“Chapter 7: Personal Testimony,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 69–78
“Chapter 7,” Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 69–78
In 1947 Elder Spencer W. Kimball received a letter from his son Andrew, who was serving a full-time mission. Andrew wrote: “I told one fellow … that I knew of the truthfulness of what I told him, and said that the Holy Ghost had borne witness of it to me. … When I thought about it later I was a little concerned that I should do such a thing.” Because of his concern he said, “I’ve carefully avoided bearing my testimony to anyone beyond the point of saying ‘I feel, I believe, etc.’”
Elder Kimball wrote back to his son. “I think I know exactly how you felt,” he said, “for I went through the same experience in my mission. I wanted to be very honest with myself and with the program and with the Lord. For a time I couched my words carefully to try to build up others without actually committing myself to a positive, unequivocal statement that I knew. I felt a little hesitant about it, too, for when I was in tune and doing my duty I felt the Spirit. I really wanted to say that which I really felt, that I knew, but I was reticent. When I approached a positive declaration, it frightened me and yet when I was wholly in tune and spiritually inspired, I wanted to testify. I thought I was being honest, very honest, but then I decided that I was fooling myself. …
“Undoubtedly, the day you testified to your investigator that you KNEW it was true, the Lord was trying so hard to reveal this truth to you through the power of the Holy Ghost. While you were in the Spirit and in tune and defending the holy program, you felt it deeply, but after you were ‘out of the Spirit’ and began to reason with yourself and check yourself and question yourself, you wanted to back out. …
“I have no question in my mind of your testimony. I am sure that you (like I did) have countless golden threads of testimony all through your being only waiting for the hand of the Master Weaver to assemble and weave them into a tapestry of exquisite and perfect design. Now my son, take my advice and QUENCH NOT THE SPIRIT, but whenever the Spirit whispers, follow its holy promptings. Keep in tune spiritually and listen for the promptings and when you are impressed speak out boldly your impressions. The Lord will magnify your testimony and touch hearts. I hope that you will know that there is no criticism herein, but only attempted helpfulness. …
“I cannot close my epistle to you without bearing you my testimony. I know that it is true—that Jesus is the Creator and Redeemer; that the Gospel taught by us and our 3,000 missionaries is restored and revealed through the real Prophet, Joseph Smith, and is of God, and I have consecrated the balance of my life to ‘preaching the kingdom.’ I [have borne] my testimony boldly … and I reaffirm it again and again. I am sure your testimony is the same except perhaps your golden threads need only to be woven into a complete tapestry which will quickly be accomplished in your missionary work as you turn your heart loose and let it rule your mind.
“May God help you to weave into a beautiful pattern the golden threads of your experience and inspiration and may you with always increasing power continue … to live and teach the everlasting truth.”1
Peter was asked by the Savior, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Peter, speaking for his brethren, the other Apostles, said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Savior’s next remark is a most significant one. He said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:13–17).
Who revealed this startling truth to him? Our Father in Heaven. How did he do it? By revelation. This basic knowledge that Jesus was the Christ, the Redeemer, the Savior, came not from any man or from any book or from any college. Peter received it directly from our Heavenly Father through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. …
… Every soul in this world may have a revelation, the same one that Peter had. That revelation will be a testimony, a knowledge that Christ lives, that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of this world. Every soul may have this assurance, and when he gets this testimony, it will have come from God and not from study alone. Study is an important element, of course, but there must be associated with study much prayer and reaching, and then this revelation comes.
When you individually know that Jesus was not only a great philosopher but that he was verily the Son of God, that he came into the world in the way that we claim he did, and that he went out of the world for the purpose that we claim he did—when you know that positively, and know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that this is the divine Church established by Jesus Christ, then you have had a revelation.2
There are people who pride themselves on their keen minds, who think they can delve into mysteries, but they can never define or explain or understand the spiritual things through their logic or through their mental processes. The spiritual things can be understood only through the Spirit. It must come through the heart and that is where the testimony is lodged.3
A sure knowledge of the spiritual is an open door to great rewards and joys unspeakable. To ignore the testimony is to grope in caves of impenetrable darkness, to creep along in fog over hazardous highways. That person is to be pitied who may still be walking in darkness at noonday, who is tripping over obstacles that can be removed, and who dwells in the dim flickering candlelight of insecurity and skepticism when he need not. The spiritual knowledge of truth is the electric light illuminating the cavern; the wind and sun dissipating the fog; the power equipment removing boulders from the road.4
A testimony is a personal revelation—one of the important gifts—and may be enjoyed by every soul who will pay the price.5
It is a good question which has been asked by millions since Joseph Smith phrased it: How am I to know which of all, if any, of the organizations is authentic, divine, and recognized by the Lord?
He has given the key. You may know. You need not be in doubt. … The necessary procedure is: study, think, pray, and do. Revelation is the key. God will make it known to you once you have capitulated and have become humble and receptive. Having dropped all pride of your mental stature, having acknowledged before God your confusion, having subjected your egotism, and having surrendered yourself to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, you are ready to begin to learn.6
We can have positive certainty of the reality of a personal God; the continued active life of the Christ, separate from but like his Father; the divinity of the restoration through Joseph Smith and other prophets of the organization and doctrines of God’s church on earth; and the power of the divine, authoritative priesthood given to men through revelations from God. These can be known by every responsible person as surely as the knowledge that the sun shines. To fail to attain this knowledge is to admit that one has not paid the price. Like academic degrees, it is obtained by intense strivings. That soul who is clean through repentance and the ordinances receives it if he desires and reaches for it, investigates conscientiously, studies, and prays faithfully.7
The Redeemer declared:
“My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
“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 7:16–17.)
What is it to know of the doctrine? It is an unwavering assurance. The Lord has offered a rich reward but has provided that it can be had only by meeting certain requirements. In this case the blessing promised is a knowledge of the divinity of the doctrine. And in this case the law or requirement is that one must “do his will.” …
… Mere passive acceptance of the doctrines will not give the testimony; no casual half-compliance with the program will bring that assurance, but an all-out effort to live his commandments.
We often see this in the lives of members of the Church. One said to me in a stake I visited, “I assiduously avoid all testimony meetings. I can’t take the sentimental and emotional statements that some of the people make. I can’t accept these doctrines unless I can in an intellectual and rational way prove every step.” I knew this type of man as I have met others like him. In no case had they gone all-out to live the commandments: little or no tithing, only occasional attendance at meetings, considerable criticism of the doctrines, the organizations, and the leaders, and we know well why they could have no testimony. Remember that the Lord said:
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
Such people have failed to “do what he says,” so of course, they have no promise. …
… It is not blind loyalty but faithful observance and turning of keys which open the storehouse of spiritual knowledge. The Lord will not discriminate between his children but delights to own and bless us all, if we will let him.8
What are you going to do with your testimony? Are you going to keep it sharpened like the knife with which our mothers cut the meat? Are you going to let it get dull and rusty? … It is a little like a rose. Just keep the rain off it; just keep the irrigation water off it for a little while and what happens to your rose? It dies. Your testimony dies. Your love dies. Everything has to be fed. You feed your body three times a day. The Lord says to keep your testimony, to keep your spirit alive, you have to feed it every day. … That is why he says pray every night and morning. That is why he says pray continually so that you keep that line open.9
Testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the [Church] in the whole month, if you have the spirit. If you are bored at a testimony meeting, there is something the matter with you, and not the other people. You can get up and bear your testimony and you think it is the best meeting in the month; but if you sit there and count the grammatical errors and laugh at the man who can’t speak very well, you’ll be bored. … Don’t forget it! You have to fight for a testimony. You have to keep fighting!
The Lord says in the 60th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, “With some I am not well pleased for they will not open their mouths” (D&C 60:2). What does he mean? He says that if they do not use it, they will lose what he has given them. They lose their spirit. They lose their testimony. And this priceless thing that you have can slip right out of your life.
Every month the First Presidency and the Twelve meet with all the General Authorities in the temple. They bear testimony and they tell each other how they love one another just like all of you. Why do the General Authorities need a testimony meeting? The same reason that you need a testimony meeting. Do you think that you can go three, and six, and nine, and twelve months without bearing your testimony and still keep its full value? …
You know this testimony is a tremendous thing, a most important thing. Any minister or priest can quote scripture and present dialogues. But not every priest or minister can bear his testimony. Don’t you sit there in your fast meeting and cheat yourself and say, “I guess I won’t bear my testimony today. I guess that wouldn’t be fair to these other members because I have had so many opportunities.” You bear your testimony. And one minute is long enough to bear it.
You have a testimony! It needs building and lifting and enlarging, of course; and that is what you are doing. Every time you bear your testimony it becomes strengthened.10
“I know it is true.” Because those few words have been said a billion times by millions of people does not make it trite. It will never be worn out. I feel sorry for people who try to couch it in other words, because there are no words like “I know.” There are no words which express the deep feelings which can come from the human heart like “I know.”11
Some of our good people get so terrified at triteness that they try to steer around and away from their testimonies by getting out on the fringes. Don’t you ever worry about triteness in testimony. When the President of the Church bears his testimony, he says, “I know that Joseph Smith was called of God, a divine representative. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” You see, the same thing every one of you says. That is a testimony. It never gets old, never gets old! Tell the Lord frequently how much you love him.
A testimony is not an exhortation; a testimony is not a sermon (none of you are there to exhort the rest); it is not a travelogue. You are there to bear your own witness. It is amazing what you can say in 60 seconds by way of testimony, or 120, or 240, or whatever time you are given, if you confine yourselves to testimony. We’d like to know how you feel. Do you love the work, really? Are you happy in your work? Do you love the Lord? Are you glad that you are a member of the Church?12
Just tell how you feel inside. That is the testimony. The moment you begin preaching to others, your testimony ended. Just tell us how you feel, what your mind and heart and every fiber of your body tells you.13
Knowing full well that before long, in the natural course of events, I must stand before the Lord and give an accounting of my words, I now add my personal and solemn testimony that God, the Eternal Father, and the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith. I testify that the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record of nations who once lived in [the] western hemisphere, where they prospered and became mighty when they kept the commandments of God, but who were largely destroyed through terrible civil wars when they forgot God. This book bears testimony of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.
I testify that the holy priesthood, both Aaronic and Melchizedek, with authority to act in the name of God, was restored to the earth by John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John; that other keys and authority were subsequently restored; and that the power and authority of those various divine bestowals are among us today. Of these things I bear solemn witness to all within the sound of my voice. I promise in the name of the Lord that all who give heed to our message, and accept and live the gospel, will grow in faith and understanding. They will have an added measure of peace in their lives and in their homes and by the power of the Holy Ghost will speak similar words of testimony and truth.14
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the letter Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote to his son Andrew (pages 69–70), noting the comparison of a testimony to a tapestry. What experiences and feelings make up your personal “golden threads of testimony”? Consider what the Lord has done to help you weave your threads of testimony into a tapestry.
How do you think it helped Andrew Kimball to receive the letter from his father? What opportunities do parents have to share their testimonies with their children? How can we help young people receive and recognize the spiritual promptings that lead to a testimony?
Briefly review pages 71–76, looking for words and phrases President Kimball used to describe our efforts to obtain and strengthen our testimonies. If a person feels that his or her testimony is wavering, what can that person do?
Study President Kimball’s counsel about fast and testimony meetings (pages 75–76). Why do you think we have these meetings? Why do our testimonies grow stronger when we share them? What can we do to ensure that testimony meeting will be one of the best meetings of the month for us?
Review President Kimball’s counsel on how we should bear our testimonies (pages 76–77). Why do the words “I know” contain so much power?