Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 17: A Testimony of the Truth

“Chapter 17: A Testimony of the Truth,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay (2011), 162–69

“Chapter 17,” Teachings: David O. McKay, 162–69

Chapter 17

A Testimony of the Truth

A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most sacred, the most precious gift in our lives, obtained only by adherence to the principles of the gospel, not by following the paths of the world.1


President David O. McKay often taught about the importance of gaining a personal testimony of the gospel, promising that “the Lord never forsakes those who seek him.” While in his youth, David O. McKay desired to obtain his own witness of the truth. Recalling that period of his life, he wrote:

“Somehow in my youth I got the idea that we could not get a testimony unless we had some manifestation. I read of the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I knew that he knew what he had received was of God. I heard my father’s testimony of a voice that had come to him, and somehow I received the impression that that was the source of all testimony. I realized in my youth that the most precious thing that a man could obtain in this life was a testimony of the divinity of this work. I hungered for it; I felt that if I could gain a testimony, all else would indeed seem insignificant.

“I did not neglect my prayers. I always felt that the secret prayer, whether in the room or out in the grove or on the hills, would be the place where that testimony would come. Accordingly, when I was a boy I knelt in prayer more than once by the serviceberry bush as my saddle-horse stood by the side of the road.

“I remember riding over the hills of Huntsville one afternoon, thinking of these things and concluding that there in the silence of the hills was the best place to get that testimony. I stopped my horse, threw the reins over his head, withdrew just a few steps, and knelt by the side of a tree. The air was clear and pure, the sunshine delightful; the growing verdure and flowers scented the air. …

“I knelt down and with all the fervor of my heart poured out my soul to God and asked him for a testimony of this gospel. I had in mind that there would be some manifestation; that I should receive some transformation that would leave me absolutely without doubt.

“I got up, mounted my horse, and as he started over the trail, I remember rather introspectively searching myself and involuntarily shaking my head, saying to myself, ‘No, sir, there is no change; I am just the same boy I was before I knelt down.’ The anticipated manifestation had not come.”2

Even though he did not immediately receive the manifestation he expected, President McKay continued to seek a personal witness. He later related that “the spiritual manifestation for which I had prayed as a boy in my teens came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty.”3

From his own experience President McKay taught that obedience to gospel principles was a key to receiving a testimony. He testified: “If you will undertake to embrace the principles of life everlasting, you will find it instilling upon your soul a benediction of the Holy Ghost which will give you a testimony beyond any possibility of doubt that God lives, that he is indeed our Father, and that this is his work established through the Prophet Joseph Smith. That is my testimony—the most precious thing in life!”4

Teachings of David O. McKay

A testimony of the truth is the most precious possession in the world.

There is nothing which a man can possess in this world, which will bring more comfort, more hope and faith than a testimony of the existence of a Heavenly Father who loves us, or of the reality of Jesus Christ, his Only Begotten Son, that those two heavenly personages appeared to the Prophet Joseph and established the Church of Jesus Christ, and that men are officially authorized to represent Deity.5

The most precious thing in the world is a testimony of the truth. … Truth never grows old, and the truth is that God is the source of [the] Priesthood … ; that He lives, that Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, stands at the head of this Church.6

We have had testimony of the Spirit that we are children of our Father in heaven. We have had testimony that God is a living being. We have had testimony that Christ, who was crucified and who rose the third day a resurrected being, is the head of his Church. We have had testimony of the Spirit that he has revealed in this dispensation the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is again established on earth in all its fullness. The gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, is in very deed in every way the power of God unto salvation [see Romans 1:16]. It gives to every man the perfect life here, and through obedience to gospel principles it gives us eternal life.7

Cherish in your hearts the testimony of truth; make it as solid and as firm and unwavering as the fixed stars in the heavens. May there come into everyone’s heart and into all our homes the true Spirit of Christ, our Redeemer, whose reality, whose inspiring guidance I know to be real.8

As we are obedient, we receive a testimony through the Spirit.

Purity of thought, and a sincere heart seeking the Savior’s guidance daily will lead to a testimony of the truth of Christ’s Gospel as sure and permanent as that which Peter possessed … after seeing the transfiguration of Christ, and hearing the voice of God testify to His divinity [see Matthew 17:1–5].9

I have wondered how many of us are showing … [the youth] how they may [receive a testimony]. Are we sufficiently emphasizing the fact that they will never know it if they indulge in sin; they will never find it out if they live to gratify their passions and appetites. “My spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Gen. 6:3; D&C 1:33; Moses 8:17.) His spirit will not dwell in unclean tabernacles. (“The Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples.” Helaman 4:24.) And you cannot have a testimony without the Spirit of God. …

… The question arises—How may I know? Jesus has answered it, as he has shown the way in every aspect of life. One day, when he bore testimony to his divinity, that his teachings were of God, the Pharisees and others around him said, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” How do we know (that was their question), that you are divine? And he gave a simple answer: “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 7:15, 17.) There is a definite answer—a clear-cut statement. … “If ye will do the will, ye shall know.” And, “to know God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent, is eternal life.” [See John 17:3.]10

It is given unto some, says the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, to know by the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was crucified for the sins of the world [see D&C 46:13]. It is to these I refer who stand firm upon the rock of revelation in the testimony that they bear to the world. But the Lord says further there are others to whom it is given to believe upon the testimony of others’ words, that they may also receive salvation if they continue faithful [see D&C 46:14]. To all these, however, there comes the testimony also of daily experience.

The Latter-day Saints throughout the world find confirmation of their testimony in every performance of duty. They know that the gospel teaches them to be better individuals; that obedience to the principles of the gospel makes them stronger men, and truer women. Every day such knowledge comes to them, and they cannot gainsay it; they know that obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ makes them better and truer husbands, true and honored wives, obedient children. They know that obedience to the principles of the gospel makes them in every respect ideal home-builders; the ideal is there, they sense it in their minds, they cannot gainsay it, they know it, and they know that transgression of these principles will have the opposite effect upon their individual lives and upon their home lives. They know that obedience to the gospel fosters true brotherhood and fellowship among mankind; they know that they are better citizens by virtue of obedience unto the laws and ordinances. So, as they go through their daily acts, and apply religion in their vocation, the truth of the Gospel becomes exemplified in their lives.11

You, no doubt, have met people who … wonder how it is that this Church manifests such vitality and growth. The secret is this, that every true Latter-day Saint possesses individually the assurance that this is the work of God, the same power that gave Peter and John strength to stand before their accusers and declare openly and boldly in the Sanhedrin that “Jesus whom ye crucified is the power by which this man was made whole,” that His name is the only name given among men by which they can be saved [see Acts 4:10, 12].

The secret lies in the testimony possessed by each individual who is faithful in the membership of the Church of Christ, that the gospel consists of correct principles. … This testimony has been revealed to every sincere man and woman who has conformed to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obeyed the ordinances and become entitled to and have received the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, to guide them. Every individual stands independent in his sphere in that testimony, just as [the] thousands of incandescent lamps which [make] Salt Lake City … so brilliant at night, each one of which stands and shines in its own sphere, yet the light in it is produced by the same power, the same energy, from which all the other lights receive their energy.12

If we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater, for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath witness in himself.” [1 John 5:10.] There is a witness of the Spirit. God does reveal today to the human soul the reality of the resurrection of the Lord, the divinity of this great work, the truth, the divine and eternal truth, that God lives, not as a power, an essence, a force, as electricity, but as our Father in heaven. … God reveals to the soul his existence. He reveals the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth to give to men the great reality of the existence of God and his Son.13

With truth as our guide, our companion, our ally, our inspiration, we may tingle with the consciousness of our kinship with the Infinite, and all the petty trials, sorrows, and sufferings of this life will fade away as the temporary, harmless visions seen in a dream. That is our privilege through God’s blessing and guidance if we apply in daily activity the spiritual blessings and privileges of the gospel of Jesus Christ.14

A testimony of the gospel is an anchor to the soul.

The testimony of the gospel is an anchor to the soul in the midst of confusion and strife. … Knowledge of God and His laws, means stability, means contentment, means peace, and with that a heart full of love reaching out to our fellow man offering the same blessings, the same privileges.15

We cannot truly believe that we are the children of God, and that God exists, without believing in the final inevitable triumph of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we believe that, we shall have less worry about the destruction of the world and the present civilization, because God has established his Church never to be thrown down nor given to another people. And as God lives, and his people are true to him and to one another, we need not worry about the ultimate triumph of truth.

… If you have that testimony [of truth] on your side, you can pass through the dark valley of slander, misrepresentation, and abuse, undaunted as though you wore a magic suit of armor that no bullet could enter, no arrow could pierce. You can hold your head high, toss it fearlessly and defiantly, look every man calmly and unflinchingly in the eye. … You will know that all will come out right in the end; that it must come; that all must flee before the great white light of truth, as the darkness slinks away into nothingness in the presence of the sunburst.16

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • What does it mean to have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel? Why is a testimony the most precious possession we can obtain? (See pages 164–65.) Why is it essential that we each have an individual testimony?

  • What must we do to receive a witness of the truth? (See pages 165–68.) Why is obedience an integral part of a strong testimony? What part does the Holy Ghost have in our obtaining a testimony?

  • Why is it important to continue to strengthen our testimonies throughout our lives? What ways have you found to nourish your testimony?

  • What can we do to help our children receive a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel?

  • President McKay taught that a “testimony of the gospel is an anchor to the soul” (page 168). Why do we need a testimony to anchor our souls? (See page 168.) How has your testimony protected and strengthened you through the trials of life?

  • Why is it important that we share our testimonies with others? What blessings have you experienced as a result of bearing testimony?

Related Scriptures: Matthew 16:13–17; Luke 22:32; John 7:17; 14:26; Ether 12:4; Moroni 10:3–5; D&C 1:39; 93:24–28


  1. Treasures of Life, comp. Clare Middlemiss (1962), 228.

  2. Treasures of Life, 228–30.

  3. Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. (1976), 7.

  4. Treasures of Life, 232.

  5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 88.

  6. In Conference Report, Apr. 1948, 172.

  7. In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 136.

  8. In Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 145–46.

  9. Ancient Apostles (1918), 49.

  10. In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 88–89.

  11. In Conference Report, Oct. 1912, 121; paragraphing altered.

  12. In Conference Report, Oct. 1912, 120–21.

  13. In Conference Report, Oct. 1925, 111.

  14. In Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 130.

  15. In Conference Report, Oct. 1912, 122.

  16. In Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 152.