Posts Tagged ‘Fast Sunday’
One of the delightful parts of a stake temple night is the opportunity to be taught by a member of the temple presidency. On one particular occasion many years ago, the Temple President felt inspired to relate a few stories that patrons had shared with him about spiritual manifestations that they had received while serving in the LA temple. It was an uplifting and edifying session.
I was very impressed with what the Temple President spoke about that evening. He related some very sacred experiences of visits from the other side of the veil from deceased family members for whom the work was being done. He gave specific examples of what people saw, heard or felt that was evidence to them of the validity of this work and that it is accepted by their relatives.
A conversation with my Stake President
While preparing to leave the temple that evening, I conversed with my Stake President about the things the Temple President had taught us in our chapel session. I had served with this Stake President for several years on the High Council and felt comfortable sharing heartfelt concerns. I knew that he would carefully consider what I had to say before answering with thoughtfulness.
“President”, I said, “I’ve been coming to this temple since I was twelve years old. In fact, I was six years old when I was sealed here to my parents. I have many sacred memories of this place. I was endowed here when I was nineteen and married to my sweetheart not too many years after completing my mission. I have participated in several thousand ordinances here in this temple.
Sacred temple manifestations
“So why is it that I have never experienced any of these kinds of sacred manifestations that the temple president described?” As I expected, he thought for a few minutes while we continued to change back into our street clothes after the evening’s temple work was completed. After a moment, he paused, put his hand on my shoulder and then responded very slowly and carefully.
“Brother Malone, some people do not require manifestations to be faithful. The Lord knows their hearts and knows what they need. You apparently do not need any additional evidence that the work being performed in these temples is valid and acceptable to both the Lord and to those for whom it is performed. Your years of faithfulness are proof that you know the work is true.”
The Lord bears witness
He was right, of course. I didn’t need a manifestation to know that the work being done in the temples is of eternal significance and validity. I had known that since I was a child and had never doubted it. I thought about his response and realized that there was never an occasion when I attended the temple that I didn’t feel the warmth and comfort of the spirit of the Lord.
It was just another piece of evidence to me that the Spirit of the Lord is always present when priesthood ordinances are performed, especially in the House of the Lord. I didn’t need any additional evidence because I had the constant companionship of the Lord each time I sat in an endowment session or knelt across the altar in a sealing session. Yes, I knew the work was true.
To uplift and edify
I have the same kind of experience each week when I attend Sacrament meeting, and especially in a testimony meeting. There is just something special about attending church each week and partaking of the Sacrament. I just feel different by the end of the meeting. I feel happy and feel that my burdens have been lifted. It never fails. I feel this strengthening each week after church.
This uplifting feeling is always the same whether I am conducting the meeting as a member of the Bishopric, or just sitting in the congregation as a regular member of the ward. I love to hear members of my ward teach the gospel from the pulpit and share their feelings about the truth of what they have learned and have taught. Sacrament meeting is always uplifting and edifying.
Last Sunday I sat in our monthly ward testimony meeting and thought about the different kinds of testimonies I was hearing. The Bishop was short and succinct. He bore witness of the five basic points of an LDS testimony and then sat down, inviting others to share their testimonies. I got up and rambled a little bit about testimonies and then bore witness of the same five points.
As we progressed through the meeting, I noted that some members talked about experiences that demonstrated to them that the Lord knew them personally and that he hears and answers their prayers. Others spoke about the trials through which they were passing and then concluded with assertions that they knew the Lord loved them would not leave them comfortless in their trials.
When we say “I know”
I listened very closely to each testimony waiting for the phrases “I know” and “I believe.” I think I heard “I believe” maybe once or twice. “I know” was used by the majority of those who shared their testimonies. I know these people and know that when they say that they know that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, they mean it sincerely.
I was listening closely because of recent conversation with readers of my blog about testimonies and what it means to say the church is true. I now try to qualify what I mean when I say that by adding some additional phrases like, “because angels conferred priesthood keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith,” and “because angels ordained Joseph Smith and gave him priesthood authority.”
Authority and the true church
You see, this authority thing is very important to me. I’ve had a lot of dialogs with visitors to Latter-day Commentary about this very important subject. I’ve tried to share with them that the idea of priesthood authority is one of the most important aspects of a church that claims to be the true church of Jesus Christ. Ordinances of salvation require God’s authority to perform them.
That’s all we really mean when we say that we are the true church. We are simply saying that angels came from the spirit world and gave Joseph Smith divine permission to do what he did in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth again in these latter days. Of course, the idea that angels have visited man in our day is a very difficult thing for some people to accept.
Angels, visions and revelation
I have never seen an angel. I have had no divine vision with my natural eyes. I have never heard an audible voice from the spirit world. Yet I have never questioned that Joseph Smith saw God, was visited by angels, received revelations and brought forth the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. Some of my readers find it fantastic that I can believe Joseph was a prophet.
How is this possible? On what basis do I stand and say “I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph was a prophet and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ with a prophet at the head today?” If I have not seen God or Jesus, and was not there when Joseph brought forth the Book or Mormon, how am I a witness?
Divine manifestations must have a purpose
In all my years in this church, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who said to me, “Yes, I saw God. He visited me and told me…” I have never had someone say to me, “I was praying very earnestly one night and the Lord appeared to me to tell me that he loved me and that my sins were forgiven.” I have also never heard anyone relate to me that they were visited by an angel.
Now perhaps you know people who have received such manifestations or maybe you have been the recipient of angelic visitations. I think that’s wonderful. I assume the visits had a purpose. I guess I’ve never felt the need for divine manifestations beyond what I have already received when I was young as I prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was indeed the word of God.
We live far beneath our privileges
When I was seventeen I was extremely motivated to obtain a manifestation from God about my standing before him and to know if the Book of Mormon was what Joseph said it was. I obtained both of those witnesses and a few more that the Lord felt were needed in order to help me fulfill my purpose in life. I’ve been coasting on those manifestations for the past thirty-five years.
I’m wondering if I’ve been coasting too long. Our former stake president, now serving as a mission president, often repeated this from Brigham Young. He said, “[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to . . . direct [us]. . . . I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.” Is there more the Lord wants us to have besides what he has already given us?
Summary and conclusion
The Lord reveals himself to man when he has a purpose or a mission for them to perform. He sends angels to instruct man and teach him about the work that he wants performed. He sends his spirit to assure men and women that the work in which they are engaged is divine. He gives gifts of the spirit to help us do his work. For Joseph, one needed gift was the power to translate.
When I needed to know that the church and the Book of Mormon were of divine origin, the Lord sent his spirit and confirmed these things in my heart and mind. Over the years, that same spirit has encouraged and motivated me to ever increasing faithfulness and obedience. Is the Lord willing to provide additional manifestations, and if so, what is the purpose they would serve?
Written by tmalonemcse
July 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm
Tagged with Angel Moroni, Angelic visatations, Angels, Answers to prayer, Authority, Bearing witness, Book of Mormon, Burning of the bosom, Divine Manifestations, Faithfulness, Fast Sunday, First Vision, Gifts of the Spirit, God, Heavenly Father, Holy Ghost, Inspiration, Jesus Christ, Keys of the Kingdom, LDS Church, Los Angeles Temple, Mormon Church, Mormon History, Mormon Origins, Mormon temples, Mormonism, One true church, Only true church, Personal Revelation, Revelation, Sacrament meeting, Spirit of the Lord, Temple work, Testimony, True Church
I could have sworn that I already wrote this essay but realized after some digging that the main points were developed as part of a long dialog with my Evangelical friend in the comments section of several of my early articles. I also thought about entitling this, “Why we say ‘I know’ and not ‘I believe’,” but I’m not sure that it fully describes what I want to cover in this post.
The main thesis for my essay can be taken from a story about tasting salt and this statement from Boyd K. Packer: “My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like.” You would have to read “The Candle of the Lord” again to get the background if you don’t recall it.
The bearing of testimonies
A huge bone of contention and point of offense with some within the church is the fact that we get up each Fast Sunday and say to each other, “I know the church is true. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today” and various other statements that start with the phrase “I know…”
They especially cite the practice of little children at the podium with a parent or sibling standing behind the child whispering the above phrases in their ear for the child to repeat out loud. If you have been to an LDS Sacrament service on the first Sunday of the month you know what I am talking about. Having grown up in the church this little ritual does not seem at all strange to me.
Direction from the Brethren
However, apparently enough people thought it wrong that the Brethren issued a letter to be read in all wards advising that little children practice their testimonies at home or in Primary classes instead of at the pulpit in fast and testimony meeting. Even though this was issued more then five years ago, the practice continues and so it bears re-reading by bishoprics on a regular basis.
To quote: “It may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies in settings such as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so unassisted in a fast and testimony meeting.” Yes, little children can and do feel the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to their souls of the truth but learning to express it may take some time.
Brainwashing or groupthink
But it’s not just the children’s testimoniesthat bother some within the church. It is the idea of saying, “I know” that such and such a thing is true when logically, they cannot possibly know of the veracity of historical events because they weren’t there. To these people, a thanktimony or a travelogue is preferable to hear rather than to have someone say that “they know” something.
Let’s investigate that. The claim is brainwashing or group thinking without any real thought as to what is actually being said. Is there any validity to this claim? Of course there is. You and I have both seen people get up to the pulpit and just repeat what they have heard other people say without sensing any depth of meaning behind what they are saying. What do they really know?
Discovering a testimony
And yet, consider that President Packer taught us that “a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it.” Isn’t it possible that when our children and youth get up there and say what comes into their hearts that they are entitled to receive revelation that what they are saying is good and true? It is my personal experience, shared in a previous essay that knowledge can be obtained like this.
Growing up in the church, we are taught in Primary and Sunday school all the basics we need to know to form a foundational testimony of the goodness and truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a product of this system of indoctrination and training. I can tell you from my own experience that it works, or at least that it worked for me to a certain point in my young life.
A testimony must grow
I believe that most people who grow up in the church come to a point in their lives where they must advance beyond the basic testimony of their youth. I also believe that the many natural circumstances of life will require us to make decisions about our testimonies that can be hard and perhaps even painful. In my opinion, it is the same process through which a convert must pass.
In other words, the testimony of the youth obtained from repeating what was heard from others, is going to be tested and tried. Was that childish testimony invalid? No, a testimony obtained as a child is sweet and innocent and pure. It is valid and real but does not have the depth to sustain us as we move through our lives into a world that challenges such innocent testimonies as naïve.
The influence of leaders
Unfortunately, it is about this point that some of our young people in the church struggle with the transition to the kind of testimony that can weather the storm of adversity and opposition. That’s where a good seminary or institute teacher can make a real difference in the lives of our youth. For me, it was a scout advisor and counselor in a bishopric who helped me make that transition.
I knew that Jim Mortensen cared about me because of his sacrifice of time in going with us on scout trips and other activities. Although I had heard him share his testimony before, I took an occasion to ask him point blank in a private setting to tell me how he knew the church was true. I know I surprised him, but I will never forget the depth of his sincerity or the spirit that I felt.
A powerful example
Even though Jim came to church alone because his wife didn’t feel comfortable there, he was always cheerful and friendly. I knew that his testimony gave him strength but wanted to know how he knew that it was true. He answered by asking if he could bear his testimony first. “Of course”, I said and he did. I was not prepared for the power of what I felt as he spoke slowly.
When he finished we both had tears in our eyes. “You see, Tim,” he said, “every time I bear my testimony it is strengthened. Every time I tell someone else that I know it is true, I feel it deep in my heart. It is not simply an emotional response, but a deep conviction. Now do you understand how I know?” I did understand and made it my goal to follow his example throughout my life.
Strengthened by sharing
As I have served in the church over the years as a missionary and as a leader in wards and stakes I have always cherished the opportunities to teach the gospeland to share my testimony. My friend Jim Mortensen instilled in me a desire to do so because I knew that as I bore my testimony to others that it would be strengthened and I would be blessed. I am so grateful for his example.
I hope this story from my youth illustrates a concept that is hard for many people to understand. Here is the idea: There are more ways to receive knowledge than exclusively through the five senses of the human body. We can receive knowledge directly from God, through the spirit of the Lord speaking directly to our spirit. This kind of knowledge is real and very powerful.
Revelation is the source
A valid testimony will always claim revelation as its source. The things of God are known by revelation and in no other way. It is one thing to be able to say, “I believe, I think, I hope that the gospel is true,” but it requires personal revelation from the spirit of the Lord to declare, “I know that the Church is true.” There is simply no other way. We must experience revelation.
We can say that we know the church is true by the power of the Holy Ghost and in no other way. It is not through reason, logic, or the philosophies of men or the theories of the world, although these can help to explain it after the receipt. A testimony of the gospel is received when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within us. It comes with calm, unwavering certainty into our hearts.
Summary and conclusion
We should have the courage to say “I know.” Some may think this is a trite expression, but “I know” remains a powerful and moving phrase when spoken with sincere conviction. We should say “I believe” if, in fact, we only believe and do not yet know for sure. We should strive for the day when we can say that we know, having received that knowledge from the spirit of the Lord.
Telling stories, expressing gratitude, admitting that we have testimonies, or saying that we only believe are not the same as saying that we know. We can know for ourselves and we should know, but that knowledge comes only on the Lord’s terms. It is received by revelation and not by reasoning or logic. Once received, we can then say, “I know,” with conviction and mean it.
For more information:
1. Testimony, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign May 2008
2. Topical guide reference to Testimony with scriptures
3. I had questions, Elder John U. Teh of the Seventy
4. Testimony as a process, Elder Carlos A. Godoy
5. Testimony, in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Written by tmalonemcse
June 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm
Tagged with Answers to prayer, Bearing witness, Boyd K Packer, Burning of the bosom, Critical thinking, DAMU, Disaffected Mormons, Doubt, Fast Sunday, Gospel knowledge, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, honest search, Intellectual study, Knowledge, Modern Revelation, Only true church, Personal Revelation, Revelation, Sharing the Gospel, Spirit of the Lord, Spiritual Experiences, Testifying, Testimony