My definition is that it is a true belief in an idea that should be shared to strengthen it. You can have a Testimony in anything and anyone.
But the one focus that all are concerned with is this:
Who is Heavenly Father?
Who is Jesus Christ?
Who is Joseph Smith?
Do I believe in these people and what they have done for me?
What is the Gospel?
If questioned, can I stand up for these beliefs?
Do I have experiences that will enhance these beliefs and do I have the ability to share these experiences?
When you have the ability to answer these questions to the deepest part of your soul, you have developed a Testimony. If you only have a little bit of a belief, it is still a Testimony. This is when you are to share it with others. Listen to others share their beliefs. Each person has the ability to help strengthen each other and support each other in the time that is used to grow. If you have a testimony and do nothing with it, it will shrink and die. Treat it like a living object, for that is what a testimony is. If you share it and do everything that you can to help it grow by praying, reading scriptures, and all other experiences that you encourage to come into your life, it will grow.
It is good for a child to listen to their parent’s testimonies. It helps them to know what one is and how to nurture it.
I do remember a time when I was in Alaska and my family was the only ones in our branch. We would have a testimony meeting each first Sunday of the month and we were to share our beliefs. Because there were normally only 4 or 5 of us, we would each have the opportunity to share each time. As a teenager, there were times that I did not want to share. But the hard part was; if I was the last one to speak, all of the others would sit there and stare at me until I said something.
Now, speaking is not the only way to share your testimony. Living it is also a really good way to help it grow. During the same time that I was there in Alaska and this was my experience, I found that I had many opportunities to stray away from the church. I had the opportunities to smoke, drink, have sex, and all other temptations that were available to me at the time. Instead, with the strength of my parent’s testimonies, I found that I was happier if I stood my ground. I found that it was easier to stick to what I believed. I learned that I valued myself too high to give in to these temptations, though some of them were hard to resist because then I would fit in instead of being alone. Throughout the years afterwards, I found that the experiences that I had up there, I carried with me through the hard-times and the better times. They taught me what I really believed.
Now, I find that many of the youth have been experiencing a small part of what I experienced at their age. This is through an experience called the “Trek”. I have sent 2 of my 3 children through this experience and have found that they found out a lot about themselves through this. For those of my readers who do not know what the “Trek” is, it is an experience that is created for a group of teenagers and leaders. They are to dress up in the pioneer clothing and push a handcart for a number of days. They are split up in families and they are given food to eat. They are not allowed anything that is more than 13 pounds each and they have a strict list of items that they are allowed to carry with them. This means no electronics! At the beginning of the experience, they have adults go through all of their items. If there are any items that are not to be taken with them for the next few days, the items are taken away. I found that there is quite a large pile of items that is left behind with each Trek. After all of the walking and the time spent together, these children have the opportunity to reflect on their lives and what they do have.
When I moved to Alaska, I was the last one packed, so I left quite a lot of my things behind and took very little with me-mostly clothing. All of my other things-things that would have been perfect for a girl, were left behind. When all possessions are left behind, what do you have left? Your scriptures, your journal, and some clothes to keep you warm.
With this type of experience, you can either turn against the church, or support it. There is no fence-sitting. There is no complacency. You have to choose.
I am truly grateful for these experiences because I know who I am. I know what I believe and I do not waste my years trying to decide what I want to do. I love the church. I love the gospel and what it means to me. I love Heavenly Father. I love our Savior. I am truly grateful for Joseph Smith and what he had to do to bring the gospel back for each of us.