When Amy and I were in our second year of marriage, we visited Zion’s National Park. At this place of beauty, incomparable to any other, exist some of the most challenging, strenuous, and exciting hikes a person can do in this lifetime. One hike that Amy and I were daring enough to tackle is named Angel’s Landing. Let me briefly explain some of the details of this hike, five hikers have lost their life, it is five miles long from start to finish, and it has 21 switchbacks with an elevation increase of 15-50 feet each. From the ground to the peak of the climb is an elevation change of 1488 feet. Near the peak, bolted chains are built into the walls for stabilization. Narrow passageways that are no more than 3-5 feet wide have a 500 foot drop off on one side and a 1000-1500 foot drop off on the other.
Now for those of you don’t know me, I love to wear flip flops, or the truth is, I hate wearing shoes. Rain or snow, hiking or biking, I am wearing my flip flops. On this particular hike, I was wearing my flip flops but I tied running shoes to my backpack. Normally, I complete hikes in my flip flops, but on this occasion I saw the need to change my footwear as we approached the top because one slip could mean my death. Warning signs conveyed the importance of using caution from this moment on. After taking my time and carefully making my why to the top, I saw a spectacular view that our camera could not do justice in portraying.
Like my footwear at the beginning of the climb, we may have a weak testimony and it may be enough for us at the beginning of our journey in life, our testimony has to start somewhere. However, just like I had to strengthen my footwear, we will need to strengthen our testimonies so we won’t fall when we are faced with hard trials. Like the chains bolted into the wall, some day we will need to cling to our testimonies which are bolted firm in the faith of Jesus Christ so that we don’t slip away.
So how many of us have reflected on how is our testimony now? Do we have one? How strong is it? Are we likely to quit at switchback number 5 or 15? Or go astray and lose our lives near the end because we stopped listening to the warnings? Let me ask a follow up question, in a year from now, how many of us will have the same testimony now, will it be weaker? Stronger? What about 5 years from now? 10? Eternity? Let me assure you that such a short time period as one year matters. I know it does. I have seen it. Even one month matters. In fact, everyday matters.
Since testimonies are so important, let me discuss five critical things to gain, strengthen, and uphold our testimonies so we can return to our Heavenly Father some day:
In elementary school, I was picked on and nearly got in fights every week. It seemed every year, there was a new bully. I was ridiculed, scoffed at, and why? Was it because I was one of the tiniest kids of my class, because I tried to defend myself, or because I was a good student? I don’t know. However, oftentimes, these experiences caused me to question my value and self-worth. One day when I was on a low note, I just opened my scriptures and they fell open to Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." This scripture was the turning point in my life. By trusting in the Lord, everything would work out for my good. Really? What a remarkable blessing. At this moment, I gained a strong witness that our Heavenly father is there and he is listening. It touched my heart in a way I won’t forget. I knew the gospel was true. However, that was my testimony then. I couldn’t just live based on that moment for the rest of my life. It was and is necessary that I read my scriptures daily. By doing so, I have had similar experiences but different enough to help me in my circumstance. I know… Challenge…
President Thomas S. Monson in the recent general conference in the Sunday morning session, recounts an experience of prayer from his childhood:
He tells the story as a 12 year of saving a five-dollar bill "during the Great Depression, when five dollars was a substantial sum of money—especially for a boy of 12." Back then, laundry was sent out to the wash and he had "tucked [his] five-dollar bill in the pocket of [his] jeans" which were sent to the laundry. He recounts, "I was sick with worry. I knew that pockets were routinely checked at the laundry prior to washing. If my money was not discovered and taken during that process, I knew it was almost certain the money would be dislodged during washing and would be claimed by a laundry worker who would have no idea to whom the money should be returned, even if he had the inclination to do so. The chances of getting back my five dollars were extremely remote—a fact which my dear mother confirmed when I told her I had left the money in my pocket. I wanted that money; I needed that money; I had worked very hard to earn that money. I realized there was only one thing I could do. In my extremity I turned to my Father in Heaven and pleaded with Him to keep my money safe in that pocket somehow until our wet wash came back."
When the laundry returned, he reached into his pocket with his heart pounding and, continuing with story, he said, "When I didn’t find anything immediately, I thought all was lost. And then my fingers touched that wet five-dollar bill. As I pulled it from the pocket, relief flooded over me. I offered a heartfelt prayer of gratitude to my Father in Heaven, for I knew that He had answered my prayer."
We can receive comfort in prayer from simple things to very complex things. Enos set a good example by praying first for forgiveness, for his friends, and then for his enemy. When we obtain a testimony of prayer, we also have the desire to help others. But before that testimony will come, prayer needs to be in our hearts always, not just day and night. Daily prayer strengthens our testimonies because we recognize God’s hands in our lives and we pour out our soul with gratitude. I know… Challenge…
Knowing that the only people that would read his writings, Moroni in the last days of his life decided to include a few things that he felt were important for our days, Moroni 6:9 says, "And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done."
By attending church and attending all the meetings, we too can feel the power of the Holy Ghost to be led in anything. Being led by the spirit has been a constant and reaffirming witness to me and has strengthened my testimony. I know… Challenge…
The Bible Dictionary states, "A temple is literally a house of the Lord, a holy sanctuary in which sacred ceremonies and ordinances of the gospel are performed by and for the living and also in behalf of the dead. A place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness."
The closeness we feel with the Lord will reassure us of the testimonies we have and reality of the spirit. Back in Utah, we literally lived across the street from our church building and our temple. I thought it took some effort to go to the temple back then. Now that I am further from the temple, each time I attend, I realize how much more important it is that I go. On my mission, I didn’t get to attend the temple for two whole years. I remember the day I set foot in the temple again, the spirit poured into my soul. Temples strengthen testimonies in family and between couples. I know… Challenge…
Family Home Evening
When I lived in my parent’s household, family home evening was a rare occurrence as my dad would hold it on his own. Since it was a rare occurrence, I really learned to appreciate those moments. I was able to get answers to questions from my dad, see his example, feel the spirit testify of the truthfulness of this gospel, and know the importance of family home evening. What better place to teach our families then in the home? Teaching has strengthened my testimony and is a good way for my family to see my testimony as well. I know… Challenge…
I know these five things will help us maintain and strengthen our testimony. I have seen it countless times with the strong influence of the adversary that is fighting against me daily. Back when I stood on the top of the mountain of Angel’s Landing, I realized how insignificant I am, but how much my Heavenly Father cares about me even with all of His marvelous creations around me. After all the hard work in this life and after being firm in our testimonies, we can have a similar experience of standing above it all with the help of Jesus Christ. We then will experience the greatest joy that we can’t even fathom right now, being with our Father in Heaven and our brother Jesus Christ. I know…