Mormons refer to an individual’s beliefs and faith as his or her testimony. A testimony comes through study and prayer, and it is a gift from Heavenly Father to His children.
A testimony begins with a desire to know the truth. In addition to desiring a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the living prophet, members and investigators of the Mormon Church will desire to know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and all principles of the gospel. After feeling this desire, individuals must have the faith that Heavenly Father will communicate with His children through the Spirit.
This communication is known as personal revelation. Individuals must offer up sincere prayers to Heavenly Father, asking to know for themselves that what they study or wonder about is true. Mormons believe the Lord will answer these faithful prayers through the witness of the Spirit of the Lord. When a person asks in faith, believing that he or she will receive an answer, the Spirit will warm the person’s heart and soul. This communication from the Lord through His Spirit can come in the form of feelings, knowledge, or what Mormons refer to as a “still, small voice.” The person will feel peace and comfort, happiness, and increased understanding. The truth is manifest in this way, and people come away from their prayers with a profound belief in the truth.
This process of acquiring a testimony is essential to one’s membership in the Mormon Church. Mormons believe each member has the privilege to know personally what is true. The Spirit of the Lord will testify to individuals, so that they can feel a conviction of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
People can turn to the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon for additional guidance in the process of acquiring and strengthening their testimonies. In chapter 32 of Alma, one learns that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things;” rather, it is having a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Mormons believe the truth is manifest through personal revelation, because the Lord desires each of His children to faithfully believe in His words and the words of His servants.
Members of the Mormon Church believe a personal testimony can grow throughout the lifetime of an individual. This testimony must be nourished through continued sincere prayers to Heavenly Father, through scripture study, and through obedience to all the commandments the Lord has laid out for His children’s happiness. As the Spirit of the Lord continues to dwell with a person, it will testify of the truth and that person’s testimony will grow. Anchoring spiritual experiences that occur thoughout life also build testimony. These experiences often come to the faithful follower of Christ during times of trial or confusion. Often, these experiences are so profound that they can be relied upon during times of weakness or doubt.
When a testimony is strong, it is evident in actions and character. Mormons believe a testimony is what motivates one to love and serve others, and to continually improve. A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ will also encourage men and women to feel sorrow for their sins and a desire to repent immediately.
In Mormon congregations, the first Sunday of every month is designated as “fast Sunday.” This day is a time for the members to fast (or religiously abstain from food), and during the meeting of the congregation at which members partake of the sacrament, they have the chance to voluntarily stand up in front of the congregation and share their testimonies with the rest of the members. This is an important practice in the Mormon Church, as it allows the personal testimony of each member to be strengthened. Mormons believe it is important to share one’s testimony often. Sharing a testimony strengthens it, and the act also invites the Spirit of the Lord to be felt by all who listen.