It’s been said that a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most valuable possession you can have in this life. I would add the words, “by a mile.” It outranks health, shelter, food, clothing, family members, even life itself. Without one, you will not make and keep the sacred covenants required for exaltation. With one, you cannot be defeated, even if you lose everything else.
So Mormons take the quest pretty seriously. We don’t want to sign people up just because they like our emphasis on family, or the wholesome LDS lifestyle. We want them to pray and really know, for themselves, that Joseph Smith was telling the truth. We want them to believe with all their hearts that Christ’s original church was restored, and that we have living prophets today. It’s why we have missionaries who teach this message, rather than volunteers who sit outside the supermarket and get sign-ups on a clipboard.
We tell investigators to put it to the test. Try it. Obey the principles. Study and pray. See if you get that witness promised by Moroni in the Book of Mormon.
And we constantly invite those who stray, to come back, to partake of this glorious fruit, and join us in striving to endure valiantly to the end. Even those of us who are “active” are always vigilant, constantly building our testimonies, nourishing them and growing them. We know they are dynamic things that can strengthen or diminish, based upon our choices. So we buoy up one another in classes and testimony meetings.
We also urge children to secure this belief for themselves. We teach youngsters to listen for promptings and comfort from the Holy Ghost, so they will recognize His message when He testifies to them that what they’re learning is true. For youths who haven’t yet secured that conviction, we begin with desire. If all you do is want a testimony, that is a wonderful first step. That yearning can work within you like a seed. If you nourish it and tend it, it will grow.
The second step is where too many members stop to rest awhile. Like reclining against a tree, they’ve decided it’s a lovely day for a nap, so they close their eyes and go no further. These are the people who suspect that it’s true (often they were raised in LDS homes), but they’ve never done the work to secure a burning testimony of their own. They’re cultural Mormons who would never actually leave, but they don’t really know the first thing about it. To them, being a Mormon means watching a Pioneer parade, eating roast beef on Sundays, and finding some bins of wheat in the garage that their active grandma left behind. They don’t read their scriptures and don’t attend the temple regularly, but they love camping with the scouts, and always enjoy Mormon Night at the local stadium.
The third rung of the ladder is finally getting your own answer. You’ve prayed, you’ve fasted, you’ve studied, and you’ve poured out your heart to Heavenly Father. You finally have that moment-that turning point-when you got a distinct answer, and you cannot deny it. It may not have been a dramatic parting of the veil, with angels and trumpets-more likely it was a still, small voice speaking peace to your heart-but you know it. It’s yours, nobody else’s. And sometimes it’s the simple realization that you knew it all along, for years.
Step Four is taking that faith and putting it into action. It’s deciding to walk the walk. Now that you know the Gospel is true, you determine to be active, to serve, to study, and to nurture that new testimony. It’s not a race and you don’t need to become a master scriptorian, you just need to follow Christ and love others. You accept callings, even hard ones, with the faith that God will help you succeed, and you alter your life to reflect your beliefs. You pay tithing, you craft a home that reflects Gospel choices, you hold Family Home Evening. You know you will stumble, but you also know you can repent, and you take the Sacrament and re-commit regularly. You want to do what is right.
Step Five requires opposition. And the adversary is more than happy to provide it. In this level, you demonstrate to God that you are willing to serve Him at all hazards, willing to give up relationships if necessary, and sacrifice whatever it takes to stay true to the faith. You forgive. You show forth charity. You want to build the Kingdom, to consecrate all that you have to this higher purpose. You refuse to fail in your quest to return home with honor. You feel welded to this gospel, you know Christ has redeemed your soul, and you will never forsake Him. Never. Your determination to live your beliefs has risen to the top of your priority list.
The last rung of the ladder is the one that proves true conversion. Like Lehi in his dream, when we have truly converted, we want to share what we have with others (1 Nephi 8:12). Just as Ammon, Alma, Abinadi, the sons of Mosiah, and many other in the Book of Mormon, wanted to share the truth-even with their enemies-so we feel a welling up of love for others, and a desire to bring them the same joy we know. Missionary work becomes a delight, something we cannot keep from doing. We feel united with the Lord in bringing His word to His children, and humbled to play even a small part in such a grand and glorious work. We feel honored to work hand in hand with our Savior, and we pray for such opportunities. Nothing would thrill us more.
Listen to Hilton’s radio advice show at blogtalkradio.com/jonihilton on Thursdays at 2 pm PST.
Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills at http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.
She is currently serving as Relief Society President of her ward in Northern California.
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