Testimonies: Fake it ’til you make it

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Okay, I’ve read about this before but it still baffles me.

The LDS say you can gain a testimony by bearing it.

This concept makes very little sense to me. If you have no testimony and you say something like “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, and I know the Book of Mormon is true”, doesn’t that make you a liar?

You don’t know Joseph Smith was a prophet because you have no testimony of its’ truthfullness.

You don’t know the Book of Mormon is true was a prophet because you have no testimony of its’ truthfullness.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say something like “I’d really like to think that Joseph Smith was a prophet” or “All my friends and loved ones think that Joseph Smith was a prophet and I trust them to tell me the truth”.

The thought of repeating something which you don’t know is true until you believe it is true just seems very, very odd to me.

21 thoughts on “Testimonies: Fake it ’til you make it

  1. We teach our children to say what they DO know, or have faith in (just as we require of ourselves). We all have faith in something, so there is always something to talk about. But when you bear your testimony, you think about it, you pray about it, you have the spirit to help testify to you of truth, and yes, this does strengthen your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it takes faith initially.

  2. I wish I could tell you the church is NOT true. Yes you’ve heard me. But I know it is… i had no idea I had a testimony until someone else told me I did… and I never went up there on fast sunday to bear it either. And i have no idea how that could help. lol

  3. “The thought of repeating something which you don’t know is true until you believe it is true just seems very, very odd to me.”

    You know that that only makes sense. That is not what testimony bearing is about. Those who use those strategies remind me of mind control cults.

    However, like anything in life, if you know it’s true at one point, and fail to nurture it, it will die or go into hibernation. The best way to keep it up front is to bear it.

  4. “We teach our children to say what they DO know, or have faith in…”

    Okay, but what does an eight year old really know anyway?

    Do they bear their testimony of the Easter bunny or Santa Claus?

    When you’re eight, these things are as real as the sun and the moon.

    The eight year old testimonies I’ve heard sound peculiarly similar to the testimonies of the twenty-something parents who precede or follow them…

  5. “…I had no idea I had a testimony until someone else told me I did…”

    It’s statements like these that lead me to believe that no matter how hard I try to understand people, I never will.

  6. “…if you know it’s true at one point…”

    Which also makes sense to me, since you are saying what you believe, rather than what you know you ought to believe.

  7. Rick

    Well let me explain what I knew when I was 8, and 7 and 6 and 5, etc etc. I remember my testimony in those days. I did have one. I have known since my earliest remembrances, that God was real, that Jesus was real that they knew me and loved me, and that the way back to them was to be found in our Church. To define this in great detail, I didn’t know. But I knew the promptings of the Spirit and was able to articulate it.

    Children aren’t so naive that they understand very little. They understand much more than adults realise.

    No, our children do not bear testimony of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny because they don’t believe in them. These are not real beiings, and they do not believe they are real.

    Yes many parents prompt their children, we do not. We work with them at home to understand what THEY know and when they are ready and able to articulate what they do know, they are allowed to stand up in primary or sacrament meeting and say what they do know or believe.

  8. I can’t tell you or anyone else what testimony to have. I have a testimony, I have almost always had one. There may have been a time when I have not had one, but I can’t recall it. Perhaps this is my gift of the spirit, the gift of testimony. I don’t know. All I know is my testimony has never ever diminished.

  9. Could the testimony really be a Thinkamony? You think it is true. You think JS was a Prophet, you think the church is true, etc?

    If the Holy Ghost has born witness to you then you would no longer have faith but knowledge. If the HG has not born witness to you, then you have faith and not knowledge.

    Do you bear a faithamony, thinkamony or testimony?

  10. Just sunday we heard a talk from a sister return missionary whose told us of a complaint from the her native companion – why do all of the American Elders sound like they are searching for a testimony?

  11. This is along the lines of #9.

    Yes, there are several levels.

    But there’s a fault in the original premise. The fault is in thinking that a testimony has to start out “I know.” That’s false.

    A testimony can also be stated “I _believe_ Joseph Smith was a prophet” etc.

    One of the Apostles, either Scott or Hales, once said “Faith is testimony, and testimony is faith.”

    One can honestly say that they have a testimony before they get to the “I know” level.

    As soon as you get to the “I believe” level, and have at least some internal spiritual “thing” to hang your testimony hat on, you have a testimony.

    But also, to believe is more than mere opinion. To believe connotes committment and action upon that belief. Without committment and action, then it is not belief, it is mere opinion.

    To my reckoning, there are three levels:

    1. “I think.”
    2. “I believe.”
    3. “I know.”

    Stand in front of a mirror and practice by looking yourself in the eyes.

    If you can’t honestly say “I know”, then say “I believe.” And if you can’t honestly say “I believe” then say “I think.”

    Or just practice all three.

    Which feels the most comfortable?

    No matter which one feels right for you, as long as you say it with honesty and sincerity, to someone who has less, you are strengthening them. It’s a testimony _to them._

    Now sometimes people use the word “think” because they are timid and are afraid of taking a stand that the word “believe” implies. Or they think they are just being polite. But there is a divide, though it may be a grey area, between “think” and “believe.” “Think” is opinion only, and “believe” implies committment.

    I’ve been told that the Greek word most often translated as “believe” in the New Testament has this connotation of committment and not mere intellectual opinion.

    There is also a grey area straddling the line between “believe” and “know.” If you’re in that grey area, you might not know whether you know or if you believe.

    I think it is there, in that grey area between “believe” and “know” that the bearing of an “I believe …” testimony will invoke the Holy Ghost to give us the knowledge that will take us into “I know” territory.

    A lot of action, and the bringing about of much righteousness, can be accomplished with “merely” believing. We don’t have to “know” all things. We can deduce many things from a basic set of 5:

    1. God lives.
    2. Jesus is the Christ.
    3. The Book of Mormon is true.
    4. Joseph Smith was a prophet.
    5. The prophetic succession was through Brigham Young, not the other splinter groups.

    If those things are true, and I testify they are, then Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet, and the official doctrine of the church is true and binding. Then the Word of Wisdom is the will of God. Then tithing is a true principle and commandment, etc.

    I don’t have to have an “I know” testimony of those secondary things. For me, they are logical deductions from the first five.

    There is still much to be accomplished by faith that doesn’t have to wait until one has a testimony of it.

    Much growth can occur when we act upon the things we believe in, but don’t know for sure.

  12. “Just sunday we heard a talk from a sister return missionary whose told us of a complaint from the her native companion – why do all of the American Elders sound like they are searching for a testimony?”

    Because many American Elders go on missions before they get an “I know” type of testimony.

    I would hope they at least have a strong “I believe” testimony before they sign their missionary application.

    If I were a bishop, I don’t think I could sign a 19 year old man’s missionary application unless he could state a strong “I believe” kind of testimony.

  13. Rick,

    you truly have some good questions to ask. :)

    Regarding testimonies, when truth is spoken, the Spirit of the Lord testifies in the heart of he that hears. If you say, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” you are speaking truth that the Spirit will then affirm in the hearts of those who will listen to the Spirit. There is real power in testifying truth. When I bear my testimony, the Spirit confirms in my heart the words I speak, because they are words of power and of truth. In this way, my testimony increases because it has just been reconfirmed by the Spirit in my heart.

    Think of bearing testimonies and receiving testimonies as starting up a power generator by hand. I’m sure you’ve seen those old manual driven power generators, right? You crank a wheel enough times to start it up.

    The first couple of turns are very hard and provide little if any power generated. But you have to turn the wheel in order to get power generating. It doesn’t start first. It start with you first.

    This is where faith plays its central role. Since I was born here on earth, I have never seen God with my mortal eyes. I do not have physical proof of his existence; all my proof is peripheral. Yet I know he lives and is there because I’ve felt that confirmation in my heart from the Spirit. You have to take a step into the darkness, the unknown to realize there is a place you can put your foot on, and not fear you are falling into an abyss.

    Have faith that when the Lord says, “if you testify of me, I will come to you with my Comforter,” that he is speaking truthfully and will be there as he says. The impetus is on you though to act first. The door does not open from the outside, but from within. You must let the Savior into your life; he will not force his way in.

    That said, back to the manual generator example. Most of the time, what will happen is that you won’t have to crank the wheel all by yourself, there will be others who will come with cables to charge your generator by plugging to their generator. This is done when they testify of the truth. The Spirit of the Lord is the cable that connects from the other, running generator, to your yet-to-be-charged generator, and gives it a small charge. You can choose to accept this charge and continue cranking your generator to keep the charge going, or let that jolt of energy die off.

    Testimonies are like muscles and will atrophy if unused. Testimonies are like a manual generator that if you don’t continue cranking the lever, will slowly lose the energy. This is why we are counselled to continually bear our testimonies.

    This world is full of distractions that take away from the testimonies we receive. We’ve got to keep testifying of Christ, else we lose that testimony.

    Does this help?

  14. Dan, that’s some pretty flowery language, but it doesn’t really address my point.

    The first time you say the words, you have not yet received confirmation from the spirit. The first time is just hanging it out there, and hoping that you get validation, really.

    …or to continue your analogy, you don’t know if you’re hand-starting a generator or just some loon turning a crank. ;)

    And what happens if you don’t receive confirmation of the spirit the first time? The common opinion is to just get up there again and keep doing it until you gain a testimony by bearing false testimony enough times (if it hasn’t been validated yet).

    Unless you were like Mary, and had a testimony from the womb. :)

    It’s just odd to me.

  15. I think you’re right on Rick. The whole gaining by bearing is LDS speak that assumes you have something to start with.

    If you don’t it doesn’t apply.

    My personal opinion is that the gospel, the message is true. I’ve had some first hand evidences that I just can’t deny. I don’t know why everyone can’t experience the same things I did, but whatever the reason, I can honestly say “I Know”.

    I also believe that many, if not most people will not get that experience before they die. I’m not sure why. I also have first hand experience of people not feeling the same things Dan talks about in #14 when I am feeling them.

    When it comes to a situation like that, I say to myself “Self, since they didn’t get the feeling or confirmation, they aren’t under any obligation to believe or obey, or join, or whatever, but since I did, I am under that obligation.”
    So I don’t really get too concerned if someone gets a different answer than me. Perhaps it’s not their time. Perhaps it never will be in this life time. Who knows? All I can do is go with what works for me, and I owe that same courtesy to everyone else as per AoF #11.

  16. Very well put JM. I know what you mean. Rick, I agree with you, and let’s not forget that one of the 10 commandments is thou shalt not bear false witness. On the other hand, if somebody feels even a small particle of something spiritual or good, I suppose one could honestly articulate those feelings accurately such as “sometimes I have a uniquely good feeling when I read the scriptures or hear a hymn…etc.” From there you could also testify that you think that perhaps there is something good about these things, and perhaps continuing to openly testify of such “little” things could bring further and stronger confirmation from the spirit. But I agree that saying you KNOW something when you have recieved no such confirmation is a bogus mind control tactic not to mention being totally dishonest. Not appropriate advice at all.

  17. Jesus is like the wind. You cannot see it but you can see and feel what it does. Because you can see and feel the wind you know it is real. Testimonies are different for everyone. What Jesus does for me He may not do for you. My testimony is my personal walk with Jesus. Jesus touches and teaches all of us differently. Just listen and He will teach you also.

  18. “Just listen and He will teach you also.”

    Which implies that those who do not hear from Him are not listening hard enough, or correctly.

    …and in the mean time the question remains; should one bear a testimony they do not possess?

  19. You know what Rick, I’m with you on this one. When I hear “you can gain a testimony by bearing it” I always think of the studies in human science that demonstrate that exact result. People’s beliefs will change to what they publicly declare, whether it is true or not. Just google “Festinger and Carlsmith” and read some of the related studies. I’m afraid this may be a case of good intentions gone astray. Hold to the “thou shalt not bear false witness” and the other hard doctrines.

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