We talk about testimony as if it were the ultimate destination in our spiritual journeys. A whole-souled assurance about God’s truths is a great blessing. But it is only a beginning.
I remember an experience just prior to my mission. I went with a friend from Institute to visit Temple Square one summer Saturday morning. As we wandered around the grounds, I felt like it was a perfect morning. Everything felt beautiful, peaceful, and right. I found myself saying—again and again—“What a beautiful morning!” I was amazed at the magnificence of the morning. I didn’t realize at the time that the magnificence was not merely in the weather, the foliage, the sacred space, or the companionship. The magnificence was in the Spirit. Jesus was smiling on us, and I was feeling His Spirit—but I didn’t recognize His trademark manifestation.
In retrospect, I remember a time in that same era when, while working at the Eric J. Seaich printing company doing odd jobs, I felt so happy that I couldn’t stand it. I sang hymns as I worked. I hid in the restroom so I could pray and thank God. I just thought I was having a good day. I was so happy that I decided to start fasting. I fasted for three full days because I just felt so good. I had no idea that the experience was a message from Heaven.
During that same era, I remember finishing a sacrament meeting and asking my parents if I might attend another meeting. Craving more meetings was not my usual attitude about meetings. It didn’t occur to me that Jesus was filling me with light.
I have learned a lot since those days of mindless rejoicing. Joy means something. It means that God is present. Joy is one of Heaven’s most telltale calling-cards.
So, if I were determined to cultivate spiritual maturity in myself and my family, I would focus less—far less—on the steps to building a testimony and more—far more—on noticing His participation in our lives.
For example, last Sunday Nancy and I and our grandchildren attended sacrament meeting in Oceanside, California. We were greeted by a kind man who welcomed us warmly. The same man later helped pass the sacrament. The sacrament felt like an invitation to see Him. Isaac gave a good message that inspired me to think about enlarging my relationship with Jesus. When the meeting was over and people were heading to Sunday School, the organist was playing “Come Unto Jesus.”
When I apply a spiritual lens to those experiences, I see Jesus in the greeter. I feel His invitation to redemption in the sacrament. I feel Him standing by my side with His arm around my shoulders as I revel in “Come Unto Jesus.” He was there. And I spotted Him. I felt Him. I was renewed by Him.
We can spot Him not just in church but everywhere. We see Him in nature—from dramatic sunsets to beautiful leaves and welcome rain. We see Him in the people we love. We even see Him in the people who challenge us to have more charity.
But we must be willing to look beyond the symbol. Instead of people, talks, and ordinances, we must look with the eye of faith to see Jesus smiling, blessing, inviting, loving, and teaching.
In our family, we encourage family members to be aware of Jesus sightings. At Sunday dinner and other times through the week, we invite family members to tell their best experiences of the day. Jesus is always in our best experiences.
It is popular to encourage people to gain testimonies by studying the scriptures, obeying the commandments, and praying. Jesus invites us to move from testimony to friendship. We can see Him in our abundant blessings. We can trust Him with our worries. We can talk to Him as a friend.
Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 37:36-37)
To His servants, Jesus declared: “I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:45).
When we look for and find Jesus, we find joy.
If you are interested in applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to finding greater happiness, a better marriage, or more effective parenting, I recommend my new book, Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships. See Deseret Book or Amazon to purchase a copy for yourself or someone you love.
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her input on this article.