“The Importance of Bearing Testimony,” Liahona, Mar. 1997, 3
This coming October it will be 25 years since I was called as a General Authority and 19 years since I was called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I have reflected much on what has happened in those years. I have also thought much about what I should try to do in the remaining years of my ministry on this earth. I have been trying this year to make a special effort to bear my witness as part of my teaching. In other words, I have been trying to make this year a special year to bear testimony. I hope to make every remaining year of my life a special year to bear testimony.
In that spirit, I want to discuss the importance of each of us bearing our testimony. We bear testimony not only through our words but also through our lives. I take as my text Paul’s message to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
My great-grandfather Henry Jacob Faust was born in a small village called Heddesheim in Rheinland, Prussia. The family went to the United States, and Grandfather Faust went through Salt Lake City on his way west to find his fortune in the goldfields of California. As he was going southward through Utah, he stopped at a well in a little town called Fillmore. There he met a young lady named Elsie Ann Akerley. Grandfather was not a member of our church. This young girl he met was a member. She had crossed the plains with the pioneers. Soon they fell in love. Grandfather went to California and stayed only long enough to get enough gold for a wedding band and then came back to Fillmore, where they were married.
Grandfather was not converted to the Church by the missionaries. I believe he was converted in the main by the testimony of this young girl he met by the well in Fillmore. Grandfather was later appointed by President Brigham Young to be the first bishop of Corinne, Utah. At that time Grandfather was helping bring the railroad to Utah. I am grateful to my grandmother Elsie Ann Akerley, who as a young girl bore her testimony to this strange young man, Henry Jacob Faust from Germany, and helped convert him to the Church.
I noted that we also bear our testimonies by our lives. In World War II I was stationed at an army camp in Pennsylvania. We lived in a little ward in which our stake patriarch also lived. His name was William G. Stoops. Brother Stoops worked at a machine shop in the little town of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Everyone called him “Pappy.” He was a kindly, gentle, wonderful, exemplary member of the Church. All who met him honored and admired him. One time a nonmember with whom he worked said something like this: “I don’t know much about the Mormon church. I have never met with the missionaries, and I have never studied the doctrine. I have never been to one of their services, but I know Pappy Stoops; and if the Church produces men like Pappy Stoops, it has to have much good in it.” We never know the power of our own example for either good or bad.
Before joining the Church, Elder Helio da Rocha Camargo from Brazil was a minister in another religion. He was seriously investigating the Church when he visited a youth meeting one Saturday morning. He was interested in what the young people of our Church had to say. One young lady bore her testimony about being morally clean and the strength she had received from living the law of chastity. Her testimony and the testimony of others greatly impressed Helio Camargo. He and his wife joined the Church. Brother Camargo’s testimony and commitment were great. The Lord called him to be a bishop, a stake president, a mission president, a regional representative, a member of the Seventy, and a temple president.
Some of us are naturally reserved and timid about bearing our testimony with words. Perhaps we should not be so timid. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us, “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man” (D&C 60:2). When we do bear testimony, we should testify with a spirit of humility. Section 38 of the Doctrine and Covenants reminds us, “And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41).
Perhaps we do not always remember that it is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others. Our testimony is our own. It cannot be challenged by someone else. It is personal and real to us. But it is the Holy Spirit that gives a similar witness to another.
Robert L. Marchant told the story about when he was a young missionary in the Mexican Mission. He and his companion were new in the mission field and were not known by all of the missionaries. One day they were in their missionary quarters when sister missionaries came by tracting. The young elders, without disclosing their identity, invited the sister missionaries in and began a gospel conversation with them. The sisters did not recognize the elders. The sisters were not well versed in the doctrine, and the two elders who were hiding their identity soon had them tied in doctrinal knots. With a feeling of frustration, one of the sister missionaries began to cry, and as she did, she bore her testimony simply, powerfully, and beautifully. Elder Marchant and his companion were stricken in their hearts and were ashamed of themselves because the simple testimony of these sister missionaries came through and penetrated their hearts.
All my life I have tried not to hide who I am and what I believe in. I cannot recall a single instance when it hurt my career or I lost valued friends by humbly acknowledging that I was a member of this Church.
There are four absolutes about which it is always appropriate for us to testify:
The first is that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, the Mediator and Redeemer of the world.
The second is that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and reestablished the church of Christ upon the earth with its keys and authority.
The third is that all of the Presidents of the Church since Joseph Smith have been successors in that power and authority.
The fourth is that President Gordon B. Hinckley is the only prophet of God upon the earth, holding all of the keys, powers, and authorities of the Church in the earth today.
As one of the special witnesses of the Lord, I desire to declare my testimony to you. I am grateful that I have always had a testimony of the gospel. I cannot remember when I did not believe. I have not always understood everything and do not claim to do so now, but through thousands and thousands of spiritual confirmations throughout my life, including my calling to the holy apostleship, I can declare my testimony to you that Jesus is the Christ. With every fiber and cell of my being, I know that He is our Savior and Redeemer. I testify that Joseph Smith was the greatest prophet who ever lived upon the earth and of great importance to the Savior in the work of God on the earth. I know this to be true.
I would like to testify in the words of Peter:
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
“And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66–69).
I ask the Lord to bless our wonderful Saints. I ask the Lord to bless the children, that they may be properly taught in our homes the great and simple truths and values of the gospel. I pray that He will bless our young adults, that they will be able to stay steadfast and true and receive the great blessings the Lord has for the faithful.
I ask the Lord to bless our single members of the Church, that they will come to know that they are special and wonderful in His eyes.
I ask the Lord to bless our married couples who have challenges in life with the responsibilities of providing a home and food for their children, and pray that He will sustain them and be with them. I ask the Lord to bless our older Saints who have gray hair, who have borne the heat of the day. I pray that there will come to them an appreciation of the example that they have set through their lives of faithfulness and devotion.
I ask the Lord to bless us all, that we will “not [be] ashamed of the gospel of Christ” and that we will humbly bear our testimonies about it and about the joys and blessings and strength we receive as we live its teachings and follow its precepts.
We must “not [be] ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
We bear testimony with our words and also with our lives.
The Lord has said “with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths” (D&C 60:2).
When we bear testimony we are to do so “in mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41).
It is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others.
It is always appropriate to bear testimony that Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and reestablished Christ’s church on earth with power and authority, that all Presidents of the Church since Joseph Smith have been successors in that power and authority, and that the living President of the Church is the prophet of God on earth, holding all the keys, power, and authority of the Church today.