To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
When I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at eight years old, the bishop asked me if I believed in God and Christ, if I believed that Joseph Smith, Jr. and Gordon B. Hinckley were prophets of God, and if I believed this was God's church. I answered honestly: I did believe. On the first Sunday of every month, thousands of Mormons get up and announce that they know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is the Christ and/or that this is his church. Knowing and believing are central to our religion, but this scripture implies that there is a difference between the two.
A local Latter-day Saint leader named Russell Hancock recently described his worries as a young man. He believed that the Church was true, but in spite of a great deal of sincere prayer, he did not know for himself. Eventually, his mother encouraged him to act on his beliefs and stop worrying. He did so, and after many years, knowledge came. Brother Hancock cites David O. McKay's experience as similar to his own: President McKay didn't know for himself until after being called as a mission president!
For my friends and family, I want to describe my own experience with testimony.
When I was a young boy, my parents zealously took me to Church and taught me doctrine and wisdom. I believed what they taught, and I was baptized.
Early in my life--I think it was shortly after my baptism--I got what Alma 32 calls a knowledge that the word is good. I said something like verse 28 to myself:
It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
I think this is what most members of the Church mean when they say they have a testimony. They have tasted the joy of the Spirit, and they know that the Church and gospel are good. However, this is not the same as a perfect knowledge. Alma says that we must nourish the word, with faith, diligence, and patience.
When I was 15, I already loved the scriptures, seminary, and Church. I had read the Book of Mormon more than once. Kneeling by my bedside, in Highland, Utah, I decided to test the Moroni Promise for myself:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I didn't quite get what I expected. I felt a very gentle feeling of peace, and the following words came into my mind: You already know that the Book of Mormon is true. At first, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get something more dramatic, but this experience still strengthens me. In my grandfather's words, I knew that I knew (Douglas Callister).
At this point, I definitely had what most Latter-day Saints would consider a testimony, but there are still two more steps that I have experienced, and there is one more step that I long to experience. Revelation 19:10 says:
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
When I was 18 years old, I received the Melchizedek Priesthood, and those close to me began to ask me for priesthood blessings. Just like the Holy Ghost had revealed to me that the Church was true, words began to spill out of my mouth. Sometimes I was surprised by what I felt prompted to say, but I knew that what I was saying was inspired of God. What a blessing! And it definitely isn't confined to the priesthood. Moroni finished his promise with these words:
By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I have received many revelations over the years. Sometimes, I just feel the right words for someone spill out of my mouth. Other times, I feel words and feelings come into my mind and heart, as described in D&C 8.
On my mission, I wanted another witness. I wanted a deeper knowledge of the truth of the Book of Mormon. I knew it was true, but my knowledge seemed relatively passive and quiet. I knelt down and asked for something more compelling, more undeniable. Something like Oliver Cowdery was promised in the work of translation, in D&C 9:
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
And I received something like it. That day, kneeling in my apartment in Trenton, Ontario, God gave me a surer testimony, one that burns in my soul. Ever since then, I have had a passionate desire to bear my testimony to others. I try to bridle that passion, so that I testify when the time is right, when others will understand what I am saying, but I wish I could shout from the hilltops! I wish I could tell everyone what I know.
So, on top of a traditional, quiet testimony, I have tasted the spirit of prophecy and revelation, and I have gained a passion for sharing my testimony. But I have yet to receive the greatest knowledge of all, described in Alma 32:43:
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.
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.
I believe that this fruit is eternal life, or, in other words, I believe that this fruit is to get to know God for ourselves. As we do so, we become filled with his love, as Mormon prophesied (Moroni 7:48):
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
With Mormon, I testify that this love is real and powerful. In the name of Jesus Christ, I can tell you that the spiritual knowledge of a testimony is real, that it grows if acted upon, and that charity never fails.