I just returned from the best testimony meeting I’ve attended in years. What was so very cool about it is that it was dominated by recent converts.
Having grown up in the Church, I tend to be a little jaded about testimonies. I enjoy the personal stories, but the testimonies themselves tend to be expressed in such formulaic, pro forma language that they have very little meaning for me and they just sort of bleed into one another. (My own testimonies tend to be pro forma, too. Maybe this all dates from BRM’s insistence about what the elements of a proper testimony are; I don’t know.)
Anyway, our ward had 17 baptisms last year, with more in the pipeline. And a majority of those who bore testimony today were from that group, including three black sisters–a record in my personal experience. One of these sisters was the young daughter (I think she’s about 10) of another one; this was actually the second time she has come up and borne her testimony, and both times she has done so in the form of a prayer, speaking directly to God. Utterly charming and affecting.
Another testifier, an elderly, distinguished Greek gentleman, had actually prepared notes last night for his testimony, as if he were giving a talk. But his remarks were excellent, even powerful.
These speakers don’t quite have the LDS patter down, and it’s a bit of an adventure as to what exactly they are going to say (for example, I recall a reference to the “holy Father,” which is language you don’t often hear over an LDS pulpit), but to me that is part of their charm. But they have powerful testimonies, and I was deeply affected by them. This is what testimony meeting ought to be.
Afterwards I was chatting with our WML, marvelling at the experience, and he told me that he had taught a lesson on how to give a testimony in GE class last week, and that they had held their own testimony meeting as a practice. He is terrific that way. I tend to assume others know the things I know, which is of course ridiculous; he in contrast takes nothing for granted and teaches these people everything, from the ground up. After SS I peeked in the RS room, where GE is held, and the room was packed and abuzz with activity. It was much more dynamic than the GD class in the chapel. The WML is not someone you would ever have guessed would receive that calling, but he is such a good and decent and humble man, I personally believe he deserves tremendous credit for nurturing our young members. Having been taught all about testimonies and having practiced how to do it, these young members obviously felt sufficiently comfortable to stand up in the real thing and share their feelings about the gospel.
I often dread testimony meeting, with its pro forma recitations by long timers like me and the occasional crazy talk from some guy who needs to go back on his meds. But today’s meeting reminded me of how powerful a genuinely expressed testimony can really be, and of how invigorating it can be to have so many members who are new to the gospel and really excited about it.