Often I am asked how I gained my unfailing testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I always give credit to my parents who from my earliest recollections would get me to say things such as "I know Joseph Smith was a prophet" and "I know the gospel is true" even though I was too young to really know these things.
They would even have me do this in sacrament meetings in front of large congregations. I remember clearly thinking one day when I was 7 years old that I hadn’t even read The Book of Mormon. It felt a little odd to be repeating the words my father dictated in my ear to the congregation, but as I ate my ice cream later that day I knew I had done the right thing. As I grew up into manhood it became second nature to me to declare that I knew things that I did not yet know in order that I might know them in due time of the Lord.
I even used this method in secondary school one time when the teacher had us research whether the earth was round or flat. My Dad said the earth was round so when the time came for my presentation in class I declared with certainty that I knew without a shadow of doubt that the world was round. My Dad said that while the other kids provided arguments and evidence they lacked the conviction that accompanied my presentation.
This principle of saying you know something when you don't or "Bearing False Testimony of the Truth" as I like to call it, is generally discouraged in the world but when done in the right context and under the right circumstances it is not only appropriate but acts as an essential element in gaining a solid testimony of the gospel. Allow me to illustrate with a recent example:
A few weeks ago at a Stake meeting I met with the 16-17 year old priests and challenged each of them to bear their testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel at the next Fast and Testimony meeting. Each young man raised his hand to indicate that he would fulfill this challenge. All names were taken and I told them that I would receive an update directly from their Quorum President (the Bishop) to ensure this was done.
16 year old Johnny Smith did not fulfill the challenge as per his commitment. In fact it came to my attention that he had confided in a friend that he thought the gospel was probably just made up.
When I visited his ward last Sunday I made a point of meeting with Johnny before sacrament meeting. He seemed nervous and admitted that he was struggling with his testimony and had not completed the challenge. He said he felt that his integrity would be compromised if he were to bear testimony of something that he was unsure of or didn't believe. This is a common misconception and one that as a Stake President I work hard to overcome.
I asked him if he would like to know without any doubt that the gospel was true. He looked at me in surprise and asked, “Is there a way?” “Of course”, I replied, and we turned to this month’s *New Era magazine to the section entitled “If I’m not sure I have a testimony, do I still try to share it?” in the article named "What Is Pure Testimony".
In it we read a wonderful quote given a long time ago but still applicable today from President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and next in line to become the prophet upon the earth. Packer declared the following:
“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 that not be dishonest?’
Johnny's attention was riveted on me as he listened to Boyd K. Packer addressing the very question of integrity and honesty that was on his mind. I continued with the quote:
“Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!"
As Johnny bore his testimony in sacrament meeting that day the congregation was astonished at the conviction in his voice and no one doubted that Johnny knew that The Book of Mormon was a true historical account of the people of America, that Joseph Smith had done more for mankind than all others save Jesus only, and that President Paternoster is the anointed mouthpiece of the Lord in this area of Zion in these the latter-days.
It is my prayer that all of our youth will learn of the miraculous spiritual effect that can be theirs as they maintain their integrity by following Johnny’s example in stating that they know gospel principles to be true even when they don’t. These thoughts I leave with you in the sacred and holy name of our Lord and savior, even Jesus the Christ, amen.