Dear 100 Hour Board,
Why do we have fast and testimony meeting?
It seems that if you attend church every week and serve in your callings, you should have a testimony.
The annoying thing is that in my ward it is the same 20 people who have ever born their testimonies for many years, particularly one sister who almost never misses and becomes emotional, discouraging any of the rest of us from wanting to bear our souls and look as foolish as she does. It also seems that the majority who are not up there bearing their testimonies are also sitting back silently judging the ones who do, so why bother sharing things with people who mostly care about how their shoes and makeup look?
If I am prompted to bear my testimony and silently refuse because of a lack of desire to feel like I have thrown pearls before non caring and somewhat materialistic folk, will I lose the Spirit? I have born my testimony on many an occasion but lately I am wondering why we have this rather embarrassing meeting at all. Perhaps growing up in another faith and not being exposed to it has not helped. It would help if I knew exactly why this meeting is necessary and when it was introduced to the church (besides the statement that "a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it", which I always thought was a stretch...) I think you can have a testimony without bearing it, or does most of my ward not have one then??
- I know the church is true.
Well, you and Glen M. Leonard must have been thinking along the same lines...except he asked the question in the March 1998 Ensign (Glen M. Leonard, "I Have a Question," Mar. 1998, 60). His question, "Why do we hold fast and testimony meeting on the first Sunday of the month?" provides us with an extensive answer on the history of and reasons for fast and testimony meetings.
And as for the "pearls before swine" comment...well, I'll admit I've felt similarly in situations such as those - it sometimes felt like some guys were bearing their testimonies just to get a date. But it's always been my opinion (and this is strictly Nike Doctrine) that as with most of the other practices of the Church, bearing your testimony and having fast and testimony meeting is pretty much entirely for us, for our own advancement in spirituality. Whether one chooses to take advantage of the blessings by bearing a sincere testimony is up to them in the end, but the Lord will not withhold blessings from you for attending church because of what someone else says. Remember, the gospel is based on you and the Lord - not you, the Lord and the weepy lady at the podium. You can choose to allow the Spirit to permeate your heart and help you gain knowledge even if what you're hearing isn't exactly helpful. Your intentions here are of utmost importance. Now, that isn't to say that everyone who takes the podium should talk about anything they want: the purpose of any sacrament meeting is to talk of and worship the Savior. Hence, the point of any conversation should be to build up the faith of those you're serving. But since we are imperfect mortals, we sometimes forget that and start talking about our roommates and their funny experiences when they don't relate to the Savior. Be patient and understand that the rest of us are learning, too, how to be perfect one day.
You also asked if you refused to bear your testimony if you would lose the Spirit. I happen to think (again, Nike Doctrine) that you won't completely lose the Spirit, but you won't enjoy it in the fulness that you might have had you born your testimony. Perhaps someone was there that day (hypothetically speaking) who needed just the thing you would have said. The Lord put us here in part to serve each other, and a part of that is not always knowing why or even whom we should serve - it's just trusting that the Lord knows the hearts of His children (yes, even those who only seem to "mostly care about how their shoes and makeup look") and that He knows what they need. There is no way for any of us to see each other's real hearts, so why not listen to the one Being who can? In any case, if the Lord prompts you to do something, you will be blessed if you follow His counsel. He has promised you that, even if those blessings come in a form other that how you can perceive them. Not to mention that the Lord has given us a beautiful promise about bearing our testimonies that I remember during every fast meeting: "Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you" (D&C 62:3). I like that one a lot. I'd suggest marking it in your scriptures.
Trust in the Lord that His Church truly is administered and cared for by Him. He knows the needs and desires of His people and will succor them accordingly. Follow the counsel given by his appointed leaders (the First Presidency, etc.) - which includes attending all church meetings - and you will be blessed. Pray for understanding about this matter and the Lord has promised that He will reveal everything to you if you knock and ask.
I can understand your issues about testimony meeting. When not used properly, testimony meeting can seem like an odd experience. I have sat through some really weird testimony meetings. But, on the other hand, some of the most spiritual meetings I have attended were meetings where people openly expressed their testimony to the congregation. I grew from those moments.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve gave a talk about sacrament meeting where he said the following:
Fast and Testimony Meeting
Fast and testimony meetings are held once a month, usually the first Sunday. Generally, babies are blessed on that day. After the sacrament, the conducting brother bears a brief testimony. He then invites members to bear brief, heartfelt testimonies of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration. Parents and teachers should help children learn what a testimony is and when it is appropriate for them to express it. Younger children should learn to share their testimonies at home or in Primary until they are old enough to bear an appropriate testimony unaided in fast and testimony meeting.
Each member of the Church bears responsibility for the spiritual enrichment that can come from a sacrament meeting. Each should sing with a grateful heart and respond with an audible "amen" at the conclusion of a prayer or a testimony. We personally ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We reflect upon the significance of His suffering at Gethsemane and His Crucifixion on Calvary. At this time, each of us is to "examine himself" (1 Cor. 11:28) and reflect upon personal covenants made with the Lord. At this time, we meditate upon the sacred things of God.
(Russell M. Nelson, "Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting," Liahona, August 2004, 11)
Testimony meeting, like other sacrament meetings, are opportunities for us to learn from others. We are to strengthen our testimonies not only by bearing them, but by hearing them be borne. We have the opportunity to feel the spirit and ponder our own experiences. Through testimonies, we grow together.
That is the doctrine of testimony meeting. At times, the culture of testimony meeting gets a little confused. People get up and tell about their most recent trip or confess sins from the pulpit. They get up and sob incoherently about some odd experience that doesn't seem to have any real connection to their testimony of the gospel. That is the culture of testimony meeting.
That monthly meeting is an opportunity for members of the ward, as they are inspirited, to get up and tell others about their testimony of the Savior.
If you are concerned about your ward and the odd testimony meetings, I would sit down with your bishop and express your concerns. It is his responsibility to set the tone for meetings. So, if there is a concern, he is the one with the duty to address it. If he asks for a suggestion, invite him to teach a lesson to the adults on what a testimony is, and how it should be borne in testimony meeting.
Even so, I have found that the best way to improve the tone of a sacrament meeting and put it on track is to get up and bear testimony yourself. There is nothing more important than a simple, strong testimony of the Savior and His gospel. So, get up and tell about yours.
Regardless, sit back and try to learn something from those meetings. Maybe just a little attitude shift might help you really enjoy those meetings.
Those are some of my thoughts.
That is all.