(Find below a handful of loose notes from a friend of mine, David Gore, on testimony. Put them to work as you’re interested and able.)
It makes more sense to me to think about a testimony as an open-ended set of possibilities and relationships rather than a closed system of agreed-to propositions.
Another thing we need to emphasize in testimony discourse is the way it can be alive to different degrees at different stages of our life, the fact that a testimony is more a project of development over the human lifespan than a single event or experience at any given moment. Sometimes we are bereft of God, other times things move along smoothly and we’re lighthearted and grateful for the ride.
No one of us is more than a couple of decisions here or there from losing our faith and falling away. The opposite seems to have proven to be the case in my life, too. A small decision here or there, to take up and read or to kneel down and pray, yields dividends which I never anticipate and which I don’t always have the good sense to appreciate.
It is, as always, the little things coupled with wrestling with the strange reality and circumstances of mortality that join to build understanding. When we turn to Him, we will find Him, but we may not find Him where or how we think He should be found.
Also, it’s important to remember that historical knowledge is similar, I think, to faith-knowledge with respect to the fact that it is rooted in what we desire as much as what we can accept and what we find plausible and what we experience and how we explain it.
What we need is not necessarily more knowledge or more faith, but sometimes just a new take on what it is we know or what it is we think we can explain with respect to what happened in the past and what it means for us in the present that we are making for ourselves with those around us.
A new take is not necessarily easier to invent than more knowledge or more faith, but I think it might take some of the pressure and anxiety away that many feel when confronted with the stark choice of: should I leave the church because I no longer believe there were Nephites? or because Joseph Smith had more wives than I thought he did?
I get it, I really do, that a cold shiver of metaphysical dread can fill us with despair and anxiety, but what I don’t get is why it means we should unravel all the stories we have a part in and that have a part in us.
That seems, at once, both the easier and more difficult way to go. Easier because it means we’re free of allegiance to the stories and the very high costs of that allegiance, but more difficult because it means we’re now without all the stories do for us and can mean to us.