Kids’ Testimonies – Last Sunday

January 6, 2005 | 25 comments
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Last week we were over at a friend’s house and the missionaries stopped by. They gave the usual spiritual thought, and challenged us all to bear our testimonies this week. It worked. But the most surprising part was that my kids also participated.

The missionaries had asked what testimony was, and we told them “things that we know.” Sullivan, my oldest, was paying attention.

Now our quasi-dysfunctional ward in the Bronx isn’t like the usual Utah ward, where there are always a dozen kids waiting in the wings to say “IliketobearmytestimonyIknowthischurchistrueinthenameofJesusChristAmen.” In fact, we haven’t had a child’s testimony for some time.

Also, I hadn’t borne my own testimony in Sacrament meeting for some time. I did a few times when we moved in, but it was probably a good two years since I had done so. Testimony meeting for our family is generally spent like every other meeting — trying to keep three energetic kids from tearing the chapel apart.

Sacrament meeting was progressing, and I told Sullivan, my oldest son, that I was going to bear my testimony. Up I went, and he came with me. And after I had finished, it was his turn. Speaking directly into the microphone (less than a millimeter away from it, nice and loud), he said:

“I know that Jesus is true. I know that he was the only person who didn’t make any sins. I know that Heavenly Father helped him to survive after going more than 21 days without eating any food. I know that when Jesus was born, there was a new star, and the king sent his soldiers to kill the babies, but they didn’t kill Jesus. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

After we got back down to our pew, he said quietly to me “I forgot to say that I know that Jesus died for us.” I told him that that was okay. “Besides,” he then told me, “everybody already knows that.”

Kace, our middle son, wanted to follow up with his own testimony. He’s only five, rather than seven like Sullivan. He followed Mardell up to the stand, and gave a quick, rambling stream-of-consciousness, bearing testimony to these facts: Arizona is far away; Grandma lives in Arizona; Kace went to primary there; some states don’t have churches; Kace has the same Grandma as his brother. He got a few laughs (particularly “I have the same Grandma as my brother”) and really liked it. He reported “I made people laugh.”

Indigo was last. She’s just two, but she said “I love Jesus” and then froze up and Mardell took her down. She was upset afterwards because she wanted to go back up and say “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” but we didn’t let her.

Afterwards, the Bishop was very positive about the kids’ testimonies. He mentioned them favorably as he closed the sacrament meeting, and then again in Priesthood meeting.

I recall sitting in sacrament meetings as a teenager and as a young adult, while hordes of children gave boilerplate testimonies, and thinking how inane the whole process was. But last week, I really enjoyed it. And so did the kids. They took an early step in bearing testimony, and in public speaking generally. I got to be the proud parent. And everyone seemed to like it.

Maybe kids’ testimonies aren’t so bad after all.

25 Responses to Kids’ Testimonies – Last Sunday

  1. Lisa F. on January 6, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    Kaimi —
    About a year ago, we started allowing time in Primary for testimonies on Fast Sunday. It is always sweet and moving. What is interesting is how quiet all of the children are during that time. It is quite remarkable, because they can be bouncing off the walls during closing exercises, but for those five or ten minutes they are respectful and interested.

  2. J. Stapley on January 6, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    Kaimi: I’m sympathetic to your feelings, but I remain the testimony Nazi. I just don’t think it is the venue (isn’t there a communiqué on this?) for children to speak to such concerns.

  3. Steve Evans on January 6, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    I agree with J. Stapley, although I also can understand that parents love to hear their children bare their testimonies. There’s a reason for the current church policy against the practice of having kids get up on the stand.

  4. Jim Richins on January 6, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Children’s testimonies are wonderful IF they have been so well schooled in the Gospel as your children have been, Kaimi. I suppose the degeneration of a Testimony into a travelogue, story-telling, thank-imony, etc. that Elder Ballard talked about last conference, may be countered in part by early and correct instruction for the children.

    However, in my experience, some children or youth, after first realizing the rush and sense of social acceptance that accompanies making a large group of adults chuckle and grin, confuse the pulpit with a stage. For a time, we had a group of Mia Maids who would try to one-up each other’s testimonies by being more extreme, more polished, or accompanied by more tears as each month rolled around. These public expressions quickly devolved to talking about boys, school, parents, fashion, etc. Tellingly, I remember one girl even forgot to rush through “inthenameofJesusChristamen” at the end, but ended her time simply by saying “that’s all” and flipping her hair. So, as their ability to comprehend a testimony increased, their potential for having an ever-strengthening well of Living Water remained unfulfilled.

    I love children’s testimonies, and enthusiastically enjoy hearing each child bear witness – each according to his current ability – of what they know. Hopefully, more children like Sullivan can set good examples, even for their older peers and adults, on bearing testimony.

  5. Mark Hansen on January 6, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t mind it when children bear their testimonies. I love it when my kids do. I love it even more when kids don’t just recite the rhyme. When a kid’s just talking on his/her own, it’s amazing what truths emerge…

    MRKH

  6. Andrea Wright on January 6, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    What is the current policy?

  7. Amber H on January 6, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    there is a policy about children bearing testimony? ive never heard of one. should i tell my daughter that she can’t bear her testimony anymore until she is twelve? is that the right age?

  8. Russ Johnston on January 6, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    I was told by my leaders that it is not appropriate for parents to whisper a testimony in a childs ear. They need to be able to share their own.

  9. Jedd on January 6, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    A statement on the matter from Elder Carl B. Cook, Dec. 2002 Ensign:

    “Young children should be encouraged to bear testimony in sacrament meeting only when they feel the Holy Ghost prompts them to do so, and when they can do so on their own. By not directing their expressions, we are conveying the important principle that testimonies are not a recitation of words but an opportunity to express sincere feelings related to the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    And an excerpt from May 2002 Letter from the First Presidency:

    “Parents and teachers should help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for them to express it. It may be best to have younger children learn to share their testimonies at such times as family home evening or when giving talks in Primary until they are old enough to do so in a fast and testimony meeting.â€?

  10. Amira on January 6, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I distinctly recall this letter from the FP being read in 2002. There was a sharp decrease in the number of children bearing testimonies in our ward (not a Utah ward, but not an East Coast ward either), and as a result, I thought testimony meeting improved. I love a child who is truly bearing testimony, but too often children see it as a stage.

    Of course, it also depends on the ward. When we lived in New Jersey, it was nice to have a child spice things up. :)

  11. danithew on January 6, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    I generally love it when kids bear their testimonies in church. Kids are sweet and innocent and I consider it an experience that helps them learn to speak in public when they are older. Sometimes it breaks up some of the monotony of hearing adult testimonies.

    Still, I’ve learned and considered some things that I hadn’t before though, from reading this thread. It never occurred to me that it might be inappropriate for parents to whisper a testimony into a child’s ear at the stand.

  12. Lamonte on January 6, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    I admit that have been one of those who frowns at children’s testimonies, possibly because I grew up close to Utah (southern Idaho) where the children would seem to just say a memorized testimony rather than say something from the heart. One favorite moment was when a young boy stood to bear his testimony and said”…I’m grateful for my parents and all the things they’ve done to me…” The word “to” rather than “for” was perhaps a telling moment.

    But I have to admit that I have enjoyed the testimonies of the young children in my ward in Virginia. They are definately from the heart and the individual children have a good background in the gospel. I think the testimonies given by Kaimi’s children sound perfectly appropriate…certainly better than the travelogues we get from some adults.

  13. Jason Johnson on January 6, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    Our three year-old has been lobbying to be allowed up to bear her testimony in Sacrament meeting. We set a no assistance policy with her. It has been a hoot listening to her practice as she plays about the house. A real insight into what someone her age thinks is important.

  14. john fowles on January 6, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    It is interesting to note what appears to be a general or underlying theme of this post: testimony of children in Utah = bad; testimony of children outside of Utah (NYC, New Jersey, Virginia) = good

  15. Camille on January 6, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Well, I live in Utah (Happy Valley even) and this past Sunday heard one of the most beautiful testimonies given by a five-year-old-child. She expressed her love for the Savior and her faith that he loved her. Many in the congregation were touched by this childs sweet and sincere testimony. Also since the reading of the “policy” a few years back it is a rare thing to see parents whispering testimonies in their child’s ear.

  16. Amira on January 6, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    John,

    I should have clarified that I don’t think that the kids in our New Jersey ward gave better testimonies or that for some reason their testimonies were more acceptable. An “uninspired” testimony by anyone anywhere is difficult to listen to. There are just likely to be more “uninspired” childrens’ testimonies in places like Utah with lots of children than on the East Coast.

  17. Charles on January 6, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    I think its great if kids bear their testimonies in accordance to the FP’s letter. The concern is having a half dozen kids getting up and having thier testimonies whispered into thier ears by parents or older siblings.

    The FP’s message is great and should be read at the beginning of every testimony meeting. Its a great guage to help set the tone. If children feel prompted (by the holy ghost, not thier parents) to share thiers, Great!

    I just hope they don’t eat the microphone.

  18. Jim Richins on January 6, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    As I recall, that letter was about much more than children’s testimonies (and did not specifically forbid children from bearing them). I’d be interested to read it again, but from what I remember, the tone of the letter was about testimonies in general, and what a testimony really means. The no-assistance instruction for children seemed included almost as an afterthought. I remember hearing the letter and thinking “good, maybe the Bishop will do a 5th Sunday lesson for the adults on testimony bearing.”

    Several years ago, I found Fast Sunday was becoming a complete waste of time for this very reason. In fact, the kid testimonies back then were probably the only highlight. I was irritated that week to week, and month to month, the speakers would hardly mention Jesus Christ at all. Back then, I had one of those old Palm Pilots – you know, the ones that were top of the line when they had a whopping 2MB of memory?

    I took it upon myself to keep a simple rule-of-thumb tally for every talk/testimony that A) specifically bore witness of the Savior, B) casually mentioned the Savior (beyond the obligatory closing), or C) never mentioned Him at all (again, the closing didn’t count). If I was speaking on a given Sunday, none of the talks on that day were counted.

    It was probably blasphemous of me to do so, and at the time, only my wife had any idea what I was doing. I don’t remember the exact tally after about a year of keeping score, but proportionally A:B:C, it was pretty close to 1:5:4. Furthermore, a good portion of the talks I recorded as having mentioned the Savior specifically (category A) were from Stake visitors – not even from our ward.

    I don’t know how the score would fall out today, although I would be interested in the statistics as one metric for the spirituality of the ward.

    My point is that (perhaps especially in Utah) there is yet a long way to go for the saints as a whole to learn what a testimony really is. Letters from the FP help, good examples from children also help. I wonder what else might help?

  19. Geoff Johnston on January 6, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    I was in a bishopric in a San Diego county ward a couple of years ago and testimony meetings were getting to be a problem — both with too many children and inappropriate and lengthy comments from adults. We decided to paraphrase a letter from the First Presidency every testimony meeting before turning the time over to the congregation. We would say something like:

    Again, we’d like to allow as many adults in the ward as possible an opportunity to share a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior

    That approach was quite successful in dramatically improving the spirit and content of our testimony meetings (perhaps like Amira experienced). We did in fact get more adults sharing brief and heartfelt testimonies of the Savior and everyone in the ward was blessed as a result. Sure, some children came up on occasion, and we never discouraged anyone from doing so individually, but the parents got the idea of what we were after and I think their children benefited as much or more than the adults by seeing appropriate testimonies born by those who serve as their role models.

  20. Kevin Barney on January 6, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    I remember when I was on my mission (25 years ago) several GAs were up in arms against children’s testimonies. Some have strong views against them. I could never really see the problem. I love children’s testimonies (but I agree with the idea that they should be their own and not prompted), and I think they are usually the highlight of the meeting.

    The whole Mormon concept of having our children with us in Sacrament Meeting is for the family to worship together qua family, and to accustom the little ones to such worship. If we want them to bear testimonies when they’re older, we need to allow them to bear testimonies when they are young. If we’re not going to do that, let’s just do it like the Protestants and have a nursery during worship services. It would be easier to hear the speakers.

  21. alissa on January 6, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    A ward I used to attend had a primary president who was constanly challenging the primary to get up in testimony meeting. The kids would all diligently get up every month. There were so many kids in the ward that we were lucky to hear more than 1 adult. As I recall, the spirit was no really in the meeting.
    But children are not the only problem in testimony meetings. I agree that there are many adults that have no idea what it means to bear a testimony. I remember one Sunday in a singles ward a young man got up. He was wearing jeans and a denim shirt. He explained to us that he had just got off from work and that was why he was dressed that way. He then proceeded to call the rest of the congregation suckers for wearing ties and suits! The Bishop let him know in a loud voice that his comments very inappropriate. Testimony meeting in a singles ward is definately an experience!

  22. Nathan Smith on January 6, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    “I know that Jesus is true ” Beautiful. Jesus doesn’t just tell the truth, he is the truth. This fan of Terry Warner’s “Truth” entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism hopes that your son keeps his concept of truth oriented around John 14:6 (and D&C 88:66, etc.)

  23. Lamonte on January 7, 2005 at 11:26 am

    John Fowles – You are absolutely right to point out the fallacy of comments suggesting that kid’s testimonies from Utah are ‘bad’ and all other kid’s testimonies are ‘good.’ For that reason you are owed an apology. Certainly that is not the case. I suppose my comment stems from attitudes formed in the location of my adolescence years versus the location of my (hopefully) more mature years as an adult. Thank you for illustating that false notion. I’m sorry to have made such a suggestion.

  24. Rebecca Head on January 10, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    I think there’s a problem with testimony meeting full stop. Most don’t know what a testimony is. Stories are told etc. I’ve been in several testimony meetings when Christ was never mentioned! I don’t object to children up on the stand, but think it should be on their own, and be because of a prompting not because others are doing it.

  25. annegb on October 17, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, you made me laugh again. You have interesting kids.

    People used to sit up and take notice when Buttgold got up to bear her testimony because, like your kids, you never knew what was coming out.

    But it was from their hearts.

    You know, an aside, we get told to bear our testimonies, then we have hundreds of do’s and don’ts. If I followed all those rules, I would just never open my mouth.