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by Elder Bruce R. McConkie
A testimony of the gospel is the sure knowledge, received by revelation from the Holy Ghost, of the divinity of the great latter-day work. In former dispensations a testimony was the revealed knowledge of the divinity of the work in that day. A testimony in this day automatically includes the assurance of the truth of the same gospel in all former ages when it has been on earth.
If the sole source of one's knowledge or assurance of the truth of the Lord's work comes from reason, or logic, or persuasive argument that cannot be controverted, it is not a testimony of the gospel. In its nature a testimony consists of knowledge that comes by revelation, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10), and anyone gaining that knowledge from the Holy Ghost could, if the Lord willed, receive knowledge of future events also and prophecy of them.
Logic and reason lead truth seekers along the path to a testimony, and they are aids in strengthening the revealed assurances of which a testimony is composed. But the actual sure knowledge which constitutes "the testimony of Jesus" must come by "the spirit of prophecy." This is received when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within men; it comes when the whisperings of the still small voice are heard by the inner man. Receipt of a testimony is accompanied by a feeling of calm, unwavering certainty. Those who have it can use logic and reason in defending their positions and in bearing their testimonies, but it is the promptings of the Spirit rather than reason alone that is the true foundation upon which the testimony rests.
Three great truths must be included in every valid testimony: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world (D. & C. 46:13); 2. That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and 3. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth." (D. & C. 1:30.)
Embraced within these great revealed assurances are a host of others, as that the Book of Mormon is true, that holy messengers restored keys and priesthood to men in this day, and that the present leadership of the Church has the right and power to direct the Lord's work on earth. To bear one's testimony is to make a solemn declaration, affirmation or attestation that personal revelation has been received certifying to the truth of those realities which comprise a testimony.
The prophets of all ages have borne testimonies, as for instance: Christ (John 4:25-26; 10:25, 36), Job (Job 19:25), Peter (Matt. 16:13-20; John 6:68-69), Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. (D. & C. 76:22-24.) After citing the witnesses of other prophets to establish the truth of his teachings, Alma then bore this testimony: "And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me." (Alma 5:45-46.)
Any accountable person can gain a testimony of the gospel by obedience to that law upon which the receipt of such knowledge is predicated. This is the formula: 1. He must desire to know the truth of the gospel, of the Book of Mormon, of the Church, or of whatever is involved. 2. He must study and learn the basic facts relative to the matter involved. "Search the scriptures." (John 5:39.) "Search these commandments." (D. & C. 1:37.) 3. He must practice the principles and truths learned, conforming his life to them. "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:16-17.) 4. He must pray to the Father in the name of Christ, in faith, and the truth will then be made manifest by revelation "by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moro. 10:3-5; 1 Cor. 2.)
With the receipt of a testimony comes the obligation to bear witness to the world of the divinity of the Lord's work. Part of the covenant made in the waters of baptism is that the new converts will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death." (Mosiah 18:9.) "It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor." (D. & C. 88:81.) All the elders of Israel have a missionary responsibility. (D. & C. 58:47; 66:7; 100:10; 124:7.) The apostles and the seventy have a particular and especial responsibility in this field. (D. & C. 107:23-25; 112.) The testimony of the elders is followed by the testimony of calamities. (D. & C. 43:18-29; 88:88-90.) Blessings and cleansing power are given the faithful who bear testimony to the world. (D. & C. 62:3; 84:61; 136:34-40.)
In the justice of God, every person will have the opportunity to gain a testimony of the truth, either in this life or in the spirit world before the day of the resurrection. (D. & C. 1:2.) Those who have a full and complete opportunity in this life, and who do not take it, may receive a second opportunity in the spirit world, but they will not have a second chance to gain salvation by their belated acceptance of the truth. Rather, they will go to a terrestrial kingdom because they "received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it." (D. & C. 76:73-74.)
Men are not saved by virtue of a testimony alone. (D. & C. 3:4.) But a testimony is the beginning of real spiritual progress. With it comes a greater obligation to serve God, keep his commandments, and walk with the light that has been received. (D. & C. 82:2-4.) It is only those who are valiant in testimony who work out their salvation. Those "who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" are assigned an inheritance, not in the kingdom of God, but in the terrestrial kingdom. (D. & C. 76:79.)
(See Testimony of Jesus Christ; Testimony Bearing; Testimony by President Gordon B Hinckley; Pure Testimony by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin; Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)
Mormon Doctrine, p. 787
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