Driving east through a crowded mall parking lot, my brother John noticed a car heading west in the next lane. Moments later, another vehicle swerved around a corner–way too fast–and broadsided the westbound car. John quickly pulled over and checked on the drivers of the other vehicles. Fortunately, neither person had been injured, though the woman who had been hit was understandably shaken and upset.
My brother remained at the scene for several minutes, assuring the woman that he had witnessed the accident and it was clear that the other driver was at fault. John informed the woman that he was meeting his siblings for lunch at a restaurant just across the parking lot and would be there for the next hour. “If you need a witness, please come find me.”
Twenty minutes later, as my brothers and I were enjoying our meal, the woman from the accident scene approached our table and asked John for his contact information in case she needed to provide an eyewitness for the police report. John shared his phone number, describing exactly what he had seen. As the woman left the restaurant, my brother Steve mentioned a car accident he’d been in years before and how relieved he was that there were two witnesses who were able to establish that the accident was not his fault.
As I finished lunch that day, John’s words stayed in my mind: “If you need a witness…” That phrase started me thinking of the many Latter-day Saints who are struggling with testimony issues, experiencing a crisis of faith. The author of the book of Hebrews wrote that “… we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses …” (Hebrews 12:1) For anyone questioning the gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored Church it’s important to know there are witnesses all around.
The Law of Witnesses
Elder Loren C. Dunn taught, “The law of witnesses has always been a part of the Lord’s work on earth. This law states that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1) (1)
Having multiple credible individuals testify of the same event or truth adds strength and validity to the message being shared. Particularly with the foundational events of the restoration of the gospel, such as the First Vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, multiple witnesses are considered essential in establishing their authenticity.
It is not surprising that the people of Joseph Smith’s day had difficulty believing that He had seen a vision from heaven, and later received plates of gold. A fourteen-year-old farm boy claiming to see God? A young man directed to an ancient record engraved on golden plates? It must have been a tremendous relief to Joseph when three other men were shown the plates of gold from which the Book of Mormon was translated. They wrote and signed their witness that they had seen these things. No longer was Joseph alone in his testimony.
Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses, was twenty-two years older than Joseph Smith, and was a landowner and prosperous farmer. So certain was he of what he had witnessed that he mortgaged his farm to ensure payment of the printing costs of the Book of Mormon. His testimony gave credibility to Joseph’s claims.
If you need a witness to bolster a shaky testimony, you won’t find it by slogging through the swamp of anti-Latter-day Saint materials, podcasts, and blogs. But there are many credible witnesses available.
If You Need a Witness: Lean on the Testimony of Prophets and Apostles
One of the most testimony strengthening blessings I’ve received from the past two years of Come, Follow Me study has been reviewing the prophecies of prophets and apostles in the Old and New Testaments. In our day, we have the benefit of knowing that many of these prophecies have been fulfilled. This is a powerful witness that prophets and apostles are inspired of God and we can trust their words.
The current members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have consecrated their lives as fulltime servants of God and as special witnesses of Jesus Christ. In addition to the many talks they have given in General Conferences, they have recorded their testimonies for all to listen to and watch. Find them here:
In the mid 2000’s, my husband and I learned a personal lesson about trusting living prophets. We had heard President Gordon B. Hinckley, in 1998, strongly counsel church members to get out of debt, so we began paying extra each month toward our home mortgage. A few years later, Brad received a large distribution of partnership income. Many of his friends and co-workers who had significant experience in finance and investments encouraged him to put the money in what appeared to be a low-risk investment opportunity.
During this time, many people were taking advantage of the lenient lending practices of financial institutions. Many banks were willing to loan more than the actual value of a home, so some of Brad’s associates were taking out second mortgages on their existing homes to get the cash to invest in other new home construction. They would buy a new home, then flip it for a large profit.
Though Brad was being encouraged to invest his distribution money in this way, he hesitated. He recalled President Hinckley’s strong counsel to get out of debt. As my husband and I discussed where we should put the money, it became clear that we needed to follow the prophet and pay off our home mortgage.
How grateful we were for prophet’s warning when the bottom fell out of the market in 2008, and many of Brad’s associates were left owing more than their new homes were worth, on top of the second mortgage on their first homes. The market flipped, the lenders stopped lending, and home values decreased significantly.
President Hinckley was not a financial planner, a banker, or a Wall Street genius. But as a prophet, seer, and revelator, he was able to forewarn church members of troubling times ahead. How grateful we were during a serious economic downturn that we were debt free. We learned firsthand that we could trust the counsel and witness of God’s appointed servants.
If You Need a Witness: Lean on the Testimony of the Holy Ghost
If you’re struggling to receive a witness of the restored gospel from the Holy Ghost, you must be honest with yourself about where you’re getting your information. Studying or listening to material that plants doubt in your mind by spouting criticism and opinions rather than solid doctrine will never yield a testimony. A true witness of the Spirit can only come as you study the gospel from pure sources: the scriptures, the prophets and apostles, and the holy temple. As you persist in your sincere search for truth, a witness will come through the power of the Holy Ghost.
“… and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)
During my childhood, the Church didn’t place nearly the emphasis on the Book of Mormon that it does today. My parents taught me stories from the scriptures, but I never read the entire Book of Mormon until my sophomore year of high school when it was the course of study for seminary. Fortunately, my excellent teacher brought the scriptures to life, and I enjoyed our daily reading assignments.
Partway through the school year, while we were studying the book of Helaman, something began to stir inside me as I read. I vividly recall one particular week when I would hop on the bus after school and all I could think about was getting home to read from the Book of Mormon. Once I arrived at my house, I didn’t make my usual stop in the kitchen for snacks. Instead, I headed straight for my bedroom and pulled out my scriptures. This happened for several days.
I clearly recall the spiritual energy that filled me as I eagerly pored over God’s word–the sweetness of the Holy Spirit witnessing to me that what I was reading was true. That witness of the Spirit made an indelible impression on my young heart. “What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23)
If You Need a Witness: Lean on My Testimony
While watching my grandson’s soccer game recently, I noticed that my son-in-law (an astronomy enthusiast) stood up, put on a pair of specialized glasses, then looked southeast toward the sun. Jonathan knew that a solar eclipse was just beginning. After helping his two youngest boys look through the glasses, he passed them along so my husband and I could see what was happening in the sky. We saw a sliver of the moon’s shadow as it began to pass between the earth and the sun.
We continued to monitor the moon’s progress throughout the game, and my husband told me that the best place to view the full effects of this eclipse was a couple of hours south of us, where the angle was better.
All afternoon, I wondered about the eclipse. Though people have been observing and charting the stars for thousands of years, it still astonishes me that the occurrence of a solar eclipse and the best place to view its full effect can be predicted so accurately. But while I may not be able to explain how astronomers figured it all out, I know firsthand that there was an eclipse–I know what I saw.
It’s the same way with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I may not be able to explain it all, but I am a witness of Jesus and His church. I know what I’ve seen and felt and become through the Savior’s Atonement and through the ordinances and covenants of the holy temple–restored in the latter days–which draw me to Christ.
Though I have not seen His face, I have surely seen His hand in my life. I have experienced the joy and relief of having my sins and shame washed away through His atoning blood, and I continue to feel Him changing me inside as fast as I allow it to happen. I have also witnessed dramatic transformations in other people as they have turned aside from sin, addiction, and worldly philosophies, and embraced the restored gospel of Christ.
No, I don’t know everything, but I know enough. Because of what I have personally experienced I know that whatever questions I still have will be answered in due course. If you need a witness of Jesus, you can lean on me.
A Cloud of Witnesses
Religion professor Jared Halverson recently said, “I’ve told my students before that when you have questions, gather your cloud of witnesses...One of the reasons I want to spend so much time in scripture, one of the reasons I want to know every story and ponder every word is because that is what gives voice to the cloud of witnesses. If I don’t know what they said, then they can’t say anything to me…whereas, if I’ve come to know them and come to understand them then theirs can be a voice from the dust that I’m aching to hear.” (2)
So, if you need a witness, start by looking to the “cloud of witnesses” all around: prophets and apostles, the Holy Spirit, and ordinary people like me who have been changed by Jesus Christ and are happy to stand as witnesses for Him.
- Witnesses, Elder Loren C. Dunn, Oct. 1995 General Conference.
- Unshaken Saints (podcast), Jared Halverson, Hebrews. 7-13, min. 3:18:44.