I had the opportunity to give a talk on this topic to a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ in South Jordan, UT. The following is the transcript. The original topic title was “Finding Peace Through Jesus Christ by Strengthening Your Testimony Throughout Your Entire Life”.
Good morning brothers and sisters, I’m Brother Swensen. Today I will be talking about testimony. But I won’t be talking about it in the way we normally do. Often we think of a testimony as a belief or assurance of a particular point of doctrine or principle. And usually we think of these testimonies as knowledge gained by some specific experience in our lives, that can then be added to our collection of experience to be recalled later when we need it. Today, however, I am trying to shift my own thinking of what a testimony is—and I invite you to do the same—by thinking about testimony in the context of the passage of time; so rather than thinking of our testimonies as pieces of knowledge gained at a particular point in time, instead thinking of them as a living foundation that changes and adapts over time.
Testimonies Need Updating
As my sweet wife pointed out to me while I was studying to prepare this talk, an absolutely essential facet to our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation is that we learn and grow constantly over time, “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). As part of that growing process, we acquire additional responsibility throughout our lives, in both spiritual and temporal matters. Typically, also the challenges and trials that we face increase in difficulty as we age and mature. Because of this, our testimonies need to be growing at a proportional pace. The testimony that we had at age 5, or 16, or 27 will not be sufficient alone to sustain us at age 43 or 72 or 96.
I am a software engineer by trade, and as such, I spend most of my day on the computer. What many people don’t realize, is that a software program is never really “finished.” (Which is good, because it means job security for me!) There are always features to be added or fine tuned, enhancements than can be made, or problems that need to be fixed. Indeed, I spend most of my professional time publishing updated versions of my company’s software for the people who use it. Naturally, I am the designated technology fixer-upper for our family. And with this background, obviously when one of our computers or phones are not behaving properly, the first thing that I check is whether or not there are updates available for the software on the problematic device. More often than not, the problems that Christine and I run into with our technology are fixed when I make sure that everything is up-to-date.
Our testimonies are the same way. We need to make sure that our testimonies are constantly updated for our spirits to be in tip-top shape. When we are sharing spiritual experiences, if we are needing to always refer back to long-past missionary service or an experience we had many years ago, it’s time for a testimony makeover! While those experiences are still special and important, we should be able to say “last week…” or “yesterday…” or “this morning I had a testimony-building experience.” Alma taught us this in the Book of Mormon when he asked this probing question: “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26).
Testimonies Need To Be As Dynamic As Our Modern-day Lives
Not only do our testimonies need to be current, they need to be broad and dynamic. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that the only thing that is constant in life is change. Our circumstances are indeed constantly changing, as are our thoughts, needs, worries, strengths, weaknesses, doubts, struggles, and questions. Our testimonies need to adapt to our changing needs. For example, when I am teaching the missionary preparation class, I need to be able to bear sincere testimony of the material being taught, which is different every week. (I am still learning how to do that and have a long way to go.) The same can be said of missionaries, Sunday School instructors, parents, grandparents, visiting teachers, home teachers, and so forth.
Our testimonies need to be living, dynamic, and ever evolving. This is the reason that we invariably hold testimony meetings every single month, instead of proclaiming our convictions just once when we gain our initial testimony.
Brothers and sisters, gaining and maintaining a dynamic, current, multi-dimensional testimony is what will allow us to have peace in our lives. It is by believing in the Savior and living His Gospel that we find this type of testimony and accompanying peace. As the beloved hymn states: “Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole? .. He, only One. … In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind. Love without end.” (“Where Can I Turn for Peace?”, Hymns, 129).
Finding Peace and Testimony by Believing in and Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ
In the very first chapter of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, President Hunter teaches: “In this age, as in every age before us and in every age that will follow, the greatest need in all the world is an active and sincere faith in the basic teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God. Because many reject those teachings, that is all the more reason why sincere believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ should proclaim its truth and show by example the power and peace of a righteous, gentle life. …”
Fortunately, God has outlined the pattern for our lives in the scriptures in various formats. Of course, the example of the Savior Himself is the foremost point of reference for how we must try to live our lives. He has laid the path for us, setting the example in every detail for how we can return to live with Him again in the Celestial Kingdom.
When we are living a particular principle of the Gospel, Moroni teaches us that we can ask Heavenly Father to bless us with a testimony of that principle: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.” (Moroni 10:4-6)
Even if we have doubts or questions, the core truths of the Gospel can be an anchor to us. In the talk “Returning to Faith” by Sister Rosemary M. Wixom in the April sessions of General Conference last year, Sister Wixom quotes a young woman who was struggling to maintain her testimony when she received an inspired calling to play the piano for the primary. She said: “Playing the Primary songs, she often thought to herself, ‘Here are truths I love. I can still bear testimony. I will just say those things that I know and trust. It may not be a perfect offering of knowledge, but it will be my offering. What I focus on expands inside of me. It is beautiful to get back to the essence of the gospel and feel clarity.’” The young woman was actively working on updating her testimony by focusing first on the core doctrines that are taught in Primary.
Brothers and sisters, I know that the Savior and the Gospel can give us a peace that no worldly pursuit can ever offer us. I know this because I have put it to the test, usually by my own mistakes or misguided actions. There is no other way to enjoy the sweet peace of striving to live a righteous life. I know that the most powerful testimonies are the ones that aren’t stagnant or outdated, but rather that grow with us as we move forward through life. I encourage you to consider the changes you may need to make in your life to more fully enjoy the sweet peace and blessings that the Savior is so willing to give to us. I know that He loves us and that He is there, closer to us than we usually realize. I close with some of his tender words from the New Testament: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). May we find peace through Him by strengthening our testimonies throughout our entire lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.