5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Once in a while, we need to take a good look at testimonies! How is yours doing and could it use a pick-me-up? How can we feel more confident and enthusiastic about sharing that testimony? Elder Stevenson gives us some timely, wise counsel that all of us can use. This makes a great lesson.
You can find Elder Stevenson’s full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.
All blue quotes by Gary E. Stevenson (unless otherwise noted).
Quote #1 (what)
What is a testimony? Elder Stevenson says:
Your testimony is a most precious possession, often associated with deep spiritual feelings. These feelings are usually communicated quietly and described as a “still small voice.” It is your belief or knowledge of truth given as a spiritual witness through the influence of the Holy Ghost. Acquiring this witness will change what you say and how you act. Key elements of your testimony, confirmed by the Holy Ghost, include:
- God is your Heavenly Father; you are His child. He loves you.
- Jesus Christ lives. He is the Son of the living God and your Savior and Redeemer.
- Joseph Smith is a prophet of God called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restored Church on the earth.
- The restored Church of Jesus Christ is led by a living prophet today.
These five are probably the most foundational elements to base testimony. Notice Elder Stevenson said the five items on his list are INCLUDED in a testimony. He does not give us a restricted “only this” checklist that excludes other joyous gospel truths (i.e., eternal marriage or temple and missionary work).
Possible discussion questions: Which of these five key elements stands out for you today? Why? Which one of these five was the hardest for you to gain a testimony of? How did you gain a testimony of “(any of the five bullet points)”?
Quote #2 (how)
I love this quote! Elder Stevenson takes all the apprehension and formality out of bearing testimony. You may already bear a testimony more often than you think.
You bear your testimony when you share spiritual feelings with others. As a member of the Church, you have opportunities to bear your spoken testimony in formal Church meetings or in less formal, one-on-one conversations with family, friends, and others.
Another way you share your testimony is through righteous behavior. Your testimony in Jesus Christ isn’t just what you say—it’s who you are.
Each time you bear vocal witness or demonstrate through your actions your commitment to follow Jesus Christ, you invite others to “come unto Christ.”
Pulling out ways to bear testimony
- informally share spiritual feelings one-on-one with friends, family (without “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen”)
- share spiritual feelings in formal meetings
- righteous behavior – who you are
- invite others to follow Christ
- by verbally sharing your commitment to Christ
- by actions that you are committed to Christ
- social media**
Elder Stevenson also mentions a bit about social media:
**We testify when we love, share, and invite, even online. Your tweets, direct messages, and posts will take on a higher, holier purpose when you also use social media to show how the gospel of Jesus Christ shapes your life.
Possible discussion questions: Have you recently born your testimony and maybe not considered it a testimony? What happened? (I recently put Christ’s picture on my Facebook background – I have a fair number of secular friends and family not of our faith – and shared a post about why I love Him. It didn’t occur to me that I was bearing testimony.)
More possible questions: By Elder Stevenson’s definition of a testimony – have you shared your testimony with anyone in the last week or two? Who doesn’t mind sharing what happened? What kind of actions show that we are committed to Christ?
Quote #3 (obstacles)
- Possible engagement tool: Ask your group what obstacles might keep us from bearing a testimony more frequently and to more of our associates. Write one-word descriptions of their answers on the board. Better yet, ask someone else to do that as you lead the discussion and interact with people and their answers.
Elder Stevenson mentioned the mind going blank – here is the charming story he cited. (Lesson tip – assign someone ahead of time to read the story or summarize it):
Obstacles to sharing your testimony may include uncertainty about what to say. Matthew Cowley, an early Apostle, shared this experience as he departed on a five-year mission at age 17 to New Zealand:
“I will never forget the prayers of my father the day that I left. I have never heard a more beautiful blessing in all my life. Then his last words to me at the railroad station, ‘My boy, you will go out on that mission; you will study; you will try to prepare your sermons; and sometimes when you are called upon, you will think you are wonderfully prepared, but when you stand up, your mind will go completely blank.’ I have had that experience more than once.
“I said, ‘What do you do when your mind goes blank?’
“He said, ‘You stand up there and with all the fervor of your soul, you bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the living God, and thoughts will flood into your mind and words to your mouth … to the heart of everyone who listens.’ And so my mind, being mostly blank during my … mission … , gave me the opportunity to bear testimony to the greatest event in the history of the world since the crucifixion of the Master. Try it sometime, fellows and girls. If you don’t have anything else to say, testify that Joseph Smith was the prophet of God, and the whole history of the Church will flood into your mind.”
Possible Questions: Why would Elder Stevenson share this story which highlights testifying about Joseph Smith? How is a testimony about the prophet Joseph Smith so crucial to those outside our faith?
I’d like to share my testimony of Joseph Smith: One of my most sacred spiritual experiences was the manifestation I received of Joseph Smith as a prophet.
I prayed and worked hard for this testimony. The answer wasn’t just “yes, he’s a prophet.” My spiritual eyes were opened and I could see a continuum that went eons back and forever forward. The answer was, he was always one of our noble and great leaders forever back and will be forever forward and suddenly my whole entire soul knew that I always knew who he was. His standing and position are eternal. It wasn’t new knowledge for me – it was a recall of the familiar and an experience of the most gigantic kind blazed onto my soul with fire. I loved Joseph Smith deeply and dearly ever since. Nothing can erase that experience, nothing can change my regard. I am a huge fan and what he says goes.
Deepen the teacher’s understanding: It is a fair question to ask – if you’re not willing to stand up and proclaim Joseph Smith as a prophet to those around you – are you sure you would have been ready to stand up and proclaim Christ as the Messiah in his day when he was immensely unpopular and persecuted? Perhaps we can have some compassion on Peter for denying him three times?
Quote #4 (practice)
Practice: Instead of asking people to bear their testimony – ask, “what are some of your favorite parts of the gospel? In other words, what principles are you especially fond of and why?
Accept all reasonable answers. When people are done, say, “you just bore your testimonies one to another. Bearing testimonies informally to family, church members, and friends are important to everyone’s life.”
Elder Stevenson shared a couple more important aspects about bearing testimony, he says:
Another obstacle…is fear. As Paul wrote to Timothy:
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love. …
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
Feelings of fear don’t come from the Lord but most often from the adversary
Likewise, President Dallin H. Oaks shared, “Some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.” The Spirit bears witness to the speaker and listener alike.
It is important to note the Spirit bears witness back again to us when we speak truth to others.
Elder Stevenson closed the talk with this simple challenge: “When a moment like this comes, grab it and embrace it. You will feel the warmth of the Comforter inside you when you do.”
Quote #5 (keep)
Lesson Tip: Have a different person read each of these.
The First Presidency recently shared how to develop and keep a testimony:
- President Henry B. Eyring: “feasting on the word of God, heartfelt prayer, and obedience to the Lord’s commandments must be applied evenly and continually for your testimony to grow and prosper.”
- President Dallin H. Oaks: “we need to partake of the sacrament each week to qualify for the precious promise that we will ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’
- President Nelson: “Feed [your testimony] truth… Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better. Spend more time in the temple and in family history work.“ … Make your testimony your highest priority.”
Possible discussion questions: Which advice from the First Presidency stands out for you today? Which one do you personally need to do more of? Why have personal spirituality and testimonies become even more critical today and moving forward? (Tribulation is increasing, and only the strongest Saints will retain their testimony.)
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Stevenson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
Perhaps my favorite part of this lesson is Quote #4. It has the potential of creating a wonderful experience for various members as they realize they can bear their testimony in a way that is meaningful and not scary. Bless your heart for preparing and reaching for more understanding. Have faith in yourself and what you feel drawn to emphasize. You were asked to give this lesson for a reason.
Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. If you would like tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.“