We have heard people describing their testimony as “strong” and “firm”. But not many people describe it as “perfect” or “full”. Why? Because testimonies change—it either grows or diminishes over time.
The LDS church has many gospel principles and doctrines. Acquiring knowledge of these principles and doctrines is one thing, and gaining a testimony of each of them is another. Hence gaining a testimony of everything takes time and is an ongoing cycle of nourishing and growing, one that lasts even into the eternities.
One of the Lord’s patterns for gaining spiritual knowledge and testimony is described in 2nd Nephi, “For I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…” This declaration from the Lord implies that it is neither a sin nor a weakness to not have a full or perfect testimony of everything. We should not feel guilty about it or question our faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. We should also not feel spiritually inadequate because God certainly does not want us to feel so.
So what do we do?
While we strive to better understand the gospel, our time may be spent primarily on gaining a testimony of certain gospel principles we want to focus on. However, we must also continue embracing and nourishing the testimony that we currently have. We must recognize that, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” also applies to our testimonies. We must embrace and practice what we know to be true, while searching for other truths in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In one of Elder David Bednar’s talks, he used two examples to describe how we can receive a testimony. First, when we enter a dark room and we switch the light on, we receive a sudden illumination of light. Second, at the break of dawn light slowly increases until we can see what is there perfectly. The first example describes the moments when we gain a testimony through a single spiritual experience. The second example describes when we receive the truth we seek gradually and subtly. Answers can be received in little pieces over an expanded period of time. Understanding these patterns will help us recognize how the Lord works in our lives.
In our search for spiritual truths, we must also be meek and teachable in order to recognize the “still small voice” of the Holy Ghost testifying the truths of the gospel. Being meek also allows us to acknowledge that we do not know all things “[a]nd by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.”
Lastly, in order for us to gain a testimony, we must live righteously. Elder Richard G. Scott once said, “a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.” Living righteously means consistently striving to obey the teaching of Jesus Christ and live like He did.
In search for truth and light, the Lord counseled, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”. Gaining and retaining a testimony is the quest of a lifetime, so we need not feel spiritually unqualified at any point in our lives if we lack a testimony on certain gospel principles. The Lord will guide us as we earnestly seek for the truths of His gospel and share the truths we find with others.