Church-Hacker #15: Christ-Centered Testimony Meetings

An idea for better testimony meetings, submitted by Tevya of Mormon Life Hacker. (Sounds like Church-Hacker, but it isn’t. Go check it out.)
Testimony meetings that are about anything but testimonies seem to be a common problem. In college, a few of us were very concerned about this after a particularly bad testimony meeting. My good friend had an idea he’d seen done in another ward–he suggested it to the bishopric, they implemented it, and it worked fabulously!

It’s simply this: print a nice picture of Christ (here’s one that’s high-res enough for printing), and then beneath it, print these 3 steps in a very large, plain font:
  1. Tell us your name.
  2. Tell us a little about yourself.
  3. Tell us how you feel about the man in the red robe.
Put it in a sheet protector, to keep it nice. Each fast Sunday, put it on the pulpit. The first time he does it, the conducting bishopric member could explain it, and it may even be appropriate to explain it each month, so people are aware it’s there when they come up.

I love that the 3rd one doesn’t say “talk about Jesus” or something like that. It requires just that little bit of extra cognitive effort to make the association, and get’s them thinking a little more, rather than just skimming it and going ahead with what they planned to talk about.

Let’s stay focused, people!

____________

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Comments

  1. Tevya, I’m not sure I like this. Although I agree that focusing upon Jesus is certainly a good thing I am not convinced that this is the only part of our faith that should be explored in from the stand. In fact Testimony meetings, in my view, are as much about developing empathy for and an understanding of other people in our congregation as they are expressing our faith in Christ. The two are certainly connected but they do not always fit together so neatly. This seems awfully close to the propositional type of testimony I have heard Elder McConkie et al. promote; and while I think it can be valuable it can often miss the actual process of faith and the narrative of our discipleship. Maintaining a certain degree of openness serves to potentially allow people to speak through their vulnerability and hope on any topic that they feel best expresses these narratives or processes. The Mormon idiom of testimony meeting is already so powerful that I am concerned that if we close it down even further that we are going to see fewer of those genuinely spontaneous and revelatory moments when someone shares the experience of faith (regardless of the part of their faith they want to share) with the congregation.

  2. I suggest switching up the picture now and then, though. I mean, the Del Parson Christ is nice, but there are other really good ones, too. I hesitate to say “better,” but… okay, fine, I won’t hesitate any longer. There are better Christ paintings. I said it.

    ANYway… I agree with this completely. In my ward, I think most people do this, but there’s also a lot of “thanks to so-and-so for this” and “here’s a play-by-play of last Wednesday and, oh, by the way, I’m grateful for prayer” kind of stuff. It can get a bit irritating. What I just listed is NOT a testimony.

  3. Romney / Hunstman 2012 says:

    I’ll come clean: I like it when people tell interesting stories in testimony.

  4. Testimony meetings, in my view, are as much about developing empathy for and an understanding of other people in our congregation as they are expressing our faith in Christ.

    +1

    I’ve long held that the last thing anyone needs to worry about while making the long walk up to the microphone is my view of a proper testimony.

  5. I love this. I’m in a Mid-Singles ward, and Testimony Meeting tends to be a sad Sharing Time… or over-sharing time.

  6. I wonder whether there is cross-national dimension to the perspectives offered here. My experience as British member of the Church who lives in an emotionally reserved ward, and as someone who thrives on community, clearly shapes my perspective on this issue. Perhaps in areas of the Church where openness is the norm then perhaps this can be taken to excess.

  7. I’m in a ward where testimony meetings are about 50% visitors getting up to tell us how great our city is, how friendly the people are, and how the church is the same everywhere.

    They might be right on all counts, but our testimony meetings are very repetitive.

  8. This seems like the sort of idea that might be great for a month or two as an experiment or reminder for people to focus on the reason for worship, but I can’t see this going on for more than a few months before it would also get painfully repetitive, formulaic, and ultimately, lacking in Spirit and faith.

  9. No. Not needed. To regulate what’s said in testimony meeting even further would create a bunch of adults who “bury their testimony” like the kids sometimes do. I love it when the oddballs get up there. It breaks the monotony.

  10. Scott B., totally agree. Occasional reminder instead of constant nag

  11. I disagree, Aaron R. Emotions do not equate to the spirit (or a testimony). They might at first, but quickly diverge. I love the odd things that are said too (like most of us), but a testimony is not about prying into interesting details of a person’s life. It’s for strengthening people’s faith in the Savior. Beyond that, the idea of a community is very difficult to foster within diverse wards, and the idea that testimony meetings are designed to draw people closer together really doesn’t jive with me. Maybe, if Jimmy was dying in the hospital that week it’s nice to hear that their faith in the Plan Of Salvation was strengthened. But in brutal honesty, I shouldn’t be hearing about Jimmy for the first time through a testimony. Nor any other faucet of their life.

    I do note your qualifier in #6. So I agree that your thought has an excellent place. Just not to extremes. Would I gain sympathy for Jimmy’s family? Of course. Do I enjoy seeing mom cry her eyes out publically over something that’s very very very personal? Never.

    I’d rather get my sympathy from a different way.

    Typically a testimony helps the person bearing it more than the audience. I guess I’ll just say that it sounds like I would love to be in your ward. I’m ok with offering my testimony, but the thought that people are in the audience expecting to see all my feelings laid out publicaly… meh. I’ll stick with saying only things that belong in the public.

  12. We bring so much of our own expectations to a testimony meeting, it can be challenging to get through those expectations to let the Spirit speak if it’s so inclined – whether we are the bearers or the hearers. One of my favorite times in any testimony meeting is the spaces between. When that space runs longer than a minute or so, though, you can feel the tension in the room rise. “Silence must be filled,” hums the room, silently. That silence is often filled by someone who starts with, “I just can’t let this time go unfilled…”

    I don’t know what I think of the hack. The Spirit is not be constrained by our personal preferences and expectations. But the Spirit should be driving both the speaker and the hearers, and at any time we can only control one of those.

  13. I like the tell us your name part. We have lots of young marrieds who have moved into the ward, and I’m perpetually embarrased that I don’t know their names. Actually hearing them once in a while might help.

  14. I agree with the concept..but not really the execution. It is easier to identify a focus than to identify the many divers ways a person can mess up in testimony meeting (please don’t focus on aliens from other planets, we do not need details on your surgery or your last experience with illegal drugs as examples).

    I like the idea that it is an opportunity for empathy and to really come to know the person standing up at the podium and to love them.

  15. observer fka eric s says:

    (12) We momos don’t know what to do with silence in any public setting. There are people who get up just to break the silence: its the anxiety of “what will happen if no one gets up, people are supposed to get up now and fill this time.” The in between is one of the richer moments of the meeting for me too, especially longer periods where I can just enjoy a congregation of saints sitting in silence (then a baby shrieks out (usually mine)).

  16. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    Not sure I like this, unless it’s only occasional, or a ward has been overwhelmed for months by travelogues, or some other special circumstance. Although all testimony undoubtedly goes back to the savior ultimately, very often a true testimony is borne of a single intermediate phase of the gospel.

    Stories and commentary on how someone came to know the value of the Word of Wisom, or that priesthood power can heal, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that life continues after death, or that visiting teaching can change lives, or that the Holy Ghost brought “all things to remembrance” in a recent critical experience, are all valid, truthful and inspiring testimony. They could all include explicit gratitude to Christ, but they are testimonies even if he remains an unnamed presence in the background of the speaker’s story. Making a speaker self-conscious about having to frame her testimony as “I love the Savior because he inspired Sis. Jones to appoint Sis. Smith as my visiting teacher, because then Sis. Smith included me in her prayers, so that she in turn was inspired by the Lord to call me on the day when …” would, I fear, turn too many honest testimonies into artificialities.

  17. I agree with Aaron R in comment 1.

  18. Sounds a lot like the quote they had taped to the podium for every Sacrament meeting in the MTC:

    “Three great truths must be included in every valid testimony: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world (D. & C. 46:13); 2. That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and 3. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ‘only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.’ (D. & C. 1:30)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 785–86).

    I don’t have a problem with any of this, but I’ve heard plenty of uplifting, faith-increasing testimonies that fell short of Bruce R’s standards. Likewise, a testimony can cover all these points and still leave the membership feeling insulted, called to repentance, and like attending church today was a waste of valuable time.

  19. In my singles ward, we have a note reminding us to say our names and something about ourselves. I don’t like it. It makes me feel like I’m watching videos for a dating service. Which I’m sure is exactly the point.

    At least in my ward, the 15 minutes for testimonies at the end of Relief Society are always great. Maybe there’s just something about the big (usually bored or distracted) audience, the stand, and the mic that makes people nervous about really opening up. Let’s split the congregation into smaller groups and combine this with another church hacker and have all fast and testimony meetings outdoors.

  20. I’m all for reminding a ward from time to time what testimony meeting is for, if it’s required. But what Ardis says in #16 is spot on.

    I know our bishopric — from time to time — begins testimony meeting reminding the congregation that testimonies should be brief expressions of faith. And they model that principle in the testimonies that they bear.

    I like the idea of asking people to start with their names. Very helpful to knew folks, especially in a high-turnover ward.

  21. Jamie wins for adding a layer of intertextuality to Church-Hacker.

  22. I have to agree with Aaron R, Ardis, etc. I think this would be good as an occasional reminder, but used regularly it’s too restrictive. I really hate those three points Michael referenced in #18, and I think this is a much better alternative to them. But for the most part I just think telling people what to say in their testimonies destroys authenticity and removes the Spirit from it. I don’t want to hear people reading from a script when they get up there, and I don’t think that’s what testimony meeting is about.

    It’s true that there are people who really, really don’t understand what a testimony is, and just use the opportunity to tell stories. These people could totally use some guidelines–however, as it happens, these people are also the ones who tend to ignore the guidelines when they are given. Harping on about them just makes everyone else feel guilty, like they have to get to the point as quickly as possible if they do want to share a story, and make it immediately obvious how the story is relevant. Not really the spirit we’re going for.

  23. As I think about it, I don’t really think it’s possible to have this ideal testimony meeting that we’re all thinking about. If you try to restrict everyone to sharing their feelings on the Savior, or including those three points of McConkie’s, you’re not going to get real testimonies. If you don’t restrict them, you get the travelogues. There isn’t really a way to get the perfect balance, because people have quirks and everyone’s idea of the perfect balance is slightly different. If you want balance, I think the responsibility is on the listener, to be participating in their end of it with the right attitude of understanding, acceptance, and yes, empathy. You just can’t get an entire congregation to all share the same kind of testimony and have it be organic–the only part we can really control is how we choose to listen.

  24. This topic, and the recent discussion over our cult (or non-cult) status, has brought to the front of my mind a recurring thought I’ve had. Is it possible to be too Christ-centered? And, if so, have we reached that point?

    During the entirety of my adult life in the church, and a good portion of my youth as well, the big push has been to “refocus” on Christ. This fact has, I believe, been well-documented and discussed on BCC. But over these past few years, I’ve become increasingly restless over the constant cavalcade of exhortations to be more Christ-focused. I’m now at the point where I would be horrified to see this suggestion adopted in my ward. Talk about the Word of Wisdom, talk about temples, talk about how much you love your visiting/home teacher. But please, I really don’t want to hear yet another talk that quotes the same few scriptures, that makes the same points, that expresses the same feeling in the same way.

    So am I a complete heathen? It’s entirely possible that I’m just a surly misanthrope who’s missing the point of all this religious exercise. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Is it possible to be too focused on Christ?

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    Nope.

  26. Under this system, are we allowed to say *why* we feel a certain way about the man in the robe, or should we keep it descriptive only? “My name is Ted. I’m an accountant. Net/net, I feel happy about Jesus. In the name…”. I only ask because it isn’t listed as permissible in the steps outlined.
    Perhaps it would be even more efficient to have people fill in a testimony form where they check a box that most adequately describes their (positive) feelings about the man in the robe. The bishop or clerk can then read the tally from the pulpit.
    Personally though I prefer a church that moves away from repetitious liturgy and not towards it. A church that cares more about allowing the “least among us” to say what they feel they need to say rather than what the more righteous among us feel they should say.

  27. Though I’m with most people in finding the execution a little problematic, I think the idea is a good one. I’m afraid that testimonies too often are not gospel-centered (travelogues, thinly-veiled accusations, and “reasons why I’m awesome and will probably be Enochized” have been frequent in my family ward). Do you think there is a way to modify the original proposal to encourage members to present gospel-centered testimonies without restricting their expression too much?

  28. WOW! So many strong feelings about this. I gotta say I appreciate the response and have read through each. Just a few points that may not have been conveyed in the church-hack itself:

    1. This is for wards that have a problem. If your ward is great about bearing true testimony, I don’t recommend it. I thought that was understood in most things regarding “life-hacking”: if this would be helpful, use it. If it’s counterproductive, don’t.
    2. In my mind, this is completely in-line with the 1st Presidency letter that asks bishoprics to encourage members to “express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration.” Source here: http://goo.gl/UqxY1 I realize now that perhaps many of your haven’t had this letter read in your ward 5-20 times over the past 9 years since it was written and sent to local church leaders. To me, this hack presents a simple way to do what this letter asks, without re-reading it, every single month.
    3. This was never intended to be a limit on what you can do: you’re only allowed to say these 3 things while you’re up here! If a story (though it should be short to comply with the 1st Presidency’s request) helps illustrate how you gained or strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ, his Gospel or the Book of Mormon, then that’s perfectly appropriate, and it is in no way excluded by this church-hack.

    Sorry if those things weren’t more clear in the original suggestion. Thanks for all the feedback and comments!

  29. Is it possible to be too Christ-centered?

    Yeah, just ask Steve Covey why his book was suddenly retitled “The Divine Center” (from “The Christ-Centered Life”) and then find Elder McConkie’s talk from shortly before publication which prompted the change. The talk was given March 2, 1982, and the publication date of the book is June 1982. Here’s a sneak preview of Elder McConkie’s talk:

    Now, it is no secret that many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus. I shall summarize the true doctrine in this field and invite erring teachers and beguiled students to repent and believe the accepted gospel verities as I shall set them forth.

  30. #29 Mark, I thought about that BRM talk, too. I was at BYU at the time when a certain religion prof had quite a following whom he was helping to develop a relationship with the Savior.

  31. Here’s the link for the Talk Mark B. is referencing: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6843

  32. #28 – Tevya, there is a big difference between, “Express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration,” and, “Tell us how you feel about the man in the red robe.”

    I really like the first one; I don’t like the second one.

    I’ve lived in a couple of wards where I think the ideal was modeled – much as some commenters have suggested. The Bishopric openly and explicitly taught the principle of the FP’s encouragement and modeled it – but they never demanded anything specific and allowed the deviations without any obvious action. (except in extreme cases) When a leader teaches by personal example and shows that a brief, heartfelt testimony can be powerful and real, the congregants are more inclined to understand and adapt.

    It also is instructive, imo, that the Spirit was more powerful in the rest of the meetings in those two wards than in any others I’ve attended – and the missionary work flourished more, as well. People who are being well-fed tend to want to keep showing up for the meals – and they tend to feel less concerned about asking others to eat with them. We can dream up all kinds of programs and approaches for our members, but I believe the best thing we can do for them simply is to feed them better spiritually. The rest, if understood and implemented, kind of falls into place as a result.

    Otoh, the worst case I have observed is when a leader quotes the FP counsel and then gives a talkamony that lasts 10 minutes or more. Brutal.

  33. Ray, I’m completely with you. That wording was the wording we used in the college ward I was in at the time, and it seemed to work very well. In my mind, it conveys the other phrasing, with less words and less specific structure. It was meant to be very open, but to still suggest and encourage a focus around Christ, who is the founder, author, and finisher of our faith (or should be).

    I’m a little surprised at how strongly people seem to feel about this. As if I’d made some new rule or strict structure and am telling people they should follow it or repent. I assure you, and everyone else, that this is not the case.

    I guess I assumed that people would be more creative in implementing this as needed: tweaking and altering it as they see fit (or as the Spirit directs). Rather it seems most reject it completely, because they disagree with some of the suggested details of this specific implementation. I don’t see why anyone couldn’t just put “Express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration” for number 3, or as the only thing on the sheet.

    Again, like most life-hacks (or church-hacks in this case), it’s a suggestion: something that worked very well in a few wards, and not a requirement.

  34. Tevya, don’t take it so personally! I suppose most of us who have expressed reservations are imagining how the hack would work in our individual wards, with known personalities and their tendencies to make rules out of suggestions (a very frequent problem in my own ward with its native German personality quirks) or otherwise to carry things too far. If individual wards are having problems with the appropriate use of the time given to testimonies, this hack, or some customized version of it, might very well help.

  35. “It’s true that there are people who really, really don’t understand what a testimony is, and just use the opportunity to tell stories.”

    Edifying and memorable testimonies are stories, non-fiction I hope but stories none the less. These kind of instructions could make bearing a testimony into an exchange of information instead of a spiritual narrative. Give me more and better stories, not fewer.

  36. Shouldn’t it be the spirit that dictates what testimony we give rather than some sort of script … even if it comes with a nice picture attached? I like the freedom and flexibility we see.

  37. Thanks for the responses all. You’ve helped me reexamine my thinking on this issue, and I think that my objection to this particular suggestion is more practical (or cynical) than it is philosophical. What is bothering me is not simply a perceived over-focus on Christ; it’s hearing the same Christ-talk/lesson/testimony repeated week after week ad nauseam.

    Most people are not skilled orators or teachers. After all, it’s axiomatic that about half the population is below-average at these tasks. And therefore, most of the people that speak in church are just not very good at speaking. And the safest, easiest, and often best route for people to take is to follow the approved dialogue, especially when speaking impromptu as is required by our testimony meeting format. So we wind up with the same word of wisdom talk being given every time that topic is assigned. And the same priesthood talk, genealogy talk, etc. In my experience, this also includes Jesus talks. So when people are told to focus on Christ, what we wind up with is the same exact talk/lesson repeated every Sunday, and in the case of testimony meetings, a dozen or so repeats of the same testimony. I’m grudgingly resigned to the fact that we’re stuck with a pretty short playlist of talks and lessons, but when it’s the same one again and again on the same day, the pew in front of me can quickly get a forehead-shaped groove.

    I appreciate the intent of the suggestion, but I think my negative reaction stems from a concern that we would be trading one problem for another.

  38. Drew, I also think we do a lousy job in too many wards and branches understanding the difference between the intent of Sacrament Meeting (worship), the intent of Sunday School (instruction) and the intent of PH & RS (pretty much everything else on a rotating schedule. That carries over into F&T Meeting, which is a problem of basic understanding in too many instances.

    If we eliminated most of the talks you just mentioned from Sac Mtg (the Word of Wisdom, genealogy, emergency preparedness, tithing, HT/VT, etc.) and let them be taught and discussed in SS and PH/RS where they belong, that alone would be a great start. If we then focused on the difference between worship in our standard SM’s and pure testimony for F&T Mtg, truly understanding the difference, I would feel like I was experiencing heaven on earth.

    We can’t implement what we don’t understand, and I think we need to understand worship better before we can understand pure testimony.

  39. Morman, I never intended it to be a script. In the ward where we used it. People bore great testimonies of Jesus Christ and his gospel. They were usually full of the spirit and powerful. They didn’t usually contain much similarity, except the brief introduction, and even those were as unique as the individuals (obviously). But what was gone was long rambles that had some gospel reference tacked on the end as an afterthought.

  40. Well I don’t like the promptings that are scripted and consistent. It might be interesting to have the ward council pick and reccomend themes… but I don’t have a problem with the open Mic format. If we must have a question it should be, “Why are you here?”and if you give that some thought your testimony can really shine.

  41. Exactly chris… that’s the way it SHOULD be. This was intended to help those who don’t do it, the way it should be.

  42. Thanks Ray, that’s a great point. I agree that we should be thinking on more of a foundational level. And now I’ve got more food for thought…

  43. KLC, I fully agree with you. I actually wrote a blog post about this exact thing maybe a week ago. I was just acknowledging that there are some people whose stories aren’t actually about their testimonies, but really are just stories. At least there have been in some of my wards. Even if it’s between THAT and the scripts, though, I’ll take the stories.

  44. another Alan says:

    I hope I have not missed this in the comments but the current [ 2010 red ] handbook only says that members are invited to give heartfelt testimonies and relate faith promoting experiences in testimony meeting.

  45. I’m afraid I might be tempted to talk about how much I don’t like that picture of Jesus in the red robe.

  46. When I attended BYU, our ward bishop suggested limiting testimonies to 3 minutes, so that more people would have the opportunity to speak. I was once in a ward where one member took 25 minutes (I timed it). Sometimes I think that the Spirit stops after about 3 minutes, leaving the person to speak on their own.

  47. As to being “too Christ-centered”: of course, on an individual basis, we cannot be too Christ centered. Christ is not one dish at a smorgasbord. Today I’ll talk about Jesus, tomorrow I’ll talk about casserole. Most of us are not Christ centered, at all. We are centered, or nearly centered, or somewhat centered, on about a thousand things. But in so far as we are Christ centered, our lives will pass through many interesting experiences that ought to be shared.

    Where I worry about some kinds of emphasis on Christ devolving into praise language. We already use His name so glibly. I heard it a lot when I was working with young missionaries as a WML. They would often use the phrase “our Savior Jesus Christ”, or “the Lord Jesus Christ”, as if the words themselves were to magically invoke a spiritual response. This kind of magical thinking is possibly derived from the encouragement to “testify”, as well. At best, ‘testify’ should just mean telling in respectful language that is natural to you the truth about the experiences that have drawn you closer to God. I do not know that saying “I testify that Jesus lives” is going to best thing to say in 9 cases out of 10.

    *shrug*

  48. Anonymous says:

    While I might not use the specific suggestion, I sympathize with the intent. Testimony meetings are second only to home teaching in their failure to enrich us as they could. The majority of them have the few actual testimonies canceled out by crazy, judgmental, over-sharing and ego-stroking ramblings that belong on the psychiatrist’s couch, not in our worship services. We should be learning to know each others’ idiosyncrasies in other settings, and being cleansed by fire in testimony meeting. Even rote recitations of faith in basic principles are more likely to bring that about than telling us about how the devil’s got ahold of your husband, so and so just lost a testicle to cancer, and Africa is still poor because they’re all a bunch on ingrates waiting for a handout. Half the time the kiddies are the only ones getting anywhere in the ballpark of a testimony. Thankfully they have each other to copy, because the adults certainly aren’t setting a good example. The only reason I’ve started sitting through these meetings in the chapel at all is that I have to be on the stand now. I can’t imagine anyone sane wanting to join the church if their first churchgoing experience happened to be a testimony meeting. Which of course is why elders the world over dread having their investigators show up on that Sunday.

  49. Two of my favorite scriptures have a bearing here: “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” and “as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God and to be called his people and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.. and are willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God.”

    There are lots of kinds of reasons for the hope in us, and I think thanks to those who help me bear my burdens are entirely appropriate. There is more to being in this fold than our feelings about Jesus, and a great deal of our feelings about each other bear on the hope that is in us.

    And Anonymous 48, Ouch! I have loved most of my home teachers, and my ward must be very different from yours.

  50. Anonymous says:

    CraigC, you’re apparently in the minority who have ever had a hometeacher show up more than once or twice.

    Some of what happens in testimony meeting is just plain pointless or detrimental. Most of what happens is good, but it should all be better or best. As it is, most of these meetings could be just about the same in any denomination if they had an open mic service. I’m fine with hearing about Johnny’s bout with the flu and how it’s a miracle he got better, unlike the heathen, but let’s not waste the time when we’re supposed to be feeling the spirit on stuff that is irrelevant to most of the people listening even if it were true.

  51. Brilliant! I like a lot of the comments, I’ve been back and forth on how I feel about this. Ultimately though I think the point of sharing a testimony is not what you say, but why you say it. If Bill’s monthly travelogue is to show off, this may cause him to reconsider what he shares. But if his same boring and seeming un-spiritual stories are to HIM a source of personal self-worth or divine inspiration he could feel he’s just “telling us about himself” or even about how he feels a guiding hand in his monthly escapades.

    For those expressing concerns of not hearing about the Word of Wisdom or temples or what have you, my favorite loophole to sharing on any gospel topic is you can always tie it back to almost any other gospel topic, and this is all the more true when the topic is the Savior Himself.

  52. I strongly agree with Aaron R. and Ardis. The crazy travelogues and stupid stories we have to endure are more than worth it if they’re the price we must pay to hear genuine, spontaneous, unscripted, spiritually-edifying remarks. And I do believe they are the price we have to pay. Placing too many strictures on format and content is spiritually deadening. No thanks.

  53. This is an interesting discussion.

    I find that a genuinely enjoy testimony meetings – even when I realise that they could be better. I like the genuine uplift that I get.

    I agree with those who suggest that we should expect flexibility. No body is assigned to speak on that day and the Lord seems to allow the membership to attempt to develop spiritual maturity in our choices of what to say and why we say it.

    I would like to clarify that the following quote does not stipulate what things we must testify of – only what the underlying testimony should consist of:
    “Three great truths must be included in every valid testimony: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world (D. & C. 46:13); 2. That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and 3. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ‘only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.’ (D. & C. 1:30)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 785–86).

    Few spoken testimonies ever explicitly state these three things (including Elder McConkie’s) and so that could not have been his intent. His final testimony did not, for example, although it assumed the truth of all three.

    It is wise to recognise that the scriptures and our life experiences as guided by the spirit can direct us in what is a spiritually appropriate testimony to bear. Thankimonies, confessimonies or agressimonies may not be the best use of our time. And talkimonies are a real turn off.

    Still what do I know? I am happy that I get to bear another’s testimony burden because I also get to bear another’s testimony blessing. Maybe the insight into another’s soul is among the real purposes of these meetings?

  54. Concerning the topic and Elder McConkie’s talk (that I just read), This comes to mind:
    11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    One has to decided what is worship and what is good church behavior.

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