November 4th, 2007

Thankimony or Testimony?

During sacrament meeting today, I noted each time the person said “I’m thankful for…”, “I’m grateful for…”, etc., and each time the person said “I believe…”, “I know…”, “I testify…”, etc.

I compiled the above graph after listening to the testimonies of the 11 people who approached the stand in today’s meeting. My reason for doing so was the recollection of the following quote, and my curiosity as to how our ward would fare:

Like almost everything else in life, testimonies grow and develop through experience and service. We often hear some members, and especially children, bear their testimonies, listing things for which they are thankful: their love of family, the Church, their teachers, their friends. For them, the gospel is something that they are grateful for because it makes them feel happy and secure. This is a good beginning, but testimonies need to be much more. They need to be anchored very early to the first principles of the gospel.

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.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.

Again, please keep in mind that we are talking about sharing real testimony, not just speaking generally about the things we are thankful for. While it is always good to express love and gratitude, such expressions do not constitute the kind of testimony that will ignite a fire of belief in the lives of others. 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” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Testify,” 241). Clear declaration of truth makes a difference in people’s lives. That is what changes hearts. That is what the Holy Ghost can confirm in the hearts of God’s children.(M. Russell Ballard, “Pure Testimony”)

16 Responses to “Thankimony or Testimony?”

  1. dstoker
    November 4, 2007 at 2:15 pm #

    I had a bishop who was frustrated by this phenomenon and instituted a two (or three I can’t remember specifically) minute rule for testimonies. He had a deacon on the front row with a stop watch and cards that said 1 minute and 30 seconds on them which he would raise at the appropriate time. If the person went over the three minutes the deacon would stand up until the person wrapped it up. Of course there was murmuring and grumbling at first but it was interesting to see how quickly the shorter testimonies began to focus on expressions of pure testimony and how much more inspiring testimony meetings were. My understanding is that after the bishop was released the ward asked that the next bishop continue the policy.

  2. Mike the Horebite
    November 4, 2007 at 7:39 pm #

    I notice that the first testimony was all Thankimony. Isn’t that usually a member of the bishopric?

  3. Connor
    November 4, 2007 at 7:46 pm #

    I notice that the first testimony was all Thankimony. Isn’t that usually a member of the bishopric?

    Actually, I excluded the Bishop’s counselor, because I didn’t think to start the counting until after he ended. Thanks for catching me on that – I should have mentioned it above.

    For what it’s worth, the first person noted here was the ward chorister. :)

  4. Mike the Horebite
    November 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm #

    I thought that might have been it. Thanks for restoring my faith. :)

  5. Jason
    November 4, 2007 at 9:38 pm #

    I had a similar thought while listening in my meeting today actually, though the thought only struck me when a brother got up towards the end and actually bore a 100% non-thankimony. I’m sure that graph would look pretty similar for my ward as well, I’ll have to keep track the next couple months, could be fun to see if I’m just being overly sensitive or if I am right in thinking the majority fall into the category of “primarily thankimony” (though I think I’ll need a 3rd category: overly drawn-out stories that only vaguely illustrate a point).

  6. Michael H. Cox
    November 5, 2007 at 2:48 am #

    Thankimony and travel logs are the worst.

    A person today talked about getting a free bed and someone who only had 1 pair of shoes….

    Someone today stood and gave a 100% pure testimony of Christ. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. Maybe someday, all who stand on Fast & Testimony meeting will give that, a testimony!

  7. Scott
    November 5, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    A few years ago our bishop began having youth testimony meetings during priesthood/YW twice each year. The first time he did this, there was a lot of thankimony stuff, plus a lot of people saying how great the bishop was, etc.

    At the end of the meeting, the bishop got up and said that while the natural man in him enjoyed having his ego stroked, he was “just some dufus that has been called to be your bishop for a few years.” He told them that they didn’t need a testimony of him; they needed a testimony of Christ as their personal Savior. They needed a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. He said gratitude is very important, but it should not be the central focus of bearing a testimony.

    The bishop challenged the youth to really get into their scriptures and engage in mighty prayer regularly over the next six months and then come ready to bear witness of Chirst and his workings in their personal lives. Youth leaders emphasized this over the next six months. The entire nature and spirit of the next youth testimony meeting was an amazingly different experience.

    It’s very difficult for a bishop to effectively teach about bearing testimony just in Sacrament meeting. We need to regularly teach about this in our classes at all levels and in our family home evenings.

  8. Kaela
    November 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, or even play “devil’s advocate” but were you listening to the testimonies, or just counting their words? Not everyone is a wonderful public speaker, and as I noticed at the testimony meeting this last Sunday, sometimes people don’t know how (or know enough english) to say “I am grateful for this church….that I know is true!” They only know how to speak of their gratitude, which for them, illustrates the truth. They are bearing testimony of a Heavenly Father that loves them and blesses them, even if they are not outright saying “I know this is true” (although sometimes they said that as well). To me they were illustrating their belief with their experiences (although yes-sometimes these could be abbreviated). I’m not saying it’s right or correct or the best testimonies I ever heard, but maybe instead of sitting in the audience judging, those who are thinking of these “thankimonies v. testimonies” should get up and show us all how it’s done. Be an example! People will feel the Spirit when they hear the conviction in your words, and maybe you’ll inspire people to bear true testimony themselves. I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way to bear your testimony, but I think expressing your gratitude can sometimes be a way for people to illustrate their testimony when they don’t know how to do so otherwise.
    As someone who is “new” to the whole testimony thing…this doesn’t make me too excited to get up and bear mine. I thought as active listeners we are supposed to be gleaning from what we hear on this day, feeling inspired and strengthened by the words and experiences of others. It’s not public speaking class.

  9. dstoker
    November 5, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    You make some good points Kaela.

  10. Jay
    November 5, 2007 at 9:02 pm #

    I agree. In a recent stake conference, we had a general authority presiding and he instructed the bishoprics on the very topic of fast and testimony meetings. He instructed us that there is a right way and a wrong way to bear a testimony, but that we should teach by example. He said that a testimony should be brief and that that we should testify of some gospel truth, such as the atonement, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, the Savior, etc., A testimony should not go over 2-3 minutes. But more importantly, he said that it is the duty of every Melchizedek priesthood holder to not allow long moments of silence go by and that if there is ever someone on the stand bearing their testimony and nobody is sitting on the stand waiting for their turn, we are responsible to get up there. That has to be balanced with the other things he said which is to not be like the kind of people who get up every month. He said that every worthy adult is obligated to bear their testimony at least once a year, but more than three or four times a year is probably too often.

    He also said that a brief expression of gratitude is fine.

    Jay

  11. Jason
    November 5, 2007 at 11:32 pm #

    Kaela: Connor’s original post did point out, and I agree, that is not so much that “Thankimonies” are bad or evil as much as overly common and missing the deeper spiritual purpose of the bearing of testimonies

    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.”

    Also, at least in my experience, the members bearing these “thankimonies” are experienced, lifelong members who should have no trouble with the English language or expressing the things they know to be true as a result of experiences with the spirit and answers to prayers. I have never demeaned (especially within myself) a member that bears a clumsy testimony because of language, education, nervousness, lack of experience with the gospel, etc… What I instead see is a tradition, an accepted practice, of standing up at the stand to tell stories and say that they are “so grateful/thankful for…”

  12. Connor
    November 6, 2007 at 12:02 am #

    Kaela,

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, or even play “devil’s advocate” but were you listening to the testimonies, or just counting their words?

    Both. :)

    Not everyone is a wonderful public speaker…

    I agree! But I’m not critiquing people’s speaking abilities – I’m critiquing what they’re speaking about. Much like a person doesn’t go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to talk about sports, one shouldn’t go to bear their testimony and instead list the things they’re thankful for. That’s not what a testimony is. Testimony = testify.

    I’m grateful for many things as well. And I’m not saying that I bear the best testimonies – mine sometimes include thankimony elements as well. I simply wanted to observe how my ward did this week.

  13. Josh Williams
    November 6, 2007 at 8:56 pm #

    I’ll have to remember to take a tally of my own during the next few months. Maybe I’ll try recording such additional variables, as the overall length, how often the savior, prophet, or BoM is mentioned, how often friends, family, and personal problems are mentioned, etc…

    Data from only 11 samples is anecdotal at best, far to little to draw any kind of meaningful conclusions. I think this warrants much more rigorous inquiry, into the phenomenon of “Thanktimony.”

    Who knows what sort of surprising (and entertaining) trends might be uncovered….:-)

  14. Connor
    December 2, 2007 at 12:30 pm #

    The results are in for this month’s meeting:

    My wife suggested I keep track of whether it was a brother, sister, or child, as she suspected that the sisters would have more thankimony than testimony. Turns out she was right.

  15. Jason
    December 2, 2007 at 2:43 pm #

    I kept a count today, though I decided to do it a little differently than Connor did last month. I decide to do estimate at the end of the person’s time at the pulpit how much of the time was spent bearing a testimony, a thankimony, and story. The reason I decided to just estimate the percentage of time rather than counting “I’m thankful vs. I know” is that it can be argued that some times someone will start with an “I’m thankful” and at the end of explaining the thing they are thankful for end with what is essentially a testimony of that principle. Here are my numbers:


    Testimony: 38.3%
    Thankimony: 36.7%
    Story: 25%

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that the story time was significantly smaller than each of the other two metrics as it is easy for someone to go into great detail about a story to at the end say how it increased their testimony of a principle.

    The other thought I had as I was tracking this information today, the “themes” or patterns of a particular testimony meeting can be greatly influenced by one or two individuals. That is to say, if one person puts an emphasis on things they are thankful for, it can put that thought into people’s minds and influence what subsequent people are likely to spend time on and if you get one or two people to bear really simple powerful testimonies, it can have a similar effect.

  16. Dennis Brown
    July 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    Here it is almost ten years later and I find the same thing till going on, but to a greater degree! I just found this article and decided to comment because fifteen years ago, just before I was sustained as a Bishop, I did the same thing (took notes as to how many time it was said I’m thankful vs I know or I testify). After I was sustained I we had a fifth Sunday lesson on it, and it dramatically improved. What I did was to compare a testimony with prayer. The four steps of prayer to our Father in Heaven vs the way we bear our testimony. I could see the light come on in many faces. 1) Addressing God vs addressing “My brothers and sisters”. 2) I’m thankful for vs I testify. 3) I ask thee for vs I ask you to bear with me if I cry or something like that. 4) Closing in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Is not some of those “testimonies” just like a prayer? Only we appear to be praying to the congregation!

    Today’s meetings was one of the worst I have seen as far as a Thankimony. Every one of them was I’m thankful for or I’m greatful for with a few stories scattered here and there.

    I think it is time I drop a hit to the Bishop by printing the article and giving it to him.

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