The following is the testimony of Elder James E. Talmage, reprinted with permission from Mormon Scholars Testify.
You ask me to tell you how I received my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of God. I cannot tell you for I do not know myself. That I have such a testimony, an unquestionable knowledge of the truth of this work, I am most certain; but how or when such knowledge came to me I know not any more than I know the moment which marks the passing away of night and the dawning of day.
Yet my testimony does not remain ever the same; it grows in strength as the years bring additional evidences through reflection and study and prayer.
I was not born in the Church; my early training was received through the schools of the world; amongst the Methodists, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and in the Church of England I have been by turns a pupil. But even during those periods of first tuition I had a knowledge of the divinity of God’s work as taught and practiced by the Latter-day Saints, for my parents had previously learned of the gospel, and were then awaiting the reorganization of the branch of the Church in the region of our home. This was in due time accomplished, and soon after my years had filled the allotted number, I was baptized by my father, who was an Elder in the Church. Jeers from schoolmates and scoffs from neighbors came to me as a matter of course. Our family being alone in the professions of the gospel there, to me it seemed that we had always been the recipients of such unkind attentions, which however served to strengthen my faith.
My testimony of this work dates back to the limits of my earliest memories. Since reaching the years that bring with them the powers of judgment, I have never been without an assurance of the divinity of this cause, and therefore I claim no honor for having gained such knowledge. I regard it as the greatest gift of God to me on earth; for though it is a natural endowment, I am none the less certain of its divine origin. I cannot remember a time when I did not live, yet I know that my life is a gift of our heavenly Father, so also is my testimony of His will.
Do not conclude that my faith has never been assailed; that it is like a greenhouse plant nourished through artificial culture, and alive only because protected from the blasts that wither and the frosts that destroy. I call to mind many periods of sore temptation and trial, when snares of the wily adversary have been set with alluring baits of mis-called science, and that which men style wisdom. Sophistry, doubt, and the craft of misbelief have surged in threatening torrents about the delicate roots of the feeble plant of my faith; yet, through the protecting care of the All Merciful, these dark rivers have been made to yield nutriment and impart strength to the rising stem and its sprouting branches.
I know that these vicissitudes are not yet over. A retrospect of my faith’s feeble growth gives me thankfulness, but the thought of the future brings fear lest after all the sapling should be uprooted. Did I not know that there is One who will temper the elements and adapt the conditions to my weak and immature growth, despair would bring destruction. Yet by prayer and works I may hope for the continued support of Him who is the source of my testimony and the author of my life – our Father.
(James E. Talmage, “How I Gained My Testimony of the Truth,” Young Woman’s Journal [March 1893], 258-259. Brought to our attention by Ardis E. Parshall, and reproduced here, with her kind permission, from keepapitchinin.org.)
I say stand by your testimony. When you have received it from the Lord, let it be your guide. It will be no handicap to you in your researches, your studies, your explorations and investigations. It will not detract from your reputation for learning, if you deserve any such reputation, provided you stand by the truth. (Conference Report, April 1929, p. 48. Thanks to Kristopher Swinton for bringing this to our attention.)
James E. Talmage was born in Hungerford, Berkshire, England, on 21 September 1862. Baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of ten, he emigrated with his family to the United States in 1877.
Talmage received the first diploma ever issued by the Scientific Department of the Brigham Young Academy and, thereafter, studied chemistry and geology at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and at The Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1896, he received a Ph.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University.
Talmage taught at the Brigham Young Academy, served as president of Latter-day Saints’ University and the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah), and, from 1897 to 1907, was professor of geology at the University of Utah. He also served as director of the Deseret Museum. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (London), the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (Edinburgh), the Geological Society (London), the Geological Society of America, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and as an Associate of the Philosophical Society of Great Britain (or Victoria Institute).
He was the author of a number of books that continue to be popular and even revered among the Latter-day Saints, including The Articles of Faith (1899), The Great Apostasy (1909), The House of the Lord (1912), and Jesus the Christ (1915).
In 1911, Talmage was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From 1924-1928, he presided over the European Mission of the Church. He died on 27 July 1933.
This testimony was written when he was thirty years old, nearly two decades before his calling as an apostle.