Today is “Fast and Testimony” Sunday.
The LDS Church devotes the first Sunday of the month to fasting for two meals and donating generously to the poor and humanitarian causes. This Sunday is the “Testimony Meeting,” when members share their personal witness of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.
“In a fast and testimony meeting, there are no assigned speakers or special musical selections. Instead, the person conducting bears a brief testimony. He then invites members of the congregation to bear their testimonies. To bear testimony means to declare gospel truths as inspired by the Holy Ghost. Testimonies should be brief so that many people can participate.” (Church Handbook, 29.2.2)
Brigham Young proclaimed: “I would rather hear men tell their own experience, and testify that Joseph was a Prophet of the Lord, and that the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and other revelations of God, are true; that they know it by the gift and power of God … than hear any other kind of preaching that ever saluted my ears.” (J.D. 1:90-91)
Testimony meetings are memorable. They are spiritually edifying, uplifting, and inspiring.
“What is a Testimony”
“A testimony is a personal spiritual witness of eternal truth.” Testimonies are sacred. They come from the Holy Spirit through personal revelation.
A testimony contains certain fundamental truths.
1. God lives. He is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He loves us, and He wants to become like Him and share His joy.
2. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He suffered and died in order to overcome sin and death, so that we will be resurrected, and can return and live with God again. Through His love and grace, Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves.
3. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Through the Prophet Joseph, the Lord restored His everlasting gospel and His true church.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true restored Church. It is built on a foundation of a living prophet and twelve apostles, with Jesus Christ at its head.
5. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It was translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God. It is evidence that all these things are true.
Obtaining and Strengthening Testimonies
We obtain and strengthen our testimonies by “striving” through: (a) prayer, (b) scripture study, (c) pondering and meditation, (d) participating in church meetings, (e) keeping the commandments, (f) repenting frequently, and (g) serving others. Each person’s conversion and personal revelatory witness is unique.
“Open Mike Sunday” and “Quasi Testimonies” -The Exception
Occasionally, the testimony meeting train jumps the track and becomes: “Open Mic Sunday” with “quasi-testimonies.”
M. Russell Ballard: “My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies.” (“Pure Testimony,” Gen Conf. Oct 2004)
“Thank-i-monies“ This a where a member goes on and on, at length, sharing their plethora of personal blessings, and never mentioning the restored gospel.
“Love-i-monies“ This is when a member publicly shares their never-ending love for others, at length, without expressing their love for the Savior and His atoning sacrifice.
“Travel-monies“ This is when a member shares, at length, a travelogue, never mentioning fundamental truths.
“Sob-i-monies“ This is when a member uncontrollably sobs, at length, making it impossible to hear and understand their words.
“Group Therapy” This is when a member dumps a load of personal problems, sins, addictions, pet peeves, frustrations, etc. on the congregation, at length, without referring to gospel principles.
“Sermonizing” This is when a wannabe church teacher gives a lengthy doctrinal discourse, but never says, “I know.”
Thankfully, “open mic Sundays,” filled with “quasi-testimonies” are rare.
The Sincere Testimony Bearer
Importantly, testimony meetings are not only for the benefit of the congregation, but also for blessing the testimony bearer.
Sometimes, the person sharing their testimony is new to the gospel or has recently returned to the fold. Occasionally, the bearer may be a child or a person with disabilities.
Their testimonies may not be “brief” by subjective standards. Their testimonies may not be entirely “pure” by subjective standards.
Yet, their heartfelt, sincere testimonies are some of the most powerful. These members should be praised for their effort. After all, “the Lord loves effort.“
As a wise bishop counseled:
“We have a number of new members and returning members that have struggled to find their place among those members that seem to have a strong gospel foundation, and those new or returning members often feel shame for their inadequacies.”
“These members are struggling through the repentance process, but each have strong desires to rely upon the atoning blood of our Savior and be better. They are struggling with insecurities, and many are struggling with acceptance within church . . . I am desperately trying to get them to keep fighting, to keep holding on to the gospel in all that they do, while continuing to make the seemingly arduous effort to attend their church meetings on a regular basis. I want them to feel the Savior’s love when they walk through the doors of our chapel to partake of the sacrament or attend our Sunday School classes, [or to share their testimonies].”
“How someone might receive personal revelation in their life inspired by the Holy Ghost, and how those experiences might affect their formation . . . and delivery of a testimony in different ways . . . is personal, and it is acceptable. . . “
Strive for “Pure Testimonies”
M. Russell Ballard: “Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. . . . Although we can have testimonies of many things as members of the Church, there are basic truths we need to constantly teach one another and share with those not of our faith. Testify God is our Father and Jesus is the Christ. The plan of salvation is centered on the Savior’s Atonement. Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon is evidence that our testimony is true. (“Pure Testimony,” Gen. Conf. Oct 2004)
There is nothing wrong with a member sharing a “brief” expression of thanks or love, or a short scripture or doctrinal truth, or a conquered challenge, or a short miracle or spiritual experience, or a tearful expression as part of their testimony. However, we should strive to center our testimonies on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the fundamental truths of His restored gospel.