What is a testimony? How can I gain a testimony of my own?

Our family theme for March was testimony. Our family home evening discussed 1) What is a testimony? and 2) Who was Joseph Smith and how did he gain his testimony?

I told my four-year-old that a testimony is something you know to be true. We talked about the 5 fundamental basics of what a testimony consists of and then I had him practice bearing his testimony. He held up one finger for each of the 5 things. Here is what I had him say:

  1. I know I am a child of Heavenly Father who listens to my prayers and answers them
  2. I know Jesus Christ loves me (I tried to add on to this one to have Caleb bear testimony about His role as the Savior, but in the end, I decided to keep it really simple for a little boy who is only 4)
  3. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet
  4. I know the Book of Mormon is true
  5. I know President Monson is a prophet

I am going to have my four-year-old say this every night this month so he knows what a testimony is and how you bear it. Tomorrow, I am going to find pictures of these 5 things and tape them to Caleb’s fingers so he can look at them as he says his testimony and holds up his fingers (I just need to find small enough pictures!).

For older kids, I would go over the 5 basics of a testimony and have them practice bearing their testimony to the family, but have them decide what they would say about each thing. For the Book of Mormon, they may choose to share how they know it’s true, how they feel when they read it, or share a verse that has meant a lot to them.

For the second part of family home evening, we discussed Joseph Smith and how he gained his testimony. We read (sometimes paraphrased) and acted out Joseph Smith-History verses 1-20, 24-26. You can really get into Joseph Smith visiting all the different churches and the preachers trying to convince him to come to their church. As we tugged on Caleb’s clothes and said, “Join my church!” he would laugh.

HOW DID JOSEPH FIND THE ANSWER?

(how did he gain a testimony of which church was true?)

  1. vs 8 – serious reflection (pondering)
  2. vs 8 – did as much as he could do (he did his part by going to the different churches and trying to make a decision)  Scripture mastery D&C 9:8-9
  3. vs 11 – read the scriptures (used words like power, heart, feeling, reflected – now THAT’S how you should study the scriptures.  Have the scriptures done that for you?  Have you felt that?
  4. vs 13 – was “determined” to ask of God.  He ACTED on what the scriptures told him to do
  5. vs 15 – prayed.  How do these verses show us how we can improve upon our prayers?

You know, I’ve read Joseph Smith history many times and I always think about how amazing the vision was and how it changed the world and brought back the truth, but I read it differently this time around.  I tried to read it from a 14-year-old’s perspective.  And this time around, the story took on a whole new meaning.  I’d forgotten what the vision must have meant to Joseph Smith.

In verse 13, Joseph basically says, “If God gives wisdom to those who need it” then (and this is the part I love) “I might venture.”  Joseph was willing to take that leap of faith.  He ventured.  He took the step necessary to gain a testimony.  All of us, at some point in our lives, have had to “venture.”  We’ve had to search and pray and ask for answers.  Joseph believed in the scriptures enough to try them out and after he took that step, he got a testimony.  He had a personal experience with his Father.  He then knew beyond a doubt that God knew him personally, that God knew his name, that God knew how confused he was, and that God loved him enough to come down and personally answer his prayer.  And it forever changed the boy Joseph Smith.  Joseph had seen his Father.  He had developed a personal relationship with his Father.  He had truly come to know who he was and who God was.  When a child of God comes to recognize his true worth – when he comes to know his true identity – he is empowered to do miraculous things. I think the most important thing that I learned is that as important as what the vision did for the world, it is just as important in what that vision taught Joseph.  It changed Joseph from the inside out and then HE went and changed the world. And that is what a testimony does – it empowers you to do things you never dreamed you could do.

Elder Richard G. Scott gave an insightful talk entitled “The Power of a Strong Testimony” in his general conference address in October 2001. It discusses not only key points on how to gain a testimony, but the power and influence your testimony will have on your life. It is one of the best talks I have ever read. It will be next week’s lesson material. Here is a small preview of what Elder Scott says:

A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life.

[A testimony] is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions….A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path. A testimony grows from understanding truth, distilled from prayer and the pondering of scriptural doctrine. It is nurtured by living those truths in faith and the secure confidence that the promised results will be obtained.

A strong testimony has sustained prophets throughout the ages and fortified them to act with courage and determination in times of difficulty. A powerful testimony can do the same for you. As you fortify your own personal testimony, you will have power to make correct choices so that you can stand unwaveringly against the pressures of an increasingly vicious world. Your personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of your testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty.

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