What I Know

Natalie Brown is a former BCC permablogger and friend of the blog. She is returning to graduate school this fall to write a dissertation on nineteenth-century writers’ experiences with home loss and displacement. 

What I Know: The Power of Narrower Testimonies

As I sat down to pen my father’s eulogy, I drew a blank. How could I say anything that could adequately capture him, bring me solace and serve the needs of a community that was mourning? Words didn’t come, and so I prayed that the Spirit would tell me what to say. My answer came later that night as I listened to family tell stories of my father. Each of us saw a part of him: the spouse, the parent, the colleague, the friend. No single person saw the whole. This is what I realized: No one can tell the story of someone else’s life. It’s an impossible task, because we carry only our own sets of experiences. Each of our stories together, however, add up to something more. If there is a silver lining to a funeral, it’s the opportunity to see those stories come together to reveal a person even larger than we know.

I’ve returned to this moment repeatedly as I’ve pondered what it means to have a testimony of the gospel. Like many here, I struggle to say, “I know the Church is true.” Church is an organization and abstraction larger than my experience. It’s composed of buildings, programs, people and policies as well as saving ordinances. I cannot say that I have a testimony of an abstraction or of each component part of the Church. That’s a burden and ask beyond most of our capabilities. But—and this is what matters—I don’t think that kind of testimony is required to live with integrity as a practicing member of this Church. Instead, what I can say is this: I have come to know God and the power of priesthood blessings through experiences Church has provided me. 

I want to suggest that there is power to be found in allowing ourselves to have narrower, more specific testimonies. Just as no person can tell the full story of someone else’s life, we can only testify authentically of those experiences God has given us to know. It is not my role to testify of the power of programs or policies about which I have no authority, jurisdiction or experience. It is my role to share what I do know, such as the many times I have seen how God loves me, the power of the priesthood blessings in my life and what the Spirit has confirmed to me. To focus my testimony on what God has given me to know is not to limit it. Rather, like in the Parable of the Talents, it’s to insist that each of us have unique knowledge that we are asked to multiply and share. It’s to give myself permission to discover knowledge line upon line as I focus on that which I know with surety and trust that more knowledge will come. It’s the responsibility to tell my story so that it can harmonize with other voices to help us glimpse the bigger whole.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice, thanks for sharing, Natalie.

  2. Happy Hubby says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family and this post was beautiful and touching.

  3. Darla Pape says:

    Exactly! For me, the church is made of people, who are not perfect. Therefore, I can not say “I know the church is true” However, I can say “I know the gospel is the truest of any on the earth today.”

  4. Natalie this was beautiful and meaningful to me. I needed this. I’m so sorry to hear about your father.

  5. Thank you. I needed to hear this. It is too easy to remain all-or-nothing when I was raised that way. Narrow is good and powerful and legitimate.