Elder Rasband spoke to us in stake conference in the Browning Center at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. He mentioned that he was instructed as a youth that I talk should have three things: a scripture, a story or experience, and a testimony. He showed us how to do this. He gave a scripture and a story and a testimony and closed.
Elder M. Russell Ballard - Pure Testimony
My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members' testimonies linger on "I am thankful" and "I love," and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, "I know." As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.
"Again, please keep in mind that we are talking about sharing real testimony, not just speaking generally about the things we are thankful for. While it is always good to express love and gratitude, such expressions do not constitute the kind of testimony that will ignite a fire of belief in the lives of others."
"Using the scriptures and the words of the prophets, let us examine what a testimony is and how we should bear it."
"Generally speaking, a testimony is short, precise, and concise."
President Boyd K. Packer - Teach Ye Diligently, rev. ed. (1991), 323–24.
“We held a series of zone conferences to improve the spirituality in the mission. Rather than schedule instruction on the mechanics of missionary work, we determined to have a testimony meeting. In the last conference, in the testimony of one of the humble elders, I found the answer to the problem. There was something different about the brief testimony of this frightened new elder. He stood for less than a minute, yet I learned from his expression what it was that was missing.
“The testimonies we’d heard from all the other missionaries went something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I’ve learned a lot from it. I have a fine companion. I’ve learned a lot from him. I’m grateful for my parents. We had an interesting experience last week. We were out knocking on doors and …’ Then the missionary would relate an experience. His conclusion would be something like this: ‘I’m grateful to be in the mission field. I have a testimony of the gospel.’ And he would conclude ‘in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’
“This young elder was different somehow. Anxious not to spend an extra second on his feet, he said simply, in hurried, frightened words, ‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we have a prophet of God leading the Church. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.’
“This was a testimony. It was not just an experience nor an expression of gratitude. It was a declaration, a witness!
“Most of the elders had said ‘I have a testimony,’ but they had not declared it. This young elder had, in a very few words, delivered his testimony—direct, basic, and, as it turned out, powerful.
“I then knew what was wrong in the mission. We were telling stories, expressing gratitude, admitting that we had testimonies, but we were not bearing them.”
To illustrate what was talked about in these talks I have created a couple of bullet list inspired by the bullet list in Elder Jensen's talk, but with points gleaned from all of the talks.
What a testimony is not:
- A list of things that we are thankful for.
- A list of things that we love.
- Story, travelogue, lecture, talk, or sermon.
- A testimony can be identified by the use of powerful verbs such as know, testify, believe, certify, declare, affirm, bear witness, bear record.
- An admission ("I have a testimony").
- An exhortation.
- A public confession.
- Not a long explanation of how you know.
- A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost.
- Simply stated, testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives.
- Anchored very early to the first principles of the gospel.
- Centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures.
- A declaration ("I know").
- Brief and concise.
Elder Russel M. Nelson - Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers
"The concept of 'too much and unnecessary' could also apply to the length of our prayers. A closing prayer in a Church meeting need not include a summary of each message and should not become an unscheduled sermon. Private prayers can be as long as we want, but public prayers ought to be short supplications for the Spirit of the Lord to be with us or brief declarations of gratitude for what has transpired."