Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Testimonies

    In D&C 76 it says concerning those that receive of a Terrestrial Glory, “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” In other words being valiant in one's testimony of Jesus is a key to entering into the Celestial kingdom.

    Obviously one cannot be valiant in the testimony of Jesus if they don't even have one, which is why we need to obtain that testimony. However, before we can do so we need to come to an understanding of what qualifies as a testimony.

    The Oxford English Dictionary of English Etymology defines the root of the word testimony to be testis which means witness in Latin. The meaning of the word has been changed by incorrect ideas amongst the different Christian faiths demoting it to become a mere declaration of faith, rather than a true witness.

    During the time of Joseph Smith however, the meaning was still that of a witness and not of a mere declaration of feeling. As such when reading the scriptures we must take that definition into account to gain a better understanding of what the scriptures intend.

    Now in order to receive that witness or testimony of which has been spoken, there are two conditions that we must fulfill. What are those conditions you may ask? Let us first turn to the scriptures.

    In 3 Nephi it says “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Also in James it reads “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

    While I have mentioned this seeking and asking before many times, this is especially important when it comes to receiving a testimony. I mentioned previously that this seeking is not a singular occurrence, but rather a continual never-ending quest for further light and knowledge.

    Joseph Smith did not receive that witness, the testimony of God’s plan, until he sought out and asked god, for months on end. He questioned what others were teaching, and did not accept the status quo, the philosophies of men, for face value. Seeking for knowledge, questioning what we see and hear, and desiring for wisdom, is an integral part of finding for oneself a testimony of god.

    Some are afraid to question as they say that it leads to doubt. But they do not realize that doubt is actually the opposite of seeking. As mentioned before here, true growth comes when when one is seeking for knowledge and questioning the status quo. His light only comes to those that don't rely upon the arm of flesh, and upon an imperfect society.

    Only when they realize their own imperfection and their own ignorance and have faith in an omniscient god to guide them to the correct answers, can they begin to find the answers that they seek. For those that seek for the truth and question the authority of man, god is the final and only authority. Every man must witness the truth for themselves, which testimony only god can grant.

    On the other hand, while those that doubt may rebel against the status quo, they do not seek for knowledge. Cynics may say “If god existed, such and such would not have happened.” or “I cannot believe in a god that allows such and such to happen” At that time one is jumping to the conclusion that they have all the available data to make an eternal judgment of the situation.

    Instead of humbly seeking why, and trusting in the Lord, they are setting themselves up as god, and as the final authority on the matter. They are not seeking, and trusting in god. Instead of seeking and knocking, they that doubt close the door to further inquiry, and thus as a consequence, they can never find the truth in and of themselves. Doubt is the polar opposite of faith.

    A second and more devious way that Satan uses to prevent us from receiving a testimony is complacency. In 2 Nephi 28 we read “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

    And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance...

    ...Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!

    Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!

    Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!

    Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!

    And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God!  For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

    Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

    For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

    Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    This is a trap that many good men and women fall into. By saying they already know and that they have received enough, they deny the power of god, and as a consequence they cannot receive a testimony of his great plan. This is one trick that Satan especially likes to use upon those that profess to be christian.

    Upon unbelievers he uses doubt and cynicism, and upon those that claim to be his disciples, he uses complacency and self-satisfaction. We have so much that god has given to us that it is easy to fall into the trap of not desiring for more. But we have been expressly commanded to seek, and to never say that we have enough, lest that which we have be taken away. This is where our trial of faith comes in, which is the second condition of receiving a testimony.

    In Ether 12:6 it says “Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” As we can see here the second and most important step in receiving our own witness is to test our faith. Our trust in him is the only thing that allows us to be able to find the answers that we seek.

    Without this faith we are left in the dark and instead of seeking and questioning, we become doubters and cynics. Joseph Smith is the perfect example of this process of seeking in faith. He desired for true knowledge, and did not find it in the world. Instead of becoming bitter, or denying god, he sought for wisdom by reading the scriptures.

    If we read his account, we can clearly see that he struggled with this question for not a short while. Instead of giving up, he kept on seeking, looking forward with an eye of faith that he will eventually find the answer.

    In so doing he finally realized that he must pray to god, and seek knowledge directly from Him. He put his desires into action, and prayed to god in the sacred grove, where Satan tried to stop him in a final effort. Through Joseph’s faith he was able to endure that trial, and finally receive the light and knowledge that he sought. This is the same pattern that we must follow.

    Let us look at the parable of the seed in Alma 32, where Alma compares the seed to the word of God, and that through our faith in planting that seed we see the fruits thereof.

    I quote: “But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out...

    And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

    But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

    And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

    Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

    We see that even if we initially receive the word within ourselves, if we do not continue to seek after the fruit it will wither and die. This comes from the doubts and complacency spoken of above.

    We must continue to nurture and grow the word of god in our souls until it sprouts into a tree, and by continually exercising that faith we are able to reap the fruit of that tree. Now just as a tree doesn't spring forth in a day, so too do we need to nourish the word within our souls day by day, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit that will come.

    This is the faith necessary, the never-ending, forever enduring faith, the trust in Him that we will eventually receive according to our desires in His own good time. This wrestling and struggling with the spirit is the trial that we all need to pass through before we can receive a true witness from Him.

    If we do these things and pass the trial of our faith, as it says we will receive a witness of His love, which love is physically manifested to us through Christ Jesus. This great gift of our personally tasting of the overwhelming power of the atonement changes our souls, for we are cleansed by His love for us.

    I testify of Him and of His love, for I have tasted of it. I know that only through this continual seeking can we obtain this witness, this testimony of His great light, love, and power. This is the means whereby we can be valiant, wherein we struggle for and finally receive a testimony of Him. And it is only by our knowing these things that we can know ourselves, of this I testify Amen.