm of adversity and opposition.  That’s where a good seminary or institute teacher can make a real difference in the lives of our youth.  For me, it was a scout advisor and counselor in a bishopric who helped me make that transition.

I knew that Jim Mortensen cared about me because of his sacrifice of time in going with us on scout trips and other activities.  Although I had heard him share his testimony before, I took an occasion to ask him point blank in a private setting to tell me how he knew the church was true.  I know I surprised him, but I will never forget the depth of his sincerity or the spirit that I felt.

A powerful example

Even though Jim came to church alone because his wife didn’t feel comfortable there, he was always cheerful and friendly.  I knew that his testimony gave him strength but wanted to know how he knew that it was true.  He answered by asking if he could bear his testimony first.  “Of course”, I said and he did.  I was not prepared for the power of what I felt as he spoke slowly.

When he finished we both had tears in our eyes.  “You see, Tim,” he said, “every time I bear my testimony it is strengthened.  Every time I tell someone else that I know it is true, I feel it deep in my heart.  It is not simply an emotional response, but a deep conviction.  Now do you understand how I know?”  I did understand and made it my goal to follow his example throughout my life.

Strengthened by sharing

As I have served in the church over the years as a missionary and as a leader in wards and stakes I have always cherished the opportunities to teach the gospeland to share my testimony.  My friend Jim Mortensen instilled in me a desire to do so because I knew that as I bore my testimony to others that it would be strengthened and I would be blessed.  I am so grateful for his example.

I hope this story from my youth illustrates a concept that is hard for many people to understand.  Here is the idea: There are more ways to receive knowledge than exclusively through the five senses of the human body.  We can receive knowledge directly from God, through the spirit of the Lord speaking directly to our spirit.  This kind of knowledge is real and very powerful.

Revelation is the source

A valid testimony will always claim revelation as its source.  The things of God are known by revelation and in no other way.  It is one thing to be able to say, “I believe, I think, I hope that the gospel is true,” but it requires personal revelation from the spirit of the Lord to declare, “I know that the Church is true.”  There is simply no other way.  We must experience revelation.

We can say that we know the church is true by the power of the Holy Ghost and in no other way. It is not through reason, logic, or the philosophies of men or the theories of the world, although these can help to explain it after the receipt.  A testimony of the gospel is received when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within us.  It comes with calm, unwavering certainty into our hearts.

Summary and conclusion

We should have the courage to say “I know.” Some may think this is a trite expression, but “I know” remains a powerful and moving phrase when spoken with sincere conviction. We should say “I believe” if, in fact, we only believe and do not yet know for sure.  We should strive for the day when we can say that we know, having received that knowledge from the spirit of the Lord.

Telling stories, expressing gratitude, admitting that we have testimonies, or saying that we only believe are not the same as saying that we know.  We can know for ourselves and we should know, but that knowledge comes only on the Lord’s terms.  It is received by revelation and not by reasoning or logic.  Once received, we can then say, “I know,” with conviction and mean it.

For more information:

1. Testimony, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign May 2008
2. Topical guide reference to Testimony with scriptures
3. I had questions, Elder John U. Teh of the Seventy
4. Testimony as a process, Elder Carlos A. Godoy
5. Testimony, in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism

15 thoughts on “A different kind of knowledge”

  1. Closet Doubter

    So, for everybody that says “I Know”, they do not have faith in that thing. Or have we forgotten Alma 32: 21 “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
    I hope there is a God, but I don’t know, I don’t have a perfect knowledge like you do.
    Closet Doubter

  2. I hate the “thanktimony” or travelogue, because in my area, people will get up, blubber their way through rambling stories (if you’re lucky, it’s less than five minutes) that have no reference to anything spiritual, then if you’re really lucky, MAYBE you’ll hear a sentence or two referencing the Gospel, but it’s obviously a tacked-on pro forma afterthought.

    I can count the number of testimonies that actually carry anything of the Spirit I’ve heard in fifteen years as a Church member and stay in double digits. The rest fit the description above. Frankly, I’d rather hear a little kid being coached. That’s cute, IMO, and at least they keep it short and Gospel-oriented.

    F&T meeting is about the LEAST inspirational meeting of the month for me.

  3. I’ve always been very shy about sharing my testimony publicly. However, I’ve come to realize in recent years that there are times that testimony meeting does become “thanktimony” or a “travelogue” (see Seanette above). At that time, maybe some of us have a RESPONSIBILITY to bear our testimonies and get the meeting back on track. It only takes one person’s sincere testimony to bring the Spirit back into the meeting. Now that I am in a leadership position in the ward, I feel that responsibility even more.

    I also believe that the Bishop needs to make sure that testimony meeting stays on track. I have seen Bishops and a Stake President walk to the podium and whisper in someone’s ear. I’ve seen it during testimony meeting, and I’ve also seen it happen when someone’s talk became something other than what it should be for Sacrament Meeting.

  4. A coworker and orthodox Jew once called me on the table for this. He said, you believe, see it is just a belief. I tried to correct myself, but then it really came across as trite.

    I was using believe in the general sense of what the LDS believed. But he felt that was weak. So, I am very careful to use “know” when I talk to him about things that pertain to my testimony.

  5. Hello again Closet Doubter,

    I think I’m going to really enjoy conversations with you. I hope you’ll keep coming back. I appreciate your viewpoint on things. You bring up some very interesting ways of looking at life in ways that I have not always considered. Alma 32:21 on faith is a great scripture to consider in light of how we bear testimony.

    The kind of knowledge we’re talking about here is not a perfect knowledge. To me, a perfect knowledge is a complete knowledge, referring to the passage of time, as in completed. In my opinion, we cannot have a perfect knowledge of things until we complete our mortal probation. We mere mortals must walk by faith.

    So no, a testimony is not a perfect knowledge, at least not for me. I suppose there are some who do have that kind of perfect knowledge. Perhaps the example of Elder Haight you referred to previously is a perfect knowledge. He said he knew the Savior, meaning that he had seen him in vision or in a revelation, correct?

    Therefore, yes, we can say that we have faith in something and also say that we know that it is a true principle. For example, I know that one of the purposes of life is to walk by faith. I’ve been taught that and I believe it and exercise my faith according to my belief. The spirit has revealed to me that faith is a true principle.

    And that’s the point I always come back to whenever I have this conversation with visitors to my blog. I hope there is a God, but I can say that I know there is a God. Not because I have seen him, but because the Holy Ghost has borne witness to my soul in prayer that God lives, that he is my Heavenly Father and that he loves me.

    The Gift of the Holy Ghost is an amazing and powerful way for us to say that we know, because we are actually relying on his perfect knowledge. I do not have a perfect knowledge but he does. He dwells within me, therefore he is a part of me and I am a part of him. Don’t ask me to explain that logically – it’s metaphysical.

    Conclusion: I know something is true because God has revealed it to me through the Holy Ghost. It is not a perfect knowledge until I have either completed my life’s mission, or the Holy Ghost reveals that thing to me in open vision. I doubt that it will ever be the kind of knowledge associated with the five physical senses.

  6. It is said in the artistic community that one must have suffered greatly to create great art. Individual forfeiture is at the heart of true greatness. The most worthwhile things are attained or accomplished only by considerable personal sacrifice.

    This is universally incontrovertible in life. It is the very reason we opted to come to this torturous world, for this invaluable, albeit painful experience that teaches us eternal truths that can be learned in no other way, except my personal experience.

    This is true where testimonies are concerned as well. We must have offered profound personal sacrifice in order to acquire a powerful and moving testimony.

    That which comes easily has the least value.

    That said, one must ask: How much experience can a child have had? How much suffering can he or she have endured for the sake of truth or right? How much opportunity can they have had to mature in life sufficient to have the deep and abiding witness that can only come with experience?

    True enough, a child’s testimony can seem innocently sweet. Yet that same innocence betrays a shallow experiential reservoir. Whereas, those of us who have suffered for the sake of our beliefs, those among us who have determinedly tested the tenets of our religion, can easily recognize that same quality in the experiences of others. Our souls resonate to them because we have likewise suffered. We identify with their sacrifice and we empathize with it.

    None of this can come from a child’s testimony. Such can only suggest the potential for what may someday come to pass in that child’s life.

    It is in the bearing of one’s testimony that we discover the depth of our sacrifice. When the words “I know …” do not come easily and stick in the throat that we discover what we truly are. It is in that moment that we take the measure of our own sacrifice and that our souls become transparent to those around us who are made of similar stuff. That’s a testimony. And it’s something that a child could never convey.

    So, I believe that this is the source of the directive from the Brethren. I’m certain that they are hopeful that such a policy with result in the telling of more true testimonies.

  7. I once wrote a letter to the editor in Provo, and in it I made the point that some Mormons are very good at their religion, and the rest of us are trying. Some of us have real testimonies. Some of us are trying to develop our own. When a person gets up and says a “thanktimony” or a travelogue, it is obvious that is the best they can do. They are trying to develop a testimony. While it may mean nothing to us, we can’t discount what it may be doing for them. What we can do is bear our own solemn testimony to try to strenthen them. We can set the example for them. I have to admit that I hear some testimonies that don’t really sound like testimonies, but the bulk of the testimonies I hear are. It’s hard for me to imagine only hearing a few in a 15 year time. I think the key is to strive to have the spirit with us so that we can feel why they were prompted to get up and bear their’s.

  8. Tim, I like this topic. I’m one of the people who complain about other people saying they “know” something to be true. I suppose I believe it’s possible to know something is true; I just doubt most of the people bearing their testimonies actually know anything to be true. I would actually be much more moved by someone’s honesty in saying something like, “this happened to me after I prayed God would help me with it…I BELIEVE God helped me, but I don’t know it for a fact.” Simple honesty like that would bring me to tears. Why isn’t that a testimony? Why does a testimony have to include the words “I know?” Why can’t you testify that you believe?

    The idea I despise the most (other than adults telling children to say “I know,” which apparently you’re not in favor of either) is the idea that you gain a testimony by bearing it. I think a lot of other emotions cause people to feel something when they say “I know” from the pulpit. It doesn’t mean that what they said was true. Even more abhorrent is the idea that you’re encouraging someone to say something that is not true in the hope that they’ll find out that it is true. I’m fine with someone saying something that IS true and being fortified in their conviction through the act of telling others and feeling that what they said was true; but that’s a far cry from just saying some stuff to see if God makes you feel good about saying it, whether you believe what you’re saying or not.


  9. Hi Anthony,

    Thank you for the well-written comment. One would think that you were a professional writer. Oh wait, you are! I concur with your expression that there is no way that a child can have the kind of testimony that only comes after years of trial, testing and sacrifice.

    However, I have seen children express themselves in my Primary class in ways that could only have been inspired of the Holy Ghost. We prayed to have the spirit with us as we learned together and the prayer was answered. Sometimes I learned form the children.

    When such ideas were expressed I would tell them that what they said was inspired and therefore qualified as revelation. They could then say that they had received knowledge of the Holy Ghost and were entitled to express it as a testimony, which they often did.

    I have watched those kids grow up over the years and have been impressed when they got up in fast meeting to bear their testimonies. Yes they are young and still maturing but I get a thrill when I hear them express that they know something to be true and good.

    These are now youth in their teens. This is different from what the Brethren were talking about when they asked that we not have little children practice bearing their testimony from the pulpit. I think that they meant children under the age of eight. Do you agree?

  10. Hello again Crusty! It’s been a long time. Welcome back. I appreciate your comments. I think I’ve said this before in an essay somewhere here on my blog or in one of the responses. I have come to realize that there are many people who think like you, that it is wrong to say “I know,” when sharing a testimony. I confess this was foreign to my experience until I started blogging.

    I like your example. In fact I believe I have shared experiences like that and said similar words that I believe it was God helping me. You can say that you believe. There is nothing wrong with so doing. I have read statements from General Authorities asserting that fact. I suppose it comes down to the definition of what a testimony really is. I like this simple one from mormon.org:

    “A testimony is knowledge, received by revelation from the Holy Ghost, of the divinity of the Savior and of gospel truths.” Even after a lifetime of learning and teaching about how the Holy Ghost works, it still seems to be a difficult thing for so many of our members to understand. I don’t know why. I used to think that perhaps they have never experienced personal revelation.

    I have never had an open vision, but I have seen myself in my mind’s eye doing something in relation to the church before it has transpired. I consider this revelation. I have never heard an audible voice from an unseen person tell me something that I should say in a talk but I have been inspired with phrases and sentence construction in my mind as I write or speak from the pulpit.

    I have shared specific examples in previous essays of instances where I felt I had received some form of knowledge, directly to my heart and mind as an answer to prayer. Such knowledge was specifically about the tenets of the restored gospel and how I could draw closer to the Savior. I have borne testimony of this process of revelation many times over the years saying “I know.”

    I addressed President Packer’s statement that “a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it” in a previous essay. I know that this is a most difficult concept to understand. I wish I could explain how I know that it works. Let me see if I can illustrate with an example from when I was a High Counselor. I was assigned to speak about some subject that I had never really studied before.

    As I prepared my remarks, I realized that I wasn’t sure if I knew that the doctrine I was to teach was eternal and true. I knew it was good and that it would bless our lives if we followed it, but I didn’t know at the time that it was an eternal principle that qualified as truth. So I prepared my remarks with supporting statements to illustrate and teach the principle as clearly as I could.

    The talk went well. I was confident, I knew the material and I felt the spirit of the Lord helping me to deliver it in a manner that I believed I was understood. It then came time to close the talk and bear my testimony. When I bear my testimony at the end of a talk I always make it about the subject I talked about, not just a generic testimony. I then tested President Packer’s statement.

    Now I had prayed about what I was going to be teaching. I had asked for a testimony of that principle to be given to me so that I could share it with the congregation. It did not come on bended knee. Instead, what I felt was that I would be given that witness only after I taught the doctrine and was ready to close my remarks with the sealing testimony. That took some faith.

    What happened when I closed that talk was electrifying to me and I believe to the congregation. As I bore witness that what I had taught that day was truth, eternal true and important to our salvation, a powerful spirit came over me. It testified to me, even as I was testifying at the same time to the congregation, with words inspired of the spirit, that it was indeed eternal truth.

    I believe this is what President Packer meant when he said that “a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.” I do not believe he meant to say that we should just get up and say things that we had not studied and could not teach. That just doesn’t make sense. You can’t get a testimony of something just by saying that you do. There must be something for The Holy Ghost to ratify.

    Does this make sense? It’s a very hard concept to explain. I know because I’ve tried many times and people have told me that they just don’t get it. But I know that I can demonstrate it and have done so many times. I believe that you have to have studied something out before you can stand and say you know it is true. Once you do so, the Holy Ghost can bear witness that you do know.

    Sorry for the discourse, but this is something I really have studied and have tried to teach over the years. I am convinced that it is not widely understood by many members of the church. There is nothing I want to write about and teach about more than this whole process of revelation and how we can receive it and know for ourselves that the principles of the restored gospel and true and important.

  11. Have there been times when you’ve said that you “know” something to be true, even when you didn’t “know” it to be true, in hope that the spirit would confirm what you were saying, only to find out the spirit never confirmed what you said? Did you feel like a liar at that point; or did you feel like it was OK to say you knew it to be true, since you were trying to find out if it was true? Did you go back and apologize to the people to whom you testified, so they didn’t continue believing in something because of your false testimony?

    I guess that’s why I have a problem with this concept. I wonder how often I’m listening to someone say “I know,” when they really don’t “know,” in an attempt to test the spirit and find out if what they are saying is really true.

    What I’m about to say isn’t going to go over really well with a lot of you, but here it goes. We all know Elders Quorum Presidents can be wrong, Bishops can be wrong, and Stake Prez’s can be wrong; and likewise, members of the Seventy or Quorum of the Twelve can be wrong. I believe it is our spiritual duty to be skeptical of EVERYTHING we hear from EVERYONE.

    That being said, what Boyd K. Packer said is a logically inconsistent dichotomy. If he would have said, “Testimonies are fortified in bearing them,” I would agree. But to say that a person should bear testimony of something of which they have no testimony is to encourage lying. To honestly bear testimony, you must have already acquired testimony, otherwise you’re not bearing testimony; you’re doing something else other than bearing testimony (bearing non-truths maybe?). Therefore, it is impossible to bear testimony before you’ve found it, because until you have a testimony, you do not qualify as a testifier.

    Now, if you put yourself in a situation where you COULD bear testimony, and while in that situation, you somehow acquire testimony, and subsequent to acquiring testimony, you bear it; I don’t have a problem with that. Maybe that’s what Elder Packer meant. Even if that’s what he meant, I don’t think a person should plan on bearing testimony, until after they’ve received some level of testimony.

    Or…Maybe Elder Packer was encouraging people who have previously acquired testimony of something, but they haven’t had spiritual reconfirmation of that testimony in a while, to bear testimony in order to re-invigorate their testimonies. It that respect you could be “finding” a testimony which you once had but have since lost, to some extent.

    What do you think?

    This whole argument assumes that someone who receives some level of spiritual confirmation, or what they believed was spiritual confirmation, can say they “know” something to be true. “Know” is a pretty strong word. I have a lot of reasons to believe a lot of things, but I don’t “know” much, if anything.

    What would you say to someone who says he “knows” that San Benito appeared to him and said to light a bunch of candles and put a bunch of statues of Saints in his house, and he would get the job of his dreams? Whatever reasons you would have for doubting what that person believes to be very real and true, are the same reasons I would have for doubting what you, or anyone else, “knows” is true.

    However, as I said before, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with testifying that something occurred in your life and you believe it occurred because God intervened. That, to me, is very powerful. It’s also much more believable, and therefore it’s more helpful to me. As soon as I hear the words “I know,” I automatically discredit anything that follows.

    The reason I have such strong beliefs on this topic is because I believe there are a lot of people out there who would rather not say “I know.” They say it because they feel like they should say it…to appear to be as spiritual as everyone else. There are a lot of people who are wondering why everyone else “knows” but they don’t. The truth is, they know as much as everyone else does; everyone else just uses the words “I know” to testify of what they actually just “believe.” I don’t think people should be encouraged to say they “know” something to be true, unless, of course, they really DO know. I think people should be encouraged to be very honest and say what they REALLY feel. If people only said they “know” something to be true when they REALLY “know” it to be true, the power of the words “I know” could be restored. As of now, the words “I know” just mean someone wants to know or has a good reason to believe something. The words have lost their true meaning.

    Why not just be honest? Wouldn’t everyone benefit more from pure honesty?

    I’m sure I haven’t said anything you haven’t heard before. I guess I’m the exact reason you wrote this essay…to refute what someone like me would say.

  12. Crusty,

    I’m not going to refute a thing you said and I hope my essay doesn’t serve that purpose either. I am going to tell you how impressed I am with your logic and how appreciative I am of the time you took to share it. Actually, I endorse your insistence that we be skeptical and prove all things. Can’t we both be right? Isn’t it possible that there are times where Elder Packer’s method really does work?

    I just happen to have had experience with Elder Packer’s suggestion about bearing testimony of something that I hadn’t known before. I studied it out, I thought that it was probably true and I even felt that it was true, but I didn’t know it was true until after I taught the principle to the best of my ability. I then invited the spirit to bear witness of the truthfulness of the doctrine both to me and the congregation at the same time. I even explained what I was doing as I did so.

    Now what if the spirit hadn’t come and ratified what I had taught? Yes, I would be duty bound by honesty to say, “Sorry folks, apparently there must be something wrong either in what I presented or in the way I presented it. I have not felt the spirit bear witness of this concept as I had anticipated that I would. Either I’m not in tune today or I need to study this out a little bit more. Please forgive me.”

    I don’t know if you have ever participated in a disciplinary council but I have gone through this process dozens of times as we sought towards the end of our long deliberations to determine and confirm the mind and will of the Lord on behalf of the person for whom the disciplinary council was being held. There have been times where we have made a decision, presented it to the Lord for confirmation and did not feel that it was right. We deliberated some more, modified our decision and asked for that confirmation again until all in the room were certain.

    That is a similar process that I go through when I teach or speak in church with the purpose of teaching doctrine. Not all talks I have given were like that. Some were light and fluffy and did not require the Holy Ghost to ratify the teachings. I call these the “feel good” talks. Sometimes, the congregation is just not ready for a heavy doctrinal presentation and so I have modified my talk accordingly. After twenty-thirty years of experience, you get a feel for the mood of the people.

    I wish I could demonstrate how I do this, but you’re somewhere in Texas and I’m in California. No matter. Here’s the verbiage: “Brethren and sisters, today I have taught you what the scriptures and the Brethren have said about this subject. I am convinced that what I have taught is true. I am now going to invite the Holy Ghost to bear witness to these truths as I bear my testimony of them.” And then I proceed to do so by using the words, “I know that what I have taught is true.”

    I then pause and wait for the confirming witness of the spirit of the Lord to make known to the congregation that what I have taught is true. As we know, not everybody feels the spirit in the same way. If I were to describe to you what it feels like to me when I know that I am in tune with the infinite will of God, you might say that’s the weirdest thing I have ever heard. It’s kind of like my spirit vibrates just a little bit. Sorry, I can’t explain it any better than that right now.

    Once I feel that, I am satisfied that what I said is correct doctrine and I so state that to the congregation. I confess that I have never had to retract something I have said because I am very, very careful when using this method of concluding a talk in church. I only use it when I have been given an assignment by either the Bishop or Stake President to teach something specific. As I High Councilor I had the opportunity to do that almost every month for several years. It was awesome!

    But to reiterate that I do agree with you, if it ever happened that the spirit did not come and bear witness to the message as I delivered it, I would state that fact. You point out that this is dangerous and that we should be skeptical of such an approach. I agree. I confess that I sometimes feel the same way when listening to some individuals speak in church. But that’s not listening with a heart of faith. I find that if I am humble and meek, I can almost always be edified by the talk.

    Crusty, there is room for all of us in the church. There is a place for doubters and those who question. There is nothing wrong with either method. I don’t know why but I have never doubted what I have been taught and learned as a youth. My testimony has grown and strengthened over the years until it feels like it is almost a sure knowledge. But as Closet Doubter and I discussed the other night on this essay, that would constitute a perfect knowledge and I don’t have that yet.

    Thanks for the great dialog. You add immensely to the conversation. Please continue to visit and leave comments. I love the way you see things. It is so helpful to me to understand things from a different point of view. – With respect

  13. Closet Doubter

    Crusty hit the nail on the head about bearing a testimony to get one. You might “strengthen” you testimony by bearing it, but you can’t get one just by saying something you don’t “know” or “believe in”

    There is a saying: “if you say anything long enough and loud enough you will start to believe it” This is no way to gain a testimony. You are only fooling yourself.

    On another subject Tim, I have an Idea for a future post. Why don’t you explore the recent push by some GA’s that the church is either true, or the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on humankind. What I’m interested is the Black/White reasoning that seems to be coming forward. There is no middle ground. Since I seem to be standing in a grey area, and then hear that there is no middle ground, it seems I’m being pushed out.

    Closet Doubter

  14. Hi Closet Doubter,

    Elder Oaks agrees with you. He said, “Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.” I believe that someone was President Packer.

    I also agree with you. Unless you have studied something out, how can the Holy Ghost bear witness to your soul to confirm that what you are saying is true? Amazingly, I have heard members tell me that they never really knew they had a testimony until they got up and shared it. I have especially seen this with the youth in girl’s camp in their closing meeting or after stake youth service activities.

    Obviously, for someone to get up and say, “I know this church is true,” for the first time in their lives in a testimony meeting, they must have been taught something about it previously. It works the same for converts. I have a friend who recently joined the church, converting from The Church of the Nazarene. It is a delight to hear him share his testimony that he knows the church is true.

    I think we’re all in agreement – you, me and Crusty – that you can’t just get a testimony by getting up and saying that you have one, if you don’t already know it in your heart. I suspect that what President Packer was trying to do was to get more members and missionaries to be a little bolder and get up and share what they already know in their hearts. Some members are just too timid to do so.

    Thanks for the suggestion for the idea to address the black / white, true / false paradigm. I have seen the same thing you mentioned in many other blogs. In fact, this was a major point in John Dehlin’s presentation that some members just don’t fit into this way of looking at things. I’ve written a previous essay about our claim to be the only true church and had considerable conflicting feedback.

    I’ve been pondering an essay about Bishopric meetings that I would like to write tomorrow after church. Whoops! It already is tomorrow. Time for bed. Oh how I hope that nobody ever feels that the church is trying to push them out because they don’t agree with the orthodox conservative views that seem predominant of most of the General Authorities. I don’t think Joseph Smith was like that at all.

  15. Another thought to consider, Crusty and Closet Doubter, is that testimonies (in the LDS tradition) are not intended to be accepted by the listener as facts-not-to-be-questioned. Rather, implicit in the bearing of an LDS testimony is an invitation to go figure it out for yourself. I very intentionally try to make that invitation less implicit and more explicit when bearing testimony.

    My testimony (the very personal experiences and knowledge and convictions and assumptions and questions that I’ve accumulated over roughly twenty-five years of actually being curious about the truthfulness of the gospel) is just that — “mine.” I own it, I’m responsible for it, and I can choose to grow it or let it become stale. (At different times in my life I’ve done both.) Though the language used to describe the concept might sound a bit selfish, I can only show you a little glimpse of it here and there, try as I might to give you the full Monty. For better or for worse (ultimately better, of course) you may choose to lean on it from time to time, but I can’t just lend it to you for the weekend like my circular saw or my Sergeant Nibley book. 😉

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