“Defining moments in life come often and unexpectedly, even when you are still young.” So states Elder Gary E. Stevenson in his October 2022 General Conference address “Nourishing and Bearing Your Testimony“. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see someone that I know or who knows someone in a “faith crisis.” No one is immune to times of doubt, but by nourishing and strengthening our testimony we can put on the armor of God and overcome any doubt that would lead us away from Heavenly Father.
Elder Stevenson asks us to ponder four questions as we think about our testimonies.
- Do I know and understand what a testimony is?
- Do I know how to bear my testimony?
- What are the obstacles in sharing my testimony?
- How do I keep my testimony?
This post will discuss questions one and four and how the answers to these two questions can fortify us during times of faith crises. It is left to the reader to study and answer questions two and three.
Do I Know and Understand What a Testimony Is?
“[A testimony] is your belief or knowledge of truth given as a spiritual witness through the influence of the Holy Ghost. Acquiring this witness will change what you say and how you act.” A testimony is made up of several items and Elder Stevenson lists the following “key elements”
- “God is your Heavenly Father; you are His child. He loves you.
- Jesus Christ lives. He is the Son of the living God and your Savior and Redeemer.
- Joseph Smith is a prophet of God called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restored Church on the earth.
- The restored Church of Jesus Christ is led by a living prophet today.”
When I was seven, the missionaries came to our door and taught us the things listed above. I knew in my heart that they were true. I remember feeling the Holy Ghost bear witness to me of these things. However, I didn’t make it a matter of prayer to find out. I intrinsically knew. This was good enough at that time.
As a teenager, I went through a period of time where through environmental and cultural experiences, I lost that testimony. I believe that deep down it was still there, but I had my doubts. Those doubts wouldn’t be resolved until my freshman year in college.
The following scriptures were key to my regaining my testimony of the gospel and my continued determination to stay strong in the gospel.
- Moroni 10:3-5 – Read the scriptures and ask God about their truthfulness.
- James 1:5 – If wisdom is lacking ask God and He will answer
- Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9 – Asking is not just enough, we must also study it out combined with asking in order to receive a testimony.
Having followed this course I received a personal witness that God knows and loves me, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, Christ’s church has been restored on the earth and the church is called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
How Do I Keep My Testimony?
Once testimony has been obtained, it must be nurtured. Alma teaching the poor of the Zoramites compared the word to a seed. This analogy also applies to our testimony. Quoting Alma:
Now, we will compare [a testimony] unto a aseed. Now, if ye give place, that a bseed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your dunbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to eenlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
Now behold, would not this increase your [testimony]? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your [testimony]? Yea, it will strengthen your [testimony]: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own alikeness.Alma 32:28-31
Now let’s compare this with Laman and Lemuel’s reaction when Nephi asked the question “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”
8 And I said unto them: Have ye ainquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: aWe have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.1Nephi 15: 8-9
When we read the words of Alma we see that through faith and continuing nourishment of our testimonies, they will grow and become stronger. However, when we fail to inquire of the Lord and nourish our testimony we feel as though “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”
It takes work to nourish and strengthen our testimonies. However, this is time well spent as it draws us nearer to God. For me, I have felt my testimony grow as I have written posts in this blog, studied the scriptures, and gone to God in prayer.
What Is a Faith Crisis?
My definition of a faith crisis is when you have doubts about what you have previously received a testimony of. This can happen in many ways. Some of which are:
- Unanswered prayers
- Exposure to an event, historical or current, that “doesn’t sit right”
- Committing sin and feeling as though you can’t be forgiven
- Offense received at the hand of another
- Family member or close friend having a faith crisis and bringing it to you
It is not an exhaustive list to be sure, but I feel that it captures a grand majority of reasons we have faith crises. In all cases, a faith crisis starts with doubt. Doubt is a powerful influence in our lives, but is it wrong to have doubts? My answer to that is no! it is not wrong to have doubts. In fact, through doubts our testimonies can be strengthened.
There is a scene in the movie “Prince of Egypt” where Moses, through the power of God, turns the waters of the Nile into blood. Ramses turns to his high priests and commands them to explain this to them. The priests in turn “replicate” the miracle by turning a small bowl of water red using a powder. Ramses tells Moses it is time to stop his foolishness. Moses states that it is just beginning. This is where doubt comes into play. Aaron looks at Moses and says “But Moses, didn’t you see what happened? The priests did the same thing. Pharoah still has the power over our lives.” Moses looks at Aaron and states “Yes Aaron, Pharaoh has the power … but there is one thing [Pharaoh] cannot take away from you, your faith. Believe, for we will see God’s wonders.” In this time of doubt, Moses admonished the children of Israel to believe. He knew that God would show them His power and deliver them. However, if the children of Israel did not believe, then they would turn away from God.
Moses’ answer to Aaron is also the answer to the question of “Where do I go when I have doubts?” The first place is to God. Who has the answers we seek when in doubt? Is it better to seek the wisdom of man or the wisdom of God?
Oliver Cowdery provides us with a good example of what to do when we doubt. In Doctrine and Covenants 6:20-24, the Lord calls Oliver by name and tells him that if he “[desired] a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” I know that when I have had my doubts, I think back to the time I knelt in my dorm room in college and pleaded to know the truth. God spoke peace to mind and it was such a defining moment that I have no problem recalling exactly how I felt and how the answer came to me.
God continues telling Oliver “And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness?” Once we have received a witness, God knows it. He also knows that His witness is the greatest witness we can ever receive regardless of what man and the world says.
Elder Uchtdorf in his 2013 General Conference address “Come, Join with Us” gives us this piece of advice. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is not easy, as some doubts can shake us to the core. There are some events that trouble us deeply. Whenever this has happened to me, and it has happened, I cannot deny the witness I have received. I know that turning to God will help alleviate what is troubling me. Do I get all the answers I want? Not always. Sometimes I am given enough to overcome the doubts. This is where trust in the Lord comes into play. Just because we don’t have all the answers to every question does NOT mean that the gospel is any less true. It does not mean that the Church is not God’s Church. It does mean that God hasn’t yet revealed everything. Our faith must be such that we can receive these answers trusting that one day all answers will be revealed.
Our testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest gifts given by our Heavenly Father. However, it must be nourished and strengthened in order to be effective. When doubts arise we must rely on the witness we have received from God and turn to Him for the answers we seek. When we do this, our testimonies grow stronger and our faith in God increases.
Tips For Teaching
When teaching this topic, you might want to consider the following:
- Ask “What is a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Let the class provide answers and discuss them.
- Use the four questions from Elder Stevenson’s talk and have the class members write down answers that they can review at a later time.
- Discuss what happens when an event causes us to doubt our faith. How do we feel when we have doubts? Who do we turn to in order to resolve our doubts?
- Discuss Elder Uchtdorf’s quote “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”