Zelophehad’s Daughters

Testimony Bearing and Storytelling

Posted by Lynnette

The complaint I hear most often about testimony meeting is that people don’t actually bear testimony — that instead they do things like tell stories, engage in “thankamonies,” and so forth. While I am not entirely unsympathetic to such complaints, I find myself curious as to how those who are raising these concerns would imagine the ideal testimony meeting. In other words, what exactly does it mean to stick strictly to testimony-bearing?

I ask this because my impression is that often the assumption lurking here is that “pure” testimony-bearing means making use of propositional statements to articulate one’s beliefs. In this model, a testimony necessarily includes statements like “I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet,” “I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God,” or “I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” People might tell stories about how they arrived at this knowledge, but such stories are usually framed as secondary — the essence of a testimony, as understood in this framework, consists of these kinds of doctrinal assertions.

While I certainly think there can be real power in bearing testimony in this way, I am uneasy with this model being held up as the standard of what a testimony should look like. For one thing, I am not persuaded that propositional statements are always the most powerful or effective way of conveying truth. The scriptures, I note, though they certainly contain doctrinal statements, do not simply read like a catechism or a treatise on systematic theology. In particular, they spend a lot of time telling stories. And I do not believe that these stories can be reduced to propositional statements which contain their essence, or that abstract doctrinal assertions convey truth in a more direct or “pure” fashion. In fact, if anything, I tend to see propositional statements as secondary– important, but nonetheless always limited, attempts to articulate the truths so richly expressed in the narratives.

Because of this, I am not convinced that testimony-bearing and storytelling are necessarily different things. And I would hate to see the relating of narratives quashed in some kind of quest for purer testimonies. I personally struggle to express my beliefs in the form of propositional statements; when I do make those kinds of assertions, I always end up second-guessing myself and wondering if I really do believe x or y. When people ask me what I believe, I notice that instead of trying to come up with doctrinal formulations, I frequently find myself relating a narrative about how I have seen God involved in my life. I may be unable to make a statement of definitive knowledge that the LDS church is true, but I can tell you the story of why I am a member.

I’m well aware that storytelling in testimony meeting can be long-winded and rambling, and at times seem to have little to do with the gospel. On the other hand, propositional statements are not without their own hazards, as they run the risk of sounding canned and formulaic. But I think both styles of testimony-bearing nonetheless have real value. I don’t even object to so-called “thankamonies” though they may at times sound a bit like Oscar acceptance speeches, I think often they are simply attempts to convey how a person has encountered God’s grace through the love of other human beings. I think we would lose some of the richness of our belief if we were to limit testimonies to one form.

Also, on a somewhat less lofty note, I have to admit that I fear that a meeting in which person after person got up to express their beliefs exclusively in the form of propositional doctrinal statements would quickly become deadly dull. I find that usually it’s the stories that give testimonies a personal flavor and make them come alive. And I’d hesitate to excessively discourage even the wild tales, as truth to tell, the possibility of someone relating a bizarre story is often part of what keeps me paying attention. So bring on the stories. I want to hear them.

31 Responses to “Testimony Bearing and Storytelling”

  1. 1.

    Thanks for writing this, Lynnette. I had never made this connection at all. I’ve come to agree with you that narratives cannot be reduced to some pure essence in the form of propositional statements, largely through discussing the issue with you and Eve. But I hadn’t ever thought about how that might relate to testimony meeting. I agree with you that a testimony meeting in which people just get up and share the propositional statements they believe to be true would be horribly boring, but I guess I’ve always figured that that was the way such meetings were supposed to be, so what are you going to do? Thanks for showing me a new way to think about them.

    Tangentially, to what degree do you think the preference for propositional statements versus narrative falls along gender lines? I’m sorry if this sounds horribly stereotypical, but my general impression is that men have less patience for narrative, while women are more frustrated in the loss in going from narrative to propositional statements.

  2. 2.

    This is an interesting post. I agree that stories and thankimonies are nice to hear, but for a different reason. I have become really sensitive to the “I know . . .” testimony. Perhaps because I don’t really know many things at this point, I wonder why we don’t frame our testimonies in phrases like, “I believe” or “I think” or even “I feel.” These seem a lot more honest and less pretentious than claiming to know doctrines, without even mentioning faith.
    But when it comes to why the change to propositional statements alone, I imagine that the answer from Stake Presidents and Bishops would be that directly testifying of the truthfulness of a doctrine will allow the Spirit to speak to people’s hearts in a way that a rambling story might not. Also, in my ward the new, more direct approach also shortens testimonies and gives more people the opportunity to speak.

  3. 3.

    I once felt inspired to give a narrative travelogue kind of testimony about the Book of Mormon one Sunday when I was visiting another town.

    It was one of those situations where I wasn’t planning to get up, and didn’t want to get up, but when there was a pause, the Spirit said “Get up there and start talking!” accompanied by those familiar “uh oh, I have to get up in front of everybody” twistings in the tummy.

    I used what happened the previous day to illustrate my testimony of the divine and miraculous nature of the Book of Mormon.

    I drove about 3 hours to that town that Saturday, and while there I had planned on going to a Thai restaurant for lunch, and a Chinese restaurant for dinner and offer the wait staff copies of the Book of Mormon in their native languages.

    But “coincidences” kept popping up, and I ended up giving 15 people the Book of Mormon in 12 different languages at various places, even at a laundromat.

    At some point it stops being coincidence, and we have to confess the hand of God in it.

    But I probably forgot or neglected to make a declarative “I know that…” kind of statement.

    I think the declarative “I know that…” statements are important to add to the stories because not everyone will connect the same dots and draw the same conclusions that you intend from the narrative.

    And also because the Holy Ghost’s greatest power is not in implanting new ideas in hearers as they listen to faith-promoting stories, but His main power seems to be in the “burning yes” confirmations He does while someone is making those declarative/propositional statements.

    I find the travelogue/stories can also be two-edged. On one hand, there is power in narratives that are first person accounts. We are bearing our own witness to what we saw and heard. We are confirming that God has an active hand in our lives. We are fulfilling the commandment to proclaim His works, and thereby adding our Amen to the prophets’ words that He continues to work in the affairs of mankind.

    On the other hand my ego/pride sometimes gets in the way because my first person narrative can be too much about me; not just what I saw and heard, but what I said, and what I did.

  4. 4.

    I think telling a story of how you bore your testimony with your behavior is better than spouting off propositional statements. The only trick is to make sure the story is really a demonstration of acting on a belief rather than theraputic venting.

    For example I can very easily stand up and say “I believe that the Book of Mormon is true” but it is much harder, and requires a stronger testimony to act on that belief and pass out Books of Mormon to friends family and strangers. Bookslinger can’t bring the whole congregation with him to Thai restaraunts to watch him pass out books, but he can still bear testimony to the congregation by telling them what he did and why. Telling stories and narratives about acting on a testimony are a way to bring the testimony bearing actions into the meeting. Sure, it’s nice to point out the priciple by saying “I hand out books of mormon because I believe they are true” but it’s not necessary.

  5. 5.

    I think the objection is not to stories like the one’s described here in the post and in Bookslinger’s comment. I think the objection is to stories that cannot reasonably be viewed as related to faith in Christ.

    I suppose at some level, anything can be connected in some way to the Savior, but at some point it just gets too attenuated to be faith-building.

    I think it’s also to avoid the members who see it as nothing more than open mike time and so get up to talk about politics, expound bizzare personal revelations, make racist remarks, and/or call the ward to repentance on some perceived wrong.

    Like the guy in our ward who cannot speak in church without mentioning either that 1) muslims are evil and want to kill us or 2) liberals are evil and want to destroy our faith. Or the lady who every week tells a different story about how she was mistreated as a kid but doesn’t explain that she’s gotten over it through the gospel or how the gospel has helped in any way.

    Rather than say, “don’t give racist political rants like brother X” or, “don’t give pity party testimonies like sister Y” it’s easier for Bishops to tell members “do limit your testimony to a declaration of belief/knowledge.” You are probably less likely to hurt the feelings of brother X and sister Y if you tell them what to do instead of what not to do.

  6. 6.

    I hate bragamonies where a person will list all that they have acomplished like all their kids married in the temple and all their sons on missions etc. I also hate little kid testimonies with the mic feedback and all. I just don’t like fast and testimony meeting and usually skip church.

  7. 7.

    Lynnette,

    You are more understanding of all the people trying to shut down stories in testimony meetings than I am. Either that, or you are trying especially hard to be fair to that view. As for me, I get way, way more out of the testimonies where people share things about their lives. I like to get to know people through their testimonies, it is not like I spend lots of time outside of church with them. I think stories about how the gospel has recently been important in someone’s life are far more meaningful than propositional statements.

    I remember in my BofM class at BYU, Robert Millet was making the standard argument about what a “proper” testimony is (i.e. list of propositional statements) and someone asked if it wouldn’t be boring if everyone just got up and said the same thing. He said “I don’t know, I’ve never seen it happen.” I can imagine it just fine without experiencing it and I can tell plenty well that it would be boring and less meaningful than testimonies where people share real experiences of the gospel in action.

  8. 8.

    There’s a woman in our ward who’s talked about her problems with her psych meds every month for years now. There’s also a guy who’s told his story of climbing the Matterhorn about three times a year now for 6 or 7 years. Those are the types of narratives I object to, although I’m willing to put up with the woman’s psych med stories, just because I realize that she does genuinely have problems. I guess the thing that I really hate about F&T meeting is the bragamonies, the part about how wonderful and perfect that particular person’s family happens to be and how that’s all because of their righteousness. Our bishop’s wife does one of those every month. I think that some narratives are fine, since it would get boring otherwise, but the narratives should have a point and the point should not be how wonderful that particular speaker is.

  9. 9.

    Lynnette, I think you’ve made a convert out of me. I liked the hint that those testimonies that are somewhat off can be entertaining, and I should take more of a positive approach to that.

    Jessawhy, I very much understand that feeling about “I know” propositional statements and prefer “I believe” and “I feel” as well, but that may because I’m being too literal with epistemological definitions. Also, I’ve rarely heard someone confess to a trial of fundamental faith in a testimony and how it was overcome. Often people describe trials of faith as, “I thought the Lord didn’t care about me,” but hardly ever, “I thought the Lord wasn’t there at all.” In EQ, one of our frieds recently shared his experience with re-activity in the Church and how he grappled with these fundamental issues of faith in God’s existence, and I found his testimony so profound when my husband related it to me. I think there’s something to be said about overcoming some very fundamental doubt and letting others be strengthened by that experience.

    Since we also seem to be airing our grievances about types of testimony, I thought I’d put in my chagrin for the women in RS who, for whatever reason, talk about past abuses w/o a resolution of how the Lord helped them through it (similar to #5). When I was home from college one summer, I attended a young single adult ward where an RS testimony meeting turned into a string of 6 or so women getting up to confess they’d been sexually abused. Emotions were very high, but I personally didn’t feel the Spirit there. Perhaps this was a great experience for these women to confront their issues and not feel so alone, but I also pittied them as I worried that the contents shared in that meeting were not protected by the same confidentiality of a group therapy session, and I longed for the RS President to intervene to get us back on track before more people said things they may later regret disclosing to a huge group.

  10. 10.

    Good post, Lynnette. I also have a testimony of stories in testimony meeting.

    I have concluded that we “bear” our testimonies most effectively when we “bare” our souls, at least a little. If hearing “I know the gospel is true” repeatedly were effective, we could just listen to a recording and do away with the parade to the stand. It always helps to have the context, so I am happy to hear about someone’s struggles. Sometimes people do go overboard with hair-raising details of their medical problems or difficulties with the in-laws, but usually I think we stay within the bounds of propriety. As others have commented, the trick is to talk about our lives without making ourselves the focus of our remarks.

    I think that can be done well by expressing gratitude. For instance, if I have recently been in the hospital, I could say that I am grateful that God answers prayers for healing.

    In comment # 1, Ziff said: …my general impression is that men have less patience for narrative, while women are more frustrated in the loss in going from narrative to propositional statements. I think that is a good insight. It is fairly well documented that the average woman uses 3 times as many words in a day as the average man, at least in the U.S. But even if it isn’t strictly a difference between men and women, we are all individuals with unique styles. For some of us, a straightforward, simple, declarative style works the best, while others communicate better with lots of detail and background. We ought to be willing to accomodate everyone.

  11. 11.

    Like Lynnette, I have a hard time separating my testimony of various gospel principles from experiences when I have felt the Lord’s intervention or guidance in my life. Bearing my testimony gives me an opportunity to construct narratives about these experiences which both fortifies my faith and recognition of God’s love for me as well as bears witness of divine mercy to the audience. Propositional statements of belief introduced with personal contextualization, whether by personal experience or interpretation of scripture, have the deepest rhetorical and spiritual effect on me.

    Thanks for an insightful post Lynnette.

  12. 12.

    My current calling is ward historian, which means I am mostly out beating the bushes for contributions. Last year we were very successful. Several ward members volunteered that the history read “like the very best testimony meeting.” This is my goal for this year’s history as well. As you will see from today’s handout with the Sacrament Meeting program, this is a plea for stories within a testimony framework. Incidently, my bishop is very supportive of this approach and has even commented that getting people thinking like this has improves the general quality of fast and testimony meeting.

    The Year is Half Over Today
    and today is Fast and Testimony Meeting

    Today is a good time to think about and bear witness to “the great things of God in our lives”

    Since about the middle of December 2006 (when we quit collecting for our 2006 Ward History) what experiences have you had which have strengthened your testimony
    * That Jesus Christ is your Savior and the Redeemer of the world
    * That you are a child of Heavenly Parents who love you
    * That the Restoration of the Gospel has blessed your life, through the Book of Mormon, the Priesthood including ordinances, missionary work, family history, the temple, your calling, etc.
    * That President Hinckley and other Church leaders have been called of God.
    * Ways that members of our ward and others have blessed your life
    * Ways your heartfelt prayers that have been answered
    * Other ways you have felt the influence of the Spirit in your life.

    Testimonies can be borne vocally or silently. Either way, also write them down for the good of your own soul and your posterity. Share appropriate experiences with our ward family through our Ward History for 2007, that they may be recorded “for the good of the Church and the rising generation.” D&C 69:8

  13. 13.

    Thanks for writing this Lynette. “I may be unable to make a statement of definitive knowledge that the LDS church is true, but I can tell you the story of why I am a member.” I completely agree! This was especially hard on my mission–I felt obligated to bear my testimony using definitive statements, but rarely felt comfortable doing so. If I ever serve another mission, I will surely bear my testimony in a more comfortable–and probably more powerful for me–manner. My mother has not borne her testimony in years because she doesn’t feel comfortable with the proscribed form. A pity.

  14. 14.

    Ziff asked,

    Tangentially, to what degree do you think the preference for propositional statements versus narrative falls along gender lines?

    That’s a good question. I’d agree with your impression that women seem, on the whole, more likely to prefer narrative. (Of course, I may not be qualified to say anything, as it has just been revealed at FMH that I post like a male.) But that would be a fun topic to explore further.

  15. 15.

    Jessawhy, I also have a hard time using “I know” language. Though to be fair, that probably also precludes me from knowing whether others do in fact know when they say “I know,” so I’m not sure how much I can object to it. ;) Actually, I suspect that people often use the word in different senses–which gets me back to why I think narratives are valuable.

    Bookslinger, I think that’s a good point that we should be careful about using stories for self-promotion. However, I’m not sure I entirely agree with this:

    And also because the Holy Ghost’s greatest power is not in implanting new ideas in hearers as they listen to faith-promoting stories, but His main power seems to be in the “burning yes” confirmations He does while someone is making those declarative/propositional statements.

    As I said, I do think there can be real power in propositional statements. But I think a binary, yes/no model of revelation, one tied to propositional statements, sometimes gets overly emphasized in the Church. It’s certainly one useful way of thinking about revelation, and for many people it seems to fit their experience quite neatly. But I’ve noticed that a number of people rather struggle to fit their revelatory experience into such a model, which is why I think it’s good to have room for multiple ways of expressing faith.

    Starfoxy, I like your point that illustrating how a gospel principle led you to act in your life can be a much more powerful witness than a simple statement that you believe such-and-such.

  16. 16.

    Regarding the use of “I know” language in testimony bearing (Jessawhy #2, Lynnette #15), there was a discussion a little while back at The Cultural Hall that you might find interesting (assuming you haven’t already seen it).

  17. 17.

    I’m fine with the “I know” statements.

    One definition of a testimony is: “A public declaration regarding a religious experience.”

    “I know” often means Gnosis or “intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths” rather than scientifically verified facts.

    In this context the power of the Spirit makes it possible for each of us to “know” as well.

  18. 18.

    “I know” often means Gnosis or “intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths” rather than scientifically verified facts.

    But do you think that most people mean “I know” this way when they use it to bear testimony? My impression is that they do not.

  19. 19.

    Perhaps this will only prove that I’m completely unhinged, but I love testimony meetings. I too have wondered, when I hear complaints, what a testimony would look like without all the story telling, and I love this post, the parallel to the storytelling in the scriptures, lovely.

    I know, it can be tedious, but the voyeur in me just can’t help being fascinated by what is coming out of peoples mouths, and . . . er . . . the speculations as to why. And the worst moments are always the most interesting ones. And the best moments are (while rare) fantastic, and can feed a hungry soul for months.

  20. 20.

    Stories don’t bother me that much, but I’ve never really understood the thankamony. I don’t understand the doctrinal view that makes somebody believe it is necessary and I don’t find any social value in it either. The phrases that bother me the most are “I would be ungrateful if I didn’t stand and thank God for . . .” and “I’d like to publicly tell my spouse that I love him/her” which I guess isn’t officially a thankamony, but I find equally strange. I get no edification from the knowledge that Bro. Smith is grateful for his blessings and loves his wife. I don’t understand the need for people to do it either.

  21. 21.

    Ziff,
    If the “I know” people considered these distinctions, I doubt that they actually mean something like “to a scientific certainty”.

    So, if not Gnosis (a religious experience leading to intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths), what do you think that they mean?

  22. 22.

    JKC, berrykat, Paula, and Alisa all make some good points. I’m not crazy about political rants, bragamonies, or calls to repentance, either. My own pet peeve is when people express their gratitude for the Church by expounding on what’s wrong with other churches. I think ideally we’d keep that kind of stuff out of testimony meeting. On the other hand, I’m wondering to what extent it’s possible to quash it without at the same time killing off what I think is one of the major strengths of testimony meeting, that it’s more than people reciting creeds or formulas, it’s a chance for them talk about their faith in a personal way. I don’t know; I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts on that.

    Jacob J, lol, I’m glad I came across as understanding. Truth be told, I can be a bit self-righteous about all those other self-righteous people out there who are attempting to purify testimony meeting. ;) I really like what you say about getting to know people through their testimonies; that’s very much true for me as well.

    Alisa, I’m ever so flattered to have converted someone! Thanks for your comment; I too think it can be quite powerful when people talk about grappling with fundamental doubts.

    Mark, your comment about recordings led me to imagine the church of the podcast, in which one simply downloaded the testimonies of one’s ward on Fast Sunday. :)

  23. 23.

    Thanks, Fideline. I like that point that testimonies can be an opportunity to make sense of God’s involvement in your life through the construction of narratives.

    Marjorie, it sounds like you’re putting together a rich ward history. That handout reminds me of a comment Ziff made a while ago, wondering how it would affect testimony meetings if people were asked to reflect on specific topics or questions, and whether that might make it easier to talk.

    Christi, thanks for the comment. It’s helped me a lot to realize that I can express my faith in narrative terms even if I struggle with some of the propositional statements–I think for a long time I just assumed that my lack of ability to articulate the latter simply indicated a lack of faith.

    fMhLisa, you may be unhinged, but you’re fabulous. I must confess that there’s a bit of the voyeur in me as well that finds the whole thing rather fascinating.

    Nate S., you raise an interesting question. I’m thinking about why thankamonies make at least some sense to me. Off the top of my head, I would say that just as there’s something powerful about declaring your belief in God publicly, there can also be something powerful about expressing gratitude publicly. But I need to think about this more.

  24. 24.

    On the “I know” question, my impression is that people might mean several things when they say “I know.” They might be referring to a spiritual experience which left them convinced of some truth. They might be drawing on what I would call experiential knowledge, expressing that their experience of living the gospel has persuaded them of its truth. They might be thinking of relational knowledge, the way in which you “know” another person. They might be talking about knowledge which has been acquired as the result of study and/or reason. And my guess is that when people say “I know the Church is true,” it’s likely to be some kind of combination of these (and perhaps more)–though the relative weight of these factors might be quite different for different people.

  25. 25.

    Perhaps I’m a bit cynical, but I think the “I know” language comes from imitation of General Authorities. We are taught in the scriptures that faith is not a perfect knowledge, and that only a few people actually attain that perfect knowledge in this life. Maybe we assume that those are the apostles, etc. I think of McKonkie’s famous testimony where he seemed to replace his faith with knowledge by saying, “But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s almighty Son” (May 1985).
    When we have leaders who speak like this, and men and women who aspire to be like these leaders, it makes sense that we pattern our language after them in fast and testimony meeting. I guess my own personal doubts are reflected to others that they may not have the same surety as Bruce R. and yet they choose the same language. I think it cheapens the language when it is used in that way.
    As for Nate’s comment about expressing love to family in a testimony, I totally disagree. The love that we have for our families is probably the most godly feeling that we have. I think sharing that from the pulpit is a miraculous testimony. Not only does it reinforce the love within the speaker’s family, but it testifies of the divinity of our families and encourages members listening to find or acknowledge that love in their lives.
    Again, perhaps because of the place I am right now in my spiritual journey, but the expressions of love seem to me more sincere than phrases like “I know the church is true.” and I can appreciate them far more.

  26. 26.

    Howard #21:

    So, if not Gnosis (a religious experience leading to intuitive knowledge of spiritual truths), what do you think that they mean?

    I guess my impression is that people’s tone is often similar to the way we talk about controversial political ideas we believe in. Like “I know that capital punishment is [or is not] an effective deterrent to crime.” It sounds to me like people saying “I know” are trying to make as strong a statement as possible to counter the reality that most other people do not believe the same things, kind of like I imagine that members of the Flat Earth Society might kind of bear testimony to one another that of course the earth is flat, and anyone who doesn’t believe that is willfully deceiving themselves. It’s like people stating “I know” are implicitly acknowledging that their belief is pretty far out, as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

    But actually, now that I’ve seen Jessawhy’s excellent explanation,

    When we have leaders who speak like this, and men and women who aspire to be like these leaders, it makes sense that we pattern our language after them in fast and testimony meeting.

    I think that’s a much better one. I think Lynnette is certainly correct too, that there are probably a variety of things that lead any individual to say “I know.”

  27. 27.

    As F&T Meeting has become largely meaningless and overwrought, my suggestion would be to hold it semi-annually in conjunction with General Conference. Either hold it the Sunday preceding conference or the one succeeding it. In this manner, it will once again be invested with meaning by virtue of anticipation and appreciation alone. As it stands now, it’s a wash in recycled words, phrases, and emotional manipulation. There’s little to nothing that is spiritual or faith-affirming about it.

    Just my two cents.

  28. 28.

    Oh my gosh, what a scary thought! Fast and Testimony meeting only twice a year? I was about to recommend they have it twice a month! LOL

    I love fast and testimony meetings because I love stories. I love writing them, and I love hearing them. I love when people tell me their stories about their lives in the Church. Being a convert from a mostly agnostic family, I didn’t grow up hearing about “that one time at grandma’s sacrament meeting,” or “that time uncle Jim felt the spirit on a camping trip.” I didn’t get that growing up, and I don’t get now except during fast and testimony meeting.

    I love stories for what they teach me about people. Considering we are Brothers and Sisters of Heavenly Father, we have a responsibility to understand one another. Contention between members results, in one way or another, because of a misunderstanding. If we are going to “be one” and “love one another,” as we’ve been taught by our Savior, we can only do it by actively pursuing an answer to the question, “What makes that person tick?” And that task is really important, if we think about what we’re here to achieve in this life, which is the Celestial Kingdom. If we aspire to recieve our piece of the kingdom, and sons and daughters to go with it, then shouldn’t we be preparing for that by understanding all of the many different people that are in this life?

    And if fast and testimony has failed as a practice, then it is our fault for making it fail. When we go up to bear our testimonies, who is it that we think is talking? It’s my experience that the Spirit can instruct just as much through a testimony as he can through any talk.

    I must disagree with the statement that fast and testimony is useless. I’ve gotten too much out of it to believe that’s true. Which raises the fact that sometimes, there are going to be meetings where you have to sit through stuff that you think doesn’t apply to you. As a teenager, I hear that a lot. And so I cheerfully say to all what is said to the teens in our branch.

    “Either get a clue, or get over it.”

  29. 29.

    not a fan of Testimony meeting, but only because of the story/thank/bragimonies. Yes, a real faith building experience should be shared. If it is short. And uncomplicated. And doesn’t include ‘personal doctrine’ (as in the gosple according to JimBobby Jones) or detailed stories of a horrific rape- that one was during a RS lesson, though. Or how “Now That We’ve Found The Church The Bishop Pays All Our Bills, But We’ll Be Gone The Minute You Ask Us To Do Something, oh and yeah Joseph Smith was a true prophet as long as you pay my rent” Or “I’m so glad and proud that just last week my daughter went to the temple and was sealed, boy I’m such a good parent. Oh and the church is true true true. The End.” I also hate the sharing of uber (no dot thingies… I know what they’re called, but I am a awful speller at times.) spiritual things that they “wouldn’t normally share, but feel moved to do so” I’ve never seen so many people so moved by the spirit to share such wacky things (or things that if they really did happen, I sure wouldn’t be telling just everybody… but hey- that’s why it’s personal revelation…)I sure wish they’d be so moved by the spirit that they’d leave the state. So I do relish the occasional pearl of wisdom, or truly faith building story… but by then my baby is bored, and my main responsibility is her. And honestly, I don’t think that my lack of enthusiasm is due to failing as a listener on my part. I’m not looking to be entertained. (that happens by way of the nuts, and the word vomit (things that are said with out thought behind them))
    We call Testimony ‘Open Mike Sunday’.

  30. 30.

    Jessawhy, #25: Page 38 of Gospel Principles explains how it’s possible for people to have an “I know” testimony along the lines of Bruce McConkie. The four foundational testimonies that I have were “burned” into me via the Holy Ghost — that God lives, that Jesus is the Messiah/Savior, that Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith, and that Jesus appeared to the Nephites as described in 3rd Nephi.

    McConkie said at one GC in 1982 or later, that there are no blessings reserved for prophets and apostles that are not available to all members.

    Page 38 also explains that having something burned in or woven in by the Holy Ghost goes deeper and lasts longer than a physical appearance by an angel or the Savior.

    There was nothing “scientific” about the certainty of the knowledge/testimonies I received of the Holy Ghost. They were totally real, but also totally outside the realm of man’s physical sciences. Yet to be totally honest to those experiences, I must use the word “know” and not “believe” in relation to those experiences.

    I sometimes hold back, “pull my punches” so to speak, and say “I believe…” when talking to non-members, especially when I don’t want to take the time to explain how I know, or debate whether one can really know or not. I rationalize that by thinking that “believe” is a sub-set of “know” so I’m not really lieing. On the flip side of that coin, for me to say “I believe…” (in those four foundational things) is not telling the whole truth.

    My testimonies of principles of the gospel other than those four vary between “I think”, “I believe” “I strongly believe” and “I’m very confident that…”. For me to say “I know…” for those other things would be figurative, or to “virtually know.” But for those four, when I say “I know…” mean it literally.

  31. 31.

    I think story telling can be a very important part of a testimony. It can explain they why behind what you say you believe.
    I also believe however, that the storytelling ought to be concise.
    And there are definitely things that should not be said in a testimony meeting.
    We have a sweet sister in our ward, who got up in RS to share her testimony. She went on for 6 or 7 very long minutes talking about her granddaughter and how she was being molested, the rift this caused in the family,what age she had started having sex, etc.
    And then another sister tried to turn it into a group dicsussion by interrupting her and commenting on when she first had sex and that she was raped as a teen.
    I have never wanted to walk out of RS until that moment.
    There are ways of sharing your testimony that the Lord heals and helps without bringing up details that not everyone will be comfortable hearing.

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