Testimony is `wellspring of faith and activitiy'

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The great strength of the Church is "this thing we call testimony," President Gordon B. Hinckley declared Sunday morning.

"It is the wellspring of faith and activity. It is difficult to explain. It is difficult to quantify. It is an elusive and mysterious thing, and yet it is as real and powerful as any force on the earth. This thing which we call testimony is difficult to define, but its fruits are plainly evident. It is the Holy Spirit testifying through us."

During his address, President Hinckley expresed gratitude to members of the Church "from the bottom of my heart . . . for your love and support, for your prayers and faith" since being sustained as Church president three years ago.

"I am no longer a young man filled with energy and vitality. I am trying to catch up with Brother [David B.] Haight," he quipped, bringing laughter from the congregation.

He told of his travels and "visiting among our people in scores of nations. They have gathered by the thousands and tens of thousands. In one place there were more than 200 buses which brought them.

"I have been among the affluent, but more so among the poor - the poor of the earth and the poor of the Church. Some of their eyes are of a slightly different tilt than mine and their skin of a different color, but all of this disappears and becomes meaningless when I am among them. They all become our Father's sons and daughters, children with a divine birthright. We speak various languages, but we all understand the common tongue of brotherhood.

"These thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions now, all have one thing in common. They have an individual and personal testimony that this is the work of the Almighty, our Heavenly Father; that Jesus, the Lord, who died on the cross of Calvary and was resurrected, lives, a distinct and real and individual personality; that this is their work, restored in this last, wonderful dispensation of time; that the ancient priesthood has been restored with all of its keys and powers; that the Book of Mormon has spoken from the dust in testimony of the Redeemer of the world."

President Hinckley explained that personal testimony turns people around in their living as they come into the Church. "This is the element which motivates the membership to forsake all in the service of the Lord. It is a mysterious and wonderful thing, a gift from God to man. It overrides wealth or poverty when one is called to serve.

"This testimony which is carried in the hearts of our people motivates to an impelling duty. It is found in the young and old. It is of the very essence of this work. It is what is moving the work of the Lord forward across the world. It impels to action. It demands that we do what we are asked to do. It brings with it the assurance that life is purposeful, that some things are of far greater importance than others, that we are on an eternal journey, that we are answerable unto God."

Testimony, he continued, which is somewhat feeble and weak and first, "moves every investigator in the direction of conversion. It pushes every convert toward security in the faith. This is the thing which caused our forebears to leave England and the lands of Europe, to cross the seas with harrowing experiences, to walk what seemed endlessly beside plodding oxen or frail handcarts in the direction of these mountains of the West. They struggled, they worked, they died by the thousands on that fateful journey. That spirit of testimony has come down to us, who are the inheritors of their precious faith."

President Hinckley said Church members bear testimony and say "I know" until it almost appears monotonous. "The simple fact is that we do know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that this is their cause and their kingdom. The words are simple, the expression comes from the heart. It is at work wherever the Church is organized, wherever there are missionaries teaching the gospel, wherever there are members sharing their faith."

He said that testimony is something that cannot be refuted. "Opponents may quote scripture and argue doctrine endlessly. They can be clever and persuasive. But when one says, `I know,' there can be no further argument. There may not be acceptance, but who can refute or deny the quiet voice of the inner soul speaking with personal conviction?"

The Church president explained that a testimony can be the most precious gift of God. "It is a heavenly bestowal when there is the right effort. It is the opportunity, it is the responsibility of every man and woman in this Church to obtain within himself or herself a conviction of the truth of this great latter-day work and of those who stand at his head, even the living God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We grow in faith and knowledge as we serve, as we study, as we pray."

President Hinckley quoted from John, chapter 6, then, with power, said: "This is the great question, and the answer thereto, which we must all face. `If not to Thee, then Lord to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God.'

"It is this conviction, this quiet inward certainty of the reality of the living God, of the divinity of His Beloved Son, of the restoration of their work in this time and of the glorious manifestations which have followed, which becomes for each of us the foundation of our faith. It becomes our testimony."

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