My testimony

December 27, 2011 | 9 comments
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I’m no stranger to doubt and scepticism – I’m as much a child of conflicted modernity as anyone and it has been years since the majority of those close to me have professed an unwavering belief – and context is as relevant to testimony as anything else. But tonight I want to state candidly and unreservedly: I believe.

There’s something genuinely magical (and I feel that quickening magic now) in the bearing of a testimony – I count my experience with testimony as one of the grand mysteries I’ve encountered in life.  I can’t help but continually try to cast my conceptual net about it; to design new ways of trying to observe this thing that like an electron is better characterized by movement in a region than by determinate position; to articulate with analysis and plumb with nuance what goes on inside my collective soul. My perpetual failure doesn’t dissuade me; I continue to believe in it’s in-principle possibility; in part because testimony seems inherently a phenomenon of expression, and because even if I can’t set up explanatory criteria for why, I do feel as though I can indicate in my own life more and less successful examples – examples of explanation and examples of the phenomenon itself.

And here already, I’ve strayed into what it is I meant only to confess: testimony eludes my ability to characterize it (which is certainly not to say my intellect has no part in it; God forbid). Testimony remains a mystery. But this confession and circuitous musing is only a matter of easing into what has perhaps become a bit rusty for me. Or perhaps it’s a skill I’ve never had, because I’ve never had a universally accessible and permanent space in which to try and share what has always been a part of my life – and itself given life – in intimacy and particularity. But here I go again, shyly dancing around the matter.

On the other hand, I’m not sure that cornering my testimony in blunt phrases will do; I’m not sure I can bootstrap intimacy in virtuality. But not knowing beforehand the thing which I shall do, and at the same time not willing to let what feels so incontrovertibly important at this particular moment slip away into further presentations of fried froth, let me to it.

There isn’t anything I’ve come across that has riveted my soul like Joseph Smith. Which is to say that there is nothing so tangible, so concretely spiritual, nothing that elevates my soul and prostrates it before the divine chariot itself like my family. Which is to say that despite the continually shifting scene of propositions I count as my beliefs, their collective shape is fairly well molded in the form of the Restoration, and is unquestionably enshrined within the rituals and practices that make up my very Mormon life. Importantly, this is a fact I exult in, not one I am simply consigned or resigned to.

It’s not merely that I believe Joseph Smith’s a prophet – it’s that for me belief is nothing that could ever be separated from the whole of my life; and I certainly hope that I’ve a life that itself expresses a straightforward testimony. Belief imparts the particular hue and scent and salience that motivate my movements. My family is indeed the alpha and omega, or the alef and tav, in the middle of which you’ll certainly find a mem.

Which of course brings me to the temple. This is quite literally so here in the wilderness, thousands of miles from the nearest temple. The home can be and sometimes we need it to be a mountain of the Lord’s House. Just as the temple provides a doorway home, my home provides a doorway by which I access and understand the signs, tokens, covenants, and endowments of the House of the Lord. The temple seals my family – it raises us up to our Heavenly Family, brings our Heavenly Family down to earth, and makes a Heavenly Family of all of us, and does so precisely by sealing us together – from the Ancient of Days to the latest of my children. Most particularly, this all happens right here – 3a Khreit Court. Holiness to the Lord.

Believing, and believing in testimony, I of course need to acknowledge miracles. I suppose I’ve said a few things about them already. Such are the mysteries of God. Those with ears will hear. And what better way to testify of the miracles in my life than to express gratitude for them? God be thanked for the many miracles in my life, and perhaps more especially for the eyes which see them. Without reducing them (the miracles in my life are legion, and seem to burn brightly at this time of year, as though my day’s worth of oil could last more than the requisite week), I want to point out what I’ve already mentioned: how grateful I am for my family; my children and parents; my history and legacy; my wife who anchors it all.

And lest the manner in which I’ve attempted to express it here tempt those who read this testimony to abstract only platitudes and metaphors and spiritualizations, let me also testify that in my experience I find no need to reify any of it – it’s already all here before me, completely concrete. Let naiveté be your hermeneutic here.

Candidly, unreservedly, I believe. And I testify that these things are true.

9 Responses to My testimony

  1. Rachel Whipple on December 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I love this testimony. It can be hard to articulate something so much a part of who you are, both because of the inherent vulnerability of the act of testifying and the underlying worry (for me) that if I can actually capture something so ephemeral in words, I will smother it. Like you, I find belief to be my primary motivator, even when I hesitate to say what that belief is.

  2. Kris on December 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Just a sincere thank you.

  3. 0t on December 28, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Awesome. Thank you. As a person with scientific training, I don’t blame anyone for not believing. But to know and to believe is to realize that all the science in the world does not disprove a Supreme Being, and that the Restoration reveals ever so profoundly that though “man is nothing”, we are loved more than we could possibly imagine. All of what science discovers about the world, the universe, and ourselves, causes me to realize how much more God knows than we know, and what a wonderful gift it is to be able to have this life to experiment with what we want to be and who we want to become.

  4. Joe Spencer on December 28, 2011 at 10:19 am

    And I believe with you, James. Thanks for this.

  5. Raymond Takashi Swenson on December 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Amen and amen.

  6. Sonny on December 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you, James. A sincere and wonderfully expressed testimony.

  7. Tatiana on December 29, 2011 at 12:47 am

    I concur.

  8. Grant on December 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Thank you, James. The amazing and unique doctrines of the Temple and Eternal Families are what does it for me, too. Along with that is the Hope of the basic principles rising out of the Atonement to heal individuals and families when things go so wrong in this life.

  9. Alison Moore Smith on January 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I neglected to let you know how much I enjoyed this. I’ve thought about it for days now. Thanks.

WELCOME

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