The word "testimony" comes from the Latin word testimonium which means "proof," "witness," or "evidence." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Guide to the Scriptures defines a testimony as:
- knowledge and a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. A testimony can also be an official or legal declaration of what a person perceives as truth.
Elder Robert D. Hales further helped explain what a testimony is:
- It is personal revelation from God, revealing the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A testimony comes through the Holy Ghost; it makes a deep and lasting impression on the soul. Individual testimonies are the foundation and strength of the Church. Our testimony provides a guiding light that leads to a commitment which directs our conduct and our way of life. Our testimony is true north on a spiritual compass. It is a moving force that cannot be seen but can truly be felt. It is a burning within that tells us what is right. It is when "your heart tells you things your mind doesn’t know" (Robert D. Hales, “The Importance of Receiving a Personal Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 20).
To gain a testimony of the truth of the gospel members are asked to study the scriptures and learn gospel principles, then pray in faith for the knowledge that it is true. To gain and forever hold on to a testimony of gospel truths is worth whatever price in spiritual preparation we may be required to pay. Elder M. Russell Ballard explained how you know if you have a testimony,
- Simply stated, testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives. It changes how you think and what you do. It changes what you say. It affects every priority you set and every choice you make. To have a real and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be "spiritually ... born of God," to "[receive] his image in your countenances," and to experience a "mighty change in your hearts" (Alma 5:14) (M. Russell Ballard, “Pure Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 40).
A testimony is not gained all at once and often comes slowly through various life experiences and as a person grows in the knowledge of the gospel. Elder M. Russell Ballard further explains that a basic testimony should contain at least these elements, “God is our Father and Jesus is the Christ. The plan of salvation is centered on the Savior’s Atonement. Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormonis evidence that our testimony is true” (Ibid.).
A testimony should not stop growing once a basic testimony is gained it is important to continue enlarging it through “sincere and dedicated effort, including teaching in the home, prayer, scripture study, service to others, and diligent obedience to Heavenly Father’s commandments” (Ibid.).
In 2000, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published their testimony of the divinity of the Savior Jesus Christ in a document called The Living Christ. It has since been published in dozens of languages.
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