One of the main admonitions that we try to follow as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from Nephi in the Book of Mormon:
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).
With everything we do as members of the Lord’s Restored Church, Christ should be at the center of it all. It is He who is the reason why we go to church, attend the temple, study, pray, and serve. The Savior of the world should be at the forefront of our gospel living. This same principle applies to our fast and testimony meetings.
Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a conference talk back in 1990 that should act as a vivid reminder of who fast and testimony meetings should be based around:
“Latter-day Saints can become so preoccupied with our own agendas that we can forget to witness and testify of Christ. . . . I quote from a recent letter I received from a member in the United States. He described what he heard in his fast and testimony meeting: “'I sat and listened to seventeen testimonies and never heard Jesus mentioned or referred to in any way. I thought I might be in [some other denomination], but I supposed not because there were no references to God, either. … “'The following Sunday, I again attended church. I sat through a priesthood lesson, a Gospel Doctrine lesson, and seven sacrament meeting speakers and never once heard the name of Jesus or any reference to him.'”
In answer to the question, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121).
With that said, maybe some of us haven't sat through seventeen testimonies without hearing the name or any reference to Jesus Christ in a certain fast and testimony meeting. However, this example still acts as a prompting to help us actively seek ways to testify of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind. Getting up and bearing testimony of Christ in a fast and testimony meeting is an ideal opportunity to testify of the Savior.
Here are a few simple ways/reminders to keep fast and testimony meeting focused on Jesus Christ that we as members can implement, if we haven't already:
1. Prepare for the Meeting
It can sometimes be difficult to remember on a Saturday that the next day is fast Sunday. However, if we can find ways to remember the Saturday prior to a fast Sunday (set an alarm, sticky note, etc.) about our upcoming fast and meetings, that could help us prepare to focus on Christ the next day.
Then-Elder Henry B. Eyring made some comments during a general conference in 1996 regarding this topic:
“Those who have prepared carefully for the fast and testimony meeting won’t need to be reminded how to bear testimony should they feel impressed to do it in the meeting. They won’t give sermons or exhortations or travel reports or try to entertain as they bear witness. Because they will have already expressed appreciation to people privately, they will have less need to do it publicly. Neither will they feel a need to use eloquent language nor to go on at length.”
Preparing for the meeting also means to fast. Fasting helps us to be more sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, assisting us to be more edified during our meetings on Sundays. If we fast and show Heavenly Father our willingness to sacrifice something important to us for 24 hours, or whatever the duration of time that we feel sufficient, He will shower His blessings upon us and give us an abundance of the Holy Ghost on the Sabbath. This will surely help us and others who are sharing testimonies keep Christ as the focal point.
2. Keep It Short and Sweet
While bearing testimony, keeping it brief is always a recipe for success. While you should always follow the Spirit, focusing on a short testimony eliminates the possibility of getting carried away and veering off course. It will also give other members an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings of Christ, which the Church asked for members to do while bearing testimony in an official statement back in 2013.
3. Testify of Christ
It is vital to center remarks on the Prince of Peace. Testify of your feelings toward Him with boldness and conviction. He is the “why” to everything with regard to the gospel. It is He who ultimately provides relief from our sins. He is the One who gives us hope, peace, and joy. Concentrate comments on Christ and on the pure and simple truths of His Gospel.
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke on this topic in a conference talk in 2004:
“My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on 'I am thankful' and 'I love,' and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, 'I know.' As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them. . . . Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies.”
This is Christ’s church. It’s His gospel. He is the Savior. If we follow these simple steps, we can improve our participation in fast and testimony meetings by fixing our thoughts, feelings, and words on Him and enhance our relationship with Him.