Sunday, April 23, 2017

EXAMINATION OF A TESTIMONY Thoughts stimulated by – The Inexhaustible Gospel – by Neal A. Maxwell

I think it was probably sometime early in my days as an Aaronic Priesthood bearer when I first started thinking about whether I had a testimony or whether my testimony was very strong.

The first time I recall wondering about my testimony was when we were on some kind of a special Stake youth outing which concluded with a testimony meeting. One of the first boys to go to the pulpit to bear his testimony was a bit older than I and, therefore, was one of those models I was supposed to be using as a guide for my life. Anyway, as he was concluding his testimony he challenged all the young men from our ward to come to the pulpit to share their testimonies. I wasn't the only young boy from our ward that didn't respond to his challenge. I have no idea why some of the others failed to respond, but I remember well that I had some very uncomfortable feelings about bearing a testimony as a result of being challenged to do so. Like many of the things we never become comfortable with in our lives, being challenged to bear a testimony is one that still lingers with me.

During my life as an active member of the Church I have had ample opportunity to teach and speak and bear testimony to others. Therefore, I have seldom taken the opportunity to bear my testimony during the special Sacrament Meeting which is set aside monthly for the bearing of testimonies. I always felt the members of my ward or stake heard my declaration of my beliefs enough and that these meetings gave others the opportunity to bear their testimonies.

Shortly after returning with Kathleen from Colombia where we had served for three years presiding over the Bogota Colombia North Mission, (during which time there had been very few days when we hadn't born our testimonies of the truthfulness of the restored gospel) ironically, at the end of one of the first classes I taught after resuming my career in the Church Education System, a bright young girl approached me and asked why I didn't bear my testimony more during the lessons. Evidently, the brother whom I had replaced often bore his testimony on points of the gospel during the lesson, emphasizing his words with ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’. My self-examination on that occasion ended up with me in exactly the same place I had been before her inquiry. This was, that I felt the entirety of my lesson preparation and presentation was me bearing my testimony.

One of the last major times I had to examine my testimony took place after I retired from full time teaching, but was still teaching an adult religion class once a week. One of the experienced (a euphemism for old) brothers in the class was working on a project building a model of the plates which Joseph Smith had removed from the Hill Cumorah. He had bought an engraving machine and was able to engrave on plates. He offered to engrave my testimony on a plate and I accepted. This now has a place among the most treasured of the articles of remembrance I have from my 50 plus years of teaching.

I believe on all of these occasions, whatever was said or whatever I felt was an honest expression of my beliefs and in some cases my knowledge, of principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

I suspect, all of you will be able to relate to my words when I say that what I felt was my testimony as a young man, what I felt was my testimony as I have served in various capacities and callings, what I felt was my testimony after Kathleen and I served in Colombia and what I felt was my testimony which is now engraven on metal plates has gone through many phases and had a wide band of variety and has many degrees of depth and growth.

In fact, my testimony has not only tossed to and fro over the length of my life, but I find if I really examine what I am feeling and what I am believing in, it seems to be in a state of change with each passing moment and with each situation in which I find myself in life.

There are times when I am overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or enjoying an expanded vista from high on a mountain top, or even like this morning as I was out driving and the hills near our home made me feel like I was in Ireland or back in Colombia, where velvety green is the year round dress of the hills; it is during these times my heart fills with wonder and awe at the magnificence of this sphere we call our home. Even when I was young and my friends and I would lie on the lawn at night and gaze into the heavens that feeling of awe overwhelmed me and I had to turn my head so my friends wouldn't see my eyes leaking. The glorious pictures from the Hubble telescope have increased my vision, almost to the explosion level, about the wonders of the Creations of God. This WONDER part of my testimony has undoubtedly been the most constant constellation in the vastness which makes up my belief system.

There is another part of my testimony which I refer to as my GENERAL beliefs. It is just always there, but seems to ebb as the tides sometimes come crashing upon me and other times it seems as smooth as a giant mirror as far as the eye can see. This is the testimony which I express with the words ‘I know’. I know the church is true. I know the gospel is true. It isn't an overwhelming emotion like I feel with my WONDER moments, but it never seems to fail. It keeps me praying. It keeps me reading the Scriptures. It keeps me going to church and to the Temple. It makes me say I know there has to be a power greater than men to have all this govern such an extensive and positive part of my daily life.

I have known for a very long time that I feel the sustaining witness of the Holy Spirit most abundantly when I bear witness of specific beliefs. Obviously, I call this variety of my testimony SPECIFIC. I think the best way to explain what I refer to as my specific testimony is to give you a few examples. I have had Moroni’s promise in the 10th chapter of the book in the Book of Mormon which bears his name, fulfilled by the Holy Spirit planting deeply in my heart the truth of words in that book of scripture. I have had such a powerful witness by the Holy Spirit that Joseph Smith saw and spoke to God the Father and His son Jesus the Christ in the grove near his home in Palmyra, New York, that I would have to deny my own existence before I could deny the actuality of that event. I will include just one more example. I have had individual confirmations from the Holy Spirit that David O. Mackay, Spencer W. Kimball, Neal A. Maxwell, Jeffery R. Holland, and Bruce R. McConkie along with many other men and women have spoken with the tongues of angels as they bore witness of the truths of the gospel and the reality of Jesus the Christ being actively engaged in the work of the kingdom.

There is a part of my testimony which probably shares DNA with all the other parts of my belief system which I call my OBEDIENCE testimony. Once again, although I feel this is a distinct area of my belief system, it cannot be separated from the rest of the constellation of my being. It is that force which causes me to continue to accept assignments and callings in the church and attempt to magnify them. It is that force which moves me to follow the living prophets. It is that force which gives me a desire to congregate with the saints and receive the synergistic stimulus of group worship. It is that force which compels me to find ways to share my understanding, knowledge and beliefs with others. It is that force which makes living according to the word of wisdom, paying of tithes and offerings and makes being a lay minister a joy and not a burden. It is that force which moves me to wear out my life serving in the House of the Lord. I know that that which pushes and sustains me in obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel is real and mandated from heavenly sources.

The last division of my belief system and probably the most difficult to share and express is what I refer to as my PERSONAL testimony. It consists of the following very personal feelings which have been cemented in my being by the Holy Spirit. I have a love for my Heavenly Parents and for my Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ which is as real as the completeness of my love for Kathleen, my offspring and my parents. There are times when I am so filled with the love I feel from my Heavenly Father that I have a sense of being suspended between mortality and immortality. His love lifts me and makes me joyful as I proclaim that I am a child of God. There have been too many occasions when, during the process of repentance, I have felt consumed with the grace, mercy and love of my Redeemer as sorrow for wrong choices was evaporated by His Atoning gift. I wish I could say it was ever constant, but I am more than grateful for every moment I have been enveloped with a heightened desire by the Holy Spirit to move closer to becoming like my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus the Christ.

I am grateful for the path my Heavenly Father prepared and planned for my mortal existence. I am not sure what part of my belief system it falls under, but I do believe as part of His work and glory to bring to pass His children’s immortality and eternal life, He has a plan for each of us which will enable us to maximize our progression wherever we are placed or whatever path we find ourselves traversing.

I so testify in the name of Jesus the Christ – Amen



No comments:

Post a Comment