“Be Not…Ashamed of the Testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8)
Fast Sunday is upon us! Here’s a topic from my study journal I wrote almost two years ago:
Taken from my mission journals, December 26th, 2010–Paarl, South Africa
My testimony is something I’ve always struggled to express adequately. I suppose that’s the reason why I did special musical numbers in church all the time back home. I always seemed to express my thoughts and feelings best through song. I don’t know if I’m proud or ashamed to admit that is still the case. I believe that when we were born, we all had planted in our minds and hearts the seed of a testimony of God and His merciful plan for all of us. Surely not everything was lost and forgotten when we passed through the veil. Surely our Father in Heaven would grant us a starter…a small seed as a reminder of His love with the intent that the seed will grow to become a fruitful witness of His tender mercies.
I’ve been reflecting on the nature of testimonies in a lot of different ways, the first being through adversity. During a severe trial, the last thing I’d be in the mood to do is bear a solemn testimony of Gospel truths. Job provides inspiration to this subject. Amidst death of family, rejection of friends, and devastation of any and every material possession he ever owned, he humbly proclaimed, “All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me…[yet] I know my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the Earth.” (Job 19:19, 25; emphasis added)
Such powerful words: I know! Job’s testimony was both emotionally and doctrinally significant as it was pure and simple.
The church is the same in South Africa and America, so naturally testimony meetings are also the same in that some people bear simple, solemn testimonies and others deliver long discourses and travelogues that tune out even the most intent listeners. The psalmist said it best in Psalm 19:7- “…the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” The most beautiful of all declarations is one’s heartfelt, simple testimony.
Testimonies have a unique power to touch and change hearts for the better. Even a stubborn heart can be moved by a stirring proclamation of one’s personal relationship with their Father in Heaven. But such testimonies, and such power, comes only by and through the Spirit of the Lord. Paul testifies “that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) These pure declarations only come as prompted by the Holy Ghost, since He is the one who testifies of truth and ultimately assists us in watering our seeds planted at birth.
We learn from modern and ancient prophets that before Christ comes again to reign in glory, every person on this Earth will have had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. Tragically, still not everyone will accept it fully and completely. But the prophet Nephi warns against taking a servant of the Lord’s testimony lightly. He counsels, “And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.” (2 Nephi 25:28) Testimonies indeed have the power to hold the listener responsible, especially if it’s coming out of the mouth of the prophet.
For testimonies to take the full effect we intend them to, we must not only proclaim a witness, but live it as well. If a testimony is a witness, especially such a sacred one as it is, wouldn’t the deliverer live up to the things he or she has seen or felt? The prophet Alma, while at the waters of Mormon, introduces this principle to a large group of soon-to-be recent converts in the Gospel. He counsels they must be “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death…” (Mosiah 18:9)
Of course, where there is any honest seeker of truth who has watered his or her testimony seed, there lies in wait one of Satan’s angels, ready to trample any sign of spiritual life that may be growing in its tender soil. The Lord Himself revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the summer of 1828 these very intentions which can be found in D&C 10:33, which reads: “Thus Satan thinketh to overpower your testimony in this generation, that the work may not come forth in this generation.” If Satan can destroy one testimony, he may destroy a whole forest of future testimonies. But when the Holy Spirit upholds and nurtures one testimony, He has built up nations of future testimonies.
Satan certainly does have a limited amount of power, even if he has shown it in marvelous ways. Commenting on the recent death of Joseph Smith by a mob of restless anti’s, President Brigham Young stated, “Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.” (D&C 136:39) Many prophets have done the same thing: lived as a witness of truth and light, only to seal that witness with a brutal death.
I am personally grateful for the testimonies of prophets both ancient and modern, who help guide this Church today. Serving a mission has only emphasized the fact that my Father in Heaven is aware of all of us collectively and individually. Jesus Christ is His Son, whose blood made an atonement for our souls. I am also grateful for the guiding and peaceful influence of the Holy Ghost, who is my eternal friend.
I’d like to hear your testimonies if you so choose to share them 🙂