In our Latter-day Saint context, we refer to our testimonies as our sure witness of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is obtained by revelation through the Holy Ghost.
While a testimony is simple and clear in this defining declaration, arising from this declaration are several potential questions, such as: Who is entitled to have a testimony? How does one obtain the necessary revelation? What are the steps in obtaining a testimony? Is gaining a testimony an event or an ongoing process? Each of these queries and others have their own subsets, but the fundamentals of gaining and retaining a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ are straightforward, clear, and within the capacity of every person.
Let me briefly respond to these possible uncertainties and then refer to some insights that have been shared recently by trusted young adult friends who have had personal experience in gaining their testimonies. They have also had opportunities to minister to others having challenges or difficulties with some aspects of their faith and beliefs.
First, who is entitled to have a testimony? Everyone who is willing to pay the price—meaning keeping the commandments—may have a testimony. “Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear” (D&C 1:11). A fundamental reason for the Restoration of the gospel is so “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith also might increase in the earth” (D&C 1:20–21).
Second, how does one obtain the necessary revelation, and what are the fundamental steps to achieve it? The pattern has been clear and consistent throughout the ages. The promise given for obtaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon also applies generally:
“And when ye shall receive these things”—meaning you have listened, read, studied, and pondered on the question at hand—“ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true”—meaning you will pray thoughtfully, specifically, and reverently with a firm commitment to follow the answer to your prayer—“and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4–5).
Third, is gaining a testimony an isolated event or an ongoing process? A testimony is similar to a living organism that grows and develops when treated properly. It needs constant nourishment, care, and protection to thrive and prosper. Likewise, neglect or deviance from the pattern of living that a testimony clarifies can lead to its loss or diminishment. The scriptures warn that transgressing or breaking the commandments of God can result in the loss of the Spirit and even to one denying the testimony he or she once possessed (see D&C 42:23).
Excerpt from Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. April 2011 General Conference Address, Testimony. Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. is a member of the Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read, listen to, or watch Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. Full address here.