The Do’s and Do Not’s of Bearing Your Testimony

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dos and donts of bearing testimony title card

Every first Sunday of the month, Latter-day Saints have the chance to stand at the pulpit and bear their testimonies. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Bearing your testimony can be a difficult thing, whether it’s the anxiety of everyone looking at you, or simply wondering what you should say. We’ve come up with some tips to help you know what to do and what not to do to make bearing testimony easy.

man addressing audience from pulpitDO NOT:

Introduce your testimony:

Tell me if this sounds familiar: “I wasn’t going to bear my testimony unless XXXX did, and then he had to go and get up,” or “I didn’t want to get up here, but I had a feeling that I just had to stand.” We’ve all heard it before. Take the advice my mom gave me for my first sacrament meeting talk, and just start!

Go into a rant:

Speaking from personal experience, rants are better when found online or a soap box, not erupting from behind the pulpit. Remember your 5 minutes in front of the microphone are for testifying, not unloading your angst all over the congregation. I tend to feel the spirit more from a sincere statement of belief than a speech with slides on why life is the way it is. Stay focused, okay?

Do the “I’m grateful”-mony:

I’ll never forget my first year of EFY, when person after person would stand and say “I’m so grateful for my mom/brother/friend/roommate/counselor/cat/phone”, and then sit down again. Well that’s all good and nice to know that you are grateful for what you have, but don’t forget the root of testimony is “testify.” We want to hear what you know and what you believe. So maybe skip the acceptance speech, and use your time to testify instead.

Clutter with stories:

A major part of testimony can be the experiences that led to your increased spirituality. And we love stories!! But save the biography of you for your next novel, and not for the first Sunday of the month. Think of your best story as the whipped cream on top of a piece of pie: there to top off the bulk of the meal. Though I tend to have more whipped cream than pie…maybe that’s a bad example. You know what I mean.

Take forever:

This tip is at the root of basically every other tip on this list, but it deserves it’s time in the spotlight. And so does everyone else on Fast Sunday! It’s impossible to fit everything you could want to say into your 5 minutes. But remember that there are people who want a turn too. You can feel the Spirit from listening as much as you do from speaking.

On the other hand, let’s stay positive!

girl at pulpit
At UK YSA conference, August 2006, University of Manchester, Fallowfield campus

DO:

Keep it simple:

Testimonies are complicated. But it’s hard to fit in everything you could possibly believe into one meeting, let alone your short time slot. My advice is to pick a piece of doctrine that you feel especially strongly about that week, and let it be the source of your testimony for the day. It’s easier, more focused, and you’ll always have something new to say when fast and testimony meeting rolls around again.

Keep it short:

If your sacrament meeting is anything like mine, if you aren’t on the stand within five minutes of the bishop saying “We turn the time over to you for the bearing of testimonies,” you aren’t going to get a chance to speak. For those who get top 10 in the footrace to the pulpit, keep your testimony short. Say what you want to say, but don’t eat into others time to bear their own witness.

Be sincere with what you know:

Let’s be honest. Sometimes life causes you to doubt what you know. In this case, I quote President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith,” hold to what you know to be true, and bear the testimony of what you know. The constant repetition reinforces what you do know. Why agonize over the things that you are still learning?

Share an experience:

Experiences are wonderful and can act as a blank slate for the Spirit to teach any number of people. People tend to get a different witness from an experience every time they share it too. It is a chance for you to feel the Spirit again. They spice up your testimony and help give context for the new realizations that you have had. So share one! This comes with a warning though: don’t go crazy.

Follow the Spirit:

Above all else remember, you are not the one doing the teaching. The Spirit testifies to you and the rest of the congregation. So, as great as this list is, when the time comes, follow the Spirit and talk about what you feel is most important. Let the Spirit speak through you, and you’ll get the most out of bearing your testimony.

Fast and testimony meeting is your chance to stand and bear witness of what you know to be true. Hopefully these tips help guide you to the pulpit the next time Fast Sunday comes around. But if the pulpit is a still a little intimidating, you can use the comments below to get some practice in.

 

Claim to fame: visited North Korea and the West Bank and came home with only a bad sunburn and crazy pictures. Music lover. Chocolate enthusiast. Book addict. Professional writer. Mormon.
  • C

    good article. everyone should read the DO list and take it to heart. its so disheartening that the majority of people announce they are bearing their testimony and then proceed to give a travel log, a story, an i’m so grateful speech for so and so or such and such. some have their “speech memorized so it is parroted and some who ramble on about nothing really for 45 minutes, without really mentioning their testimony after all. although some actually tack something on at the end. I agree with our prophet. a testimony should testify ! short sweet and simple.

  • Chad

    For those who find it concerning to have your testimony ‘critiqued’. Prophtes and apostles have been doing it for quite some time.
    The First Presidency has sent the following letter, dated 2 May 2002, to priesthood leaders.
    Bearing of Testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting
    We are concerned that in some instances, members who desire to bear their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting do not have the opportunity to do so. Bishoprics are encouraged to help all people learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration, so that more members may have the opportunity to participate.
    Parents and teachers should help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for them to express it. It may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies at such times as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so in a fast and testimony meeting.
    We encourage bishoprics to teach these important principles to priesthood and auxiliary leaders and to all ward members. (“Policies and Announcements,” Ensign, Aug. 2002, p. 78)

    Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “A testimony is what we know to be true in our minds and in our hearts by the witness of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2). As we profess truth rather than admonish, exhort, or simply share interesting experiences, we invite the Holy Ghost to confirm the verity of our words.”

    Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “[I] worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on ‘I am thankful’ and ‘I love,’ and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, ‘I know.’”

    President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) said: “I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.”

    President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

    “It is not unusual to have a missionary say, ‘How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’

    “Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!

    “Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.”

    Spencer W. Kimball – A testimony is not an exhortation; it is not a sermon (none of you are here to exhort the rest); it is not a travelogue. You are there to bear your own witness. It is amazing what you can say in sixty seconds by way of testimony, or 120 seconds, or 240, or whatever time you are given, if you confine yourselves to testimony. (President Kimball Speaks Out, p. 23–24)

    Dallin H. Oaks – A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness borne to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true. Such facts include the nature of the Godhead and our relationship to its three members, the effectiveness of the Atonement, and the reality of the Restoration.
    A testimony of the gospel is not a travelogue, a health log, or an expression of love for family members. It is not a sermon. President Kimball taught that the moment we begin preaching to others, our testimony is ended. (Ensign, May 2008, p. 26–29)

    I could add dozens and dozens more.

  • Jk

    I don’t like to bear my testimony because I feel like it’s casting my pearls before swine. And critical articles like this don’t help. I think the do list was perfect and the article could have been complete with just that.

  • April

    Couldn’t agree with you more!!!!!! I think when people go on and on and do the forced crying it actually detracts from the spirit.

  • Robert J McKell

    Maybe it goes without saying (this article doesn’t) but a testimony really should be “Christ-centered.” If a testimony does not include at least one mention of His name, I notice it. No, I don’t judge, because many, if not most testimonies don’t mention Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father. (I really don’t mean to be too critical…) This article doesn’t say to keep testimonies Christ-centered, which I think is the crux of it all. If testify is the root of testimony, then we should testify of Christ, and how we have overcome sin and been converted through and by His Atonement. Just my 2 cents…

  • Jennifer Marie Jasareno

    Thank you for this article. This is very good. I will use this in one of the meetings in the church, every member needs to know how to bear a pure testimony. -Jen from the Philippines

  • Karl Sharp

    THIS THIS THIS THIS all of THIS. And for those of you saying “How dare you tell me how to bear my testimony!” Cool it. Testimony meeting is exactly that. Testimony. Meeting. It’s not ‘tell our life story’ meeting. If you can tie your *brief* story into how you have gained testimony of a gospel principle- by all means be my guest. Really at the end of the day, the story isn’t necessary to bear testimony of the gospel principle over the pulpit anyway. That may be more appropriate for more intimate audiences like your family or your Sunday School class.

    Testimony time isn’t story time, and unfortunately many members can’t make the distinction between the two.

  • Pamela

    I beg your pardon, but this is my honest belief on the issue. A testimony is personal property and is owned by the testifier. Coming from ones heart and soul, no one, aside from the Prophet of the Lord, should assume the role of knowing, let alone dictating, the “dos & don’ts of something sacrad & personal. Taking liberty to tell church members how, what, where, & how to verberlize and share the experiences they are spitually moved to act upon, in a testimony of the gospel as they personally understand it in their own life, might be presumptuous and cheeky, If I may.

    • LuAnn

      Yes!!!!!!

  • I notice that the same people give their testimonies over and over. You can almost predict who will get up. I grow tired of people praising Joseph Smith and rarely mentioning Jesus.

    • Gini Gould

      Amen!

  • Rich Baker

    I’m sorry, but since when does any Mormon have the right to suggest how I should or should not bare my testimony? Shame on you! This sounds like someone with a personal problem. Do you tell the Bishop how he should conduct Sacrament Meeting, or tell him how he should address his ward?

    • Gale Boyd

      Our church leaders actually have given us suggestions of what a testimony should be comprised of: bearing witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the restoration is true.

    • S. Hart

      I understand your sentiment and believe that Charity should surely be involved when listening to anyone who bears testimony. With that said, helpful pointers are meant to be just that – helpful. If we can help each other improve the quality of our testimony (not the content of belief) so that others are more apt to get something out of it then I think that’s a good thing. For example, have you heard someone give a 15+ minute testimony? As much as I want to pay attention, past a certain point I just start thinking about how others are waiting for a turn and why are they taking longer than it takes to give a talk. I think a lot of people struggle to pay attention at that point also. If the testimony giver’s message isn’t received due to this, then that is unfortunate for them as well.

  • JP

    What about the folks who feel they have to get up every Fast and Testimony Sunday. Or cry the whole time. One person who I love but hate it when they get up becaus I feel like they are reciting a part from a play, with stories and fancy words etc. My wife will go for break bathroom when they get up.

  • EarlJibbs

    Let’s all be honest, this needs to be read by every member.

    • Anita Onorato

      I couldn’t agree more. I sometimes hate Testimony Sunday in my ward because the same 2-3 people who give travel histories or life histories get up. Our bishopric has started to say how it needs to be brief and not a travel log. We had one member in our ward who got up and basically said how he didn’t agree with some policies the church has come out with recently, when the bishop went up to him to ask him to finish, he told the bishop he’ll be done soon. 15 minutes later he finished. That was the most awkward testimony meeting I’ve ever been to. I play the organ and the mouths of almost every member during this “testimony” were dropped.

  • Kirill Klimov

    Thank you for this article! It is very helpful for our branch!