We’re told that we need to have a testimony of the gospel. And we’re told that we can’t rely on anyone else’e testimony — we must develop our own witness of the truth.
It’s a formulation which is surprisingly consistent with the legal guidelines on testimony that one gives in a court case. Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 802 is clear: “Hearsay is not admissible.” [subject to certain specified exceptions].
Thus, my testimony has to be based on a personal witness of the truth of a fact — I know that Jesus is the Savior, I know that the church is true, I know that the scriptures are true. If I defer to others — “Nate Oman told me that the church is true” — my testimony will be inadmissible under Rule 802.
Of course, this approach does create a few wrinkles. For one, there are 20-odd exceptions to hearsay contained in the Federal Rules, and it’s kind of amusing to think how they would play (“No, this hearsay _is_ admissible — it’s a statement of then-existing mental state”). And a second wrinkle is that across-the-board application of the hearsay rule might exclude some legitimate testimony — for example, I might be excluded from saying “I know that God told Joseph Smith not to join any church.”
But setting aside those wrinkles, I find the comparison apt in my own legally trained mind:
Of course I can’t rely on anyone else’s testimony. That, after all, would be hearsay.