“President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 4
In a high council testimony meeting some time ago I heard one of the number say: “I am happy in the work and have made research and this Church and its doctrines satisfy me better than any thing I have found.” Then another arose with deep feeling and declared: “This is the work of God. I know it. It is the Lord’s eternal plan of exaltation. I know that Jesus lives and is the Redeemer.” I was uplifted by his sureness. And I went to the revelations of the Lord to see how it is that some are so sure while others are passive or have doubts.
I recall the experience of the Apostles when the Lord manifested himself to them after his resurrection and found a group who accepted him, but one of the quorum being absent declared that he would not believe unless he could see in the Lord’s hands the print of the nails and thrust his hand into the wounded side. And when the Savior, anticipating his doubt, had commanded Thomas to thrust forth his hand and feel and know, he said: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
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 Barjona: 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.
In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon we read this:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moro. 10:4).
That is no casual promise. It is a positive one, and 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. Treasure it as Mary did the revelation which came to her when she was told that she was to be the mother of the Son of God. She treasured it in her heart.
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.” Most of us know what his will is far more than we have disposition or ability to comply.
The Lord has reiterated his promise with much emphasis:
“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:61).
Another revelation gives us this:
“For unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them” (D&C 42:65).
This indicates another requirement: One must be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and still live the commandments to be given the knowledge of the divinity of the work. 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.
Testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the ward 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, and on that board you’ll slip right out of the Kingdom. 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?
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?
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. I ask missionaries “What think ye of Christ and the claims that are made?” And I hear inspiring testimonies from youth—sure testimonies, ringing with conviction. I am gratified at the replies saying, “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Almost without exception the missionaries have lived worthily, kept the commandments, and have been rewarded with a knowledge as promised by their Savior, in proportion to their faithfulness. 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. And here he reveals another most important item—one must be free from sin to claim the blessing of an unwavering testimony.
It should also be kept in mind that God cannot be found through research alone, nor his gospel understood and appreciated by study only, for no one may know the Father or the Son but “he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Luke 10:22). The skeptic will some day either in time or eternity learn to his sorrow that his egotism has robbed him of much joy and growth, and that as has been decreed by the Lord: The things of God cannot be understood by the spirit of man; that man cannot by himself find out God or his program; that no amount of scientific or philosophical research nor rationalizing will bring a testimony, but it must come through the heart when compliance with the program has made the person eligible to receive that reward.
The Savior could have taken highly trained minds from the temple porches for the chief builders of his kingdom, but he went to the seashore to get humble fishermen. He wanted men who would not depend upon their own intellects only to ferret out the truths, but unbiased men to whom he might reveal his new program, men who were trusting and sincere and willing to serve. They lived the truth, and they knew the truth, and the truth made them free and gave them peace.
To acquire a testimony, then, one must be in tune with the Spirit of the Lord, keep his commandments, and be sincere. Because one does not receive this positive assurance is no reason why another cannot. To say that another person cannot see the light because you fail to comprehend it is to place unwarranted limitations on another’s power. To say that no one can know of the doctrine because you do not is like saying that there is no germ or virus because it is not visible to you, and is to deny the word of God. Destructive criticism of the officers of the Church or its doctrines is sure to weaken and bring an eventual end to one’s testimony if persisted in.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). And there are many miserable people in the world because they have no hope. But, when the gospel lights a life, then hope comes into it, and it gives a person something for which to live. Study if you will the philosophies of men which continue to change, but remember to appraise and evaluate such theories as of human origin. But anchor your faith, your hopes, your future to God who is unchangeable, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If you cannot understand fully today, wait patiently and truth will unfold and light will come. Accept unreservedly the fact that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that life is eternal and, that the kind of life we live here will determine the degree of eternal joy and peace we shall have throughout eternity.
Sometimes people let their hearts get so set upon things and the honors of this world that they cannot learn the lessons they most need to learn. Simple truths are often rejected in favor of the much less demanding philosophies of men, and this is another cause for the rejection of the prophets.
The Lord will bless us and watch over us, sometimes dramatically. At other times, he leaves us to cope with the challenge, rather than removing or diverting the challenge. He will not let us be tried beyond that which we can bear, but he will choose to push us at times.
I know without question that God lives and have a feeling of sorrow for those people in the world who live in the gray area of doubt, who do not have such an assurance.
I know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father, and that he assisted in the creation of man and all that serves man, including the earth and all that is in the world. He was the Redeemer of mankind and the Savior of this world and the author of the plan of salvation for all men and the exaltation of all who live the laws he has given.
He it was who organized this vehicle—this true church—and called it after his name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In it are all the saving graces.
I know that the Lord has contact with his prophets, and that he reveals the truth today to his servants as he did in the days of Adam and Abraham and Moses and Peter and Joseph and the numerous others throughout time. The countless testimonies of the Brethren throughout the ages are positive and uniform, uplifting and faith-building and hope-building, and they encourage worthiness. God’s messages of light and truth are as surely given to man today as in any other dispensation.
I know this is true, and I bear this testimony to you, my beloved brothers and sisters and friends in all the world.