One of my favorite things about going to church on Sunday is hearing other members discuss their faith. I love listening to their thoughts over the pulpit or in the classroom because I receive insights that I never would on my own. Inevitably, someone has a different take on a scripture or on a gospel principle that I may have pondered many times before, but that I had never previously considered in the same way that they had. Not only does their perspective boost my own testimony, it’s also a reminder to me of how our differences make us stronger and that we all have unique perspectives to offer.
It's not always easy to share things at church—there’s a certain vulnerability that comes with talking about our faith or sharing other personal things that are so close to our hearts. At times, it might even feel like an act of faith to share what’s on our mind while we hope that listeners will hold our experiences as sacred as we do as they consider what we have to share.
At times, it might even feel like an act of faith to share what’s on our mind while we hope that listeners will hold our experiences as sacred as we do.
What we want to share at church may ebb and flow. One week, we may have had a spiritual experience that we can’t wait to talk about. Another week, we might be in the middle of a trial and aren’t sure how much to open up about it. Of course, we want to be as real as possible with each other when we share our personal experiences and bear our testimonies. Being authentic helps us relate to each other as Latter-day Saints.
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But what should we share in church settings, and are we adding to the Spirit in the room in the way we would like? Here are five ideas to help guide you the next time you’re trying to decide what to share—or not share—in church meetings.
1. Stay Focused
In February 2013, the First Presidency released a message that encouraged bishoprics to “help all people learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the truths of the restored gospel” in fast and testimony meeting.
While this was specifically referring to fast and testimony meetings, it can be a good reminder for us today whenever we want to share our thoughts at church. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we want to first and foremost testify of Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father, and the restored gospel. Perhaps other personal experiences can help us testify of those truths, but if we remember to speak of the Savior and His gospel, we can feel confident that our testimonies are inviting the Spirit into the meeting.
2. Be Mindful
In that same message, the First Presidency expressed a concern “that in some instances, members who desire to bear their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting do not have the opportunity to do so.”
Wherever we may be sharing something in church, our remarks may accidentally run a little long. That’s completely understandable—it’s easy to get carried away or go off on tangents. And when we are giving a talk or sharing a lesson, we may simply have lots to share. But if we make sure there is time for everyone to bear their testimonies at appropriate times, we create opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences, which in turn helps our testimonies grow more than they otherwise would. Being aware of how other people may be hoping to share can create an open and inviting atmosphere where everyone feels like their testimonies and experiences are valued. And when everyone feels valued, they can be confident that they belong at church with their fellow Latter-day Saints.
3. Share What You Know
It might feel a little intimidating to share your testimony over the pulpit or in a comment in class—particularly if you’re struggling with questions about the gospel and aren’t sure what you really know. But this church isn’t just for those who feel 100 percent confident in all aspects of their testimony. In 2014, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, ‘Your testimony must be this tall to enter.’”
I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, ‘Your testimony must be this tall to enter.’
You don’t have to know everything about the gospel in order to share your testimony. You don’t need to have all your questions resolved that might be weighing on your mind. Start with what you do know—or at least, with what you are trusting in. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Often, the simplest testimonies are the most powerful, and chances are there is someone out there who needs to hear it. It’s OK to acknowledge that you have doubts or fears, but if the thoughts you share are centered on what you do know, you are nurturing that seed of faith both in your heart and in the hearts of others who may relate to your experience. This will not only be a blessing to their testimony, but it will help them know that they are not alone.
4. Think Before You Share
Maybe there’s a personal story or experience you’d like to share as part of your testimony, in a talk, or in a comment in class. Stories are a wonderful way to leave an impression on listeners and can be a useful tool in illustrating certain gospel principles, just as Jesus Christ did when He taught in parables.
But some stories may be better to share than others, and sometimes in our efforts to be open and honest, we might be sharing too much. A Forbes article discusses this situation, saying that being authentic also doesn’t mean we have to share everything. The article suggests that “You could alienate people who feel uncomfortable by the amount of personal information you share,” and that “before you share information with other people, think about why you’re doing it.”
That suggestion may be a good rule of thumb to follow when telling a story in church settings. If we ask ourselves why we’re sharing it and decide that the story will bring people closer to Christ and testify of truth, then it will resonate with listeners and build testimonies. On the other hand, if it is simply entertaining or fulfills a purpose not related to the gospel, it may not benefit listeners as much as another story would.
Some of the most memorable moments from our weekly church attendance can come from powerful stories that make a lasting impact on our hearts and minds. As we remember that and share stories for the right reasons, we can bring listeners closer to the gospel in simple and meaningful ways.
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5. Rely on the Holy Ghost
It might seem obvious, but if you’re ever debating whether you’re helping bring the Spirit into a gospel conversation or in a talk at church, remember that you will never go wrong if you rely on the Holy Ghost. By listening to the promptings of the Spirit, you will know if you’re sharing the right thing at the right time, and you’ll be guided to talk about what the people around you need to hear most in that moment.
In the manual Teaching in the Savior’s Way we learn, “Your testimony can have a powerful influence on those you teach. It doesn’t need to be eloquent or lengthy. And it doesn’t need to begin with ‘I’d like to bear my testimony.’ Simply share what you know by the power of the Holy Ghost. A testimony of truth is most powerful when it is direct and heartfelt.”
While written for Sunday School teachers, this reminder is true for all of us—we don’t need to overthink things when sharing our testimony at church. If we simply follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can trust that He will speak to others’ hearts and share what we hope to convey in a more powerful way than we ever could.