Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday, Sunday, So Good To Me

I'm with Lynnette: I always love testimony meetings in which people stand up and tell stories, rather than those in which people simply recite a number of propositional statements about their beliefs: I know the Church is true. I know Jesus is the Son of God. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know the latter is what we are encouraged to do, but those meetings often seem dry to me, lacking anything I couldn't get from, say, reading the Articles of Faith, or even the Nicene Creed.

(I went to Catholic mass this morning before church, so it was on my mind.)

Really, what sets our testimony meetings apart from a recitation of doctrine is the opportunity to glimpse the human who believes those doctrines, the stories that human tells about those doctrines, and the way those doctrines affect the life and mind of that human. I love hearing personal testimonies, even the kooky ones that I laugh about later.

All this means that today was the sort of testimony meeting that I love. The relatively new convert sitting behind me whispered to the guy next to him, "What should I say?" and then ascended to the pulpit to tell us of his pre-conversion days of wine, women, and song; my visiting teachee, after slamming the Boston-area wards she had just visited, told us that "hurry up" was the worst thing you could possibly say to a person; and a quirky mid-thirties Tongan (I think) fellow apologized for not making it to church the past few weeks--there were some rock concerts he just had to go to--rambled for a few minutes about who knows what, and told us that without reading the Book of Mormon, you can't be a Mormon.

Fun as it might be to mock this last one, and I suspect many people were, especially given that last month he stood up and bore an equally eccentric testimony, these glimpses into his life and personality increased, for me, the value of the statements he made, those doctrinal pronouncements we are supposed to limit ourselves to. I could see that he wasn't just reciting, that he honestly meant them, and it was, for lack of a better word, touching.

Add all that to the fact that Catholic mass was pleasant, Lynnette taught Sunday school, and I persuaded my visiting teacher to skip the last hour of church and come with me to the "How Berkeley Can You Be?" parade (counting it, of course, as her visiting teaching for September), and I'd say that I had a pretty good Sunday.


Th. said...


Was that today? I never even heard about it this year!

alea said...

I don't think the latter is necessarily what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to say what we believe and why we believe it. I've always connected that why with stories that are pertinent. And, of course, graham crackers.

Petra said...


From M. Russell Ballard's 2004 talk "Pure Testimony":

"My experience throughout the Church leads me to 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.”...We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure is it also our privilege, our duty, and our solemn obligation to “declare the things which [we] know to be true”...To bear testimony is “to bear witness by the power of the Holy Ghost; to make a solemn declaration of truth based on personal knowledge or belief.”"

(italics added)

I don't see any mention in there of saying why we believe something, and I do see explicit discouragement of stories. Now, it's clearly thankamonies he really wants to eliminate, but stories are mentioned as a no-no.

Amber said...

I think that making "a solemn declaration of truth based on personal knowledge or belief" may (and probably should) entail the explanation of how one came to said knowledge of belief.

I've always thought of "testimony" in the legal context (which is why it bugs me so much when people say "I have a testimony." Duh, everyone does.) When you are called to give testimony, you say what you know as it pertains to the subject in question. This may include pertinent experience, but would not include irrelevant stories.

For example: If I were called to testify in the murder trial of my roommate who I discovered dead upon arriving home, I could not:
1) Say I don’t have a testimony (that would not make any sense)
2) Share a story about going shopping and finding something that reminded me of my roommate (the opposing attorney would object to the irrelevance)
3) Accuse someone of the murder without giving any support or reason for my accusation (again, the opposing attorney would object)
4) Lie (well, at least I shouldn’t)

Also, the point of testimony meeting is not to doctrinally instruct, but to share personal beliefs. So really, even if everyone were reciting (from the heart) properly boring testimonies, you could not get the same thing out of reading the As of F or the C of N, because those don’t tell you what Kelli Balinsky feels about God. And, there is value to that.

Expavesco said...

a pure testimony and expression of your beliefs is enough, when the testimony can be given with a really powerful spirit. Oft times I think recalling an appropriate story helps the person recall how they felt the presence of the holy spirit at that time.

It is also helpful to remind others of similar times when they too felt the holy spirit was with them.

... I loved testimony meetings more than any other thing in the church. I don't think there is anything better. Reciting a list of the beliefs you feel you have doesn't really qualify as baring your testimony.

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