I was able to participate in an interesting survey this past week. A law student approached me in the library and offered me two dollars in exchange for ten minutes of my time and thoughts. Although I often charge more for my opinions, I accepted his offer. The questions were thought-provoking and relevant, ranging from hot topics like traditional marriage to the roles of women within the Church.
The pattern was something like this:
What is your opinion on _________________?
Do you think the Church should allow __________________?
Would your testimony be affected if the church changed or introduced __________________?
My responses were quite typical of a female college student attending a traditional and religious university, but the last question was always difficult to answer. I wanted to say “no,” but I could not always do so. If at this General Conference, President Monson made an announcement introducing a doctrine or policy contrary to what I previously believed, my testimony would be affected. My testimony would be affected because my testimony is mine.
1. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not mean that I blindly accept the doctrines taught within scripture and by modern revelation. I have the right and ability to pray for myself to know if they are true. I am entitled to my own testimony.
Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not bask for that which you ought not.
Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you. -Doctrine and Covenants 8:10-11
2. Modern day revelation is a gift and has the potential to change everything. Things can change but that does not make the truth less true. A worldwide policy change, received through divine authority, changed my life only a few months ago. I believe in the true and divine authority of the Prophet and Apostles.
“In matters large and small, the divine guidance that comes to modern-day apostles and prophets is a magnificent blessing. Revelation moves the Church in accordance with God’s will. Moreover, each individual may enjoy the privilege of having the Holy Ghost testify that this guidance comes from heaven and not from man.” –Elder Larry W. Gibbons
3. Although the leaders of the Church have the authority to receive revelation on behalf of the Church, I have a personal authority to receive revelation for myself. This helps me to ensure that the Church is true. I trust my leaders, but I can also trust my personal feelings when guided by the Spirit. I can receive my own guidance when I ask God.
But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
A testimony is a journey. It is an eternally evolving library of truth we hold in our hearts. Praying and studying are the active and necessary steps we must take in order to gain the understanding we desire. A testimony cannot stagnate and we must be always engaged in the process of learning.
I know that God is our loving Father in Heaven. I know that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer for me. God knows me. Jesus knows me. The Church is upon the earth and the Gospel and its doctrines are perfect.
So, to the law student, I would like to add to the response I previously provided:
I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I know that the leaders of the Church make decisions independent of the current political climate. They receive revelation independent of the criticism they receive. The media and public opinion do not exist in the sacred realm of divine authority and inspiration. My testimony is always changing. It is always being affected. It is supposed to be this way. The ups and downs in the search for truth are growing pains. The faith and hope I hold protect my beliefs and strengthen my knowledge. My testimony will never be complete and it will never be finished.