Today I am able to bear strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored truths to be found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But this was not always so.
As a college student, a young man who had joined the Mormon Church only a few years earlier, I struggled to understand what a testimony was and how it could enrich my life. I believed the basic tenets of my new faith and tried to live them as best I knew how, but when others stood to share their testimonies, I did not.
Having dwelt in the world of higher education for more than four decades I am well aware of the pitfalls and dangers that surround a person who wishes to increase his or her faith while also learning the trade of skeptical inquiry and scholarly pursuit of worldly knowledge. How did I manage to emerge stronger from my many years of living among doubters and deniers?
Alma, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, likened a testimony to a seed, teaching us that we need to plant and nourish the seed until it grows into a strong tree (see Alma 32:27). This I did over the course of many years, and today my “testimony tree” is not only greater, but also more beautiful than I thought possible those many years ago.
I attribute this to four factors.
1. Seeking faith and knowledge.
The first step of a testimony is to pray for one. Alma said that if we have even a “desire to believe,” we are on the path toward understanding. Once we feel a testimony sprouting in our heart, we must continue our search. Another prophet explained this in a slightly different way when he wrote that if we would ask “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith [even a little] in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (see Moroni 10:4).
My testimony began with this desire, slowly grew ever taller and stronger as I continued to seek for faith and understanding, and today dwarfs the tiny bush of my college years.
2. Listening to the Spirit.
What good can come from a sincere prayer if we do not also listen with equal intent? We must find quiet times and places that will allow the Spirit to speak to our hearts. This often requires us to turn off the world and tune out its distractions so that the “still, small voice” (see I Kings 19:11-12) may reach us.
A testimony will not be found in rock and roll music or violent movies or silly video games or glossy magazines purchased at the grocery store check-out lane. Nor will it be found in college courses or textbooks. Rather, it will be found as we seek the Lord, then listen to Him when He speaks to us—through answers to our prayers, through the words of ancient prophets in the scriptures and living ones in church sermons and writings. We would do well to wear out our scriptures in our search for truth, and to listen intently when our prophets speak today.
3. Doing what the Lord asks, including enduring the trials He sends our way.
God said He would bless us for our obedience and sacrifices, challenging us to “Prove me now herewith” (see Malachi 3:10). Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet, wrote that “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (see Ether 12:6). In our own age the Lord has taught that all blessings—including that of a stronger testimony—are predicated upon obedience to His commandments (see D&C 130:20-21) and that when we obey, the Lord is obligated to pour upon us the blessings He has promised (see D&C 82:10). I have “proven” the Lord, I have obeyed His word and I have received His blessings. Each time, my testimony has become stronger.
4. Sharing my testimony.
Jesus wants us to let our “light shine before men” (see Matthew 5:16). He knows that whenever we share what we know, our knowledge increases and our testimony grows. As sages have said, “That which is used becomes stronger. That which is not used wastes away.”
One of my favorite sayings is, “Preach the Gospel through your whole life. If necessary, use words.” As I have striven to share my testimony through words and deeds, through the clothes I wear and the words I speak, through countless times when my soul was sad as well as when it was bright, my ability, and my willingness, to say “I know . . .” have become larger.
Today there is no doubt, there is no worry, there is no fear—only knowledge that God knows me and loves me and stands ready to help me.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is upon the earth. Portions can be found in many churches and in millions of good people. But its fullness is taught only by one church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this church is the Holy Priesthood that will bless and teach anyone who asks. In this church are the blessings of eternal life and exaltation made available to all. In this church are found the answers to eternal questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
I asked these same questions as a youth, and over the course of half a century found answers that brought peace to my soul as well as knowledge to my mind—and, I hope, dignity to my life.
Martin Raish is the director of the David O. McKay Library at Brigham Young University—Idaho. Formerly on the faculty at the State University of New York at Binghamton, he earned a master’s degree in library and information sciences from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in Pre-Columbian art history (with a specific focus on ancient Mexico) from the University of New Mexico.
He is the editor of Musings, Meanderings, and Monsters, Too: Essays on Academic Librarianship (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2003); (with Pat Ensor), Key Guide to Electronic Resources: Art and Art History (Medford, NJ: Information Today, 1996); and (with John L. Sorenson), Pre-Columbian Contact With the Americas Across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography, 2 vols. (Provo: Research Press, 1996).
Posted March 2010