Saturday, March 17, 2012

Children Bearing Testimonies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

I love Fast and Testimony Meeting, even with the quirky aspects that drive some people nuts.  As I mention near the end of this post, I have reservations about one aspect of testimonies in some locations, but one of the things I love most about F&T Meeting is listening to "simple" testimonies - especially those of children. 

In our F&T meeting this month, an eight-year-old girl bore a simple, short, heart-felt testimony. It obviously wasn’t coached; it obviously was in her own words; it was sincere and focused on basic Gospel principles.

It was wonderful.

In that same meeting, a 33-year-old, mentally disabled woman “bore her testimony”. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel. She read from a piece of paper on which she had written some of the things she did that month, including her reaction to watching Whitney Houston’s funeral. It was simple and not at all “spiritual” in any traditional way. I looked around the congregation and saw all the loving, smiling, accepting faces (everyone paying rapt attention in dead silence) and realized that moment was a big part of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It was wonderful.

My nine-year-old daughter bolts out the chapel doors every week the instant the benediction ends. She has told us for the last few months that she wants to bear her testimony. We have told her that she can do so whenever she’s ready to do it on her own, knowing she gets quite severe stage fright at the microphone. She bore her testimony this month, with her older sister standing beside her but completely in her own words. I’ve never been prouder of her.

It was wonderful.

I dislike rehearsed, automatic, rote words, especially those of others whispered into children’s ears, but, when a testimony is sincere and pure, a child’s testimony (even a 33-year-old child’s words) reminds me of the beautiful admonition:

“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

5 comments:

Bonnie Atkinson said...

I love F&TM too, for many of the same reasons you list. I study the gospel on my own, and I can't remember the last time I learned a fact in church I didn't already know. That's not why I go. I go to become a better person by being with better people and trying to help and encourage. Sometimes we do that by sitting in our seats and smiling at someone who needs to see someone listening, and smiling.

larryco_ said...

Papa: At the beginning of your blog you quote 2 NE 25:26. Here we run into a serious problem that I find in F&TM: we have NOT taught our children well enough that Jesus is the source of their salvation and exaltation. A typical child's testimony will consist of the lyrical refrain:

I'd like to bear my testimony
I know the Church is true,
I love my mom and dad
And my brother and sister too.

Throw in a "I know Joseph Smith/Thomas S. Monson is a prophet" and the testimony is finished.

Now, why is it that the Savior is so infrequently mentioned in children's testimonies? One possibility: they are copying previous children's testimonies, who copied other children's testimonies, who copied...Adult testimonies which also don't include mention of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice.

We must do a better job at teaching - and personally understanding - that Jesus stands alone on the testimony scale. There isn't a second place who moves up to first if He is taken out of the equation. Both the Church and President Monson could very well be the finest organization and person, respectively, on the planet. But their eternal efficacy lies with their selection by and approval of our Lord and Savior.

I hope we continue to hear children and adults share with us the things that they love and cherish in their testimonies. But as your title suggests "(God's) children bearing testimonies of the atonement of Jesus Christ" is the purpose of fast and testimony meeting.

Papa D said...

Amen, larryco. That's the core of the different reactions I have in F&T Mtg - the sincerity of the testimony and the focus of the testimony. I'm not a big believer in listing the things that should or must be part of a shared testimony, and I don't like "scripting" at all, but, at the core, Sacrament Meeting is a worship service - and everything in it ought to be worshipful in some way.

Papa D said...

Well said, Bonnie. Sometimes, especially with the young and the recent converts, that is the heart of what we can do to love and accept them. Teaching is vitally important, but love and support comes first.

Rich Alger said...

I too love the un-coached testimonies of little children. Last testimony meeting our almost 6 year old wanted to share her testimony. My wife reminded her that she had to be able to do it on her own. No one else could help her.

She replied "I am not worried Heavenly Father will help me" That response melted me and my my wife.

Truly out of the mouth of babes.