An 8-year-old boy, Brandon, decided to bear his testimony during the first fast and testimony meeting after his baptism. His grandmother related:
“He stood to bear his testimony and could barely see over the pulpit. The counselor in the bishopric lowered the podium and Brandon, with tears in his eyes, bore a heart-rending testimony with such emotion that his little voice quivered, and it truly touched the congregation.
“When he finished and turned to leave, my son, who is the bishop, saw that Brandon couldn’t leave. His fingers had been pinched when the pulpit had been lowered. He quickly motioned for his counselor to raise the pulpit and Brandon was released and quickly returned to his seat. He leaned over and quietly whispered to his mother: ‘Now I understand why people cry when they bear their testimony!’” (“On the bright side,” Faye Tholen, Church News, Aug. 19, 2000, p. 2.)
Bearing a testimony can, at times, bring tears. Fortunately, those tears come as a result of the soul being stirred, the heart touched and emotions quickened.
In the context of the Church, a testimony is a sure witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ that comes by revelation through the Holy Ghost. It is one of a member’s most precious possessions.
A testimony isn’t something that, once acquired, remains forever the same. Like a muscle, it gains strength when used — or shared — and weakens when it is allowed to languish.
A testimony seldom descends upon anyone in full bloom. In most cases, it begins small and grows, seemingly step by step.
In last April’s general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, ‘Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.’ ... I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for ‘only believing.’ I told him that Christ Himself said, ‘Be not afraid, only believe,’ … I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase ‘We believe.’ And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest.”
In an April 2011 general conference address, Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy said that the fundamentals of gaining and retaining a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ are straightforward, clear and within the capacity of every person. He posed and answered three questions:
“First, who is entitled to have a testimony? Everyone who is willing to pay the price — meaning keeping the commandments — may have a testimony. ‘Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:11). ...
“Second, how does one obtain the necessary revelation, and what are the fundamental steps to achieve it? The pattern has been clear and consistent throughout the ages. The promise given for obtaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon also applies generally:
“’And when ye shall receive these things’ — meaning you have listened, read, studied, and pondered on the question at hand — ‘ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true’ — meaning you will pray thoughtfully, specifically, and reverently with a firm commitment to follow the answer to your prayer — ‘and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“?‘And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things’ (Moroni 10:4–5).
“Third, is gaining a testimony an isolated event or an ongoing process? A testimony is similar to a living organism that grows and develops when treated properly. It needs constant nourishment, care, and protection to thrive and prosper. Likewise, neglect or deviance from the pattern of living that a testimony clarifies can lead to its loss or diminishment. The scriptures warn that transgressing or breaking the commandments of God can result in the loss of the Spirit and even to one denying the testimony he or she once possessed” (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:23).
In his address during the October 2003 general conference, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that Nephi gives a clear and compelling account of the process of obtaining a testimony: “For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen [in a vision of the tree of life], and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, … the Spirit [spoke] unto me” (1 Nephi 11:1-2).
Elder Hales said, “Once we receive a witness of the Spirit, our testimony is strengthened through study, prayer and living the gospel. Our growing testimony brings us increased faith in Jesus Christ and His plan of happiness. We are motivated to repent and obey the commandments, which, with a mighty change of heart, leads to our conversion. And our conversion brings divine forgiveness, healing, joy, and the desire to bear our witness to others. …
“There is no greater gift we can give others than to bear our testimony to them. There is no greater joy we can have than to bring even one soul unto Christ. And there is no greater way to strengthen our own testimony than to share our witness of Him with the world. As we do, our families will be strengthened. Our wards, stakes, and communities will be filled with peace and love, and, ultimately, the earth will be prepared for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”