When I was baptized just after my seventeenth birthday, I did not have a testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. I wanted one, but I didn’t have one. Just before I started my lessons with the missionaries, a friend taught me how to pray to learn what is true. The missionaries taught me even more about it. Since I had been seeking God’s only true church since I was a child, I set out to pray. I had never prayed for information before. I’d been raised to recite a little prayer at bedtime, but I never asked for advice or to know what is true. I didn’t know how God’s answers would come to me, and the missionaries had given me some possibilities, but told me I’d learn to recognize them with practice. When no answer came to my requests to know if the Church was true, I was afraid. Finally, I realized I was asking a question that was too hard—not too hard for God, but too hard for me. Maybe I wasn’t ready yet. I asked a new question: Should I join this Church?
To my surprise, the answer to that one came quickly. Equally surprisingly, I was afraid of the answer. I’d been searching for a church to join since I was ten, and now that God had shown me which one to join, it frightened me. It was a huge commitment, and one I knew I’d always take seriously. I was afraid to give up what I thought was my freedom. I was even more afraid to give up my charts.
I had charts that listed religious teachings I learned about. They included three columns: I agree, I don’t agree, I’m not sure. I had some vague idea this would help me find the true church. However, in time, I realized it told me a great deal about what I believed, but not what God knew to be true. Still, I kept the charts going. I didn’t really know what else to do.
Learning to pray for wisdom was a magnificent revelation for me. I was eager to get answers to all my questions and thought I could get them instantly. In a matter of weeks, I thought, I’d know everything. I was wrong. I didn’t know everything I wanted to know—not even if the Church was true. I was baptized because God told me to join the Church. I presumed He wouldn’t want me to join a false Church, but I didn’t really know. When asked to share my testimony for the first time, I could only say I hoped it was true. The missionaries reassured me it was a proper start, and more would come over time.
A few months after my baptism, the bishop called me to be the Spiritual Living teacher in the Young Single Adult Relief Society class. This was the heavy doctrine calling, and I explained to the bishop I couldn’t teach it. I didn’t know enough. I didn’t even have testimonies of each topic. He pointed out there was a month between each lesson in which I could study and gain a testimony.
Step by step, I began to gain my testimony line-upon-line. I studied and prayed about each doctrine I had to teach. I began to live what I would teach the next month, and that helped me learn it was true.
At that time, as my lessons were sometimes on things I wished weren’t true, I had to face an important fact: the gospel was about eternal truths. I wasn’t in charge of deciding what was true. Only God could do that, and the information would come through the prophet. I had the right and the responsibility to pray and confirm that the prophet was right, but I had to do this with a very open heart. I had to study and make a choice, but honestly tell God, “I only want to know what is really true. If I’m wrong, I will accept that.” I’d been saying it, but now I realized I had to mean it. God couldn’t tell me what was true until I was trusting enough to accept His answers. Trust has never been one of my strong points. I realized, suddenly, that I was even afraid to trust God.
For one year, I worked slowly through the testimony process. I am comforted by Elder Bednar’s talk that I had not been weak in not having an instant testimony. He says that line upon line is really best and that even some future prophets, such as Joseph F. Smith, did not get answers to their prayers for many years. (See Elder David A. Bednar “Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept” (2Nephi 28:30), From a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional given on September 11, 2001).
The important thing to note, though, is that I did not have a complete testimony when I first joined the Church, and I continued to work through the weak spots in my faith. Even when I knew the Church was true, I still struggled with certain issues. There were simply things I did not want to be true at that time.
In this series of articles, I will be exploring what I did about this and how I learned to work my way through my struggles. We’ll talk about learning to trust God, to trust the prophets, and to overcome our longing for the world to work “our way” instead of God’s way. Did your testimony come all at once or line upon line? Share how you got it and help others understand the many ways we come to know what is true.