What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
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”)