I learned as a missionary the art of avoiding past transgressions. But I am about to drop a current transgression. This is how I’d like this to work: I will vent. Then you, (you, reader person) can one of two things; you can agree with me, or you can help me resolve my disparaging attitude.

Any questions?

The drop: I don’t enjoy Fast and Testimony meeting. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable, annoyed and embarrassed.

It’s not just in my ward either. It’s your ward. It’s the ward I attend on vacation (I am that sort of a Saint). Or the baby blessing. Or the past ward. Or the ward before that. And it’s definitely the single’s ward which I had the pleasure of attending before and after a divorce.

I am pretty sure I know how a Fast and Testimony meeting is supposed to go. I’ve tried to teach that to whomever I have had stewardship over. You are lead by the Spirit. You declare what you know is truth following the basic tenets of our religion. You close in the name of our Savoir (not in the name of “Thy son”) and you sit down. You feel the blood in your extremities return. The person to your left gives you a brief rub on the shoulder.

It starts with the Bishopric who is supposed to leave his testimony as an example (this is no time for general wardkeeping admonitions, right?) and end with “The time is now yours for the bearing of testimonies.”

Then the slew of children.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love children. I have paid a huge amount of cash just to be able to conceive ONE of their species. I put in long hours for six years at an Elementary School for a measly paycheck. I am an (favorite) Aunt of thirty-one (almost thirty-two) children of the nieces and nephews variety. And this is where I will end my “I Love Children” resume. But I do not love children bearing testimonies during Fast and Testimony meeting.

Not all children. I love to hear the testimonies of the recently baptized or the challenged-during-family-home-evening. But the endless line of children just eager to get their voice projected on the microphone out to the great beyond! feels silly to me. I’ve had to get up and take a walk around the building.

We’ve been counseled that children who need help at the pulpit bearing testimony should not be there in the first place (unless of course it’s that adorable Primary Program). But kids are getting smart. They are advancing beyond and now they don’t need your ear-ly whispers, they can yell into the microphone all on their own thankyouverymuch. And convenient enough on most days, children learn by example, which means that more and more children are eager to “I’d like to bear my testimony. I know this Church is true.”

I don’t get it either. When I was a kid I didn’t want to get up there in front of all those people. I liked Quiet Books. Why don’t kids like Quiet Books anymore?

I think it is okay to teach children that the bearing of testimony from the pulpit is a coming of age practice. Just like baptism or going through the temple.

Then the ward rambler.

After that, the ward regular.

Followed by the ward alien who says things that people from our planet don’t comprehend.

Sprinkled with the unaware for whom considerate social mores are distinct.

Then the ward “I am going to get this meeting back on track!” hero whose testimony sounds more like anger than love. (I confess to being the is person in warranted circumstances.)

Occasionally there is that treat of a sincere, humble declaration of devotion to this Church. To His Church. Those keep me coming on the first Sunday of the month. More importantly, when I hear such testimonies I am duly blessed. I know that they know. And I know that I know. And I want others to know that I know.

But most of the time I sit in my chair with a big cringe in my soul. I think it started back on my mission when we brought a very skeptical–but very interested–investigator to church. For the record, she picked Fast and Testimony meeting for her first introduction into our worship, we missionaries knew better. When the man bore his testimony using a hand-puppet, our investigator asked us to stop the discussions.

I think the general leadership is trying to helps us teach each other that Fast and Testimony is not open-mike hour. It’s not confession and it’s not an opportunity to teach us what you’ve learned on the doctrine of being a Republican. We should be concerned about the future generations of testimony bearers. If there ever was an opportunity to lead out by example, it is in this particular meeting, especially for the newly baptized converts and the children. It could be one hour of one month where an entire congregation practices the true art of charity by uplifting and touching hearts simultaneously in declarations of knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Less self-indulgence, more selflessness.

I am going to pray for help in this endeavor. But until the time arrives when I can sit through a meeting without wanting to flee the premises, advice is welcome. Unless you are rowing in my boat, in which case I cannot lie, I am misery and I love the company.

61 Comments

  1. Karen

    March 14, 2007

    I’m in your boat. The man who takes his nursery age daughter up to talk loudly in the microphone drives me crazy. I don’t think it is cute. My ‘feeling the spirit’ swich turns off. (I wish I had thought of getting up and walking around, I’m usually trying not to roll my eyes!) On the other hand we had a sister get up and ask us to excuse her for not following the prescribed testimony formula then she shared the results of a ward fast we had had for her husband. It was beautiful and the spirit was incredibly strong (at least to me) Hang in there!

  2. Leisha

    March 14, 2007

    It’s so true. Every word. I don’t really have a solution except what my Dad always tells me when I’ve made the same confession to him, “We’re all at different stages of spiritual development, lead by example”. It does really come down to your point about there being a difference in self-indulgence and selflessness. Sunday I read this from Spencer W. Kimball, “A testimony is not an exhortation; a testimony is not a sermon (none of you are there to exhort the rest); it is not a travelogue. You are there to bear your own witness. It is amazing what you can say in 60 seconds by way of testimony…if you confine yourselves to testimony. We’d like to know how you feel. Do you love the work, really? Are you happy in your work? Do you love the Lord? Are you glad that you are member of the Church?” I guess I shouldn’t talk though, I don’t get up nearly often enough.

  3. Emily

    March 14, 2007

    It can be a scary experience to endure, for sure. In my ward last year, we had a full half hour blow by blow of The New York Doll, the beginning of which was already 15 minutes past the hour if you know what I mean. Some things just don’t make for appropriate Sacrament Meeting fodder.

    But, this is what I love: it is a Gospel of fostering personal relationships with God. I think it is amazing that each person is entitled to revelation from God and given the opportunity to share what he has learned (good for 3 purposes: forgiveness of sins when you bear testimony, strengthened personal convictions, and maybe just maybe strengthening someone else’s testimony who has the spiritual gift to believe on others’ words.)

    Plus, how amazing is it that the Kingdom of God just keeps growing, in spite of all the inarticulate, inappropriate, blubbering, confessing, crazy talk things that are said by people at the pulpit everywhere in the world. It’s kind of like the principle that the church is true in spite of 19-yr-old boys who are sent to preach the gospel.

    But, you know all of this already. You are that kind of a Saint!

  4. Carina

    March 14, 2007

    I had no idea use of hand puppets were so wide-spread.

    J used to express his anger at the children stuff where I (sometimes) still think it’s a break from Mrs. Why Don’t They Call on Me To Speak Every Sunday So That I Won’t Spend Twenty Minutes Taking Up Testimony Meeting Every Month?

  5. cardine

    March 14, 2007

    The comment about being at different stages of spiritual development is true.

    I also find myself bearing through fast and testimony meeting sometimes. I have nothing to add, except for my own frustrations at the people who always get up to share something from the current teachings of the prophet manual that they read earlier that day. I’ve had enough of these sneak previews!

  6. Justine

    March 14, 2007

    Have you ever seen the testimonies of the Apostles on DVD? It is sooo wonderful, and what a great lesson of what bearing testimony is. I guess we just all have to endure the travails of others and grow together in the gospel.

    My kids share their testimony at Family Home Evening (isn’t that what the Brethren suggested when they made that testimony meeting announcement?) It’s been a good experience for them.

  7. Emily

    March 14, 2007

    Here’s the statement I struggle with: “I know, that this is the only true church on the earth.” I struggle with it on many levels. First “KNOW” ?? How do you know? I am not comfortable to say that I KNOW because that excludes the possibility of any doubt and I’m just not there yet. Second, I feel like people often say this with the implication that we, (the LDS church,) have a monopoly on truth, which is simply not true. There are so many, many good and true principles and practices outside of our church. Sure, they may be lacking authohrity or this doctrine or that ordinance, but there can still exist a great many truths and goodnesses outside of our faith. And lastly, I feel like this statement would be ultra offensive to an investigator or someone who doesn’t share our faith. I think it sounds awfully self-promoting and narrow. I do believe, however, that we do have a fullness of truth (meaning all the truth that we need to tread this path that God has prescribed for us to follow to make our way back to Him.) I just feel uncomfortable with the way we declare the posession of that truth sometimes–because our having it doesn’t exclude others from having theirs, too.

  8. Pflower

    March 14, 2007

    I have a testimony that these things that you say are true!!!
    It’s so funny, or tragic, that you can name the same type of people that stand the bear their “testiomony” that are in just about every ward and guest ward that we have all been to. You can always tell when someone is up there on a double dog dare or when they just want to give a shout out to who they were dancing with at the stake dance because they felt the spirit so strong during the Ace of Base song.
    We had a family in my ward when I was growing up that was a little on the strange side. There was a palpable shift in the meeting when the mom would share with us all. She would stand and say how much she hated her life, how poor they were and that her kids pee’d the bed all the time so she always had so much laundry to do. You could see her family try to shrink their way down to the floor so that they could dig their way out of the meeting. I’ve often wondered how they all turned out.
    I always cherish the sincere testimonies, but I have to confess I’m mostly just bored. I think I might be a little jaded.
    Next time I’m going to try to find the sincere testimony. I’ll make a game out of it.

  9. Emily

    March 14, 2007

    I feel like I should amend what I said above. It is perfectly great for other people to declare that they “Know…” I’m just not at that point in my personal spirituality…and that, I think, is perfectly okay, too. That doesn’t make me a heretic on the verge of apostacy.
    Also, I think that we are all struggling with different issues (some lack conviction, others lack common-testimony-meeting-courtesies, others lack patience, etc.) I like what was said earlier about all of us being at different places in our spiritual journeys–and the thing we ought to do, where possible, is lead by example in areas where we think change would be appropriate. Maybe this all goes back to the “let him who is without sin cast the first stone…” principle. I feel like my last comment was a little stone-ish, and I don’t want to be holding a handful of stones when I know that there are many, many things in my life that stand in need of betterment.

  10. Leisha

    March 14, 2007

    Emily…I understand what you are saying about the “know” comments. They key with those I think is whether they are said with arrogance, or with the Spirit…if they are said with the Spirit then an investigator can feel the truth too, if they are said in arrogance it just makes everyone uncomfortable.

  11. Marilyn

    March 14, 2007

    cjane, can I read this from the pulpit next fast sunday? I know that this is a contradictory idea, but my ward really needs to hear it. It’s not that they haven’t heard it before though. About a year ago, a high councilman came and gave a very needed talk about what is and what is not appropriate for the bearing of testimonies. Only one week later, there was a humiliating (for everyone witnessing) experience where a 3 year old child was allowed to say whatever she wanted as loudly as she wanted to say it. I could not even look up. So needless to say, I feel the same way as you. Embarrassed, annoyed, and definitely uncomfortable.

    On a positive note however, experiences such as this do make the really good ones, even better.

    Thanks for your honesty, I guess I needed to vent as well.

  12. *gu*

    March 14, 2007

    Emily, there’s nothing wrong with your first comment… in fact, i totally agree with you. Definitely an interesting insight that put words to my feelings about the “i know” and the “only true church” statements…

    To Cjane: A box of 24 Crayola Colored Pencils and a piece of paper cures what ails me during sacrament meeting… is 22 too old to be doing that??? because the kids who sit in front of me always look jealous.

  13. Davey

    March 14, 2007

    Echo . . . echo . . . echo.
    When my older and younger brothers were out serving their various missions, I would pick the afore-author-mentioned Sunday to be when I wrote them letters. More specifically, during that very meeting. Its because I have been preaching the same for years, but people won’t listen. So I gave up (sinner?).

    That’s why I knew that one day I would probably like the cjaner and chup when you first moved in. I believe when you were asked to speak in the ward for the first time, that was the exact topic you spoke on.

    Are we being too picky and not letting the Spirit touch our hearts as we are too busy being so critical of others? (I love rhetorical questions) Probably.

    But this life is a life of faith and hope. And sometimes I would like to hear that others are battling to carry forward with their testimony in following Jesus Christ or whomever they chose as their god (as long as the carrying forward is not in a bomb-laden vehicle). Its good not to feel alone. But when there is no time for the pure in heart to share their convictions, because of the insensitive ignorant masses, everyone goes away wondering what the others are thinking.

    Maybe this means that those of us that know how MUST take back the Testimony Meeting. Yes, that’s it. It just came to me while rereading my last paragraph. I’m doing it. Looks like I will have to start fasting and praying. So instead of being grumpy I am right now turning over a new leaf. Let’s bring the meeting back.

    But humbly (I just read again what I wrote and I sounded arrogant. Its just excitement)

  14. CJane/Courtney K.

    March 14, 2007

    I am with you Davey.

    (Thanks for remembering my talk.)

  15. Angie

    March 14, 2007

    I don’t like testimony meeting much either, for most of these same reasons. But I don’t mind children bearing their testimonies, as long as they are old enough to do it on their own. I hope that if children are asked to not bear their testimonies during Sacrament meeting at all in the future that the possibility of doing it in pirmary is opened up. That isn’t allowed right now, and I do think children benefit from learning to articulate their feelings for a group of people outside their families.

  16. Sister Pottymouth

    March 14, 2007

    I rarely get up in F&T meeting. Too intimidating for me. But I say “hear hear!” to your comments. Bugs the crap outta me to hear the kids get up. Especially when this one family’s kids get up and basically say a prayer into the microphone. Hello? Seriously–“I’d like to bury my testimony that I know this church is true. I’m thankful for my family and for my friends. Bless the missionaries. Bless my family. In the name….etc.” I couldn’t look up because I was so embarrassed.

    On a lighter note, you’d have loved the Girls’ Camp testimony in which a certain person who shall remain nameless said, “Sometimes life can be sh%$@y.” Now THAT was a real testimony. (Even if I do say so myself.)

  17. Emily M.

    March 14, 2007

    Two thoughts on this great post:
    1-when we first moved into our ward, it had a special designated time for the children to bear testimony at the start of the meeting. All the kids got up and bore similar testimonies. This changed after a letter (First Presidency or Stake Presidency, I forget which), and now only kids who really feel moved by the Spirit, as opposed to peer pressure, get up. A big improvement.

    2-I think this is one way we figure out how to be Zion, of one heart. It’s a a kind of test for ourselves: how are we going to respond when the lady who wishes she could talk every week (that would be, um, me) gets up yet again? How are we going to have charity for the woman who shares waaay too much? What about when the twelfth kid gets up and breaths into the microphone? Here’s the group of people we’re supposed to build Zion with, right now, all staring us in the face, and perhaps massively irritating us. It’s a test. Some weeks I pass it… others not(the time in high school when I pulled out my debate stopwatch and timed the worst offenders).

  18. Jennifer B.

    March 14, 2007

    I guess I have been lucky recently. Our ward has had wonderful testimony meetings. Not that someone doesn’t occasionally elaborate on a stray thought, but one Sunday a few months ago I was simply AMAZED at how invigorating, exciting, and uplifting a meeting full of true testimony can be. It was powerful.

    The children issue is difficult. Leaders can gently remind, other parents can teach their children about testimony and share them at home. Also, children DO have (and are encouraged to) share their testimony when they speak in Primary.

    If I am earnestly fasting, I’m not so affected by things that might otherwise annoy me.

    When I find myself beginning to feel frustrated or annoyed, I try to remember that everyone is doing the best they can and to consider what makes that person lovable and how patient Heavenly Father is with me.

    And if all else fails, then all of you who know better, follow Davey and humbly TAKE BACK THE MEETING!

  19. Matt W.

    March 14, 2007

    I recently tangentially mentioned that I absolutely hated when people bore their testimony with “every fiber of their being” in my testimony a few months ago, and no one has sense…

    However, the bishop used to get up every F&T and say “no kids” for six months strait or so, and we still get the occasional kid…

  20. Sue

    March 14, 2007

    We have a guy in our ward who actually makes a ring out of a dollar bill and gives it to each kid who bears their testimony. You should see the lines! I told my daughter she couldn’t accept it from him when she bore her testimony (the one time). (plus the fact that he is totally creepy anyway).

    I hear ya!

  21. Jamie

    March 14, 2007

    Lately I feel at least entertained, if not edified, by the testomonies born in my ward. At least I’m not feeling annoyed. I have before, and I think the sensistivity started on my mission. I think most missionaries have a nightmare F&T meeting-with-invetsigators experience(as well as “You called WHO to teach Gospel Principles?? Yikes!”). But I have finally lived in one place long enough for it to feel like home, for it to feel like a True Ward Family, and so the cringing has eased up and the edifying had creeped in, and those freaky moments end up being almost endearing, like when your whiny sister whines or your drunk uncle gives the toast. Gotta love ’em (and, like Emily #17 up there said, we really do have to love them…). But I will admit to being in your boat quite often, Courtney, and I often bear witness just to get things on track.

  22. Tami

    March 14, 2007

    Golly, folks, are we really so critical of each other? Reading this post and most of these comments makes me feel . . . well, for one thing it makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed because I’m wondering now if when I bear my testimony I do it “right.” Also, I had no idea people were bugged when my children bore their testimonies. They don’t do it often and we try hard to teach them what a testimony is and when it is appropriate to share it. It makes me feel sad to think that some may have been annoyed by them.

    Really, we’re all just trying to do the best we can. Zion is about love, not judgment. Isn’t it?

  23. Lindy

    March 14, 2007

    Last fast Sunday, Hugo (5 years of age), ran up to the puplit and loudly declared, “I am a vampire and I love to suck blood.” Then ran back to his seat. I’m definitely not a fan of kids bearing their testimony, but Hugo’s was pretty awesome!

  24. CJane/Courtney K.

    March 14, 2007

    You are absolutely right Tami. And thanks for teaching your children about what a testimony is and when it is appropriate to share it. I think we both agree that there is a “right” way and that is what we are teaching and showing by example.
    I don’t think I am judging as much as I am looking for help in changing my attitude.

  25. Cari

    March 14, 2007

    I totally agree with Tami. (But I still love you cjane!) It’s important for anyone who feels they need to share their testimony to do so, however, I do believe children need to be taught how to feel and recognize the spirit and they should be taught to do it on their own.

  26. Kate

    March 14, 2007

    I agree! I want to get up and walk out when everyone starts to list off everything they are thankful for (thankfulmony). Bearing testimony has to do with bearing witness to that which we know to be true. Much of what we call testimony bearing is not really testimony at all—it is a statement or expression of public thanks. It is good to be thankful, but public thanks is not testimony. Testimony comes from the Holy Ghost. The spirit can be very powerful when someone truly and sincerely testifies, that’s what a testimony is. I agree with Leisha about the “know comments”- used with a true knowledge gained can be very powerful.

  27. Pflower

    March 14, 2007

    Are there official DO’s and DO NOT’s regarding testimonies during testimony meeting?? Do we need to reign in the kids Darth testimonies? Are we raising a generation of people that are too afraid to say the wrong thing that they don’t give or even have a testimony? Are we headed to testimony form letters?

    ” I’d love to bear testimony #2 from the testimony handbook and also the last paragraph from #3. Amen”

    How do we teach what is appropriate to say but still say “say it from the heart, feel the spirit”? These seem to be contradictory idea’s.

  28. Emily M.

    March 14, 2007

    Um, yes, there are official DO’s and DO NOT’s. Elder Ballard’s talk “Pure Testimony” (November 2004 Ensign) gives some good guidelines. He says: “My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.

    “Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies. Those who are entrusted to speak and teach in our meetings need to do so with doctrinal power that will be both heard and felt, lifting the spirits and edifying our people.”

    I don’t know the best way to teach it; I know that on occasion when I was growing up, my parents would, after a problematic Sacrament meeting (testimony or regular), tactfully explain that such-and-such doctrine, taught in Sacrament Meeting, was not true. They would also, more frequently, say “What a great testimony / talk Brother Smith gave! Wow. It was great because….” They tried to teach me to see good from bad, while refraining from judging the testimonies that were not as well-expressed.

    That method is best practice with kids, I guess. For adults, the other thing that comes to mind is REPETITION. After years and years of explaining how testimonies should go, I think my ward right now has got it pretty well. I have not been in a cringe-worthy testimony meeting for quite some time. But there was a time when we were hearing with some frequency how testimonies were supposed to be. We got it over and over, until we started to get it right.

  29. kelly m

    March 14, 2007

    good answer emily!! i was going to mention that talk as well. there are also guidelines as to how to pray, and how to do, well, everything in connection with the church.

    that being said, a part of our test and challenge to be charitable is to look with love and acceptance to those who haven’t figured out how to follow guidelines.

    by letting our criticisms affect our ability to feel the spirit, we are also not following guidelines of a more important variety. i too am guilty.

    a thought that has helped me when i get annoyed at ward members who seem to be so self-serving or oblivious is: “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” -mary lou kownacki. at the signs of preturbance i think that and imagine them to have a really really pitiful story to tell…maybe they are trying to…

  30. Angie

    March 14, 2007

    The last time I was in a Primary presidency we were told by the stake not to have children share testimonies in primary. If a child giving a talk wanted to include a testimony that was okay, but we were not to allow children to simply share testimonies–that was to be done only in Sacrament meeting. I can’t remember now if that was a stake guideline or something churchwide. Then came the letter from the First Presidency about not coaching children to say testimonies in Sacrament meeting. I support that, but I also support allowing children who can and want to share their testimonies by themselves some public forum to do it. Yes, some of them can be insincere and annoying–but the same is true of adults. And some children can also be deeply spiritual. Last month my five year old walked up to the front of the chapel, bore her testimony, and came back to her seat with tears in her eyes because she was so moved by the Spirit. She didn’t have big fancy words to say, but I like to think that if the Spirit could teach her, that it could also teach other people who were in that room through the experience.

  31. j5t

    March 14, 2007

    For many (myself included), the frustration with the children-issue stems from the statement from the First Presidency being read at LEAST five times in sacrament meeting (discouraging parents from whispering what to say to their children), followed directly by parents doing exactly that.

    A friend once told me a story of when he was a chaperone at a youth conference and all the testimonies consisted of, “The dance was awesome…the food sucked…”, until a member of the stake presidency got up and gave a brief instruction of what a testimony should (or, more accurately, should NOT) sound like. The next youth’s testimony? “Yeah…I mean, the dance was pretty fun…the pizza sucked…”.

    I think I understand the confusion with sharing and bearing: people who feel so strongly about something, they think that those feelings, are, in fact, a part of their testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, which is essentially His work and His glory, and therefore gives us joy, is it not? That being said, I once heard a wonderful example of this in a meeting. A man said, “I’d like to express appreciation and love for my wife and children…”, etc., which was immediately followed by, “…and now I’d like to bear my testimony,” which included the “I know” statements. I really liked that. He was expressing gratitude, which is sometimes appropriate because it contributes to the joy we are feeling, and then he set his testimony apart from that.

    I really enjoy attending testimony meetings in the ward I grew up in in NY; I see people creatively expressing their feelings while trying to learn how things (are supposed to) operate in their new-found culture. It can be very…yes, creative.

  32. B.

    March 14, 2007

    I blurted out laughing when I read this post and spewed ice all over my screen. I love fast and tell-a-story meeting…..monthly entertainment at its best.

  33. Sally

    March 14, 2007

    After counting one guy say the word “beautiful” 76 times in his testimony, and then listening to the “guilt-trip lady” say one more time how horrible we all were because we didn’t help her enough through her latest crisis, I had had enough!

    I mentioned the annoyance to my dad and he told me this story: One Sunday he had also had enough of F&T Meeting. He couldn’t believe what the current lady was saying–a travelogue about some vacation, blah, blah, blah. He turned to my mom to make some snide comment, and my mom was in tears. Not from laughter or boredom, but actual tears from feeling the Spirit! He was astounded! How could she be feeling the Spirit during this? He concluded that maybe he wasn’t really trying to feel the spirit. He couldn’t help noticing the bad, when my mom somehow was able to look past all the distracting stuff and find a message for her in there somewhere. The Spirit will teach us something if we really seek it.

    Hmmm…well, I’m not there yet, but I am trying to see the good in every testimony…and really trying not to cringe when one more person says, “I would be the most ungrateful person if I didn’t get up here today…”

  34. Melissa P.

    March 15, 2007

    There are wards we’ve been in where we don’t bear testimonies because we don’t want to be counted as “one of those people”. It can be a circus act. In one ward someone actually let a live dove fly away. It was in his pocket. Go figure. My husband and some friends used to do a little prediction each month on the back of the program about who would get up that month. It was the same people each month, so not too hard. It’s nice that we now live somewhere where there are only one or two that you kind of dread. The rest of the ward is pretty great. Thanks for letting us know we’re not alone!

  35. Emily

    March 15, 2007

    There are a lot of Emilys.

  36. Melonie

    March 15, 2007

    Melonie, a bordering on middle-age typical Mormon mother, rises from the overflow seats. She has passed her baby to her husband, given all the other children crayons and toy cars, and has overcome the battle in her pounding heart to stay seated or get up. She isn’t worried about her ill-fitting dress or her pony-tailed hair. She isn’t worried about walking up the aisle and the ward looking at her backside. In fact, she doesn’t know what she is doing as her feet carry her forward. She just knows that she keeps praying at each footstep, “What do you want me to say? Help me say it. Help me touch one of my sisters. Stop my heart from beating so hard. Help me.” She stops and turns at the microphone. She sees all the faces upturned to see who dared to come up. Some look bored, some look hopeful, some immediately turn back to their books. She pauses, unable to carry the love she has inside of her anymore, she bears.

    I’d like to bear my testimony….
    There are only a few things in this world that I know for sure.
    One is this…every time I sincerely look into my children’s eyes, they bear testimony of God. They are purity placed in tiny bodies. They don’t need to stand up and speak in church. Their testimonies are their little lives and the way they love so greatly and unquestioningly. I am honored to be their mother.
    Two is this..when I lay my head on my pillow at night (around 1:00am), I am usually utterly exhausted from motherhood, housecleaning, laundry, wifedom, grocery shopping, school stuff, searching for a house, etc. etc. etc. and I close my eyes and realize that the only thing that keeps me wanting or able to get up in 6 hours and do it all again is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love Him. I rely on Him. I literally need Him every hour. I know that tomorrow I will learn something new about how to be like Him. Why? Because there is something every day that is a challenge for me..from stepping on that sharp lego and falling over and trying not to swear and yell at my kids for leaving it there to sobbing my eyes out over not feeling loved and appreciated. To be honest, I don’t know for sure if everything in the church is TRUE, but I do know that the church has led me to TRUTH and a relationship with my Savior and I am grateful for it.
    Third – I know the atonement is real and has worked and is working in my life. I have been forgiven for awful choices I made. How do I know? When I go to sleep, I am not tormented anymore rehashing past mistakes. I don’t feel afraid or ashamed to talk to God. I have joy.
    Fourth- I know God has put me in touch with all the insightful and awe-inspiring women at Segullah to help me grow and come to know Him even better.
    In His name,
    Amen.

  37. ATK

    March 15, 2007

    Set a good example? YES! But, who are we to judge or criticize? It’s not our place.

  38. Davey

    March 15, 2007

    Thanks Melonie.

  39. Sharlee

    March 15, 2007

    Thank you, Melonie. Beautiful.

  40. Courtney

    March 15, 2007

    Another thank you to Melonie, that was inspiring-a post of it’s own.

  41. JrL

    March 15, 2007

    I wonder — when I consider the feelings expressed, and then note how seldom I stand myself — whether I’m contributing to the problem. Maybe if I stood more often, others would sollow my example. Or at least be less likely to get an opportunity to stand. I’ll have to be quick to the podium, though…. And it’s easier to sit back and compile my little list of things to chuckle about over Sunday dinner.

    I share the annoynace about “the true church.” What does that mean? Is there a ‘false church”? As a lawyer, I handle some tax cases, so I know the answer to that is “yes.” But the reasons aren’t ones that distinguish our church from others. Now if they say, “true church of Jesus Christ,” that doesn’t bother me.

  42. Sarah K.

    March 15, 2007

    Melonie, that was lovely. I am glad you shared it with us. Thank you.

    I have always thought that testimonies are sometimes meant to bless and uplift the listener but that the majority of the time the bearing of a testimony benefits primarily the speaker. I love the people of my ward. My ward has a very similar mix to what Cjane described. Sometimes there are only three people that get to speak because of the length of the travelogues. It used to really bother me until a friend, who I knew was struggling, got up and spoke for what seemed like half of eternity just trying to work up the courage to say what she really needed to say. Like her, maybe they are just nervous and intending to bear testimony of the joy that Christ has brought them, but their feelings are so intense and so personal that they just can’t. Maybe they are lonely, and want someone to notice that they are there. Perhaps, with where they are in their relationship with God, what they have to say is all that they can say, but they feel they must at least acknowledge Him. Yeah, and sometimes they just like to talk.

    That said, I think at some point it becomes incumbent upon the Bishopric to stop certain people from speaking, either before or in the middle of what they have to say. – ie. the manic depressive that for twenty minutes graphically details being raped fifteen years before, or the nice little old lady who goes on and on about how children might be molested in the bathroom at church.

    Sometimes I smile affectionately at the person bearing a non-testimony testimony and think “Isn’t s/he a riot”, and other times I cringe and want to cover my children’s ears.

  43. metamorphose

    March 15, 2007

    I should first say my internet time at work is very limited so I didn’t have a chance to read all the comments word for word.

    When I was a freshman in college I remember a friend of mine, who was no longer a member of the church, said, “I don’t go to church. But if you can, remember to tell me when it’s Fast and Testimony meeting -I always get a big laugh out of that!”

    I admit that I, like my friend, have sometimes allowed myself to think of Fast and Testimony meeting to be nothing more than a bit of a joke. (Keep in mind I am unmarried, so I mainly attend singles’ wards, so I’ll refrain from commenting about children’s testimonies, since I haven’t had much experience with that as of late.)

    I confess, there was a time when a friend and I played something we called “Testimony Bingo.” We had fun, but the Spirit was not felt. But it proved difficult for us to take it seriously when we heard testimonies that involved quoting the lyrics from Madonna’s, “Like a Virgin” at the pulpit, claiming the song to be like unto Jesus. Or when a sister would get up, and share a song she had written HERSELF about the Lord, and then proceed to sing it like strangled cat, weeping for bitter death.

    It shouldn’t be a circus. And if you feel your motive behind sharing your testimony borders on entertaining the congregation rather than contributing to the Spirit, than your butt should stay put in the seat.

    Lastly though, I should say this: how I survive a Fast and Testimony meeting without bashing my head against the pew in front of me – I remind myself that Sister So&So and Brother WhatHisName aren’t sharing their testimonies for me, but for themselves. And if by giving testimony of this gospel they are uplifted and brought closer to the Spirit, then I’ll support that -even if I don’t approve of their testimony methods.

  44. Marilyn

    March 15, 2007

    I remember something a friend said to me after I complained about the quality of our Fast and Testimony meetings in our ward. Her reply was, (not exact words but close)

    “I have always thought that Sacrament meeting was about the Sacrament. Remembering the Savior and his Atonement for me personally seems more important than what is ever said by any of the speakers. If I don’t get something out of the meeting then I haven’t done my part in partaking of the Sacrament, remembering Him and trying to be like Him.”

    I still get annoyed at the same things you have mentioned but I do try to remember her words and remember why I am really there.

  45. Kate

    March 16, 2007

    I just have to say that I have actually heard the word “conceived” in a testimony… and yes he was referring to the moment he and his wife created their child. I would say that was a little too much information!

  46. Bookslinger

    March 17, 2007

    Back in the 80’s, missionaries were instructed to not let F&T meeting be an investigator’s first sacrament meeting.

  47. Granny

    March 18, 2007

    Hmmm. I haven’t yet read that anyone here on this thread is a convert to the church, so I may be the first to render an opinion, and it is only my opinion on this subject, from this converts point of view and personal experience. I married an inactive member and my only attendance to the LDS church came on F&T Sunday’s when we would attend a baby’s blessing. Each time I was “moved” by the sincerity of the speaker up there baring their soul. I was amazed that these people could share so openly their innermost and deep feelings publicly. But as impressed as I was with the feeling I felt from the speakers, I was equally disturbed by the inattentiveness of the audience. I notice many if not most of the congregation didn’t seem to be listening. They did crossword puzzles, talked among themselves, slept, looked at the floor, read and so forth. I felt very bad for the folks up there testifying and in some cases were very emotional in their expressions. Most people (speaking of the adults) were not giving the speaker their attention and I felt it was insulting and disrespectful. A year into our marriage I began taking the discussions and again it was F&T Sunday when I attended church. Different ward same experience. It seemed no one was listening. I was baptized, but it was nearly 7 years before I was actually “converted”. I can’t say it was my sacrament meeting F&T experiences that caused the delay of my full conversion, but it was a contributing factor. It wasn’t until I had a heart to heart with one of my sister in law’s (I felt comfortable enough with her to voice my concerns) about how I felt about how “detached” people were in sacrament meeting (not just F&T meeting)at the LDS church. She said I needed to not be concerned with all the other people and what they were do during sacarament meeting, that I just needed to go there for myself and seek after the spirit and what I need and that no matter who is speaking if I am prepared I will get from the meeting what Heavenly Father has prepared for me to receive. Well I believed her and took her advice. I did become converted and it has been 25 years since that time. Most Sunday’s I do get “something” and if I don’t I don’t blame it on the speaker or the folks bearing their testimony, I only have my own lack of desire or lack of preparation to blame (and we have our share of “cases” and “boring speakers”.) cjanes collection of individuals sounds much like the folks in our ward and the wards I visit from time to time. Even the ward we visited in Hawaii last year during their F&T meeting had the “alien” type individual. Ain’t it great! People are the same wherever you go and need to be loved and respected even if you can’t relate to them or their experiences in the least. I am not here to say I agree with letting the unbridled and untrained children take over the meeting, shame on the parents of those children, but I can say I have been very moved by testimonies of some very young children and amazed at their strength of character at such tender ages. In our ward at this time I am more worried about the lack of testimonies being born. I know that the few minutes of F&T time each month is precious, and some folks find it so disturbing to let the minutes pass by that they feel the need to give what I call “filler testimonies”. I would like to present the point that some folks especially those who are a bit shy or self conscious may need a little additional time and maybe even a big push to gather the courage to get up in front of a crowd (of possibly critical and judgemental) people and a couple minutes of silence could be the push they need. Could it be by not allowing that silnence we are discouraging introspection, even being alone with our thoughts during this seemingly never ending silence we call gaps in testimony bearing? I love the tension and soul wrenching that occurs during this silence, but I think I could be alone in this opinion. Now 5 – 10 minutes is too much and we could use some “filler testimonies” in those situations, but in my 25 years of church experience I have only seen that large of a gap once (this month’s F&T meeting). So the disturbing part really is that it was a full house on that Sunday and we have a large group of young families with lots of RM’s. We need these young men and women to bear their testimonies not the past 5 former RS presidents (self included) to be “filler”. They are the future of this church and we need them to stand and feel the power that is a testimony.! Again cjane a big thank you for sharing your true and innermost feelings and sparking an important dialogue.

  48. Nancy

    March 19, 2007

    Guidelines for proper testimony-bearing etiquette (in addition to Elder Ballard’s “Pure Testimony”) can be found under “Testimony” in True to the Faith.

  49. Emily M.

    March 20, 2007

    Ahh, Granny, I love what you have to say too.

  50. Kiki

    March 26, 2007

    The only time I’ve enjoyed testimony meetings was when I lived in the French House while at BYU. The FLSR ward was amazing, and everything about the ward was uplifting. It was a good time. Now I cringe or do a sudoku puzzle while sitting there, or if I’m really being honest, I don’t go to that meeting. I can’t.

  51. a spectator

    March 26, 2007

    I was really excited when a new move in got up to bear his testimony and started with testifying of Jesus Christ. “Alright! Someone is laying the groundwork for a great meeting, here.”

    He proceeded to bear his testimony of just about every part of the gospel: Joseph Smith, Angels, colonizing other planets some day, if we are really good….

  52. Kate

    March 28, 2007

    In my family, we’re so irreverant, and much to my father’s dismay, we refer to Fast Sunday as “Starve and Spout.”

    The things that come out of people’s mouths though, I swear. No lie- our first Starve & Spout in our married ward (way back when), a man used the word “CRACK WHORE” in reference to his former wife. I kid you not.

  53. Space Chick

    March 29, 2007

    Emily’s #7 is dead on. I’m sure CJane’s intent isn’t to discourage people from bearing their testimonies, or belittle those who are trying to share how the Gospel makes them feel, but the “rote” testimony we’ve all heard too many times doesn’t tell us anything except that the speaker is a very good mimic.
    The standard “I know this Church is true” is just a flat statement that doesn’t really edify anyone. I’d love to hear HOW someone gained their testimony of the truth of the Church or the Gospel. What tells them the Church is true? What has the speaker done with that knowledge, and how has it affected their lives? Better yet, drop the whole discussion of whether the Church is true, and instead tell us about your relationship with Heavenly Father and Christ. The audience can draw their own conclusions about the truth of the Church from that.
    Now, it’s possible that someone investigating the Church needs to hear that certainty in our testimonies, to be reassured that they have found the truth. But please, not in each and EVERY testimony, as the default opening statement. Why do we need to insist on saying it all the time, so often that it becomes meaningless? If we said “I know the Gospel is true” for a change, instead of implying that every other church has NO truth at all, it would be so much more productive for everyone concerned.

  54. Merrill

    April 7, 2007

    Testimony meeting should strengthen the testimonies of those that are in attendance. Mentioning a list of blessings that one is thankful for, certainly does not do that. Testifying of the divinity of the Savior should be the main focus of a testimony. Then the restoration, the Book of Mormon, and prophets of this dispensation.

    Children could be taught to say, “I love the Savior and I know that he lives.” and then, “I know the church is true.” Leave out all the thankfulness. That testimony could be practiced during family home evening. When they are comfortable with that,. The parents could invite them to occasionally bear their testimony in sacrament meeting.

    On Sunday morning of 5 February 2006, which was fast Sunday, I proceeded with my usual activities. Shower, shave, brush teeth, dress, and then my morning prayers. Near the middle of my prayer I prayed that the testimonies born would be strong testimonies of the Savior. The word “thankfulmony” came strongly into my mind. I stopped my prayer and pondered on that for a short time. I then continued by prayer. I was troubled by that all morning. After a stake priesthood meeting, I discussed it with my wife. Was I to mention thankfulmony some way when I bore my testimony. I have made it a habit for a number of years to bear my testimony every third month. I do not go through a list of thanks like is done by so many other people. I try to illustrate some principal of the gospel and then bear testimony to its truthfulness plus testifying of the savior, the Book of Mormon, the prophet Joseph Smith, and the currant prophet.

    I did not mention “thankfulmony” during my testimony, but felt that a carton showing someone at the pulpit bearing his/her testimony beginning with the words, “I would like to bear my thankfulmony….” The next frame would have a large list of sentences in very small print saying everything from A-Z that a person could be thankful for.

    thankfulmony
    What the saints say when they get up in testimony meeting and tell the congregation everything that they are thankful for.

    fast and thankfulmony meeting
    A meeting held once a month where the saints when moved by the spirit bear their thankfulmony. See Ensign October 2005 page 22

    travelmony
    What a person shares in testimony meeting where he or she reports on all the places where they have been.

    infomony
    What a person shares reports in testimony meeting all of the experiences that they have had or what their children are doing.

  55. annonymous

    July 10, 2007

    i, too had fallen into the “ho hum, here we go again attitude” thinking to myself,
    “this must be what a an AA mtg sounds like….”
    but today is another story….
    maybe it was just my spiritual maturing process, maybe it was simply aging, maybe it was finding out my last born son,” my perfect son” is gay……
    I now look forward to these monthly testimony mtgs and pray to feel Heavenly Father’s spirit.

  56. cam

    November 24, 2007

    I understand where your coming from but I also agree with the writer who spoke about how judgmental we are and how detrimental for us and victorious it is to the adversary to put angry and frustrating thoughts in our mind. (Read C.S. Lewis the screwtape letters)For me I have tried to practice forgiveness and prayed to see everyone as God sees them, (although yes, I still get frustrated and amused at times.) It would be interesting to see his point of view. I assume it would be mostly filled with patience and love. Maybe some people say things to give us a chance to practice what we believe, kindness, long suffering, charity and patience. Perhaps this is one of the greatest ways to bear our testimony, Live it the best we can.

  57. anonymous

    January 16, 2008

    There is no answer to this. It’s been going on forever. When they give the first 10 minutes to the children, it is then that not one of them will come up. So that 10 minutes is wasted for people. Fast meeting is the one day in which I would NEVER bring a non-member to church. You never know what is going to come up. Do I think children should get up and bear their testimonies? Nope. But….how do you stop them when the parents are encouraging it. When it gets to be a race, or ‘if you’ll go I will’ line of kids, parents need to have some common sense to put a stop to it. This is suppose to be a sacred meeting. Not an Olympic sport.

  58. Dan

    January 17, 2008

    Make sure that you are not making the same mistake that was made in Mark 10:13-16

  59. Karen

    March 31, 2008

    I am currently in the Primary Presidency of our ward as Secreatary. We have a particular family who is always allowing their nursery aged daughter up to bear her testimony. The father whispers what to say, she repeats it, the whole ward oohhs and awwws. The whole primary presidency as well as several other parents with the same aged children sit there knowing it isn’t right and not saying “Amen” in agreement afterwards.

    In Primary, children are encouraged to share their testimonies at the end of their talks. There is no F&T in Primary, but each child gets an opportunity to give a talk and that is their time to share. Until the child is able to bear their testimony unaided, they aren’t suppose to be getting up at all. There are many Ensign articles to suppose this.

    What I am currently trying to find is the First Presidency Letter that defines what is suppose to take place during a F&T meeting. Does anyone have a link or know where I can find it?

  60. Claudia

    March 31, 2008

    See a talk by Carl B. Cook “When Children Want to Bear Testimony” This can be found on at LDS.org

    Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > December 2002

  61. Mel

    July 3, 2008

    The most important thing about a Testimony is truth. If you know, say you know, and say something about how you know. If you don’t “know”, but you believe, say that, and something about how you came to believe. Don’t get up and preach to me. That’s not what the meeting is for. And don’t tell me how much you love your new baby, your parents, your wife, your kids, your roommate, etc.

    Don’t claim things that aren’t true. You might very well prompt an emotional response in some of the congregation, but that ain’t the spirit. The spirit responds to truth, not touching stories.

    If you are trying to say “your testimony” like it is “supposed to sound like,” you’ve already failed. Speak your truth from the heart, or don’t get up.

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