The holy, harmless, undefiled Messiah

I testify of him, the Redeemer of the world and Master of us all. He is the Only Begotten Son of the living God, who has exalted that son’s name over every other, and has given him principality, power, might, and dominion at his right hand in the heavenly place. We esteem this Messiah to be holy, harmless, undefiled—the bearer of unchangeable priesthood (see Heb. 7:24, 26). He is the anchor to our souls and our high priest of promise. He is our God of good things to come. In time and in eternity—and surely in striving to fulfill this new responsibility which has come to me—I shall forever be grateful for his promise: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). I thank him for that blessing upon us all. . .

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Miracles of the Restoration,” 1994 October General Conference

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Gaining a testimony by bearing it

We often think we must first gain a testimony before we can stand and bear it. Ironically, these two quotes teach us that standing to testify is an act of faith that prompts the Holy Ghost to witness to us the truthfulness of the gospel.

From Elder Packer:
Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man,” is as the scripture says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord.” (Prov. 20:27.)

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

The prophet Ether “did prophecy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.

“And now, I, Moroni, … would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:5–6.)

To speak out is the test of your faith.
Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 51, emphasis added.

From Elder Oaks:
Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Testimony,” April Conference, 2008, emphasis added.

A similar principle was taught by Joseph Fielding McConkie at a recent BYU devotional:

To enjoy the “constant companionship of the Holy Ghost” means, for instance, that, as you fill your assignments as a teacher in the Church (if you are prepared properly), you will be taught things from on high as you teach others.

Such an experience will require more of you than the kind of presentation in which you simply repeat or rearrange the thoughts of others. The fact that every member of the Church is given the gift of the Holy Ghost is the evidence that the Lord wants to reveal things to you and through you.

I have heard my father observe that he learned the gospel by listening to what he was directed to say when he preached the gospel. That experience should be universal among Latter-day Saints.
Joseph Fielding McConkie, “Finding Answers,” BYU Devotional, 12 December 2006, emphasis added.

What gave the early pioneers strength?

“It was not what they possessed that gave them strength but what they knew.”

On July 26, 1847, their third day in the valley (the second having been the Sabbath), Brigham Young, with members of the Twelve and some others, climbed a peak about one and a half miles from where I now stand. They thought it a good place to raise an ensign to the nations. Heber C. Kimball wore a yellow bandana. They tied it to Willard Richards’s walking stick and waved it aloft, an ensign to the nations. Brigham Young named it Ensign Peak.

Then they descended to their worn-out wagons, to the few things they had carried 2,000 miles, and to their travel-weary followers. It was not what they possessed that gave them strength but what they knew. They knew they were Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. They knew that the priesthood had been delivered to them by angelic messengers. They knew they had the commandments and the covenants to offer opportunity for the eternal salvation and exaltation for all mankind. They were sure that the inspiration of the Holy Ghost attended them.

Boyd K. Packer, “A Defense and a Refuge,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 85–88

Two channels to God: Priesthood governance and personal testimony

In closing, I refer to the relationship between obedience and knowledge. Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.

Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1).

We all act upon or give obedience to knowledge. Whether in science or religion, our obedience is not blind when we act upon knowledge suited to the subject of our action. A scientist receives and acts upon a trusted certification of the content or conditions of a particular experiment. In matters of religion, a believer’s source of knowledge is spiritual, but the principle is the same. In the case of Latter-day Saints, when the Holy Ghost gives our souls a witness of the truth of the restored gospel and the calling of a modern prophet, our choice to follow those teachings is not blind obedience.

Dallin H. Oaks, “Testimony,” Ensign, May 2008, 26–29

General Conference, April, 2008

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the April 2008 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Russell M. Nelson, “Salvation and Exaltation.”
When a child needs correction, you might ask yourself, “What can I say or do that would persuade him or her to choose a better way?” When giving necessary correction, do it quietly, privately, lovingly, and not publicly. If a rebuke is required, show an increase of love promptly so that seeds of resentment may not remain. To be persuasive, your love must be sincere and your teachings based on divine doctrine and correct principles.

Do not try to control your children. Instead, listen to them, help them to learn the gospel, inspire them, and lead them toward eternal life. You are God’s agents in the care of children He has entrusted to you. Let His divine influence remain in your hearts as you teach and persuade.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Testimony”
…we need to affirm the existence of God the Eternal Father, the divine mission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the reality of the Restoration. We must be valiant in our testimony of Jesus. Each of us has many opportunities to proclaim our spiritual convictions to friends and neighbors, to fellow workers, and to casual acquaintances. We should use these opportunities to express our love for our Savior, our witness of His divine mission, and our determination to serve Him.2 Our children should also hear us bear our testimonies frequently. We should also strengthen our children by encouraging them to define themselves by their growing testimonies, not just by their recognitions in scholarship, sports, or other school activities.

Also:
We live in a time when some misrepresent the beliefs of those they call Mormons and even revile us because of them. When we encounter such misrepresentations, we have a duty to speak out to clarify our doctrine and what we believe. We should be the ones to state our beliefs rather than allowing others the final word in misrepresenting them. This calls for testimony, which can be expressed privately to an acquaintance or publicly in a small or large meeting.

Elder Robert D. Hales, “Gaining a Testimony of God the Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost”
I testify that our Savior lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and He will come again on this earth to reign. He is Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, “full of grace, and mercy, and truth. . . . It is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.” He is the literal Son of God, who rose from the dead on the third day, bringing the reality of resurrection to all who will come to earth. I also testify that God our Eternal Father lives and loves each of us, for we are His children. So great is His love that He sent His Only Begotten Son into the world “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify of the truth of what is in the scriptures and what has been told to me and can be told to you by the Holy Spirit. It will be revealed according to your obedience and desires. The Savior taught us during His mortal ministry this great truth that applies to all of us: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” I testify that I do know these things, and I know with surety that these things which I have spoken of are true. That you may seek for that same surety is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The testimony of Jesus

Keith B. McMullinWhat, then, is this testimony of Jesus, how can it be acquired, and what will it do for those who receive it? The testimony of Jesus is the sure and certain knowledge, revealed to the spirit of a person through the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is the living Son of the living God.

Because the testimony of Jesus is God-given, it stands preeminent and is essential to a happy life. It is the fundamental principle of our religion, and all other things pertaining to our faith are appendages to it. President Hinckley reminds us:

“It is the privilege, it is the opportunity, it is the obligation of every Latter-day Saint to gain for himself or herself a certain knowledge . . . that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind. . . . That testimony . . . is the most precious possession that any of us can hold. . . .
” . . . I am satisfied . . . that whenever a man has a true witness in his heart of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ all else will come together as it should.”

Nurtured through righteous living, this testimony of Jesus becomes the governing force in all that a person does. Furthermore, it is available to everyone, for “God is no respecter of persons.”

Acquiring such a testimony does not, however, come without personal effort. One must desire to know, study to learn, live to merit, and pray to receive. When so pursued in humility and faith, the knowledge comes, and with this knowledge comes both the sweet assurance that all will be well and the inner strength to make it so.

Keith B. McMullin, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” Ensign, May 2004