“Bearing Testimony: More Prepared Than You Think,” Ensign, December 2019
The phone rings on Thursday night. A member of your bishopric is calling. He asks you to speak in sacrament meeting, which makes you more than a little nervous. Then he says something that almost makes you drop the phone. Your first response is, “This Sunday?”
In the break room at work, a friend asks a question that takes you by surprise. “You’re religious,” he says. With that introduction, he asks what you think about a controversial issue in the news. The calm smile on your face doesn’t match the uneasiness you feel.
You sense something is wrong when your teenage daughter comes home from school one day. She is quiet for about an hour, and then she tearfully blurts out something a teacher said about the Church. She wants to know if what he said is true. All you can think is, “He said what?”
Good news: You don’t have to panic in such situations. You can see them as exciting opportunities to share your testimony of gospel truths—a testimony that has been building over a lifetime. You may feel nervous, but that shouldn’t cause you to retreat. You’re more prepared than you think. You have been preparing for a long time.
Your preparation began before you were born. You “received [your] first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56). Although you don’t remember that experience, can you imagine how powerful it was? President Russell M. Nelson has said: “You were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days. … That teaching endures within you!”1 You are who you are now partly because of your preparation then.
Your preparation continued when you came to the earth. From infancy, you have learned and experienced, tasted the bitter and sweet of life. The Holy Ghost has given you guidance and strength. He has witnessed to you that God is mindful of all His children, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we are led by a living prophet. You have increased in faith. Your experiences with the Spirit—those revelatory moments that serve as the foundation of your testimony—make you uniquely prepared to help others learn those same gospel truths.
Of course, the Lord wants you to do more than rely on past experiences. He expects you to “improve upon” the blessings He has given you (Doctrine and Covenants 82:18). As you regularly study the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets, you prepare yourself to “give an answer to every [person] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), even if the person who asks is your own daughter—especially if the person who asks is your own daughter. You will be prepared to receive and follow guidance from the Holy Ghost. You will know when to talk and when to listen, when to testify and when to invite testimony.
The Lord has promised that if you “treasure up in your [mind] continually the words of life,” the things you should say “shall be given you in the very hour” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:85; see also 100:6). In other words, you won’t be stumped and not know what to say. The words will come to you right when you need them.
Back to the late invitation to speak in sacrament meeting: Perhaps the Lord has always planned this specific experience for you. Or maybe it’s just your turn to speak, and your friend in the bishopric forgot to ask you sooner. It doesn’t really matter. People in your ward need to learn by the Spirit this Sunday, and you can help them. You already have a strong foundation of preparation. You’ll be fine.
At work, your friend hasn’t asked you to teach him the missionary lessons. He hasn’t asked you to stand and say, “I’d like to bear my testimony …” He isn’t expecting a perfectly worded discourse. But he has given you an opportunity to share truths that are sacred to you, and he is ready to listen. You can pray silently for guidance, share what you know and feel, and ask him what he thinks. Both of you will be strengthened by the conversation.
With your daughter, you can lovingly listen and ask questions that will help her discover truths she has always known—because she, like you, “received [her] first lessons in the world of spirits” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56). Then you can add your own testimony and allow the Spirit to witness once again, to both of you, that foundational principles of the gospel are true.
So the next time you have an opportunity to share your testimony at a moment’s notice, you can smile sincerely and peacefully. You have been preparing all your life, and even longer, for this moment. With faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, you can humbly and confidently stand at the pulpit, discuss gospel truths with a co-worker, or pause for a life-changing conversation with your daughter.