Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Did Elder Boyd K. Packer Really Mean When He Said "A Testimony Is To Be Found In The Bearing Of It"?

The idea for this post comes from "Things Of My Soul". On February 18th, 2011, Papa D discussed the issue of bearing one's testimony at an LDS service. The question he addressed was "how can one KNOW that there is a God, the Church is true", etc. He referred to a previous essay by Elder Boyd K. Packer in which Elder Packer spoke of testimonies being strengthened by the sharing of them, and criticized those who misrepresented that counsel to mean "Fake it until you make it".

One of the people who derided Elder Packer's counsel, and the original author of the "Fake it until you make it" canard, is Infymus, who runs the anti-Mormon Mormon Curtain website. In this March 6th, 2005 post entitled "Boyd K. Packer Advocates Bearing False Witness", Infymus cherry-picks Elder Packer's phrase "A testimony is found in the bearing of it", removes it from context, and tries to use it to claim the Elder Packer is telling people that they can gain a true testimony by bearing fake testimonies.

An examination of Elder Packer's original article entitled "The Candle of the Lord", published in the December 1988 Liahona, shows that Infymus' interpretation is distorted. Since Infymus is anti-Mormon, he has no incentive to provide a true perspective. Here's Elder Packer's statement, provided within context to promote genuine understanding:

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would it not be dishonest?”

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man” as the scriptures says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord.” (Prov. 20:27.)

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

Absolutely no hint of dishonesty or disingenuity. Elder Packer is not advising anyone to fake it. The presumption is that one already has received a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel. Here are the three steps:

(1). Receive a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel.

(2). Publicly bear testimony of that witness. This is the "leap of faith" to which Elder Packer attests.

(3). Receive a second witness from the Holy Spirit confirming that the testimony given is true.

That's how a testimony is built and strengthened. Perhaps Elder Packer could have more precisely clarified it by saying "A testimony is magnified in the bearing of it", rather than "found", but that's a mere technicality. What Elder Packer is really saying is that a testimony always comes AFTER one receives a personal witness AND publicly testifies to that witness. Read my previous post on testimony from November 1st, 2009 which goes into more details about "dos and don'ts".

The LDS Church provides this definition of "testimony"

A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.

Additional information and scriptural references are contained in the LDS Gospel Library.

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