“The Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”
If we are to become like the Savior, then we must do what He did and fulfill the purpose He served. Jesus came into the world to do many things, but He Himself explains his principal aim: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
Our Mission Is to Bear Testimony
If the great purpose of Jesus Christ is to bear witness to truth, and we are called to do His works, then it follows our great mission is to testify of Him and of His Father in this telestial world. There is, of course, no guarantee that our witness will be accepted, but this makes no difference. Jesus said, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.” We are still under the obligation to testify of Him wherever and whenever we can.
When Paul was taken by the mob in Jerusalem, the Roman guard allowed him to speak to the mob. He did not preach to them. He did not talk of principles or doctrines. He bore his testimony, describing in simple terms what had happened to him on the road to Damascus.
“As I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.”
The mob rejected his testimony, but Paul was undaunted. Again, when brought before King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus, Paul did no preaching. He merely recounted his testimony.
“As I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.”
Paul’s testimony was so strong that it nearly converted the haughty King Agrippa, who said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Pure Testimony Consists of What We Know to Be True
Pure testimony is the only power that has ever brought about true conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. People might be swayed by reason or influenced by principle, but the only thing that converts the heart is testimony — the simple, honest “I know.” Testimony is the great antidote to evil when accompanied by the witness of the Holy Ghost.
When Alma went among his people to “reclaim” them, he knew there was no other way to do so than by bearing his testimony to them. His aim was “to pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.”
“Pure testimony” consists of what we know to be true. It is not the same as teaching, although testimony is essential to teaching. Alma knew that all the teaching and preaching he could do was not sufficient to “pull down” the pride and contentiousness among his people. More than that was needed.
Testimony is an antidote to pride because the Holy Ghost accompanies our witness. The Holy Ghost sheds forth a meek and gentle influence. Testimony is an antidote to contention because the Holy Ghost inspires love. Arrogance and argumentation never convert; only the witness of the Holy Ghost converts. Alma knew this; so did Paul.
The most distinctive evidence of the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith was his simple, pure testimony: “I know ... I saw ... I heard.” Just like Paul, Joseph beheld the light, saw the Lord, heard the voice. Throughout his life, Joseph bore his testimony continually and simply, as Paul did. Unsurprisingly, Joseph was treated as Paul was treated:
“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the
“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, it was true.”
How Do We Know?
Although we may not see visions or hear voices, we can have a testimony just as strong as the testimony of Paul or Joseph Smith. Elder Robert D. Hales provides a sweet and profound pattern for gaining that kind of testimony:
“People often ask me, ‘How do you know?’ ‘How can you know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ?’ While there seems to be no exact formula by which each of us receives a testimony, there does seem to be a discernible pattern….