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Beginnings

October 4, 2011

I was raised Mormon.  Two active parents, three active siblings.  100% seminary attendance (early morning) for four years.  Eagle Scout.  Served a full mission.  Studied at BYU, including numerous religion classes, for 4 years.  Veil worker in the Provo temple for a year.  Married in the temple.  Active for more than 30 years.  Full tithe payer since I was very young.

My testimony was mostly built on two main things: being raised in the church and believing what others around me were saying.  I imagine that most people in the world are, either actively or in a less active role, members of the religion they were part of as a child.  It’s familiar, comfortable, and easy.  Your own family members understand you and agree with your religious beliefs.  That’s completely understandable to me, but it doesn’t bear witness as to the truth of the religion.  Would I have been a Catholic if my parents were Catholic? Yes. Muslim? Yes.  I’m grateful in numerous ways for having been raised Mormon.  I’m sure it helped me avoid drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.  It led me to my wife, who I met in Provo while attending BYU.  It kept me chaste until marriage, allowing me to share that special intimacy only with my companion.  But none of that confirms the truth or falsehood of the LDS church.

So what about hearing and believing the testimony of others?  Attending church for so many years, I was bombarded with testimonies.  Even aside from testimony meeting, which was 45+ minutes of straight testimony bearing, most talks, church lessons, hometeaching visits, seminary lessons, scout meetings, etc. included a testimony of some sort.  These were often from people I knew, respected and loved.  It included my own parents and siblings.  Of course I was inclined to believe them.  I trusted them.  I trusted their judgment, wisdom, and conviction.

How does that play into the truth of the church?  Should I believe those people?  Weren’t millions of other people also sure that their religion was true and mine was false?  How much faith should I put in these testimonies if they weren’t truly freely given?  I had seen countless children declare their knowledge of things far beyond their comprehension as their parents whispered the words in their ears.  And the church has taught that there is a leap of faith: that you gain a testimony by first bearing it.  As Elder Dallin Oaks put it once in General Conference,

“Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge.  We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it.  Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.”

So essentially we are supposed to bear our testimony when we don’t have one, lying until it becomes true in our minds?  How many of these other people around me were saying that they knew the church was true in order to believe that what they were saying was indeed true?

Every Mormon will tell you what my conclusion had to be: find out for myself.

Next step:  Questions and Truth

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