Friday, October 4, 2013

TMI: Testimony Meeting

"There is a great responsibility in bearing pure testimony. Sometimes I think too little of it is done in the Church." – Elder Boyd K Packer

There are perks to living just west of nowhere. Wide open spaces where the deer and the armadillos play, sunsets that would make Monet fall over his paintbrushes, traffic jams that consist of a tractor and  three horse trailers all showing up at the stoplight at the same time. 

With all this country wholesomeness and fresh air comes the blessing of going to church in a little Branch of the Church. Best of all is fast and testimony meetings in that Branch.
Once a month Mormons observe what we call “fast Sunday”. Generally on the first Sunday of the month the members forego food and drink for two meals and donate the equivalent cost, or more, to the Church to assist the poor and needy. The congregational meeting on each fast Sunday, called fast and testimony meeting, is devoted to the voluntary expression of testimony by members.

This means anybody can get up and share their testimony with the congregation and in my Branch it is a faith filled incredible meeting every single week. I think that may be because we are so small and everyone feels like family. These are humble, loving, and awesome people who go to church not because it is expected, not because it is the social center of life or that it is easy, but because they know the Church is true. They bear simple, sweet, short testimonies and tell what they know. That’s it. I’ve learned what “pure testimony” is by associating with them.

When we lived in other areas of the country this was not always so. Testimony meetings were uplifting, sometimes entertaining, and other times made me want to crawl under my chair and hide from embarrassment. 

I remember well one sister who would get up each month and give the congregation a rundown on all the marital problems she was having with her hubby who was sitting there three rows back. How he told her she was going to get fat if she kept eating chocolate and what went on in her therapy sessions. There was also the brother that would get up and give a sermon every week on some historical fact for 15 minutes at a time. He had to be escorted from the mic several times by the Bishop.

Then there were the well-meaning parents who exactly 30 seconds after hearing a letter read from the First Presidency asking that two-year-olds not give testimony in the main meeting, escorted those same kids right up to the pulpit and did exactly what they had just been asked not to do. This was followed up by folks giving travel logs of their trip to Branson and detailed information on the mole they had removed that week with the added bonus of taking off the band-aid so we could all see.  

Mixed in generously with all that were the hoards of thank-a-mony givers. I was a part of that group. I got up, thanked my family, thanked God for the Gospel, thanked my friends, thanked a guy named Earl who happened to drive by the church that morning, and then sat down. And while being grateful is imperative to being a disciple it is not a testimony.

Said Elder Dallin H Oaks:
“A testimony of the gospel is not a travelogue, a health log, or an expression of love for family members. It is not a sermon. President Kimball taught that the moment we begin preaching to others, our testimony is ended.”
Hartman Rector, Jr. -Member of the First Quorum of the Seventy:
“Bearing testimony has to do with bearing witness to that which we know to be true. Much of what we call testimony bearing is not really testimony at all—it is a statement or expression of public thanks. It is good to be thankful, but public thanks is not testimony.
Testimony comes from the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of Christ, which John testifies is ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (Jn 1:9), will lead a man to Christ and help him get a testimony, and if followed will lead to baptism in Jesus Christ’s church.”

What I love about my Branch is that they instinctively follow the example of Joseph Smith in this area. Joseph bore powerful pure testimony over and over again throughout his life on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the miracle of the Restoration of the Gospel, but most significantly he declared: 
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

He testified simply what he knew, that Jesus Christ lives. We can do the same by testifying about what we know. That the Gospel has been restored, that we are led by a prophet today, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Jesus Christ lives and loves us. I testify that if we do this in our meetings and cut the other junk they will be filled with the Spirit and fast Sunday can be a joyous spiritual feast for everyone. Besides, nobody wants to hear about your mole.



“…Personal testimony is the foundation of our faith. It is the binding power that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints unique in the lives of its members, as compared with all other religious denominations of the world. The doctrine of the Restoration is glorious in and of itself, but the thing that makes it powerful and imbues it with great meaning is the personal testimonies of Church members worldwide who accept the Restoration of the gospel and strive to live its teachings every day of their lives.” -Elder M. Russell Ballard

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