November 13, 2011 – Farewell Talk on Testimony

on November 13th I had the opportunity to address my ward in sacrament meeting for one last time before leaving on my mission. It was a wonderful experience, I am grateful for all the family and friends who came from all across the country to hear me speak, and the spirit they brought into that meeting.

For those who were not able to come, below is a transcript of my talk I gave that day. I was asked to speak about testimony, for which I was very grateful, because it will be my testimony of the gospel and my love of the Savior that I will be sharing and relying on for the next two years, and my entire life.

Good morning brothers and sisters, my name is Ryan Faulkner, many of you may know that I have been called to serve a full time mission for the church in Sydney Australia. 

I am very grateful to have this opportunity to speak to you today before I enter the missionary training center on december 7th. 

The topic the bishop asked me to speak on is testimony, and how my testimony has helped me prepare to serve a mission. This is a topic that I hold very sacred, and dear to my heart, because I do have a testimony, and it has had everything to do with preparing me to be a disciple of christ, and accept the call to bring his gospel to the people of sydney australia. But as I stand before you today, looking out on many family and friends in the congregation, I am humbled to address you on this topic, for it is because of many of your testimonies, and examples of christ like living, that I have come to know this gospel is true. 

As I have pondered on what to say today, the first thing that came to my mind was the first time I ever bore my testimony, at least formally in a fast a testimony meeting. It is an experience I have reflected upon many times. I was twelve or thirteen, and I had spent the previous weekend on a caving expedition with the boy scouts. It was a great trip, but I cannot remember it being exceptionally spiritual, however as I sat in my seat the following sunday, I remember very distinctly a message coming into my mind, and a spirit overwhelming me, so much so that I could not deny it. I sat trembling for much of the meeting, after all, I was just a kid, and I did not really know what I was going to say, but for whatever reason, I found myself walking to the pulpit. I cant remember the exact words I spoke, but I talked about how during our caving expedition, we got to go very deep into the cave, far beyond the point where lighting was hung, and we were left to rely on our guides, and headlamps to to see and navigate the cave. Just like any responsible young man, I had neglected to put fresh batteries in my headlamp, and I was aware of it. so I found myself switching off my light during the gentler parts of the cave, and walking close behind a friend, to try and navigate with his light, but I soon learned, that as the going got steeper, I needed to turn on my own light, and pray that the batteries were enough to guide me through the experience. I also spoke about how one point the guides had us turn out our lights, it was the most incredible darkness I had ever seen. I could have my hand an inch from my face and not see it. Brothers and sisters, these were just stories from a cool trip until the spirit spoke to my heart, and taught me that the cave is much like our lives, we need a light, and a guide to get out safely. the light I spoke about was a testimony, there are times that we think we can get by on the testimonies of parents or our friends, but there will always come a point, where that will not be enough, we need to find our own light, or we will be lost in the cave. our guide was like the prophet, no matter how much light we have, we still need someone who knows the path. Brothers and sisters, this was a very basic testimony, but it was a great turning point in my life, I felt prompted by the spirit, relied on that particle of faith to guide me to words I did not know I had, to testify boldly of a prophet of god, and the gospel of christ. and after all was over, I returned to my seat, and after the meeting a man approached me. I did not know this man, and I am not sure I ever saw him again, but he thanked me for specific things I said that day, things I knew I said because of the influence of the spirit. This experience has forever changed me. I cannot say  whether I had a lasting affect on that man that day, but the chance to work as a messenger of the spirit in word and in deed had a profound consequence in my heart.  

In Gospel principles chapter 22 we learn about some of the gifts of the spirit, just to name a few, these gifts include the gift of tongues, the gift of translation, the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, the gift of prophecy, the gift of faith, and the gift of knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I cannot say that I have been given all of these gifts, but I know that when I am called upon by the spirit to bear testimony of the gospel, I have the gift of knowing without a doubt that Jesus Christ is the son of god, and that all things that motivate me toward Him, are of God. It is important to know that testimony and knowledge of the gospel is a gift from heaven. It is one that we can carry in our hearts, that can guide us, and teach us, but it is also something that can be taken away if we deny it, or are not worthy. President Deiter F. Uchtdorf taught in a recent address about how we gain a testimony. He says that: The process to receive one is based on the law of the harvest: “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” No good thing comes without effort and sacrifice. If we have to work hard to obtain a testimony, it will make us and our testimony even stronger. And if we share our testimony, it will grow.A testimony is a most precious possession because it is not acquired by logic or reason alone, it cannot be purchased with earthly possessions, and it cannot be given as a present or inherited from our ancestors… The source of this sure knowledge and firm conviction is divine revelation, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” We receive this testimony when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within us. We will receive a calm and unwavering certainty that will be the source of our testimony and conviction These promptings of the Spirit, rather than human logic alone, will be the true foundation upon which our testimony will be built.The core of this testimony will always be the faith in and the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His divine mission, who in the scriptures says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”

So how do we receive a personal testimony? it starts first with a desire to believe. Alma promised in the book of mormon that: “If [you] will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, … even if [you] can no more than desire to believe” through these words we learn that god promises us divine help even if we have nothing more than a sincere desire to believe.

Next we must search the scriptures. If we have questions, we must search the words of the prophets to find answers.  “If [you] give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart” through diligent study of the word of God, the good seed “will begin to swell within your breasts” if you will not resist with unbelief. This good seed will “enlarge [your] soul” and “enlighten [your] understanding”

Third, we must do the will of god, by keeping the commandments, Jesus said “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself”  And, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”

Fourth, we must ponder, fast and pray. to receive knowledge from the holy ghost, we often must first ask for it. 

I will also add, that one of the most effective ways of gaining, or growing a testimony of anything is to bear testimony of it. This requires a lot of faith to teach others of things that you are searching to know for yourself, but I promise, that if it is of God, and if you follow the spirit in bearing testimony,  He will send a confirmation through the spirit that the words you say are true. I have found that bearing testimony has taught me so much about the gospel, and also, it has been the most effective method of teaching others about gospel principles. A sincere testimony as dictated by the spirit, will reach the hearts of those who are prepared to hear the message. For this reason, I will rely very heavily on my mission in the bearing of testimony, and teaching through the spirit, because I know that on my own, it will not be enough to teach the word of God.

 I was blessed a few weeks ago to attend a BYU devotional where president Thomas S. Monson was speaking. His remarks were titled. Be a Light to the world. in that devotional he said that “In order for us to be examples of the believers, we ourselves must believe. I would think that each of us within the sound of my voice has a testimony, although our testimonies are no doubt of varying degrees, it is up to each of us to develop the faith necessary to survive spiritually, and to project a light for others to see amidst the confusion of our age the conflicts of conscience and the turmoil of daily living an abiding faith becomes an anchor for our lives, remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. among the most effective ways to keep the faith we need would be to read and study the scriptures, and to pray frequently and consistently.. [to our father in heaven]” I noticed that throughout his remarks, the prophet often used faith, and testimony interchangeably. I have decided that it is because these two principles are bound to one another, for as we exercise faith, which is believing that which is not seen, the spirit gives us testimony, which is a sure knowledge of those things we have faith in. 

Henry B. Eyring teaches that testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures. They are necessary nutrients for our testimony.

You remember the warning from Alma:“But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

“Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.”

Feasting on the word of God, heartfelt prayer, and obedience to the Lord’s commandments must be applied evenly and continually for your testimony to grow and prosper. All of us at times have circumstances beyond our control that interrupt our pattern of scripture study. There may be periods of time when we choose for some reason not to pray. There may be commandments that we choose for a time to ignore.

But you will not have your desire for a living testimony granted if you forget the warning and the promise in Alma:“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

“But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. 

Brothers and sisters, many of you have very strong testimonies, for which I am very grateful, many of your examples have wrought a mighty change in my heart, and have caused me to search for myself, and find that this gospel is true. To you I encourage to proclaim that knowledge that has blessed your life to the world, and to nurture that knowledge in faith by searching the scriptures and praying to our father in heaven, that your testimony will continue to grow. Be a light unto the world, “just as turning on light switch in a dark room, will bathe the room in light, so providing an example of righteousness, can help to illuminate an increasingly dark world.

For any of you who may be struggling, or have not yet come to know of a surety that this gospel is true, I am reminded of a time our beloved prophet quoted the lion king, when mufasa said to his son “ look inside yourself, you are more than what you have become, remember who you are” Each of us is a son or daughter of a living God, he has promised that if we will exercise even a particle of faith, even if that is only a desire to know the truth, he will help us to know, without doubt that his gospel is true.

Brothers and sisters I would like to bear you my humble testimony, that I know that God lives, I know he sent his son, Jesus Christ to live and Die for us, to be a savior that we can return to live with Him one day. I know that Joseph smith was called of God to restore the gospel in the latter days, and to translate the book of mormon which is the word of God. I know I have also been called of God to invite the people of Sydney Australia to come unto christ and be baptized in his name, and that as I follow him in faith and obedience he will qualify me for His work. I have a testimony that Thomas s. Monson, his counselors and the quorum of the twelve apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators for our day. I say these things in the name of my savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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