Saturday, 23 April 2016

Testimony

This is one post in an A-Z series of 26 where I am writing about living as a Mormon in the wilderness of Kuantan


In many a discussion with non-member friends, we have come to a crossroads over "testimony" and Mormons' oft-repeated declaration of "I know" when sharing about spiritual feelings. How can one bear testimony of Joseph Smith and his role as an authorised prophet when we haven't even physically seen him, nor possess any sort of personal physical evidence that such a person actually existed? How can we say "I know God lives" when it's near enough physically impossible to see God? And they are fair points which I took on board and pondered. I came to wonder what exactly is my testimony.

A testimony is described using words such as 'witness', 'evidence' and 'proof', which physically speaking makes our familiar declarations of God, Jesus and Joseph Smith somewhat inaccurate.



What I think we really mean by sharing our testimony is 1. making a statement of what we believe to be true, and 2. declaring what we know to be true after obtaining such information by personal spiritual means, for example through the gift of the Holy Ghost or by the spirit of Christ, and not necessarily by physical means.

And we are all able to receive that type of conviction according to our desires.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained it succinctly:

"When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by different methods." (General Conference, April 2008)

As Mormons, we term this set of beliefs as "testimony" - I prefer to label it as "spiritual convictions."

In the Book of Mormon, a man named Alma used a tree as an analogy in testing the word of God to gain spiritual convictions. At one point he said:

"And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand."
(Alma 32:34)

In bearing testimony, or sharing spiritual convictions, of the truths of the restoration, it's not that we saw Joseph Smith receive the visitation of God and Christ, not that we saw the golden plates upon which lay the ancient writings that he translated with a seer stone, nor that we saw the angel Moroni visit Joseph Smith on numerous occasions, delivering and later collecting those plates, but that through studying and considering these things in the scriptures and accounts provided, we have noticed the change for better in ourselves. We have become a better person and developed Christlike attributes. We know for certain that the word has swelled our souls. 

Therefore, a Mormon testimony, as it is called, becomes more of a witness of ourselves - of the positive change which has taken place in ourselves because of the words of God. It's like saying,

"Look what the restoration has done for me. Look what the doctrine delivered from Christ to Joseph Smith and Joseph Smith to me has done for me. It has made me better, enlightened my mind, expanded my thoughts and increased my spiritual convictions. Therefore 'I know' that the Book of Mormon, the source of this increased spirituality, is true and that Joseph Smith served as a prophet of God."


We bear testimony or share spiritual convictions of the truth of the restoration and the divinity and works of Jesus, and we do so because of the visible, tangible impact they have had on us.

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