“Sharing the Fire of Our Faith,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 20
The ward in the midwestern United States was a Sunday stopover for me and my family as we traveled to a family reunion. It was the first Sunday of the month, and the fast and testimony meeting was the kind I had sat through many times. But in this setting I found myself thinking about the purpose of the meeting in ways I had never considered before.
Without hesitation, both young and old walked to the front of the chapel to take their turns at the microphone.
One sister spoke about the blessings of teaching a Primary class. Her class consisted of just one student, a child with a mental disability. The teacher related that in the beginning she felt trepidation at her responsibility but then explained how a bond had been formed that allowed her not only to teach but also to learn from her student.
An older man, perhaps in his 60s, related a recent experience with two boys in the ward. He described how they sang to him as he drove them back from Boy Scout camp in his pickup truck, and he expressed delight that despite the generation gap they had been able to share the joy of the gospel.
A young father walked to the microphone with his two daughters and waited as they took turns expressing love for the Lord and their families. Then he told of a recent experience with them. As he and his wife had counseled together, he had committed to spend some hours every month with each of his daughters doing just what they wanted to do. He knew it could be expensive if they consistently wanted to go clothes shopping or to amusement parks or movies, but he was determined to carry out his plan. He was surprised when they told him what they wanted. The older one wanted him to take her to work with him so she could see what he did all day; the younger one wanted him simply to call her from work each day and talk to her. The father expressed gratitude for their reminder of what his priorities should be.
One after another, members stood to bear testimony, in their own way, of the Savior and the effect of the Atonement in their lives. As I listened to these testimonies and others that were expressed, I realized that it is the same again and again in each fast and testimony meeting throughout the world. Hearts are warmed as individual members relate what the Lord has done for them and express love toward Him and toward each other. Not only are these meetings opportunities to lift one another but also opportunities to stand as the Lord’s witnesses, according to His direction, “of the things of which you shall both hear and see” (D&C 14:8).
Sometimes we hesitate to stand up in front of the congregation because we feel we don’t have anything profound to say. I have noticed, however, that most of the testimonies that have touched me have been simple in nature. The incidents related are rarely dramatic. They address everyday life. It is in our normal activities that we will most likely learn gospel principles. When we are thus blessed, we should use our experiences to bless others. One way to do so is through the bearing of testimonies. When we are strengthened by the Spirit of the Lord, we should in turn fortify those around us.
It is our responsibility to uplift one another by testifying as guided by the Spirit. If we fail to rise when we are moved by the Spirit, an opportunity to touch, to heal, to uplift may be lost.
I remember that as a full-time missionary I would invite investigators to testimony meetings with some anxiety. How would they receive the humble expressions of members? Would there be moments of silence during the meeting? Would there be rambling travelogues? Despite my concerns, however, testimony meeting often was a powerful tool to help those investigators feel the Spirit. The fact that ordinary members, not just leaders, would stand before the congregation and pour out their feelings toward the Lord and toward others was in itself a witness of the distinctiveness of the Church. But the content of the testimonies borne—stories of spiritual experiences, expressions of gratitude for membership in the community of Saints—also frequently addressed and allayed concerns the investigators were wrestling with.
Even active members of the Church, beset by our own current worries, often need to be succored and enlightened by the testimonies of others. When we fail to listen attentively to their inspired expressions, we deny ourselves blessings. Sometimes we need to hear ourselves bear testimony; at times we will be the ones most deeply touched by the Spirit.
Testimonies are individual expressions of our beliefs, and we do not need to feel pressured into sharing them. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (1 Jn. 5:10). When we truly believe in Him, we not only have the witness of Christ within ourselves, but we want to share it with others as well. Testimony meeting among fellow Saints then becomes an important opportunity to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God” (Mosiah 18:9).
We never need fear that our faith is not strong enough or that our spiritual experiences are not rich enough to convey a testimony to others. Sometimes those with developing testimonies can have a great impact on those without a testimony since the distance between them is not as great and the journey toward obtaining a strong witness can be seen as something usually accomplished in stages. Whatever spark we have that makes us desire to come to Christ is enough to share with others and perhaps to light an ember in the soul of someone searching for his or her own witness. Then, as we are guided by the Spirit, we and they may be “edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).