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Faith and Testimony

In this life, we walk by faith. That means we live without absolute certainty or empirical evidence for our religious beliefs. Faith is an experiment, a gamble: hoping, not knowing, that something is true (Alma 32:17-36). Faith is not doubt. Rather, faith is trust in certain assumptions without which life seems unthinkable—the bedrock hopes that anchor us and guide our actions (Ether 12:6). But because faith involves elements of uncertainty, it can coexist with doubt.

When actions taken in faith make us feel that our soul has been enlarged or our understanding enlightened (Alma 32:28), we call these experiences a testimony. A testimony does not provide indubitable proof. Instead, it motivates us to keep exercising faith despite uncertainty or the limitations of our knowledge. Testimony-building experiences may produce a sense of conviction so strong that we are prompted to declare, "I know." But "believing," "trusting," and "hoping" are also gifts of the Spirit (D&C 46:13-14). They, too, are forms of testimony.

Ultimately, our spiritual well-being does not depend on feeling certain about a particular set of doctrines. The kind of knowledge that matters most refers to relationships: Do we know God and Christ in the sense that we experience their presence in our lives? Do we trust them? Are we growing into their character (John 17:3)?

Related Topics:
Faith, Not Doubt    

 Be Still, My Soul  (Hymns 124)

B. H. Roberts: Would absolute certainty be desirable? "Know ye not that we walk by faith, not by sight," is Paul's statement. From which I infer that this very uncertainty in the midst of which we walk by faith, is the very means of our education. What mere automatons [people] would become if they found truth machine-made, of cast-iron stiffness, and limited, that is to say, finite, instead of being as we now find it, infinite and elusive . . .

A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 1:165-66

Obert C. Tanner: There is nothing to fear now, unless it be a faith that is so weak it fears honest inquiry. Only those not certain of the Gospel's eternal truths are afraid of questions, and doubts, and seekers of truth. Those with a testimony of the Gospel's great and noble standards revealed from God will never have but love and encouragement in their hearts for others who would pioneer for new truths or struggle to comprehend old truths.

Christ's Ideals for Living (Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union Board, 1955), 144

David O. McKay: That is what a testimony means. To know God, and Jesus Christ, is to have life eternal . . . But the question arises—How may I know? . . . There is a definite answer—a clear-cut statement for our young people seeking a testimony: If ye will do the will [of God], ye shall know. . . . What is God's will? . . . Jesus said the first fundamental law is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all they strength. . . . And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Man May Know for Himself (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 13

Lowell L. Bennion: Faith is the sphere of the possible. It is an hypothesis, suggested by the existence of some facts, but projecting beyond these to the realm of what might be or could be. . . . Faith is adventurous and creative. It not only is the sphere of the possible, but is also the power which often makes the possible come into being. . . . The student should not feel compelled to choose between faith and knowledge. [G]ain and use knowledge where it is available. [W]alk by faith where knowledge is not available.

The Best of Lowell L. Bennion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 181-84

Neal A. Maxwell: In this life, clearly we "walk by faith" rather than by perfect knowledge (2 Corinthians 5:7). The plan ensures that our perspective is intentionally limited.

Lord, Increase Our Faith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994), 51

Dallin H. Oaks: Whereas the world teaches us to know something, the gospel teaches us to become something, and it is far more significant to become than it is to know.
"On Learning and Becoming," in On Becoming a Disciple Scholar
(Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995), 92

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.