Three Pillars of Testimony
As the old year ends and the new begins, the editors at Real Intent have been thinking about testimony. We share these thoughts for your new year transitions.
Fast and testimony meetings often begin with a reminder that a testimony is a brief statement of what we know and how we know it. That quick definition carries a lot of metaphysical baggage. What does it mean to know? Where do faith and hope end and knowledge begin?
My 16-year-old son is taking a philosophy course in high school and loves getting caught up in the existential debate that he is barely beginning to understand. Partly because of his age and partly because of his nature, he loves testing the limits of what I say I know.
My son is not alone in his questioning of what testimony bearers really know and what they can know. Some question as part of their search for greater meaning and understanding. Others question out of rebellion. And still others out of apathy.
Yet we are a community of testifiers. We tell one another regularly what we know and how we know it. Despite our discomforts, we accept a common language of expression, and we invite one another to share what we know – or believe – and why.
In that spirit, I share some of what I know with you:
I know that God lives. I have not seen him. And, despite the prophetic claim that all things testify of Him, I acknowledge that I am short on empirical evidence to prove to a non-believer that He exists. Still, to me, a believer, all things do testify of Him – from the peace He grants me when I am in a sacred space to His intervention in my life at critical times, from a remarkably intricate set of creations (however wrought) to a canon of loving counsel, guidelines, and commandments that bind me to Him.
God hears and answers prayers. Though none of mine have been answered as dramatically as the boy Joseph’s in the grove, I have known answers to my prayers. Some have come as peace to my heart and mind as the Lord taught Oliver. Others have distilled upon me after years of waiting. But answers have come, and that strengthens my faith that others will also come.
Jesus Christ is God’s son. Had I been raised in a different geography or time, I may never have known my Savior. I cannot begin to explain the plan that allows me to know He exists when someone else does not. All I can do is admit that I know of Christ, His mission and His atoning sacrifice, and be grateful for that knowledge. I have felt its blessings in my own life when it has mattered the most, when I have sorely needed the soothing relief repentance brings. I have seen its evidence in the lives of others as burdens have been lightened, lifted, and finally forgotten.
God’s priesthood has been restored. And with it, so has a church that allows its exercise to the benefit of humankind, so that we may know the blessings of ordinances associated with covenants that bind us to heaven. The Lord teaches that in the ordinances of the priesthood, the power of godliness is made known unto men. Some of my most spiritual experiences have come when participating in priesthood ordinances – receiving them and performing them. Standing in the baptismal font as a child, kneeling around the holy altar of the temple with my parents, feeling the press of my father’s hands on my head for priesthood ordinations, taking my bride’s hand in mine at the direction of a temple sealer, guiding my own children into the waters of baptism, and kneeling in proxy for relatives long departed in the temple are all touch points along my spiritual journey that have allowed me to know the power of godliness.
Elder Theodore M. Burton taught me on my mission that a testimony is like a circle. A new testimony may be small, and its border with the unknown is small. As a testimony grows, however, and the circle becomes larger, its borders with the unknown also grow. That simple teaching has helped me to navigate increasing questions that have come to me as I have matured in the gospel. That growing circle of testimony also covers significantly more area now for me than it used to; the trade-off is worth it to me.
My testimony provides me strength when I need it most. In moments of doubt – rarely about God’s existence, but rather about my own ability to cope or to carry on or even to make it through a particularly rough patch – my testimony reminds me of three pillars in which I know I can trust: God lives; Jesus Christ is His Son; the priesthood power is on the earth today. Those three pillars help me to trust in covenants I’ve made, ordinances I’ve received, promises of redemption for me and for my family, and a universal love which makes it all possible.
Image credits: understandingmormonism.org, lds.org