“Is it necessary to close in the name of Jesus Christ when bearing testimony to nonmembers?” Ensign, June 1993, 62
Steve F. Gilliland, stake high councilor, Long Beach California East Stake, and regional coordinator, Church Educational System. It seems to me that the answer to such a question is determined by the setting. An effective testimony is both understood and felt. One’s method in bearing testimony sometimes gets in the way of the message.
As a young missionary, I learned this lesson after having a few doors slammed in my face. Whenever we make people defensive or uncomfortable in any way, they tend to close doors and minds to our message. In our strong desire to influence people, we sometimes do things that make it difficult for them to understand our message and feel the Spirit. We cannot control how people will react, but we can try to avoid doing things that could offend them.
When bearing my testimony, I do not want to come across as condescending, or as someone who feels he is more spiritual and righteous than the other person. The Lord tells us to preach (testify) “in mildness and in meekness.” (D&C 38:41.) I have been tempted at times to be dramatic, to speak in a “spiritual” tone of voice, to gesture with my hands, to lean closer to the other person, and so on. That kind of behavior sometimes makes people feel uneasy.
We are promised that if we testify sincerely and in meekness, “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever [we] shall say.” (D&C 100:8.) I seem to be most effective when I trust this promise while sharing in a natural style and voice my feelings about the Church.
The content of our witness can also influence its effectiveness. Studies suggest that people are especially interested in learning how the gospel will bless their lives. In some circumstances, bearing testimony of the peace the gospel has brought into our lives and what it has done for our families may offer an added dimension to our testifying of its truthfulness.
I have found that many people get hung up on the word know. So unless I am impressed to do otherwise, I usually begin my testimony with “I sincerely believe that …” I trust the Spirit to carry my message into their hearts, if they are receptive and if I do my part to avoid anything that could detract from that delicate process.
When I share my testimony in a formal meeting with Latter-day Saints, I usually do it in the Savior’s name; but with those of other faiths and in informal settings, I usually do not. To some people, using the Savior’s name comes across as preaching. I want to come across as a friend, sharing something very special in my life.
I use the Lord’s name very carefully. Some who profess a belief in him display his name on T-shirts or on bumper stickers. This is not me. I invoke his name only in sacred settings where people share the love and respect I have for him.
At baptism I took upon myself the Savior’s name, and I attempt to do everything in his name in the sense that I try to be a true Christian. (See 3 Ne. 18:24; 3 Ne. 27:6–7.) As we try to “retain the name written always in [our] hearts” (Mosiah 5:12; see also Mosiah 5:7–13) and “always remember him” (Moro. 4:3), I believe that we can act in his name without always invoking it.
Hopefully, in every relationship, in everything we do, we are bearing witness to the Savior and his gospel by example. And I am grateful for those special times when, impressed by the Spirit, I am able to open my heart to another and share my feelings and conviction about the gospel and that we “both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22.)