An old friend messaged me on Facebook earlier this week out of the blue. It has been a couple of years since we had last talked or even corresponded directly with one another, but we picked up right where we had left off. My friend was writing specifically however to ask me how I had gained my testimony of the Gospel, and how I keep my testimony, especially when the times are tough. – My friend is giving a talk in sacrament meeting tomorrow, and I was given the assignment to respond pronto so as to be of assistance. Seeing that it’s now late Saturday night…I’m guessing I won’t get brownie points for this one?
Nothing too profound or tricky. Just “Do it.” – And I’m not talking in some fancy Nike/Sports euphemism here. – I’m talking about the Gospel.
I love Jesus’ words when he went up to The Feast of the Tabernacles and taught in the temple,
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
There, in one simple sentence, the Lord Himself gives us the most direct and easy way for us to gain a testimony of His doctrines. Just do it. Try it out. And you will know.
Do you want to know if tithing is a divine commandment? Pay it. Do you want to know if The Word of Wisdom is God’s health code for you? Live it. Do you want to know if Joseph Smith restored Christ’s Church? Then hop in feet first and start serving others! In so doing your testimony will come. I know it sounds overly-simplistic. But it’s not. With all the intricacies of Creation, the Universe, our Earth, and even our own endocrine system, I am thankful that God at least made the Gospel easy for putzes like me to understand.
Sure, I remember the night after the missionaries taught me for the first time when I was a young man. I waited until after my mother had gone to bed, I read 3 Nephi by the light of my small lamp in my cramped bedroom, and then, kneeling beside my black futon bunkbed, I prayed. I asked specifically, “Is this true?” And God answered me. It was a sacred experience. No angels descended (although I’ll admit I wanted that). No booming voice came from a shimmering pillar of light. But God spoke to me as a 12 year old boy, and I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet as sure as I knew I lived.
Said President Wilford Woodruff,
You may have the administration of angels, you may see many miracles; . . . but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man.”
– The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham , Page 5
And I echo those words in solemnity. God has since reaffirmed my testimony countless times and in the most sacred of manners. But no matter what anyone may ever experience there is nothing more divine than testimony gained through the power of the Holy Ghost. That is exactly how the President of the Church in the Meridian of Time gained his testimony.
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Flesh and blood did not prove to the Apostle Peter that Jesus was the long awaited for Christ. There was no book learning. There was no study. No degree was required. For God Himself had made it manifest unto Peter who Jesus was. And I am thankful to have a testimony like unto such a man as Peter’s.
A testimony is a sacred thing though. Indeed, it is a pearl of great price, and not to be shared frivolously to be trampled on by those who will not hold it sacred. And as such, because it is of great worth, it is so easy to lose when it is not cared for properly. The world, even Babylon itself, can creep in and steal our testimonies strand by strand, like from a thickly woven rope, until all we are left with are the feeble resemblance of cheap yarn. That is why we are taught by the Lord Himself to,
Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.
My friend’s question struck me as deeply personal though as I read it over a few times. – “How do you keep your testimony strong, especially when times are tough?” – And as I pondered it, it occurred to me that there is absolutely nothing different you should do when the times are tough. Every day you should already be praying to keep your testimony. Every single day you should already be immersing yourself in the scriptures and the Word of God through His holy servants. Tithing, missionary work, home and visiting teaching, and service in general should already be the daily mantras of your faith. And if they’re not, then it is of little surprise that things “got hard” in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. I miss prayers and scripture study on occasion. I am not always the first person to raise my hand for that project in Priesthood. But I know the hard times. I’ve felt my testimony waver. I have missed a few Sundays at a time, and I’ve missed a lot of Sundays at a time. I’ve felt the crippling effects of even the tiniest of sins in my life. And I’ve even lived through the oft spiritually disabling effects of a divorce. But through it all, God has been merciful and extended His great love to me. And every time my testimony diminished in the least it was because I wasn’t doing the basics. And if your testimony is wavering, or you know anyone else that has a wavering testimony, I can promise they’re not doing the basics too.
How do you gain a testimony?
Just do it.
How do you keep a testimony in the hard times?
Just keep doing it.
It is not easy. It is not a peace of cake. In fact, taking up the Cross of Christ demands arduous acrobatics of ample faith. But it is worth it. And I can, with a full heart, testify of that fact.
Wherever your testimony is at, feeble and faithless, or full and flaming, I invite you to make it stronger by doing the basics. Pray, on your knees, daily. Read your scriptures, especially The Book of Mormon, daily. Pay your tithing. Fast. And serve others. And in so doing you will not only see your testimony grow, but you will be given bountiful opportunities to help others’ testimonies grow also.
Happy Sabbath everyone! You deserve it.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t ever been invited to build your testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored church, please click here. You’ll be glad you did.