While reading Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.’s talk, “The Strength of Testimony,” I decided I wanted to look up all the talks, over the years, that are on the subject of testimony. There are many! I happened on a talk, given by Pres. James E. Faust called, “A Growing Testimony,” in Jan. 2001 that raised a question in me.
Is a testimony of the prophet more important than having a testimony of the Book of Mormon?
Pres. Faust told a story of a young man visiting David Whitmer. He asked him about his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Pres. Faust concluded, “David Whitmer was out of the Church, but he never denied his testimony of the angel’s visitation, of handling the golden plates, or of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”
This week I read Elder Rector’s statement,
“When we are converted, we sustain and follow the Lord’s anointed servants; we find ourselves in agreement with them. This is one of the real marks of conversion. Many men with testimonies have been unable to do this. In this dispensation, to name a few, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery (the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon) and Thomas B. Marsh (the first president of the Quorum of the Twelve) had this very problem. They refused to sustain the Lord’s anointed servant, and it led to their expulsion from his church.”
Comparing these two statements raised this question in me. I don’t have an answer, but I wonder if an answer is even possible. Elder Rector’s talk is about having endurance. He says “testimony won’t save us.” We need more to keep it strong: faith and conversion. I believe this is true, but I also recognize that as we go through life our testimonies get bruised, banged up, and weakened from time to time. Testimonies sometimes have bandages. Through life’s ups and downs, our testimonies weep, struggle; even hold on with nothing else to hold onto.
Often, the hurt we feel is justified, but what happens when we harbor it? Each one of us has experienced hurt feelings, as the above-mentioned men did, and it has injured our testimonies for a time. Often pride will set in and we become somewhat hardened, protective, or defensive. Does it cause us to lose our testimonies? Not completely. Even those who leave the church have a morsel of testimony left, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.
My thoughts return to my original question: Is a testimony of the prophet more important than having a testimony of the Book of Mormon? I would suspect not. Both are part of many things we must come to believe, and testify of. As we’ve been taught, either the Book of Mormon is true or Joseph Smith is not a prophet. The two are eternally twined together, as are all the other principles and promises we are taught to believe. The problem lies in where our heart is and if we choose to become offended by what It or He says. When we read the book or hear a prophet speak, and it goes against our grain, we have to reconcile it somehow. When we allow those feelings to pull us away from the church we risk our standing before Jesus Christ.
We all have experienced hurt feelings and sometimes these feelings latch onto the prophet, a particular doctrine, or the church in general. Being human, this is completely normal. But we are always invited to use the atonement to work past those feelings, overcome them, and resolve them. This is where our testimonies can heal, and where bandages won’t be needed anymore.
How will the Savior judge us when our testimonies have a few remaining bandages? Will His mercy see that we have tried to stop the hemorrhaging? Will He see that the tourniquet has held fast and we have refused to bleed out?
We are so blessed to have a Savior who feels everything we feel, whose judgment will be based on what He knows about our hearts–which is everything. He will be able to understand what is underneath the bandages; whether we can testify of the prophet or whether we are too weak to quite accept everything the prophet has proclaimed but, most importantly, that we are still trying.
Maybe this is what the scriptures mean when He asks us to come with a broken heart. I believe our Savior will accept our testimonies, bandages and all. He accepts all who are wounded, weary, and weak. He knows already what our earth life will do to us, and He is there, waiting to collect us in His arms and heal us completely.
Additional General Conference Odyssey posts:
Get to Work Nathaniel Givens
The Promise of Eternity Daniel Ortner
To develop Gods Marilyn Nielson