I’ve never had the standard testimony experience. You know, the one that the missionaries promise investigators: if you pray about the Book of Mormon (or the church or Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling), the spirit will witness its truth to you. That isn’t to say that I haven’t prayed about all of these things. I’ve prayed about the Book of Mormon, the church, and Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, but the spirit has never “manifested the truth” of it through a burning of the bosom, or a feeling of peace, or a still small voice, or any of the usual standards.
I do have a testimony, though. I’ve just gained it through a lot of obedience to commandments and through various experiences with church doctrines and practices. I have a testimony of the law of tithing, which is based on blessings that came from paying tithing when I didn’t have enough money to pay my bills. I have a testimony of the Word of Wisdom, which is based on my realization that by following it I have a healthier body than I would have been able to otherwise (I have a number of long-term health problems). I have a testimony of the divine power that resides in the temple, which is based on some really profound and powerful experiences I have had there. I have a testimony of reading the scriptures and praying, which is based on the joy and peace and knowledge that doing these things regularly has brought to my life.
This means my testimony is somewhat piecemeal–it emphasizes particulars rather than the whole. I can’t testify the church is “true” because I have had no testimony experiences that speak to me of the truth of the church as a whole. Instead, I can bear witness that individual doctrines and practices of the church hold truth and have blessed my life.
Another interesting consequence of my experiences is that my testimony is practice-based rather than idea-based. As many of my comments and posts on this blog have probably revealed, there’s a lot in this church that doesn’t make sense to me on an intellectual level. I’ve prayed for understanding and answers, but they seem to be slow in coming. For whatever reason, God hasn’t seen the need to clear up my doubts and confusion, which means my observations of ideological, doctrinal, and discursive inconsistencies in the church pile up at a much faster rate than they are resolved.
Yet despite all my expressions of doubt and complaint over these inconsistencies, my testimony remains. My life echoes John 7:17: “If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” My life is better because of my obedience, and I see God’s hand in that. And when I am honest with myself, I realize that it’s more important to be obedient to commandments that make my life better than to have all my questions answered now; I am going through an experiential process that is making me a more Christ-like person. It’s okay if I don’t understand everything, or if God doesn’t doesn’t see fit reveal the “truth” of certain things to me, along the way.