“Man Cannot Endure on Borrowed Light,” Ensign, June 1971, 108
As visits are made to the stakes throughout the Church and one observes the faithful, devoted service of you brothers and sisters, he is impressed by your earnest willingness to serve the Lord and to help your fellowmen.
This desire to serve is based upon a strong conviction that this is truly the Lord’s work in which you are engaged. That conviction is called a testimony, an impelling, driving force that results in righteous deeds and positive actions. As one observes this dedicated service, he concludes that the underlying strength of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in the testimonies of its individual members.
Every member of the Church is entitled to know that God our Heavenly Father lives; that he is not dead. He is also entitled to know that our elder brother, Jesus Christ, is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and that he has opened the door for us, that we, through our individual acts, may receive salvation and exaltation and dwell once again in the presence of our Heavenly Father. This assurance and witness must be earnestly sought. Heber C. Kimball, a counselor to President Brigham Young, warned the Saints in 1856 that many trials would come to test their faith; that the time would come that no man or woman would be able to endure on borrowed light. Each must gain a personal knowledge of the truth and be guided by the light within himself.
President McKay assured a group of young people that a knowledge of the truth and a testimony of the gospel could come to them if even in their youth they would learn one great lesson: “That purity of heart, and a sincere heart seeking after the Savior’s guidance daily, will lead to a testimony of the truth of Christ’s gospel. …” This counsel indicates that testimonies may be gained through clean living and prayer.
Joseph Smith, although only a youth, had faith and prayed to our Heavenly Father for an answer to a problem which was of sincere concern to him. He was blessed with a personal visitation from our Father in heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Saul of Tarsus, who was a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, became Paul the apostle, defender of the Christ, following a dramatic experience while on the road to Damascus. A light was seen in the heavens, and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And he answered and said, “Who art thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:3–5.)
These two incidents were rare manifestations, but the impressions made by the Holy Ghost can be equally deep and lasting. President Joseph Fielding Smith has said, “Therefore, the seeing, even the Savior, does not leave as deep an impression in the mind as does the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the spirit. … the impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. It is where spirit speaks to spirit, and the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase.” (Seek Ye Earnestly [Deseret Book Co., 1970], pp. 213–14.)
This truth is further illustrated by the experiences of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Each of the three—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—saw the angel, saw and handled the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and heard the voice of the Lord declare that the record was true. Yet later, all three, becoming disaffected and out of harmony with the leaders, dwindled in unbelief and apostasy. But the imprint of the Spirit had been so indelible that not a single one of them ever denied his testimony, which is still printed in each copy of the Book of Mormon. The testimony of the still small voice whispering to our innermost beings is of more worth than outward signs or manifestations.
As a young man living in Kirtland, Ohio, Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church, was converted and baptized in 1836. He had studiously and conscientiously compared the teachings of the missionaries with the teachings of the Savior. Becoming convinced of the truths of the gospel, he had sought baptism by immersion.
Following confirmation, he constantly anticipated an assurance that he had received the Holy Ghost. Two or three weeks following his baptism, he reflected that he had not yet received a testimony of the truth. Being uneasy, and laying aside his books, he left the house and wandered through the fields. A gloomy spirit and indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop him. It was his custom, near the close of day, to retire to a nearby secluded grove and engage in secret prayer. This night he had no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed, and the heavens seemed like brass over his head. But, determined not to forgo his evening practice, he sought his accustomed place and knelt in solemn prayer.
“I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray,” recalled President Snow, “than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge. … I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water.” (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p. 8.)
In this manner Brother Snow received comforting assurance as the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and the Holy Ghost blessed him with a testimony that remained with him to the close of his earthly existence.
A testimony is a priceless gift from God. But even though a person may receive a witness through the Holy Ghost, there is no guarantee that this testimony will remain steadfast unless the person exerts constant effort to keep that testimony alive. Testimonies gained may be lost through carelessness, indifference, and/or neglect.
Testimonies need to be nourished and fed. President Lee wisely counseled: “If we are not reading the scriptures daily, our testimonies are growing thinner, our spirituality isn’t increasing in depth.” (Seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve, December 12, 1970.)
The Savior, while teaching at the temple, was questioned by the Jewish teachers as to the source of his doctrine, which was astounding to them. Whence came his wisdom? they asked. Jesus answered their troubled inquiries, saying: “… my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16–17.)
The Lord’s answer was direct and applies to us today, just as it did to the people to whom he was speaking. If we will do our Father’s will and keep his commandments, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth unto us—it’s as simple as that. May this be our lot, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.