Think about the universal nature of testimony. You may live in a big city, complete with cultural centers and every convenience money can buy. Then again, you may live in the desert among vagabonds who travel from place to place with only the clothes on your back and a few tools and supplies. You may live in a jungle, eating off the land, or you may live in the frozen north.
Where we live does not change our eternal requirements to have the saving ordinances done for us so we can return home to our Heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter what our educational level is, our social level, nor our desire to be left alone in our hermitage. The requirements for salvation are universal.
When it comes to the things of the Spirit, we all feel the same things, need the same things, and will find joy in the same things. This makes us truly one race.
The introduction to this lesson demonstrates that testimonies are, in many ways, organic. They start small, and through repeated experiences they grow and mature until they become a mainstay in our lives. As you study this lesson think back on your own experiences in life. How old were you when you first became aware of spiritual feelings? How have repeated experiences in your life deepened those feelings or changed them into something that sustains you? Were you a child when you were first introduced to spiritual things or were you an adult? What changed within you as you began to increasingly recognize the reality of Christ and our Father?
Testimony is the great social leveler. The process is the same for kings and peasants, aborigines and scientists. The language we speak, the clothes we wear, and the tools we use each day are of no consequence. When the Spirit whispers truth to our hearts we all feel the same way. We all experience the beauty of God’s love touching our souls. We don’t even have to be able to put words to our experience, because it is the same anywhere on earth.
This is what gives testimony such power to the Lord’s Church. It doesn’t matter where we are or what our background is, when the Spirit teaches us we all recognize the truth and are drawn to it.
Sometimes people describe testimony as what you know. That is true, but a testimony of spiritual things is more than just a knowledge of a fact. When we come to know and feel that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that Joseph Smith was the prophet who was sent by them to restore the Lord’s gospel in its purity for the last time, and that salvation comes through these truths, we undergo a fundamental transformation of the soul.
The truths we have learned and accepted become the guiding fundamentals for our lives. They affect our outlook on life, our attitudes towards others, and are the reasons we behave the ways we do. They produce hope in a better world and in forgiveness for sin. These truths help us accept the frailties of others and teach us to be more tolerant of their mistakes. The purpose of the Lord giving us these truths is to change our lives for the better. It is to show us the path to finding the joy He experiences.
Testimony creates hope, faith, and action. Without action the faith our testimony first created withers and fades away. Only acting on what we have learned to be true will create the joy that we first glimpsed when we received our testimony.
Testimony helps our children be more kind and obedient, more thoughtful of each other. It helps us accept the callings we are given and urges us to do our best in all things. Age, race, economic background or educational attainments make no difference when it comes to testimony. For testimony begins with the whisperings of the Spirit. It is an enlivening of the soul, an awakening of our souls to eternal possibilities. It is our testimonies that help to reconnect us back to our God.
It is this element, weak and somewhat feeble at first, which moves every investigator in the direction of conversion. It pushes every convert toward security in the faith.
An important point to remember is that any piece of knowledge can be argued or refuted. But when someone has had the truth revealed by the Spirit, that is the end of all argument. Someone may reject our statement, but no one can tell us it isn’t true because the Spirit has spoken to our soul and confirmed that it is true. And that truth trumps all other arguments.
Once we receive a witness from the Spirit then anything else that is said on the subject is a moot issue. The pure knowledge of testimony never contradicts itself. It would go against the very definition of what it is for that to happen.
As you read the lesson and get to the stories of conversion in section 2, think about what happened to each family. How was the gospel accepted by the one engineer who was angry when his wife wanted to get baptized? His heart was softened and his anger melted into gratitude as he accepted the testimony the Spirit gave him as he walked and prayed. He could have selfishly fought what he was given, but he didn’t, and his life changed for the better from that day onward.
We can know many things, but there is a core of knowledge that is needed by everyone if they are to continue on in faith, even in the face of great adversity.
It is this conviction, this quiet inward certainty of the reality of the living God, of the divinity of His Beloved Son, of the restoration of their work in this time, and of the glorious manifestations which have followed which become for each of us the foundation of our faith. This becomes our testimony.
It is important to recognize that worldly truth is relative. It is truth today until it is proven wrong then that new knowledge becomes the truth. When it comes to spiritual things, truth is solid and does not change. No circumstance or revelation can negate a spiritual truth, that is what makes it an eternal truth. It never changes.
The power of coming to an understanding that spiritual truths never change can give us the strength to persevere in obedience, even when the world says we are wrong. Spiritual truths will always prove, in the end, to be correct. We are never wrong to do what is right.
Knowledge of truth leads to living by truth, which leads to living with love, the kind of love God lives by. The love of God prevents us from keeping our mouths shut. We cannot love someone and not try to be good and kind to them. Knowing what we know, and living with the confidence this knowledge brings, compels us to try to share this love and message with those around us. Whether we share it through kind deeds, preaching with words, or just being a good person and example of Christlike living, our example, our light will shine for all those around us to see.
How can we, and why should we ever be ashamed of the spiritual testimony of the restoration of the Church? Why would we ever have reason to be afraid to share with someone what the Spirit has made known to us? Has it brought us joy? If it has brought us joy and changed our lives for the better, why would we think it would be any different for the person we are talking to?
It is the love of God that urges forward to share His message of happiness. It is the fear of men that holds us back. As we exercise our faith in what we have been given by the Spirit we will be able to overcome our fear of others and the love of God will guide us to gently and lovingly share the Lord’s message with others.