In our stake conference this past weekend, Elder Michael Ringwood of the Seventy spoke in our priesthood leadership meeting about, among other things, testimony.
He recounted his experience in an interview with two apostles (prior to his call as a Seventy, I assume, though he did not say). Much of the interview was mechanical in nature. But at the end, one of the apostles asked Elder Ringwood and his wife, "Tell us about the origin of your testimony."
The ensuing discussion in our leadership meeting got me thinking about the origins of my testimony. I use the plural because for me there have been many formative experiences, and there is not just one from which my testimony evolved. But here are some of the origins that occurred to me:
1. When I was a small child, my non-LDS parents read Bible stories to me and said prayers with me at bedtime. I don't know if we did this every night, but we did it often enough that I remember doing it at a very early age. Knowing that my parents were believers made it easy and natural for me to believe, as well.
2. When I was in third grade, a friend invited me to a Primary activity. That invitation set in motion a series of events that eventually led to our family's hearing the missionary discussions and choosing to be baptized. I suppose it's possible that we might have found some other path to membership, but I will forever be grateful to that young friend for his invitation.
3. I remember the night we were baptized. I remember standing in the water with Elder Kelly. I remember watching as my other family members were baptized. I remember the feeling that filled me on that day.
4. Just under a year later, our family was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. In that sealing room, the feeling of the night of my baptism was there again, and I was coming to understand what it felt like to have the Spirit speak to me in that way.
5. At a youth conference before my senior year in high school I met a new friend who was the son of our new mission president. This kid became a good friend who did nothing unusual but be a great friend to me. At the same conference, I felt the tug of the spirit (again) and found myself recommitting myself to prepare for a mission and make better choices than I had been making. Having the added friendship was a real boost to that effort for me.
6. As a freshman at BYU, my roommate introduced me to questions, particularly of church history, that I had never considered before. As I studied those and resolved some of them, I also had a series of spiritual experiences that involved specific answers to prayer, receiving a patriarchal blessing, continued preparation for a mission, and a renewal of my witness that the Book of Mormon was true.
Those foundational origins for me laid groundwork, but did not set limits on my testimony. Instead they were the footings on which the rest of my testimony has been built over the years. It's only as an adult that I've realized that my experience, while not terribly unusual, is not universal. Some have far more subtle origins, and some more dramatic.
I am grateful for those origins, most of which were quite personal and not really the result of someone else's preaching to me. I certainly was affected by talks I heard and teaching I received, but it was, at best, a catalyst, not a reason for my testimony. My parents provided opportunities for me to learn, but did not push me to do so. Those are lessons I need to keep learning as I find my way as a parent.
What are the origins of your testimony?