In some ways, my testimony has come easily. I was taught from childhood to question and to turn to scriptures and the Lord for my answers. Ever since I first read the Joseph Smith story, one thing became very clear to me: that if Joseph could see God and talk with angels, so could I. At that moment, my testimony became something influenced almost entirely by my observations and by my relationship with God.
While I have not seen angels nor spoken with God face-to-face, and despite there being no evidence in scripture (outside of Mary) that a woman could even do such a thing, I still believe that God could speak to me that way, should He choose. And should He not choose to send me angels, I know He has spoken with me—at times quite strongly—in other ways.
But I have had deep discussions with many people for whom it hasn't been so easy. They don't feel what I have felt, or they don't put the same significance on their feelings as I do. For them, testimony is more academic, more reasoned. It is something to be understood more than it is felt. For others, testimony lacks both logic and feeling, and is rather something that they do, living their lives in God's service without the emotional or mental assurances of His literal existence.
With such varied experiences with Diety, the question remains: what is a testimony?
In 1971, Henry D. Taylor spoke about the individual need to gain a testimony. He defines testimony as, "a strong conviction that this is truly the Lord’s work...an impelling, driving force that results in righteous deeds and positive actions."
Testimony is more than a feeling, more than a thought, and even more than a desire to do good. It is an impetus. It is a hunger that I have felt, though I know I have a long way to go to developing a true testimony.
After my husband left our home for the last time, there came a time that the agony was so great, I could barely breathe. I could not think, and I couldn't even feel. I lay on my bed, curled up as tight as I could go, with a strange and unreal sensation that I was nothing, that I didn't exist, and yet that everything that was me was too large to fit into my body. I could feel myself burning through my body in a way that sounds crazy, even to me, even with the memory of it. I knew, in that moment, I was not strong enough to do what was asked of me.
The Lord needed me to forgive, to pick myself up and put myself back together so I could mother my children. And I didn't know where to start. I was beyond broken. And in that moment, I asked my God what I was supposed to do.
It was like a flash flood, but hot, churning, and it filled me beyond description. It was a desire to make the things I had suffered worth something. To use all the pain and nothingness I felt and bless the lives of others. In that moment, I knew that my life could never be what it was supposed to be, what I had been led to believe I was supposed to make it. But with full focus, I intended to make sure that no one else would ever have to suffer that loneliness again. Not if I could help it.
In the years since, I have learned what that means. I have learned something of how to be a tool in His hands, of how to be there. I'm lightyears away from being what I want to be. But the desire has not lessened.
What I want out of life can't be written on a gravestone, but I hope and pray that what I become can create a silent, unnamed legacy to increase the power of God on this earth.
So that is testimony to me. I believe that is what Brother Taylor is urging us to find. That isn't something that can be borrowed, it has to be received. It isn't a feeling, a thought, or a deed. It is all three, fused together into a tool fit for God's hands.
And in the end, what more could we be?
Other posts from the 1971 April Tuesday Afternoon General Conference:
The Path Out of Shadows
J. Max Wilson
A Really Round and Hairy Look at Honesty
The Shaded Areas of Our Testimony
A People Blessed by Revelation
Eyes to see
You Have Entered the Twilight Zone
He Lives, and there were gold plates!!
Eyes to See and Ears to Hear