person speaking in church

The “Ten Commandments” for Bearing a Testimony in Church

Once a month, usually the first week of the month, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are invited to publicly declare their witness and testimony of the restored gospel from the pulpit.[1] In a letter from the First Presidency to leaders of the local congregations, called wards and branches, regarding testimonies given in fast and testimony meetings, bishoprics (ward leaders) were—and are still—encouraged to “help all people learn” about how to give a testimony and encouraged to “teach [the] important principles” about testimonies to other ward leaders and “to all ward members.”[2] Sometimes with the extra and additional burdens placed upon bishops and their counselors, this counsel has been placed on hold or neglected, although often through no fault of their own.

Taking a cue from my article “The Ten Commandments’ of Sacrament Meeting Talks”, originally published by the Deseret News, and in an effort to assist with this mandate, below are ten do’s and don’ts for bearing or declaring a testimony in church.

1. Don’t express love for family or others. 

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says he gets uncomfortable and squirms a little when he hears expressions of love given from the pulpit, especially if those expressions of affection are rare.[3] Instead, we should save declarations of love for private communication, ideally at home. Besides, we don’t want to distract from our main purpose, which is to bear testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Of course, we should regularly express love for our family, just not from the pulpit. Those who “have already expressed appreciation to people privately…will have less need to do it publicly.”[4]

2. Avoid saying “I’m thankful for” or “I’m grateful for.”

It is certainly appropriate to be grateful and appreciative for things, people, and even knowledge. In fact, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith that “he [or she] who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.”[5] However, expressing gratitude may detract from “pure testimony”[6] wherein we could use words such as “I believe…” or “I know…” to help show our witness and increase the power of our testimonies. Being grateful for something isn’t necessarily a testimony or a witness. Understandably, we should not “sit there and count the grammatical errors [or] laugh at [those] who can’t speak very well”[7] either, but this slight change can and will make a difference in the quality and understanding of the testimony.

3. Don’t encourage small children go to the pulpit. 

Understanding the basics of a testimony and how to give a testimony can help both children and adults. For instance, do we really need to start by saying that we’re going to bear our testimony or does a testimony really need to end in the name of Jesus Christ? No, but expressing a testimony from the pulpit is different than doing so at home or at school or in Primary class.

The First Presidency has advised us that 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[er].” They further encouraged “Parents and teachers [to] help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for them to express it.”[8] In a worldwide leadership training broadcast, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Younger children should learn to share their testimonies at home or in primary until they’re old enough to bear an appropriate testimony unaided in fast and testimony meeting.”[9]

4. Don’t tell stories or make challenges or invitations.

President Spencer W. Kimball explained, “A testimony is not an exhortation; a testimony is not a sermon (none of you are there to exhort the rest); it is not a travelogue.”[10] We ought to keep our testimonies simple. Sharing stories or talking a lot about things not related to the gospel can distract from the spirit of the meeting and hamper the purpose and reason for bearing a testimony. Then-Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve taught that in testimony meetings we shouldn’t give sermons, exhortations, or travel reports, nor should we try to entertain others when bearing witness.[11]

5. Don’t worry about giving a “perfect” testimony. 

With all the don’ts, we also shouldn’t worry about making a mistake. No one is perfect. Mistakes are part of life. We prepare for testimony meeting not by memorizing or necessarily even planning anything beforehand but by being led by the Spirit.[12] If we feel prompted, we should act. “Some of us are naturally reserved and timid about bearing our testimony with words,” said President James E. Faust, who added, “Perhaps we should not be so timid.”[13]

We shouldn’t compare ourselves or our testimonies to others, nor should we worry about making mistakes. Our ideas of perfectionism are much different than what the Lord expects of us.[14] We would do well to remember that the “power of pure testimony does not come from sophisticated language or effective presentation; rather, it is the result of revelation conveyed by the…Holy Ghost.”[15]

6. Be brief. 

Being brief will allow more people an opportunity to bear their testimonies publicly, something the First Presidency has asked us to do.[16] When we bear our testimonies, we “need not be lengthy or eloquent,”[17] nor should we “feel we need to use eloquent language, or to go on at length.”[18] We can say a lot in just 60 seconds.[19] Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson taught and emphasized that we should “bear brief, heartfelt testimonies of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration,”[20] which leads us to the next part.

7. Be heartfelt and Spirit-filled.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught, “Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.”[21] Think of how wonderful that can be. Powerful, heartfelt, and Spirit-filled messages and testimonies can have a “more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than…anything else”[22] on earth. When we get and keep the Spirit, we can experience extraordinary feelings of peace and conversion. Indeed, “testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the ward in the whole month, if you have the Spirit.”[23]

8. Express belief and knowledge. 

Earlier it was mentioned that starting a phrase using, “I believe…” or “I know…” can be beneficial. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained, “belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and [we] need never apologize for ‘only believing.’” He then added and encouraged us all to “hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.”[24] The great thing is as we bear our testimony and hear the testimony of others, our testimony is strengthened and grows. Regardless, we don’t need to have perfect faith or perfect knowledge before we believe or before we can say we know. The Holy Ghost testifies of all truth.[25] Even if our knowledge isn’t perfect yet in certain aspects or principles of the gospel, we can know with a perfect knowledge as we testify of basic truths, that they are good and of God.[26] “O then, is not this real?” asked Alma, who then answered his own question. “I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good…therefore ye…know” even though your knowledge isn’t perfect.[27]

9. Declare sound doctrine.

There is no need to delve into deep doctrine or the mysteries of the kingdom. Don’t look beyond the mark.[28] The basics of the restored gospel can be complicated enough to understand and grasp. Even Joseph Smith and several of the early day apostles and prophets talked at length about the first principle of the gospel: faith. From those meetings came the Lectures on Faith. Declaring the basics of the doctrine of Christ will keep us on solid ground and there is plenty of content to choose from.

10. Talk of the Savior and His restored gospel. 

One of the things I have heard too frequently is a reference to the Atonement while withholding the name or reference to Jesus Christ. President Russell M. Nelson taught, “It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as ‘the Atonement’ or ‘the enabling power of the Atonement’ or ‘applying the Atonement’ or ‘being strengthened by the Atonement.’”[29] The Savior Jesus Christ gave us the ability to repent and be healed. He is the reason we can be freed from sickness, infirmity, temptation, sin, and death.[30] He deserves the credit, not the act of something He did. We should testify of Him and His gospel teachings. The Savior of the world is such an important and vital part of our testimonies and our lives that He is one of the reasons when bearing a public testimony that we close our solemn witness in His holy name.

Finally, while there are some important things to say and not to say when declaring our testimonies, and certainly more to discuss and talk about than what has been mentioned here, using these ‘Ten Commandments’ of bearing a testimony in church can give us a framework to strengthening our own testimonies as well as all testimony meetings worldwide. Lastly, we would do well to remember Elder Bednar’s words when he taught, “Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion.”[31] May we each continue to be converted through righteous living. As we do so, we will have deeper desires to bear our testimonies to “all the world unto every creature.”[32]

The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author, Jeffrey Denning, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Image: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

[1] Accommodations should be made for those who cannot go up to the pulpit (e.g., a microphone can be handed to someone in a wheelchair if the pulpit is not accessible by wheelchair).

[2] First Presidency Letter: Testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting, Feb. 14, 2013.

[3] David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Oct. 2009.

[4] Henry B. Eyring, “Witness for God,” Nov. 1996.

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 78:19.

[6] Alma 4:19.

[7] “President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 4-7.

[8] First Presidency letter, May 2, 2002. See also First Presidency Letter: Testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting, Feb. 14, 2013.

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004.

[10] “President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 4-7.

[11] Henry B. Eyring, “Witness for God,” Nov. 1996.

[12] 1 Nephi 4:6.

[13] James E. Faust, “The Importance of Bearing Testimony,” March 1997.

[14] Garrit W. Gong, “Becoming Perfect in Christ,” Ensign, July 2014, 14.

[15] David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Oct. 2009.

[16] First Presidency Letter: Testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting, Feb. 14, 2013.

[17] David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Oct. 2009.

[18] Henry B. Eyring, “Witness for God,” Nov. 1996.

[19] “President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 4-7.

[20] Russell M. Nelson, “Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004.

[21] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” April 2011.

[22] Alma 31:5.

[23] “President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 4-7.

[24] Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Lord, I Believe’” April 2013, original emphasis.

[25] Moroni 10:5.

[26] Moroni 7:16; Omni 1:25; Moroni 10:6.

[27] Alma 32:35-36.

[28] Jacob 4:14.

[29] Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017, 40.

[30] Alma 7:11-13

[31] David A. Bednar, “Converted Unto the Lord,” Oct. 2012.

[32] Doctrine and Covenants 84:62.

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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