During two years in the fabulous the Zürich Switzerland mission, I had the privilege of working with a huge variety of people. I counted 52 different nationalities of people that we taught in that international melting pot. We taught people from all social ranks, and while the poor and humble were the easiest to teach, we found the highly educated and wealthy to be far more receptive and warm to us than I would have imagined. The Swiss are a friendly people – though I’ll admit this was back before American became a hiss and a byword among many nations that once respected this nation.
We had relatively little success among the intellectuals that we met, but I greatly value the opportunities we had to talk. They gave us plenty to think about, and we certainly tried to make it mutual, young and naive as we were.
I remember one intellectual being very upset with us. In nearly perfect English, he chastised us for thinking we had testimonies. He explained that he was familiar with our faith and had attended our meetings while he was in the US, and was amazed at how little children in fast and testimony meetings would go up and parrot words their parents gave them, as if that was a testimony. He became angry and said that we had been brainwashed and couldn’t think for ourselves. His unkind critique stuck with me and influenced the way I instructed my ward about testimony meetings back when I was serving as a bishop. While some young children can have sincere testimonies about some aspects of the Gospel, I want people to express testimonies from their hearts and not to simply parrot the words of others. Personally, I had a genuine strong but fledgling testimony of God and the power of prayer at age 6, though I don’t think I publicly expressed it until I was a teenager, and my testimony of the Book of Mormon did not really begin until I earnestly sought to determine its divinity or fraudulence at age 14.
There was some merit to his criticism, but much of it was a caricature of the LDS testimony, especially the testimonies of those who have sincerely sought to know for themselves of the reality of Jesus Christ as our Savior, the truthfulness of the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, etc. In spite of the appearance of some children just parroting other people’s words in some units, the typical faithful Latter-day Saint has done a lot of soul-searching, studying, and prayer, just as the Book of Mormon teaches us (e.g., the story of Enos and his quest for a testimony, the many references to long study, prayer, and fasting to obtain personal knowledge, and the promise of Moroni 10:3-4 to those who study, ponder, and pray to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon). The LDS testimony is based upon a combination of mental effort such as studying and pondering, coupled with spiritual effort through prayer and listening to the Spirit, in a quest to receive revelation from the Spirit of God to our own spirit to help us understand the things of God.
Unfortunately, the critics of our faith make a mockery of this thing that we call our testimony. This personal, private experience with revelation from God is ridiculed as a mindless reliance on “feelings” alone, perhaps mistaking a touch of heartburn or warm humid air for the revelation from God. In the anti-Mormon caricature of the LDS testimony, logic, evidence, and facts have no bearing on our belief, just warm feelings we get during meetings with suspiciously poor air conditioning (preferably just after partaking of the sacrament featuring Uncle Garcia’s Jalapeño Bread – “producing spiritual experiences since 1965”).
Some of our critics bemoan our benighted state of ignorance, insisting that our so-called testimonies represent mindless blindness, unlike the evidence-based belief system of Evangelical Christianity. Here at Mormanity a number of critics have told us how foolish it is to pray to know the truth, which is a sure path for deception. Instead, real Christians simply have to look at the clear evidence God has given us and accept the facts – no need to pray and seek subjective “revelation” since God has already revealed plain facts in black and white. It gets very interesting when you press for details and ask which facts, and how to interpret them, and why there are so many different teachings if all truth is so clearcut. The so-called evidence for things like the truthfulness of Genesis become an occasional ancient document mentioning some ancient city also mentioned in the Bible, or some find possibly affirming that there was a king named David. The evidence for things like the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the miracles he performed become little more than assertions of a much copied and edited document that is long removed from the time of those events, with absolutely no original New Testament manuscript known for any part of the New Testament. I believe in the Bible, but to say that no faith is needed to accept Jesus as the Christ because of the irrefutable evidence is ludicrous – and anti-Biblical.
There are witnesses for Christ, as there are witnesses for the Book of Mormon, which itself is a witness of Christ. God has not left us without witnesses and evidence, but the impact of these is greatest after faith is exerted.
There are evidences for the Bible and for the Book of Mormon, as there are for the role of Joseph Smith as prophet. Conversion involves the brain, but not the brain alone. The role of faith and revelation through the Spirit must not be overlooked. It is essential. I am offended by the anti-Mormon caricature of the LDS testimony as based upon feelings alone. It is heart and mind turning toward the Lord, studying, pondering, seeking, and then receiving revelation and enlightenment to the heart and to the mind. A testimony of Jesus Christ is not the result of intellectually overwhelming evidence based on tangible data – the witness of “flesh and blood” – but on the revelation from God through the Spirit to our spirits.
This may all sound like heresy to some who think that the LDS concept of personal revelation is an affront to the plain, evidence-based, logical truth that they think they have. But these concepts are purely biblical and purely Christian.
Consider Revelation 19:10, which teaches that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” A testimony of Christ requires revelation – the essence of prophecy. It’s not just the logical result of looking at the hard data. Data rarely changes the heart of man and turns a sinner into a penitent Saint. The influence of the Spirit is needed to do this. Likewise, Christ explained to Peter that Peter’s witness of Christ was not based on logic and data (“flesh and blood”), but had been revealed to Him by the Spirit:
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17)
As for the basic concept of the LDS testimony, based on revelation from God to the spirit within us, I conclude with the witness of Paul in I Corinthians 2:4-11 (New KJV):
4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Don’t expect the evidence – as impressive as it can be to those who have the eye of faith – to convert the natural man, the man who insists on evidence and logic and proof. Faith is needed, and prayer is truly helpful, as James teaches (James 1:5). The goal, of course, is to receive personal revelation through the Spirit to help us know and understand the truth of God that is hidden from the wisdom of men. We call that a testimony. It’s a valid biblical concept, in spite of the hostile caricatures of our our critics, and in spite of the weaknesses of some LDS testimonies and testimony sharing.
129 thoughts on “Caricatures of the LDS Testimony – and a Friendly Reminder from Paul”
I have in the past expressed my opinion on testimonies and such and the harsh realism that some testimonies are just fluff or recited words or stories. And yes I may have offended a few, but I agree that a testimony is something from the heart, from the unseen hand, of evidence not seen but real.
I too had a testimony from a very early age of the divinity of Christ and it wasn’t until later that testimony increased due to prayerful study of the Bible and later the Book of Mormon. I could see how so many falsly believed in a God, that I deem the schizophrenic God, not a Father in Heaven with a Son who He sent to teach us, to atone for our sins, to die on the cross and the resurrect for us and it bothered me. It bothered me to see people follow blindly such…crafts…and yet the secret, the key to why my testimony grew came from Christ’s own teachings, to seek, to ask, to knock and HE, not some other person, not some faithful evangelist or prophet, would lead me to all truth. I may have my sarcasm and I may have my moments on this blog, but I know Christ lives and He does choose His servants to lead us. But it is for us to find that testimony, to search for those answers that bind or minds and hearts, it is us that must seek first before we can find. For some of us, it just isn’t our time to find that testimony and for others, it is. Good post Jeff.
Great post Jeff, the critique of receiving truth by the Spirit has been floating around lately.
I think your post also underscores a point that Elder Oaks made this last conference and Elder Ballard in April 2004, along with numerous FP messages to our wards and branches. It is that our testimony meetings need to focus more on what we know and how we came to that knowledge and less on how our last vacation to Powell was. This will allow the true investigator to feel the Spirit when it testifies (much to the chagrin of some of our critics) whereas a thanki-mony simply is simply a public display of acknowledgment.
Great post. I don’t buy this “feelings are for idiots and mormons” flavor-of-the-month criticism either.
I can’t remember who coined the term “theological suicide bomb,” but I like the way it drives at the real problem with such unstudied statements: A comprehensive lack of self-awareness.
I am a convert since 1979. I really started my investigation of the gospel because I felt something I had never felt before and I understood something very clearly that I had never even thought about before. That started me on a path of pondering and prayer. Before I thought that the Christ thing was a myth that’s just perpetuated because it earned money to some people.
I found early on the quoted passage in Matthew that says: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven”. That is how it is with me. I actually know that Christ atoned for my sins and lives today. Somehow simple, somehow inexplicable.
But the “evidence-based faith of Evangelical Christians” did crack me up a bit. One of my arguments against believing in the Bible before my conversion was that the document is so messed up and contradictory in some points. The inerrantist views of Evangelicals is totally opposite. And I have asked some, who claim that the Bible is word-perfect, which Bible it is; I have seen many Bibles that have the same verses differently or simply omitted some.
In the end, it is understandable that those with most to lose by seeing the truth prevail should attack it most fiercely. We just have to weather the storm and do our best to help those with sincere desire to understand and find the truth.
As for testimony meetings, I have always tried to come up with something original, but it is hard. Nevertheless, I belong to those who think that little children shouldn’t “bear their testimony” before they at least know how to say more than “I love mommy and daddy” without being prompted by the parent. It doesn’t go down with me well, either, when people give travelogues or call others to repentance. Actually, I believe these have been a concern for the GA’s.
Jeff Lindsay said: “I believe in the Bible, but to say that no faith is needed to accept Jesus as the Christ because of the irrefutable evidence is ludicrous -and anti-Biblical.”
Th phrase “irrefutable evidence” was used in the article by D. Keith Mano that I mentioned in another thread. What Mano basically said is that the description in Mark 8 coupled with Oliver Sack’s research on post-blind syndrome is “irrefutable evidence” that a miracle occured at Bethsaida (Jesus healed a blind man).
That said, it still takes faith for a person to believe in Christ as his personal savior.
“Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.”– Bob Dylan [Precious Angel]
Thanks, David – when I wrote that sentence I was mostly thinking of the critic who has been insisting that the clear evidence leaves everyone without excuse. I find that puzzling. The amount of understanding and knowledge available to humans varies widely. From infants to cunning politicians, there is a wide range of access to the knowledge and information that might leave one with varying levels of excuse for not accepting Christ or whatever particular set of doctrinally correct views our critic feels are essential for salvation.
David, I would like to point out that the internal evidence of Mark 8 falls very much into the category of evidence for plausibility, but is hardly irrefutable evidence on its own. Yes, it is plausible, but does it prove anything? If we assume that the event really happened and are trying to decide if it was staged with a fakir or an authentic miracle, yes, it is less likely that a staged miracle would use the two-step approach. But if one begins with the hypothesis that the book of Mark is a fabrication written to prop up an emerging religion, and that the event described never happened in the first place, then one could say that the story is simply evidence that the writer of this fiction was clever in adding a realistic touch or two.
But David, don’t you think that one could easily argue that the story is actually evidence of fraud? If Christ is all-powerful, why did it take Him two steps to fix the vision of that man (or, a cynic could say, “two tries to get it right”)?
Yes, a fraud trying to demonstrate that Christ was all-powerful might naturally make the miracle happen immediately in one step. But the author could have been working from a different paradigm, or could have been deliberately adding some human touches.
It’s a fascinating little snippet of scripture, but to call it “irrefutable evidence” suggests a failure to consider other possibilities. If that ranks as irrefutable evidence, then the Book of Mormon is irrefutably proven a thousand times over, and faith is no longer needed.
Excellent Post Jeff,
I’ve always had a problem with people who have tried to criticize others sincere testimonies in the past even those of people from other faiths. I actually enjoy the testimonies of young children and while they may not no how to conceptualize or put into words what they feel without their parents help they are the ones that drag their parents up there driven by what I believe to be the spirit to do so. Also I have rarely seen where the parent who probably needed to bear there’s as well didn’t. While I despise travelogues or sermons during testimony meeting becoming a parent has taught just how precious the young children’s testimonies are. I truly enjoyed this post and your testimony which is borne throughout. Thank you.
Applying the same principle to ourselves, let’s not caricature other denominations or paint with too broad a brush.
Other denominations and christian movements (or broad categories of them) aren’t as well-defined or centrally-defined as the LDS organization.
The words “evangelical” and “pentecostal” are used or claimed by many individual churches or loose associations without any central authority who says who can use those terms or what they mean.
The LDS church’s most vociferous critics claim to be evangelicals, and that has likely led many LDS-defenders, or “anti-anti-mormons”, on the blogosphere to wrongly assume that all evangelicals are anti-Mormon, or that all evangelicals fall into the spiritual mistakes of that their anti-Mormon brethren make.
How do I put this nicely? Not all evangelicals are as big of jerks as the anti-mormon faction of their movement. Not all evangelicals fall into the domineering “because it’s so obvious, you fool” attitude of some anti-mormon evangelicals.
Not all evangelicals preach against believing your feelings. Not all evangelicals (actually very few) deny personal revelation and personal guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Evangelicals and pentecostals are neighbors along the religious spectrum, and there is plenty of overlap between those two groups.
I’ve read and heard plenty of evangelical and pentecostal preaching of “listening to the Spirit” and “walking in the Spirit”. I once visited a friend’s church, and their preacher’s sunday school lesson was about 98% in line with our Gospel Principles manual in terms of listening to and following the Spirit!
Pentecostals are big on personal revelation and prophecy, and so are the evangelicals who are near them on the spectrum.
Here’s a story, on an evangelical web site, by a lady evangelical preacher Beth Moore, about an incidence of personal revelation and guidance at an airport. That story is so “Mormon”! I can easily imagine hearing that story told at a Mormon conference or fireside.
Here’s a story about the conversion (to the LDS faith) of an evangelical type preacher, The Good Bishop Walker.
I sincerely believe that most evangelicals and pentecostals really do believe in personal revelation, that is, the flow of information from God to man through the Holy Spirit.
What we’ve been seeing on this blog in the past few months are the aberrations of a few control-freaks. “Unrighteous dominion” raises its ugly head in all churches and religions.
Recent anti’s here are _not_ representative of the evangelical or pentecostal movements as a whole. I think they do a disservice to their cause because they draw attention away from the many overlapping beliefs that LDS have with evangelical/pentecostals.
I bet the adversary wants to stir up contention and misunderstanding between the LDS and evangelicals/pentecotals. Because if evangelicals/penetcostals investigated the LDS claims, and actually used their faith, abilities, and spiritual gifts to discern whether what we say is true, then they’d find out it that it is.
Hence, whenever there is a domineering control-freak leader among them, they call in professional anti-mormons to misdirect and herd their followers away from checking us out.
Here’s another way that some people get trapped into not investigating:
When you start to get your life in line with God’s plan, He blesses you, no matter what church you’re in. He has to. When you obey his laws, the blessings and outpourings of spirit naturally flow.
When you start to believe, you’re blessed. When you repent, you’re blessed. When you make efforts to keep the Lord’s commandments, you’re blessed. No matter what religion you’re in, you’re going to see and experience a change, and receive the benefits thereof, if you start to follow true principles.
But those blessings sometimes fill peoples’ cup to the brim. They have no room for additional blessings. Or perhaps for some, they just can’t imagine greater blessings. They’ve received such an outpouring from a God who loves them, they can’t conceive of doing more for God, or receiving more blessings from God.
Can we blame them for loving and having loyalty to their churches and preachers/ministers who brought them to the knowledge of God and taught them how to receive more blessings than they could imagine?
I certainly don’t. I still have good feelings towards the various churches and preachers who prepared me along my path and taught me how important it was to listen for the Spirit, and that prayer was a two-way street. They taught me that God was still a God of miracles, of revelation, of power.
So when someone finally told me that God called a new prophet, and had him miraculously translate some old book written in gold, I thought “Yeah, technically, God could do that.”
And when he told me that God had formed an “official” church to prepare for the second coming, I thought “That would be really important to know if it’s true. And if it’s true, I bet God would have a way that you could find out if it’s true, because God is big on revelation.”
In my book, sincere evangelicals and pentecostals are half-way on their way to being Mormon.
What we’ve seen from the critics here is not true evangelicalism.
I am inclined to agree with your Swiss friend that children are thoroughly convinced of a “testimony” long before they are capable of having one. This happens at a time when they are completely dependent on their parents and aware that, by offending them, they could lose their protection.
As a result of this early programming all of the rigorous intellectual and spiritual work adolescents and adults do to justify the belief system can be reduced to returning to the state of satisfying stasis they achieved by ensuring their parents’ love by repeating a testimony.
This isn’t to say it isn’t sincerely felt and believed and that it can’t be confirmed by judicious use of evidence. But the ability to use it to refute equally compelling evidence — some of FARMS work is convoluted and thin by any account — lends credence to a view of testimony as self-generated.
Adult converts, of course, haven’t undergone this early programming. I suspect what accomplishes the same motivation for them is the welcoming and sheltering group.
Naturally, none of this denies the good that can be accomplished by an individual’s surrendering his own needs to a group need or adopting worthy values and using a group to hold himself to them. And all of this, I would warrant enforces the testimony, but it is, again, something else, something ultimately self-serving, rather than a transcendent Truth.
Anon at 9:11 AM, August 06, 2008.
Care to choose a handle? If you don’t wish to chose a handle, here’s one for you: Anon080608. Just so we can keep track of the chain of discussion and who says what.
Also, what is your standpoint? Are you speaking from the standpoint of an agnostic, atheist, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, or other non-LDS-strain of Christian?
Mormons are far from being the sole proponents of personal and spiritual revelatory experiences.
Your assertions seem to run counter to any believer of any faith that has sought and received spiritual answers or experiences. So I would tend to assume that you’re an agnostic or atheist. But I wanted to make sure.
My experience as an adult convert also runs counter to your adult convert supposition. I had only one contact/conversation with a Mormon, and it wasn’t until 7 years later that I investigated the LDS church. And even then, I didn’t investigate until I felt it was probably an answer to a prayer.
I started to read the Book of Mormon after one “fireside”, but before any missionary lessons. I didn’t go to their church building or their Sunday meetings, just a few members and missionaries at someone’s home for that one fireside.
I knew before the first night of reading was over, that the Book of Mormon was true.
I’m grateful that you think that people like me are sincere. And I realize I’ll never convince you, indeed I don’t want to convince you, that “God told me it’s true.”
But there are a couple of premises one has to overcome before one get’s their own answer:
1. One has to believe that it’s _possible_ that God exists.
2. One has to believe that _if_ God exists, then it’s _possible_ that he answers prayers through personal and spiritual revelatory experiences.
A person who rules out either or both of those possibilities, rules out geting the answer for themself.
Mormanity said: “But David, don’t you think that one could easily argue that the story is actually evidence of fraud? If Christ is all-powerful, why did it take Him two steps to fix the vision of that man (or, a cynic could say, “two tries to get it right”)?
Yes, a fraud trying to demonstrate that Christ was all-powerful might naturally make the miracle happen immediately in one step. But the author could have been working from a different paradigm, or could have been deliberately adding some human touches.”
I can’t say it any better than D. Keith Mano already has–a faker, (or a first-century writer who made the entire story up) not knowing about post-blind syndrome, would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision.
As far as I can judge, this is irrefutable evidence that a miracle did occur at Bethsaida. Back in 30 A.D. the blind did not often receive sight: there were few, if any, eye surgeons and seldom a decent miracle-worker. No shill in the crowd could have faked it all by pretending to be blind — because only someone recently given his sight would see “men as trees, walking,” would see the Cubist jumble that Virgil told Oliver Sacks about. A faker, not knowing about post-blind syndrome, would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision.
The most astonishing aspect of this miracle is its double nature: you get not one cure but two. Often even devout Christians downplay the wonder-working Jesus — lest they seem naive or over-credulous in a scientific age. We are somewhat embarrassed by New Testament miracles, as if God were cheating in the competition for our belief. We rationalize as an atheist might: “So what if Jesus cured people who were halt and blind? He was a charismatic faith healer. Some of his clientele, no doubt, had come down with stress-induced psychosomatic conditions. Jesus healed them through positive thought or Essene hypnosis, whatever. Rasputin did the same: nothing supernatural about it.”
That explanation might still hold for Part One of the Bethsaida event. So let us suppose a man like Virgil, blind since childhood because of traumatic shock. Let us also suppose that Jesus, Messiah-as-therapist, came along and healed Virgil in a non-miraculous way. That does not (and cannot) explain Part Two. Whether Virgil’s blindness was physical or psychosomatic, still his brain would have been deprived of the visual exercise and constant drill essential to clear three-dimensional sight. Only by a miracle could Jesus provide that necessary crash course in visual recognition. Charismatic therapists may be able to unblock sight –but they cannot infuse a human brain with that lifetime of visual experience necessary for normal sight.
I’ve always thought that the intellectuals mock testimonies because they can’t refute someone’s own personal feelings and experiences with logic. Therefore they get frustrated and nasty and conduct ad hominem attacks.
I’m also in the camp of people uncomfortable with little children regurgitating words whispered in their ears by parents and calling it a testimony.
Great comments, Bookslinger. I agree. My reference to “evidence-based Evangelical Christianity” was tongue-in-cheek with respect to the particular views of some critics. The large body of “responsible Evangelical Christianity” holds many views compatible with ours and would probably have more to say about the need for faith and the guidance of the Spirit than the impact of evidence and logic alone.
I actually kind of like Keith Mano’s reasoning about the Lord’s miracle of restoring that man’s sight in a two step process. It seems similar to someone else’s “evidence of plausibility” discourses that I’m aware of. 🙂
BTW, there’s a girl in our ward who recently turned 8 and was baptized. Twice in the past year she’s gotten up, apparently on her own, to bear her testimony in Fast and Testimony meeting. Both times she read her testimony from a piece of paper that she took with her. I thought that was excellent. She knew what she wanted to say, but hadn’t grown into saying it extemporaneously yet.
Great post Jeff. I wrote about another aspect of this topic today on my blog. Is a personal spiritual experience a basis for belief?
I though you might find this interesting.
Catholic Priest Teaches Book of Mormon
Brett Hansen grew up Catholic but received his first Book of Mormon when he was twenty-five while moonlighting at a conveyance store in Las Vegas. His day job was teaching. The book was a gift from his boss. “Conversion is a life long process, but this was a beginning” Brett says.
“My boss was the executive secretary in a stake presidency and I was impressed with the way he lived his life. He had eight daughters and finally had the son he had hoped for, but the baby was born with Down’s syndrome. Still, my boss handled that news so graciously. It had an impact on me.”
Brett read the Book of Mormon and believed it was true. It was another witness for Christ, but Brett had been raised Catholic and this was the path his family expected him to follow. He joined a Catholic religious order and began studying to become a Priest. He was immersed in the Theology and doctrine of that church.
He was sent to teach at Springfield, Illinois…not far from the LDS Church History sites of Nauvoo and Carthage. About the same time he took his vows and became a Catholic Priest. His assignment was to teach music at a boy’s high school. The priests and the brothers all lived above the school.
Brett said, “As I was teaching these boys, I kept asking myself how can I best serve the Lord?”
The next year he taught an 11th grade class on The New Testament. “I still had my Book of Mormon and started using some of the scriptures in the book to supplement the New Testament class. Of course, this got back to my superiors and I was called on the carpet a few times. I knew the Book of Mormon was true and I taught that it was another witness for Christ.”
“All of this was causing me problems. I had concerns about baptism. Why did we have to baptize for Adam’s original sin? Why was the Savior baptized by immersion?
What about Prophets and apostles? In Matthew 16:19, the Savior had talked to Peter about the binding power of the priesthood. “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shalt be loosed in heaven.” Why didn’t we believe this doctrine?”
“Then came one of the toughest, most agonizing decisions of my life. I decided to leave the order. I moved to Colorado. I joined an LDS Book of the Month Club and began reading LDS Church History, theology, history, and doctrine. I believed the Church was true and the Book of Mormon was a witness for Christ.
“But, I really missed teaching so I prayed and told God if you can find me a teaching job in Utah, I‘ll join the church. Shortly after I sent my resume out, I had three job offers in Utah. One of them was in Price, Utah. Now, I didn’t know anything about Price, and if I had I wouldn’t have gone there. I like living in the city, not the small town country life.
When I arrived in Price I looked up a Stake President’s name in the phone book and wrote him letter saying, ‘I want to be baptized into your Church.”
“Within a week missionaries were at my door with the ward mission leader. As they were teaching me I felt this dark cloud coming over me and I felt like I was going to suffocate. It was a terrifying feeling, but as they continued to teach, the feeling left and a calm peaceful feeling replaced the darkness. Two or three weeks later I was baptized. It was one of those touching events that left me speechless.”
“As a bachelor in a small town I had all kinds of offers from matchmakers who wanted to line me up with single women. I told them I wasn’t interested in dating. Then one of my band students asked me to date her mother. I did. She had six children. I fell in love with her and within a year we were married.”
“In two years I had gone from being a Catholic Priest to a married Mormon father with six children who ranged from kindergarten to high school.”
“I know the Church is true, that we have a prophet on the earth, and that God prepared me to find the truth not only from the Book of Mormon, but from living prophets and apostles.
As told to Patty Butts
Both the mormanity entry and ensuing discussion have been wonderful, giving me a great opportunity to reconsider my own testimony.
In our own ward, where I was recently in the bishopric, we worked to teach people some basics about testimonies and testimony meeting. Like, perhaps children shouldn’t bear their testimony in testimony mtg until they can do it without assistance. That testimonies should be centered on Christ. That testimonies should be a profession of faith, not a presentation of gospel doctrine in the way a sacrament talk or sunday school lesson would be.
And yet, within those principles, I could never agree to a notion that a testimony had to contain a formulaic content with a specific beginning, middle, and end to be a valid testimony. We each come to the pulpit with such different backgrounds, different capabilities and ways of expression, that I feel to show bearers of testimonies as much compassion as possible.
Perhaps the telling of an event that led to a spiritual experience takes too long to get to the spirit. Perhaps the expression of love and gratitude forgets to center on Christ. Perhaps the admission of difficulties doesn’t seem strong and faith-promoting enough. Yet I still feel to welcome them as honest expressions, woven into the broader context of the entire testimony meeting.
OK, the woman in my South Carolina ward that used testimony meeting to catalogue the latest mistakes of her aged husband went too far. But most don’t, and I believe patience with the imperfections of others bears its own fruit.
“He explained that he was familiar with our faith and had attended our meetings while he was in the US, and was amazed at how little children in fast and testimony meetings would go up and parrot words their parents gave them, as if that was a testimony. He became angry and said that we had been brainwashed and couldn’t think for ourselves. His unkind critique stuck with me and influenced the way I instructed my ward about testimony meetings back when I was serving as a bishop. While some young children can have sincere testimonies about some aspects of the Gospel, I want people to express testimonies from their hearts and not to simply parrot the words of others.”
First off I want to express my respect for the many hours you and others have given in your callings because as a convert I have not fully lived up to my promise to do all I could in the church but I know of the great sacrifice you have made so my criticism is just from a view of an inexperienced convert.
The greatest experience in the church is that I have never had a bad experience in a testimony meeting. I have been blessed by God to have the Spirit poured out regardless of what took place. Regardless of the travel logs, stupid clumsy members, or child brain washing and I have always wondered why so many members are embarrassed because of this meeting. This element in the church of the lay people and not the High Holy Priesthood expressing their full commitment to God to offering up their very children as a testimony and very lives to Him is why I love the restored gospel.
My question would be does this include songs like “I am a child of God”, or “Jesus loves me yes I know”? for children that do not have any way of knowing if this is true? Or does this include all the gospel lessons taught as a facts of faith without a testimony such as a the stories of the scriptures?
As a convert having lived a very rough life of many regrets I could only hope that all parents would have the courage to take their children forward and instill all the protections from the world they can until Christ comes and invites them to bring their children before Him to be blessed.
I am now just an old ex-convert and have had to learned not to let what nonmembers say influence me in doing what I know is right. I saw many BOC missionaries that did not gain a testimony until they got on their mission so I guess the brain washing of having the parent go over their testimonies did not work very well unless it was to get them on a mission so they could gain a testimony. I have also learned to tell nonmembers not to worry to much about what we are doing to repent as Christ has commanded.