Lately I’ve been a bit annoyed by the intimation that my decision to leave the church I once adored was due to the fact that I “didn’t truly have a testimony.” I read this again just the other day in a Facebook feed: “If anyone’s testimony was shaken…, then I question its existence in the first place.” Another friend declared she didn’t consider me an “apostate” because it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t have adequate sustaining faith; obviously my childhood experiences had numbed me to the influence of the Holy Ghost. Really?! Had she not heard my heartfelt declarations of faith through the years?
My testimony was built on solid ground! I was proud of my Mormon heritage. I considered it an honor and obligation to carry it forward to future generations. I would not be the weak link in this legacy!
And then everything changed. New evidence came to light. Information I’d never known before forced me to look at the facts and revisit my testimony.
So this begs the question: What IS a testimony?
The dictionary defines it as “a written or spoken statement based on evidence of truth, often given in a court of law.” It can also be a recounting of a spiritual experience. The LDS church has its own variation on this definition as published on its website:
The foundation of a Mormon’s testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is a prophet, which God called to restore Jesus Christ’s church to the earth; that we are led today by a living prophet; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s Church restored on the earth today.
In contrast, a Christian testimony is usually an account of how that person came to have a relationship with Christ, not with a specific church. It is made up of the living activity of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. There are no set rules on what that testimony has to include or a specific formula that must be followed in order for it to be a “pure” testimony as is required in a Mormon setting.
People all over the world bear testimony of the “truthfulness” of their one true religion. How can the Holy Spirit bear witness to so many different beliefs and organizations as being the “one and only true church?”
Therefore, one must look to the evidence. In a court of law, one testimony is insufficient; can someone corroborate? The Bible states, “in the mouth of two to three witnesses” is truth established. One only has to establish “reasonable doubt” for a case to be dismissed.
Would an LDS testimony hold up in a court of law? What is the evidence that would prove its credibility? There are over 35,000 pieces of evidence that prove the authenticity of the Bible, including reliable documentation of people, places, and events. Where is similar evidence for the Book of Mormon?
What is the basis for LDS testimonies? Feelings! When backed into a corner by questions regarding Mormon doctrine or church history, a member will always fall back on his declaration of faith and “knowledge” that the church is true…in spite of the lack of evidence. That’s what we are trained to do.
Attend Fast and Testimony meeting in any ward and you will most likely see children as young as three bearing their testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and authenticity of LDS prophets. How do these children “know” these truths? Have they read the Book of Mormon? Of course not! They are merely repeating what they’ve been taught.
For the member faced with the dilemma of not having a testimony, President Boyd K. Packer has said, “Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!” So if one doesn’t have a testimony, testify anyway! If someone isn’t sure Joseph Smith was a prophet, that’s no reason not to testify that he was. The fake-it-until-you-make-it philosophy is alive and well in Mormonism. The more one repeats something, the more truthful it becomes!
For decades, I testified of the truthfulness of the “restored gospel.” I’d been taught the principles of that gospel since infancy and was raised on the testimonies of parents, grandparents, and even deceased ancestors. After all, multiple generations of descendants from good Mormon pioneer stock couldn’t possibly be wrong! Right?
As a member of the Relief Society presidency, I bore testimony of my unshakeable faith in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. I lived in gratitude daily for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane. A constant awareness of how fortunate I was to have been born into a home centered on the teachings of the “one true church” permeated my life.
In keeping with tradition, I passed that legacy on to my own children. I wanted them to know “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that they had been blessed with the knowledge of the ordinances necessary to achieve exaltation. My Mormon testimony was rock solid!
As an active member, I followed the five-point formula outlined by the church for the proper bearing of a “pure” testimony. Every word was spoken with sincerity and conviction. However, since coming into a new relationship with Christ, my testimony has evolved to a personal, rather than scripted, declaration of faith.
Using the LDS formula, here is a testimonial comparison:
God is our Heavenly Father, who loves us
Mormon: I know that we have a Father in Heaven who loves His children. And because of His deep love for us, He created a plan that would allow us to return again to His presence and live with Him forever as eternal families.
Christian: I believe in God, the Eternal Father, the Supreme Creator. I am one of His “fearfully and wonderfully made” creations.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God who atoned for our sins
Mormon: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I’m immensely grateful that He willingly paid the price for my sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. And because of His redeeming sacrifice, I now have the opportunity to live with Him forever if I’m diligent in doing my part by obeying His commandments and keeping my covenants.
Christian: Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God in the flesh. He is the Son of the Most High, and Redeemer of my soul. Who am I that this King of Glory would willingly ransom me with His blood? I’m bowed down with gratitude by His loving mercy! That He would take my sins upon Himself and nail them to the cross to die with Him is greatest gift of all! There is absolutely nothing I can do to add to this act of grace!
Joseph Smith is a prophet who restored the gospel and translated the Book of Mormon
Mormon: I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, prepared and saved for these Latter-days to bring forth the full restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God for the benefit of His children so that we would know what we must do to return to our heavenly home.
Christian: I believe God is all powerful and able to keep His word. Jesus declared that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Therefore, it has always been preserved on the earth. The Bible, which contains the gospel of Jesus Christ, has stood the test of time and has been proven trustworthy by multiple sources.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church
Mormon: I know this church is the one and only church with all the true principles and saving ordinances that will lead us back to God.
Christian: The church of Christ is a body of believers who recognize that Jesus is Lord and the only source of salvation. That is the church to which I belong!
A living prophet guides and directs the church today through modern revelation
Mormon: I’m grateful to know God cares enough to provide a living prophet to guide and direct us in these latter days. What comfort it brings to know we can follow the prophet, and he will lead us back to our Father in Heaven.
Christian: Jesus Christ is our living prophet, high priest, and king! I have an intimate relationship with the One whose Spirit dwells within and has made me new! He alone is worthy of my praise and adoration! He will lead me in paths of righteousness.
Since my relationship with Christ is still growing and developing, I expect my testimony will evolve and deepen over time. What a contrast to the rote testimonies of Mormonism! Now I have a new prayer for my children. It’s my hope and prayer that they will seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and rest in His amazing grace.
Where once I bore a fervent Mormon testimony, now I only bear testimony of what Christ has done in my life.