On Children Bearing Testimony

When I was on my mission, I had a companion who really hated it when young children bore testimony in the general fast and testimony meeting. I had never encountered that perspective before, but once he had articulated it I began to notice casual comments from a few general authorities here and there who shared his view. As I understand it, the idea is that testimony should reflect a genuine witness of the spirit, not rote memorized phrases such as the ubiquitous “I know my family loves me.” Testimony meeting is not the venue for children to go up and be cute and hear their voices project over the microphone. (I’m sure I’m not articulating the point of view well, so I invite others to express it more fully in the comments.)

I personally am not bothered by such testimonies the way my companion was; to the contrary, I tend to find them charming, with two caveats. First, they have never been overwhelming or taken up the majority of the time in my wards here in Illinois. To the contrary, they are relatively rare out here. I might feel differently if I lived in some huge Utah ward where they absorbed the entire time of the testimony meeting and pushed out adult participation. Second, the kids need to be able to do it on their own, without their parents prompting them in their ears. But otherwise, I say bring the testimonies on.

The whole Mormon concept of having our children with us in Sacrament Meeting is for the family to worship together qua family, and to accustom the little ones to such worship. If we want them to bear testimonies when they’re older, we need to allow them to bear testimonies when they are young. If we’re not going to do that, let’s just do it like the Protestants and have a nursery during worship services. It would be easier to hear the speakers!

So where do you fall on this issue, and why? I am genuinely interested in your perspectives.

Comments

  1. From what I’ve heard, children should be encouraged to bear their testimonies during Primary and FHE, rather than in Sacrament Meeting.

  2. I definitely agree with your second caveat. If the kids are being told what to say, then it’s useless. The parent might as well just get up and say it for them. I have felt similarly to your mission companion at times, but only for that reason. If we give kids a chance to really express themselves, and not give them the impression that there are certain things that you are “supposed” to say, they say some really surprising and inspiring things. If we tell them they can really say anything (about the gospel, that is) that comes to mind, and how they feel about it, I’m sure we’d all enjoy hearing from them more. Obviously, though, I’m saying it has nothing to do with them being children, it has to do with how we’re teaching them to do it.

    It also seems like they might notice the difference between the way we tell them to do it and how we’re doing it. It always seemed a bit odd to me when I was a kid. Beginners have to give a testimony in list format of the things that we know are true and/or are grateful for. Advanced testimony bearers get to just say it however they want to.

    The first caveat is fine, but I think if a larger number of children are bearing their testimonies when a smaller number of adults are, I think it just means that the kids are more ready and willing to do so. That’s the other important point. Kids want to bear their testimonies, which gives us even more reason to teach them from early on how to do it well.

  3. Bob Sheedy says:

    As a child is moved by the Holy Ghost to bear his/her testimony, he/she should do so. I agree that the learning how to share a testimony should be done in Primary and FHE. And, once they can do this on their own they should be encouraged to follow promptings from the Spirit.

  4. Joshua A. says:

    There should be a calling for this: “testimony judge.” Numbers per unit may vary, but no more than 6 people sitting in the back of the chapel with large scoring cards. Testimonies are to be scored on a scale of 1-10 on criteria of relevance, doctrinal accuracy, and sincerity. Anyone who averages less than a six shall be subjected to no less than one hour of instruction by missionaries on how to bear a “proper testimony.” Missionaries who, of course, are trained like seals to bark their testimonies on cue in “rote memorized phrases.”

    Is there anyone who seriously objects to kids talking in testimony meeting? Not saying I doubt you, but can you give an example of said comments from anyone other than a self-righteous 19-year-old? This smells of straw man…

  5. In our F&T meeting this month, an eight-year-old girl bore a simple, short, heart-felt testimony. It obviously wasn’t coached; it obviously was in her own words; it was sincere and focused on basic Gospel principles.

    It was wonderful.

    In that same meeting, a 33-year-old, mentally disabled woman “bore her testimony”. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel. She read from a piece of paper on which she had written some of the things she did that month, including her reaction to watching Whitney Houston’s funeral. It was simple and not at all “spiritual” in any traditional way. I looked around the congregation and saw all the loving, smiling, accepting faces (everyone paying rapt attention in dead silence) and realized that moment was a big part of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    It was wonderful.

    My nine-year-old daughter bolts out the chapel doors every week the instant the benediction ends. She has told us for the last few months that she wants to bear her testimony. We have told her that she can do so whenever she’s ready to do it on her own, knowing she gets quite severe stage fright at the microphone. She bore her testimony this month, with her older sister standing beside her but completely in her own words. I’ve never been prouder of her.

    It was wonderful.

    I also dislike rehearsed, automatic, rote words, especially those of others whispered into children’s ears, but, when a testimony is sincere and pure, a child’s testimony (even a 33-year-old child’s words) remind me of the beautiful admonition:

    “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

  6. RE: “can you give an example of said comments from anyone other than a self-righteous 19-year-old?”

    Twice, the Church’s current Handbook 2 invites children not to share their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting until “they are old enough to do so without assistance from a parent, sibling, or other person.” (11.8.3 and 18.2.3)

  7. I lived in a Utah County ward once where testimonies by young children made up the large part of the time, maybe 30 or 40 would go up (we had upwards of 200 in primary). The bishop finally asked kids to go up at the beginning rather than stagger through the meeting. Nearly every one said the same thing (I love my family, thankful for my grandma, I know the church is true . . . ). I don’t object to this. I think it’s great training and it used up some time that would otherwise go to some older folk who didn’t edify me as much. In our present ward the kids occasionally get up, but it’s getting rare. Our primary is down around 20 kids now I think. The 70+ crowd is taking over. So I like the kid factor and I don’t really mind of a sibling is there or even mom or dad for moral support/prompting. It’s a scary deal those first few times.

  8. Joshua A. says:

    Fair enough. Obviously I’m not familiar with the handbook…:). But there you go. Interesting how it’s phrased, though–How do you invite someone not to do something? Also, I recommend six months in the penalty box for anyone who closes a talk or testimony by saying, “In the name of thy son, Jesus Christ.” I mean, they’re CLEARLY not thinking about what they’re saying, right?

  9. The actual handbook quotes…

    “Such opportunities help children prepare to share their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting when they are old enough to do so without assistance from a parent, sibling, or other person.”

    “It may be best to have young children learn to share their testimonies in settings such as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so in a fast and testimony meeting without assistance from a parent, sibling, or other person.”

    First, there’s the issue of what constitutes “assistance.” Is standing next to them to offer moral support “assistance”? After all, chances are they’re not going to get experience speaking in front of large groups of people any other way, and they may need that moral support from a parent standing next to them when they give a heartfelt testimony in sacrament meeting for the very first time.

    Second, “may be best” is not the same as “invites children not to.”

    I was in a ward where the bishop actually complained about the lack of children bearing testimony. I think a lot of this depends on the specific ward, which may be one of the reasons the language in the Handbook isn’t exactly firm on the subject.

  10. Joshua A. says:

    “May be best” makes it sound like exactly what it is (or should be)–a common sense issue. Makes me wonder, though…Has anyone ever gone to a testimony meeting just burning with something to which to testify and been thwarted because of those dern kids? Maybe it’s just my inherent lack of spirituality, but I find it hard to believe…

  11. I really dislike. And I’m not a 19 year old. Our primary has about 250 kids and every fast and testimony we have the same 30 kids get up and take the majority of the meeting saying the EXACT same thing. (sI love my family. I know you can go to the temple when you’re 12. [seriously.] and sometimes an actual reference to a gospel principle)

    Now. On the other hand we’ve occasionally had kids give a REAL testimony about an experience that strengthened their faith or just their belief in something real. That I love.

    We also have 5 year olds telling 3 year olds what to say. Our bishopric even INVITE children who can’t bear testimony on their own to have help from someone. It really makes for a long, boring, spiritually lacking meeting. And anyone who thinks it would be cute and you have to be self-righteous to dislike kid testimonies just needs to visit my meetings.

  12. beej, I hear you. Maybe we’re in the same ward. Same kids every month (bishop’s kids included). Same rote recitation. I start to groan when I see the parade. Sometimes you even have a month where a primary teacher has challenged her class to all bear their testimonies, and we get every single 8 year old up there.

  13. Random memory time: I was part of a baby boom that came with a new industry coming to the small community where my parents live. My age group was the largest, with the number of kids younger than me declining year by year.

    When I was a small child, the bishopric set aside time at the start of every fast and testimony meeting for the kids–maybe 10 minutes or so, Most of the time it was the rote “I’d like to bear my testimony, I know this church is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I love my mom and dad and siblings. I’m thankful for my puppy, In the name of Jesus Christ amen”. type of deal.

    One Sunday when I was about five, I got up and in my “testimony” I said “I’m thankful for my new shoes”. Everybody laughed (though, they were beautiful shoes, and I spent the rest of the day showing them off). I don’t know if my discomfiture was obvious to the adults in the ward at the laughter (I can still feel it now) but there were several adult testimonies about being grateful for what we have.

    As a five year old, I didn’t really understand what a testimony was, besides a chance to get up and show off in church, but that experience helped me learn that there is more to it than simply listing the things you love and are grateful for, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    As a perpetually single adult, I haven’t lived in a ward with little kids since moving out of my parent’s house 12 years ago, though I’ve noticed the same child-like pattern in testimony bearing among my cohorts. While I might roll my eyes at the sixth “And I have the best roommates ever, I love them so much!” of the day, I figure I can’t say anything, but what I can do is pattern my own testimony after those given by the general authorities.

    A testimony is a singularly personal thing, and I agree that people should be moved by the spirit before thy bear witness, but child or adult, we can’t judge if someone is doing it “correctly” or not–such judgment is between the individual and Heavenly Father, and as members we need to be patient with the learning curve that comes with testimony bearing.

  14. Yes you are going to always have the same kids go up every testimony meeting and share what they think is their testimony. So why do the same kids go up every time? Do they enjoy hearing their voices on the mic? Do they really have a burning testimony and know that the only way to strengthen it is to share it? Or do they simply go up because dad told them he wouldn’t let them play angry birds on his ipad if they didn’t? (While kid goes up dad plays on ipad, which is a whole other topic of discussion). I have heard testimonies from both kids who are sincere and actually share a powerful testimony (rare) and I have heard the canned testimony that we are too familiar with. So is this is an issue of concern one that has become the norm for our church, or is this something we should accept and just realize we are always going to have to deal with? I think both…what a person gains from a testimony meeting is not really what is said but what is felt. We have to remember that before the bearing of testimonies we engage in the one of the most sacred ordinances of the church…the sacrament. The sacrament when taken worthily and humbly can be a perfect prelude to the testimony meeting where the spirit is in abundance and in that spirit regardless of who is up there, we can take something of value from each and every testimony and use it to better ourselves at becoming more like Christ.

  15. Every once in awhile, a GA gives a talk about what constitutes worship, whether it’s sacrament observance, music, or testimony bearing. I appreciate it. It does foment a whole revolution from the knee-jerk obedience police (LOVED the image of the scorecards/penalty box), but after awhile that dies down and people are left with the good guidelines the way they were offered. I had a SPres once who stood and corrected a young woman who bore her testimony after he did, saying that when the presiding priesthood leader speaks, the meeting is over. It was good correction, and we all need to have a bit of correction, know what the boundaries are. I think a well-placed talk about testimonies is a good tool from a bishop, helping put us back on course whichever way we’ve drifted. Personally, I figure the meeting is my problem when I’m in the seats. If I can’t hear, I move so I can. If I can’t feel the spirit, I figure out what’s wrong with me. We have a gentleman in our ward whose second language is English and who bears testimony occasionally. He is very difficult to understand and he tends to speak at length, and once I found myself reading the hymns instead of paying attention. I was sorry, and prayed to be able to understand him. I listened hard, very hard, for about 15 minutes, and it was one of the most profound spiritual experiences I’ve ever had in a testimony meeting (and that includes the time the Godmakers folks infiltrated our meeting and stood and created a riot and the congregation ran them out with their powerful witness.) I had the same experience Ray did as I looked around at others in the ward: many of them also had tears running down their cheeks. I’m glad nobody corrected him. I wish sometimes someone corrected the repeat preachers. Whatreyagonnado.

  16. Since we’re airing testimony pet peeves, what I dislike are the last-minute mad dashers who sense the person conducting the meeting is ready to get out of his seat to close the service and they rush up there to get their words in. Honestly, there will be another meeting next month. It can wait and we can all go home on time.

  17. I used to live in a ward where the same 3 children from one family would get up month after month to bear the same rote testimony. It finally made sense when i learned that their father would give them each a king sized candy bar if they bore their testimony. No wonder I didn’t feel the spirit.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    I would definitely bear my testimony for a king-sized candy bar…

  19. I don’t like it, because most of the testimonies I see are rote recitals, and the most common phrase is “I know this Church is true”. I could stomach it more if it was about the reality of God or Christ, which are more important, and more likely to be the spiritual witnesses children get, in my view. I think kid after kid saying the same ‘IKTCIT’ is a bad look for visiting non-members – I couldn’t blame them if they thought we’re inclined to brainwashing the young……

  20. Joshua A. says:

    Well…I must confess, I’ve never been in a ward with 250 kids (talk about being fruitful and multiplying!). Sounds insane! Even so, I don’t think that there’s much to see here on the *policy* side of things…After all, you don’t know what the kid is going to say until after he/she says it, and if you consider yourself in a position to judge their sincerity (king-size candy bars notwithstanding), well, you’re a more self-confident person than I. Even if they are the exact same words the kid before them said. Even if the words are being whispered in their ear by a parent or older sibling…

    2 quick (and possibly irrelevant) stories about testimony–

    In my mission, at some point (about 3 months before I left) we started using testifying as one of our weekly metrics (along with # of discussions taught, # of investigators, etc). The point was to make people think about “bearing testimony” and, therefore, to do it more often. The result was a bunch of young missionaries running around jabbering the same three or four sentences at anyone they could get to listen to them. Or needing prompting/reminding of the correct words to say. One day while out knocking doors with one of these young whippersnappers (I, of course, being an old salt by then), a dude answered and just started laughing at us. I was ready to jet, but said young whippersnapper hit him with his 4-sentence, rote-memorized, primary-basic testimony and something in that 1960’s-era communist apartment building foyer CHANGED. Dude suddenly got very respectful–didn’t want to hear a discussion, as it turned out, but solemnly wished us well and sent us on our way. Moral of the story: originality is not a criterion by which to measure truth.

    On the flip side, the worst I’ve ever felt about testimony came when I made one of the most foolish mistakes of my life: I applied to teach at the MTC. I don’t remember everything about the process, but at one point you role-play teaching a discussion to an evaluator. I said the same things I’d said a thousand times before and capped it off with an empty testimony–empty because it’s a role-play and I only said it because I knew that that was what’s supposed to come next. When the role-play was over, the evaluator said something like, “I really liked that little testimony that you threw in at the end.” Not sure why, but at that moment I decided that I would have nothing to do with a place where you “threw in little testimonies.” Moral of the story: In the very fabric of our church is the idea of a testimony as a dutiful recitation rather than a spontaneous outpouring of the spirit. Can be distasteful at times.

    Back to the relevant: Testimony meeting management is the bane of branch/ward leadership. I’d rather have to deal with lots of kids than the mentally instable, the apostates, and the self-appointed branch historians who were my 1st-Sunday challenges. But it’s solved by leadership–kind and loving guidance–and a strong sense of priority.

  21. Joshua A. says:

    Hah, just say post #19. A good rule of thumb is to NOT bring non-member visitors on a 1st Sunday…:)

  22. Be honest, I have been more annoyed with the same serial testimonies coming from the same adults every month than by the kids. But even in our large ward the only time we get a large proportion of kids up at the mic is when a teacher suggested it to her older primary kids.

    We had one woman in my student ward who sung for her testimony every time. And she was there every month. I have found the most interesting and fulfilling testimonies have come from people who are not normally going up to say their own version of a wrote testimony.

  23. I confess, I’m kind of horrified at the story of the SP who publicly corrected the young woman who bore testimony after him, saying that when the presiding authority speaks, the meeting is over. Sounds like Procedure (or ego) getting in the way of, I don’t know, Charity.

    On the other hand, there is NOTHING you can say that is more important than getting out on time. As the parent of 2 and 3/4 young children, I know this is true. Amen.

  24. Left Field says:

    Some years ago, I remember a young girl who got up to bear her testimony. I don’t recall exactly how old she was, but she couldn’t have been more than about 7. She went up by herself and bore an articulate heartfelt testimony. She told us how she felt about the gospel and what it meant in her life. Every word was straight from the heart, carried by the Holy Spirit. After testifying for several minutes, she paused for barely five seconds, perhaps reflecting on what she would say next, perhaps receiving promptings from the Spirit, perhaps pausing to draw the audience in for her final thoughts. Maybe she was just drawing breath.

    The bishopric counselor, uncomfortable with more than five seconds silence, jumped to her rescue and helpfully whispered in her ear, “I love my mother and father…”

  25. Better a dozen cute but empty kid testimonies than the lady on my mission who always bore testimony of whatever history lesson she’d must recently home-schooled her children about. Or maybe I’m just a cynic about the divine role in the War of 1812.

  26. We have a 16 year old YW who has borne her testimony pretty much every F&T Sunday since she moved in to our branch about 10 years ago. In the beginning we got a lot of “I know the church is true and I love my family” type stuff. We have been privileged over the years to see that testimony grow in to a deeply reverent personal knowledge of the truth of the gospel and the love of Christ. We are told that sharing our testimony makes it stronger and I would hate to deny anyone, adult or child, that opportunity.

  27. Meldrum the Less says:

    I agree, it is bad enough when the children get up and do it. But what really gets me is when the adults do the same d@mn thing as the kids. Or worse.

    Is there any support out there for the idea of retiring testimony meeting to maybe once a quarter? Or less? Historically when the LDS faith was much more what the Protestants call “charismatic,” this now all-to-frequent farce might have had its place in the community. But today, if it isn’t even investigator safe (#21) perhaps the damage and boredom of testimony bearing might out weigh any good?

  28. yabasutex says:

    It sounds contrived when a child gets up and repeats what sounds like a litany. Afterwards, there is usually overt praise from parents and primary teachers. I find this troubling. We want our children to learn the importance of sharing our faith in a public setting, but praise tends to muddle the why of testimony sharing.

    Mormons are often criticized for being cheerful robots in my neck of the woods. Maybe we need to rethink how we “prepare children to share their testimonies in Fast and Testimony meeting” and focus on keepin’ it real…

  29. Sharee Hughes says:

    We have a little girl in my ward, probably about 6 or 7, who bears her testimony every month. She does not use the stock phrases many children use. Like the child LeftField describes in #24, she bears an articulate, heartfelt testimony. And,actually, who are we to say that the usual stock phrases are NOT heartfelt?
    We also have a mentally disbled man in our ward, who I guess is about to turn 65, as he said he is retiring this month. He is usually the first to bear his testimony each month and though he uses the same words each time, I am sure he means them.

  30. A rote scripted testimony from a child, is that any worse then a rehearsal of the set five things we are told to bear testimony of by an adult? They seem to be on par in my eyes, and sadly I hear just as many empty devoid testimonies from adults as children. At least with a child they have an excuse of not knowing any better.

    All the talk of how a testimony should or shouldn’t be has killed testimony meeting. People either throw conventions out and use it as a soap box, which is tedious or they follow the rule book to the letter which is just as tedious.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    Some of my favorite testimonies are by recent converts, because they’re too new to have assimilated all the usual formulae. To hear someone express their faith completely in their own way and their own words can be just stunning.

  32. My understanding is that the children are to be encouraged, and given opportunities to bear their testimonies in the home, and Primary. I don’t mind children bearing their testimonies if they do it on their own without help. I don’t approve of children just repeating what a parent whispers to them. If they don’t know how to express their beliefs by themselves, I don’t think they should be doing it. We have children who are very thoughtful about their testimonies, and have expressed some deep feelings. But I do think that on the whole, if they aren’t expressing their own ideas, they should be encouraged to bear their testimonies at home and in Primary instead of sacrament meeting.

  33. Scared 4 yr old walked up to the pulpit and on her own said: Jesus was a little baby (long pause) but now he’s all growed up. Then she turned and walked away. I remember thinking that it was the most profound testimony uttered that day and probably in my lifetime.

    Lady afterwards gave a 20 min travelogue afterwards. And a little child shall lead them…

  34. Recent converts rock! I’ve heard songs, even seen a little dancing. It wakes up my kids.

  35. A year or two ago my 6 year old daughter gave a wonderful, beautiful testimony all by herself. In it just said “I’m trying to read the Book of Mormon even though I can’t read all the words.” So awesome.
    Six months later she tried it again, only this time Daddy was on the stand so he popped up to “help.” I guess I shouldn’t say anymore, because anything more I say is all about what an awesome parent I am and how my husband does not do everything I would wish because, gosh darnit, he has his own free will. Luckily he is a good parent in his own unique, non-me way.

  36. StillConfused says:

    My personal favorite is when they “bury” their testimony.

    It seems like their aren’t as many crazies in F&T meeting anymore. I miss that.

  37. John W. Redelfs says:

    A number of years ago I heard a letter read from the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting. It was either the First Presidency or the Twelve saying that it is inappropriate for children to bear their testimonies in Fast Meeting. Rather they should bear their testimonies in Primary and Family Home Evening. I was encouraged in a small way because I had never liked it. In a small way the change actually strengthened my testimony. I had never thought that it was appropriate. I always suspected that some of it was coerced.

    But I was not deeply bothered by the practice. What did bother me quite a lot, however, was that I never saw even the slightest compliance. That indicated to me that my stake president and Bishop were in violation of our prophet-leaders wishes. I saw a similar phenomenon when a letter read from the pulpit asked all local leaders to stop scheduling other activities and meetings on Sunday after the block. That should be family time at home, the letter explained. I saw absolutely no change after that letter was read either.

    Now, a rank and file member might miss such a letter read from the pulpit, but it is hard for me to believe that many Bishops and the stake president would be unaware of the request that was made. Sometimes I wonder what other counsel from the Brethren is ignored. I think of my local leaders as prophets of God within their stewardships. They are just as entitled to receive revelation as our General Authorities are. But every mortal makes mistakes and commits sins. Somehow I doubt that the Holy Ghost would approve a local leader ignoring a letter from our general authorities read from the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting.

  38. John W. Redelfs- My ward recently told us the stake presidency wanted us to follow the policy and basically quoted the letter. Of course we have only had two offenders in the past couple years (besides my husband, lol) and they were probably not there that week, I know at least one of them is always late so she wouldn’t ever hear an announcement at the beginning of the meeting anyway.

  39. John W. Redelfs says:

    Quite often I attend a Sacrament Meeting in which the adults including the Melchizedek priesthood holders give a talk that has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel, not one scriptural passage, not one mention of Jesus Christ, not even a testimony at the end. It might as well be a speech given at the local Toastmaster’s Club. That bothers me far more than children taking up much of the Fast Meeting sounding like testimony robots. I don’t know about others, but I go to Church for religion, to hear the gospel preached, and to be spiritually fed. We are commanded to teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom.

  40. I’m all for children bearing their testimonies, when they’re ready to do it on their own. I also feel that I’m responsible for what I get out of testimony meeting, so I try to focus on the testimonies and the spirit, and not the things that annoy me.

    This comment disturbed me: “I had a SPres once who stood and corrected a young woman who bore her testimony after he did, saying that when the presiding priesthood leader speaks, the meeting is over. It was good correction, and we all need to have a bit of correction, know what the boundaries are.”

    In the first place, I don’t believe it’s correct. If the presiding priesthood leader is conducting, and if what he says sounds like he is closing the meeting, maybe. A member of our ward is also a counselor in the Stake Presidency, so if he happens to attend our meeting, he is presiding. He occasionally shares his testimony, and it by no means ends the meeting.

    Maybe I misunderstood the circumstance, and he was correct. Fine. He can speak to the young woman in private, or ask her bishop to address it later. There is no need to call her out on it publicly. I’m afraid if I’d been in that meeting, I’d have lost the spirit at that moment. And I bet that young woman did as well.

    We need to be kind to each other. Public correction needs to be handled very very carefully. I remember a meeting where the high council representative spoke about angels, and there was not much doctrine in his message (it was pretty wild, really). As the bishopric member closed the meeting, he said “the bishop asked me to point out that there is also information about angels in the Bible dictionary, that you can read later.” Much kinder, don’t you think?

  41. Anyone should fee free to bear testimony when moved by the spirit, not by their parents. Dragging kids up to the pulpit is sinful. Also, testimony on demand is simply not right. How can a testimony be spontaneous if one is called on to bear it?

  42. If the presiding authority speaks it ends the meeting? What? I guess that means that if the Bishop happens to conduct we can leave in the first couple of minutes because the meeting has to end as soon as he leaves the pulpit–no other speakers. Not sure what the real story is about that crazy story.

  43. I’ve been wondering where the little tots learn how to bear such close approximations to testimonies at all when they have so few examples from adults. It must be a schoolyard folklore transmission sort of thing. Testimony meetings seem to me to be the best demonstration of how little most members understand the spirit. The potentially most rewarding meeting in the church is usually a complete and utter waste spent stroking egos, settling scores, and indulging senility.

  44. #43 – Maybe where you live, but not where I live.

  45. I lived in a ward where that letter was read at the beginning of every single testimony meeting for two or three years. It seemed that when the children were banished from the pulpit, the teenagers felt like they didn’t belong there either, and their participation dropped a lot.

  46. TStevens says:

    I do live in a very small ward (are primary only numbers a dozen) so we need kids to share their testimonies to help fill the hour.
    That said, we have a kid in my ward that rushes to the stand every month to be first, and then says the same rote testimony every time. His parents beam with overt self congratulatory pride about how righteous their child is. Basically it is spiritual masturbation and for the most part should be avoided, at least not rewarded with a further metaphorical reach around. To be fair, we do have adults that do the same thing.

  47. I think it’s up to parents, the bishop, and other ward leaders (including the Primary presidency) to help children learn to bear their testimonies. In my opinion, if proper instruction is given, there is no reason that children cannot bear heartfelt testimony of what they believe. When they do so, I find it at _least_ as spiritually nourishing as the average adult testimony.

    That said, when large groups of children get up and repeat the exact same testimony, it is bad news. On my mission, we were teaching a wonderful family of four. On our first visit, the father said, “I’ve always believed that Jesus must have visited the Americas. I only wish I knew of any religion that also believed that.” They took to the Book of Mormon eagerly and were excited to come to church with us.

    As you have guessed, it was a first Sunday of the month. Two-thirds of the meeting was taken up by children going up and repeating the exact same testimony, word for word without any deviation from the script at all. It was a train wreck. I cannot imagine that anyone there felt the Spirit. In that area, we had several people accuse us of brainwashing people–here was the evidence. The investigating family practically ran out of the chapel after the meeting and never met with us again.

  48. Meldrum the Less says:

    Testimony meeting is when the believers tell the nonbelievers why they believe, right? Maybe why they should consider believing? This is because nothing builds religious conviction like hearing the genuine Word of God, even better than the sword.

    When sincere investigators (those considering becoming believers) run for the door, just what the heck is going on?When the newest among us give the best testimony, something highly undesirable is happeings to us as we assimilate into church. This is not some side issue like Book of Mormon geography or swigging Coca Cola. This is a central core issue and subtle evidence of widespread significant spiritual rottenness.

    If I mount the pulpit next month and say something like this:
    Josey Smith might have been a prophet to some people, but he was definitely a SCOUNDREL to all who really knew him! (Blather on about magic tricks in the woods for 10 minutes/blather on about polygamy for 5 minutes/blather on about money swindling for 3 minutes/blather on about danites for 2 minutes/blather on about mountains meadows as if he personally led the charge for 7 minutes….) Keep it up until the two young Ga Tech dudes sitting on the stand beside the Bishop finally bull dog me physically out the door.

    Have I done any more damage than 50% of the testimonies described above? What if said heretic sincerely believed what he was saying? It would probably be a lot LESS damaging and definitely more amusing. We avoid heretics like the plague and treat them like skunks; while ignoring worse among our children, friends and leaders.

    “By your fruits ye shall l know them.” I don’t think that means the fruits and nuts in the congregation or leadership. The spiritual fruits of too many LDS testimony meetings are spiritual damnation. It is past time that it stops.One way or another.

  49. Hyperbole is addictive, especially when it contains a kernal of truth.

  50. John W. Redelfs says:

    The primary point of bearing your testimony is to make it stronger. The scriptures teach that if you don’t use it, you lose it.

  51. Meldrum the Less says:

    Reply #50

    I don’t know if I agree with you. Perhaps I am naive enough to actually believe the basic direct premise of a testimony meeting; those who know telling those who don’t. Even if I don’t see it actually achieved very often. What you say might be true for some people. If it is true for most people then this process of testimony bearing is a gross distortion of the allegory of testifying before a jury. It would be like the witness testifying to convince himself of something he did not previously know or believe. Such a witness has no place in a court. Our testimony meetings become a process of self-delusion.

    Can you imagine being coinvicted by the following testimony?

    Attorney: Did you see the accused shoot the defendent in the back?
    Witness: Well, I don’t really know..
    Attorney: Did you see the accused shoot the defendent in the back?
    Witness: Well, maybe, it was dark and I did hear a loud noise.
    Attorney: Did you see the accused shoot the defendent in the back?
    Witness: Yes, I think so. He must have shot him in the back.
    Attorney: Did you see the accused shoot the defendent in the back?
    Witness: Yes, I saw it and I know he did shoot him in the back, with every fiber of my being.

    If what you say in #50 is true, and if the strength of this church is the testimoniies of its members then this church is morally backrupt and filled with deceitfulness.

    I am tempted to call for a reference to the scripture. But I am certain you will provide me with one and then I wil be faced with dealing with the underlying principle. If you say you know something when you don’t, that is called lying or self delusion and I find it hard to accept that it is the path to religious conviction and good works. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God and doing His will. It does not come by telling deceptive but hoped for half truths.

  52. John W. Redelfs says:

    Here is the scripture, a point made for a specific situation that illustrates a true principle:

    2 But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine danger is kindled against them.

    3 And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have. (D&C 60:2-3)

    I did not say that the only purpose of bearing testimony is to strengthen your own. I said the primary purpose. Actually both purposes are served when we bear our testimonies. Bearing testimony is what the missionaries do when they serve a mission. But does not serving a mission build the testimony of the missionary as well? We are all commanded to do missionary work. President McKay said, “Every member is a missionary.” When we strengthen each other using testimony, we are also strengthening ourselves.

    Yes, a person who bears a testimony falsely by claiming to believe things he does not is a liar. He ought to keep his mouth shut. But he ought to believe those things and bear that testimony honestly.

  53. “The primary point of bearing your testimony is to make it stronger.”

    This is one of the reasons I don’t like the focus on “bearing” testimony as much as a focus on “sharing” testimony.

    Yes, the spirit can confirm our own faithfully expressed testimony to us, but the primary focus of sharing a testimony is to ignite a spark of some kind in those who hear or see it – and a testimony can be seen and heard. Jesus didn’t send the disciples forth to teach and preach and share their testimonies of the Gospel primarily to strengthen their own witness; he sent them out to convert others.

    I’m going to say this carefully but directly: Focusing primarily on one’s own self with regard to testimony bearing / sharing is, but definition, selfish. Focusing primarily on others with regard to testimony bearing/sharing is not selfish. I’d much prefer to help others in some way, even if my own testimony is not strengthened in any way as a result.

  54. I know I am late to the party, but from comment #20 this “I’d rather have to deal with lots of kids than the mentally instable, the apostates, and the self-appointed branch historians who were my 1st-Sunday challenges.” disturbed me greatly.

    You essentially make a post about how it is not anyone’s place to judge the testimonies, even the ones who are clearly whispered at he pulpit from misguided parents yet you see fit to classify people as apostates or mentally unstable? I joined the Church almost 17 years ago, and I struggle with everything I have to reconcile organized religion and my loyalty to God. I have been called an apostate before by a person who was so quick to pass this judgment on anyone who does not follow the same rank and file beat as they do. Apostasy is not something that is written in a person’s words or even their actions, it is in their hearts. Unless someone has magically developed x-ray vision and can see into another person’s heart I would appreciate it a lot more if people were not so quick to judge others of being guilty of apostasy…especially in the same breath as advocating not judging other people.

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