Sunday, September 28, 2014


My good friend and oft times mentor, Paul Maddox, a short time back sent me a quote by D. H. Lawrence which pretty much sums up my philosophy on gaining a testimony of truths, or as some would want to say, coming to understand what I truly value in life.

A man has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.

As an adult, I don't ever remember really enjoying the discomforts of camping; however, there was a time when a priesthood calling I had required me to voluntarily spend one week each summer at Bucks Lake, California, with a horde of girls 12-18. The girls were challenge enough, but the adult sister leaders seemed particularly bent on making sure my nights were sleepless and my days were full of anxiety.

I tried all kinds of devices to make my six year annual trial more pleasant. I took a van with a pull down bed, but the girls and their leaders found delight in taking shifts to keep it rocking during the night. I tried having to return to Reno, Nevada, to take care of some urgent church business, only to return to the lake to find my tent and camping stuff on a raft in the middle of the lake. We posted signs of the presence of bears, hoping this would keep them huddled securely in their tents.

The only solution I ever saw which really worked was one used by a golfing buddy, Terry Drake, who also had a priesthood assignment which put him in the position of being an involuntary volunteer. Terry would rent a room in a lodge at the other end of the lake and there he slept very well. At the time I was relentless in telling him what an absolute coward he was, but upon further review I now see the genius of his method.

Anyway, back to the point of Lawrence’s statement. Usually at the fireside on the last night of camp the girls and leaders were given the opportunity to share their testimonies. Frequently their words would include some all-encompassing statement about the level of their belief, such as, ‘I believe with every fiber of my being…’ or ‘without a shadow of doubt…’ I knew the probability was that they were repeating phrases they had heard from parents or others, without realizing the profundity of belief and the responsibility which attended what they were saying.

Presently, after the passage of many years, which included only one brief week of camping for a family reunion and was only attempted after the forest service gave assurance that there were facilities in the camp (this facility thing remains a cross I have to bear even to this day), I have come to the following conclusions concerning knowledge, understanding, testimony, belief, conversion, conviction and commitment.

Since belief and testimony are limited to one’s level of knowledge and understanding, it would seem only a God who has omniscience is capable of having an all-consuming testimony.
Since all mortals fall far short of even having a primary degree of knowledge and understanding they are universally incapable of having a sure testimony of all things.
That we may have a limited testimony of finite number of things, but are tremendously limited by our lack of knowledge and understanding.
That our level of testimony is borne more through actions than words and in a very real way is a surer measure of where we are in our search for the confirmation of our beliefs.
That Brigham Young was right when he inferred that it could be millions upon millions of years after he left mortality before he approached where God is in knowledge and understanding.
That the very idea of having a complete testimony proves to be a limiting factor on the growth of knowledge, understand and, therefore, a firmer testimony.
That a testimony is a living thing and should be nourished and strengthened daily by study, prayer and righteous living.
That the more dedicated I am to living the principles I testify to be true, the surer my witness will become.
That the more I study and expand my knowledge base I will likewise be expanding those concepts I will be capable of testifying to be true as far as I understand them.
That when the fibers of our bodies return to dust and we can no longer cast a shadow we will still be in the quest of developing our testimonies and striving for perfection.

I suspect when the veil is rent and we all see and discern more clearly, we will also be able to speak with greater clarity, and understand one another more soundly. In the meantime we will all continue trying to express our testimonies in the best way we can, be more accepting of how others express their beliefs and strive each day to live just a little bit closer to the level of understanding we currently have.

My personal testimony is that camping is something one does of necessity, not something one does for enjoyment.

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