Testimony Meeting

In our testimony meeting today, a visitor mildly scolded our ward for a minute-plus silence between testimonies. A few testimonies later, another woman began hers saying, “I haven’t borne my testimony in a really long time, but that long gap made me feel I should share my testimony today. So I guess long silences are good for something.”

I believe our Fast and Testimony Meetings would be more uplifting if the conducting member of the bishopric, at the conclusion of his testimony when he invites the members to share theirs, routinely said, “We especially encourage those of you who have not shared your testimonies in a while to do so today.” Prompting the reluctant to come forward would hopefully remind the talkers to take turns. It would help, too, if it were widely known that each ward has only 420 minutes for congretinoal testimony-sharing each year, and that divided by the number of adults in a typical ward, that figures out to be 2 or 3 minutes per adult per year. Use your minutes.

53 comments for “Testimony Meeting

  1. I think that it is important to remember that silence can occasionally be edifying as well.

  2. Here are of some of the gems from our meeting today…one member got up to tell us at great length about the Easter musical he was going to be in at the stake center and the EQ president decided to preach and share several scripture verses…Hmm, what is the definition of a “testimony” again? Something tells me this ain’t it!

  3. We had stake conference today, so we had our Fast Sunday with testimony meetings last week. What is memorable about that for me is that my home teacher, in his 80s and active his whole life, was completely unaware until I mentioned it that the Relief Society reserves a few minutes for bearing testimonies at the end of the lesson on every Fast Sunday. Is that news to other men?

    There are still women who won’t speak in front of men, and even more who find it less intimidating to speak in front of a smaller group in RS than before the entire ward.

    I *like* having a few moments, even longer, of silence during testimony meetings. I’m very shy of standing up and find it very easy NOT to stand when others are popping up right and left, with a line of people waiting for the microphone. It’s much easier for me when I’m not fighting for the privilege.

  4. Be silent and know that I am God. Why are we so uncomfortable with silence? It may take that minute of listening to know that one is called to testify.

  5. Sister Merilee Webb conducted a music workshop in our stake last month, and she preached the Gospel while she was at it. She commented that silence was O.K. during testimony meetings so we could feel the Spirit.

  6. I’m with Ardis and the others. I am shy and it’s really hard for me to bear my testimony when there are others doing it in rapid succession. I am more likely to get up only after a fairly long period of silence, where I can think quietly, feel the spirit, and get up my courage to walk to the front. If there were no periods of silence, I’d never go. Besides, it’s nice just to have some think-and-reflect-time!

  7. Hey, anyone ever live in one of those BYU singles wards where there was a rush of about 20 people to the pulpit every fast and testimony meeting the moment the 2nd Counselor finished his say?

    Non-stop testifying with the bishop getting up halfway through the meeting to inform everyone that the docket is full and no new applications are being accepted.

    Some people have likened the whole process to a “spiritual beauty contest.”

    Winner gets an eternal mate!

  8. I always thought that the gaps were times for us to listen to the spirit, or to the screaming babies, depending on who was louder that day.

  9. But if we only have 2 or 3 minutes per person per year, a few minutes gap means that someone who might have been bearing their testimony this year won’t. So while a bit of silence might be nice, it would be nicer to have those who don’t ever or don’t normally bear testimony do so.

  10. I like to use those quiet gaps to look around and see if I can guess who the Spirit is working on to get them to stand up.

    I occasionally realize it’s me.

  11. What is the longest anyone has experienced silence during a fast and testimony meeting? Once, when visiting a small branch in Canada, after the branch president sat down there was one other person who spoke, and then no others for many minutes afterward–more than twenty, if I recall correctly. After five minutes or more, I started feeling extremely antsy, like we were all collectively failing some sort of test–though I also felt annoyed, as though it were somehow up to me to prevent the branch from suffering terrible embarrassment. A silly thought, I know–but looking around, I could tell that others felt the same way.

    Then, somehow, around the ten-minute mark, the mood shifted; I suddenly felt at peace, aware that there was some deep thinking going on around me. Others seemed to feel the same way. Even the rustling and baby-crying seemed less. I’d never experienced a testimony meeting like that before, and never have since.

    The Quakers can conduct whole hour-long meetings of silent witnessing. Mennonites, in their Sunday School lessons, will sometimes pose a question and then wait for half of the remaining class time for someone to answer. I’ve experienced both styles of worship, and they aren’t really for me. Still, I think there’s something to learn from them. Silence and meditation ought to be a more regular part of our personal and collective faith lives. I know I could use more of them.

  12. Richard Bushman came and spoke Saturday at the local university here. He did a great job being very forthright about what he discovered and published in his book Rough Stone Rolling. Knowing quite a bit about Mormon history, I wan\’t shocked or awed by anything I hadn\’t already heard. However, many of my friends were both shocked and impressed by these new insights into Mormon history. Probably about 1/3 of testimonies in our ward were about, you guessed it, Richard Bushman. During Sunday School my wife, myself and a friend were visiting in the foyer during another ward\’s meeting. About half of their meeting was devoted to testimonies about Richard Bushman. Our ward council meeting had a good chuckle when I walked in and exclaimed, \”I want to bear my testimony today by saying that I know Richard Bushman is true.\” Oh how is it we\’ve gone so astray.. .

  13. It’s rare that I’ve been in a testimony meeting where there were long silences – but it’s happened and it usually seemed to be a good thing. It actually gets your thought processing going and draws attention to the empty stand.

  14. When I say it draws attention to the empty stand … I just mean it gets people thinking a little bit about why there is a silence and also wondering who will speak. The silence creates a greater interest in who will speak next and what they will have to say.

  15. Visitors should never scold, unless they are attending a ward conference in an official capacity, or have been sustained in general conference. From anyone else, it’s in poor taste. Isn’t there an unstated rule of visitor testimony etiquette? Something along the lines of: apologize for taking the ward’s time, state how strongly you are feeling the spirit in the meeting, utter a few sentences of testimony that don’t stray far from the core, omit anything about your personal situation or anyone else the congregation doesn’t know, and mention how beautiful the area is before closing in the usual fashion.

  16. I was warned when we moved to our present ward in Lagos, Nigeria, that the bishop was very aggressive about testimonies that go longer than 2 minutes. There is a sign on the podium at Fast Meeting reminding speakers about the 2 minute rule. Last month, when one man went on slightly longer, he got a sharp poke in the leg from the bishop. Yesterday our Stake President was visiting and he got up to speak and the bishop didn\’t poke HIM when he went longer than 2 minutes. :) But there\’s also little thinking time in between speakers. Even though the congregation is not big, there are many that want to share — and it\’s real testimonies, with no \”fluff.\” I love the little children who get up to speak and begin with \”Good morning, my most beloved brothers and sisters…\” The congregation always responds verbally with a \”Good morning\” when greeted from the pulpit. The children speak without the trite phrases that children in the U.S. typically use and with beautiful formal language. One young man (fairly new member) really touched me yesterday when he got up and said: \”It is a pleasant thing to be a Latter-day Saint and to live a life worthy of emulation.\” Testimony meetings here are great!

  17. One of the testimonies in our ward yesterday began with a reference to a recent episode of Ghost Whisperer…

  18. I was in a ward in California where the bishop actively tried to start a tradition in which you gave your testimony in the month of your birthday. It did catch on, and it was nice to see people get up once a year.

    Testimony meetings is one of those things that seems to improve the further you get from Our Lovely Deseret. People that don’t try to sound like a GA or don’t know the official testimony-speak give better testimonies. Converts and people that maintain strong testimonies despite having little contact with the church during the week often give better testimonies. I love our testimony meetings.

  19. CW and Norbert,

    Those meetings sound refreshing! Our meeting yesterday was a religious version of the Academy Awards. We had a counselor from the bishopbric released, so the majority of the meeting was the counselors (new and old) and their wives talking about how excited they are about their calling, how they dread not having their spouse around, how much they were \”sacrificing to serve all of you\”. I just opened my scriptures to read after the first couple.

  20. Bean,
    The ‘sacrificing to serve all of you’ rants accomplish two things: 1) negate the ‘sacrifice’ by envoking social capital and 2) tactfully saying that unless you really have to–don’t bother we the leaders unless you really want to impose on us. This calling is for status, not for work.

  21. j.a.t.–

    my guess, if you looked on the hearts of those that bore testimony in conjunction with a calling and release, is that those hearts would be full of emotion and love toward the congregation and a true desire to serve (see work). Unfortunately, the critics’ hearts may not allow a service-oriented relationship to ensue. Why are we so quick to judge those that are called to serve in the kingdom? Cynicism towards others’ motives, I have found, poisons the well.

    Not tolerating imperfections in others makes for a long life, particularly when we impose on them a personal definition of perfection that they could scarcely achieve, let alone know.

  22. “We had stake conference today, so we had our Fast Sunday with testimony meetings last week. What is memorable about that for me is that my home teacher, in his 80s and active his whole life, was completely unaware until I mentioned it that the Relief Society reserves a few minutes for bearing testimonies at the end of the lesson on every Fast Sunday. Is that news to other men?”
    We do the same thing in EQ occasionally. Some people are just more willing to testify in smaller groups.

    I enjoy the occasional silence on Fast Sunday. Our meetings are so packed full of speakers, crying babies, singing, etc that quiet moments can be just as uplifting. Of course we tend to skip Sacrament meeting on fast Sunday. In our current ward a testimony usually consists of reporting on a son’s mission adventures, telling everyone what good deed you’ve done for the week, or discussing a favorite scripture. And yes, I understand that skipping instead of bearing our own testimonies makes us part of the problem.

  23. I’ve always felt that the best reason to bear your testimony is to avoid long silences. All those people who bear their testimony because they claim the Spirit prompted them to are just phony. What kind of reason is that?

  24. This week a woman that I visit teach got up and tearily shared with the ward how difficult the past few weeks were for her because her husband had been out of town and how glad she was that her friends watched her kids for her when she needed a break. The week before, while we were visiting her, my companion specifically asked how she was holding up with her husband out of town (something I didn’t about, and I still don’t know how my companion knew) and she replied that she was doing ‘alright.’ I offered to watch her kids for her at that point because I knew how much it bites to be taking care of toddlers by yourself and how espcially draining it can be when your spouse is out of town. I’m concerned that she didn’t take me up on my offer because she felt it was an insincere gesture. (Though I can understand how she would seek help from her friends first.)

    For some reason she felt much more comfortable sharing with, and confiding in the whole ward from the pulpit than she was with confiding in her just her visiting teachers in her home. That feels backwards, and I’m not sure what causes it or what I can do to change that. I’d like to think that it’s not me (am I unconciously giving her the skull eye?) and am hoping that it’s the cultural approach to Fast and Testimony meeting where sharing things other than testimonies is normal and accepted. I’m glad that she took advantage of fast & testimony meeting to share something other than her testimony because otherwise I may have stayed shut out of her confidences altogether.

  25. “What is the longest anyone has experienced silence during a fast and testimony meeting?”

    One of my mission presidents required all missionaries to share their testimonies at the end of zone confernences. We sat until everyone walked to the front said something. Without fail, one or more people held out for what seemed like forever. I recall one conference when we sat for nearly two hours waiting for two Elders to submit–my companion fell asleep and I watched a beautiful sunset through the chapel window. I remember feeling grateful for the rest and yet perturbed at the elders and the mission president.

  26. rd,
    True “work” and “service” are mutually exclusive to whining about how difficult it is to those whom the ‘service’ is intended. I’d rather not be served if the whole time someone was complaining about how horrible it was. Nontheless, we’re all in the boat together and you are right in saying that we should all keep smiles on our faces.

  27. cont . . .
    My point being that we can make our service/work more sincere by not complaining to those receiving it. That’s part of accepting the calling and magnifying it. We all grow in and through our callings.

  28. #12, I’d have loved to have heard one of those Bushman testimonies during my first year at BYU. I had the misfortune to start during 1985, right after the football team had their #1 season, and football dominated Testimony meeting. Not a single testimony meeting went by that we didn’t hear some persons speculate how such and such football player should just realize that he’s serving God already and that he didn’t need to go on a mission. Fortunately the cougars lost key games in ’85, so church gradually migrated back to gospel topics.

  29. The last few years I have grown to loathe testimony meetings. Yesterday I heard two beautiful testimonies. I was grateful for those. That’s more than normal for my ward. The rest of the time was kids coming up to talk about their families: “I want to talk about my family. My dad is the bishop. My mom makes me do chores, but I love her anyway. My little sister Mary isn’t nice to me, but sometimes she is. My other little sister Sarah also is sometimes mean to me, but sometimes she’s nice. I love my family. InthenameofJesusChristamen.” (I don’t know how that pattern got started, but it is spreading fast throughout the Primary, and it is excruciating.) When it’s not the kids, it’s the teenagers going up to tell us how much they love being on the basketball team at school.

    I would enjoy testimony meeting so much more if it actually had testimonies. To save my sanity, I bring a book. (Obviously I’m still listening to those sharing their “testimonies”, though, since I can recount them.)

    I may be moving soon, and if it happens, I desperately hope I will end up in a ward where more than two people know what a testimony actually is. Though I’d also welcome silence.

  30. I’ve become accustomed to Deseret Mormon bashing, like Norbert’s, on this topic.

    In Florida, “Utah Mormons” were maligned for…doing the opposite of whatever happened that particular week in my ward. The week we had a rush of testimonies and went overtime, the UMs were looked down upon because there are sometimes periods of silence. The week we had silence, UMs were inferior because in Utah “regulars” always take up all the time and leave no space for others to think and build up the courage to stand. UMs talk to much like GAs and are too rehearsed in policy and culture, or they are insincere and take everything for granted (or both). Either they all dress alike (most likely in denim jumpers with claw-bang hairdos) or they are the most likely not to conform with standards than anyone else on the planet. We don’t attend the temple enough, but when a new temple is announced in Utah, we go too much, all for appearance.

    In Florida I enjoyed the monthly pulpit pounding and ‘burn in hell” rants of one of the Haitian sister. I enjoyed sweet, budding testimonies and wise old sages. I enjoyed long silence some months and going overtime others. I didn’t enjoy the woman who sang songs and aired her mother’s dirty laundry. Nor did I enjoy the kids whose parents whispered their “testimony” in their ears.

    In Utah, yesterday, I enjoyed the sweetest testimony of the spirit of the fast from a woman who is about 19 and the young boy who gave a simple testimony and the teenage girl who didn’t bear her testimony, but wanted to. I enjoyed sweet, budding testimonies and wise old sages. I enjoyed long silence some months and going overtime others. I didn’t enjoy the 13-minute travelogue (that kept the teenager from the pulpit).

    In England, California, Oregon, Hawaii…it was pretty much the same. Love some things, didn’t love others. Silence and lines of folks. Oh, and I felt the Spirit just about as much as I was willing to.

  31. Locke,

    I don’t think that there really is a need for silence in a testimony although I am grateful that thier is, it has a purifying effect usually followed by a strong testimony.

    As far as the above comment. I am never a fan of what I might think is an irregular testimony but I feel that it is a good measure of my spirituality at any given time. A spiritual barameter if you will. If I feel my body revolting and cringing on hearing someone bear there testimony it’s quite clear I am not in the right frame of mind. In my recollection I have never felt an evil spirit when someone has borne a testimony…but I have felt the gift of guilt when I scoffed on the inside at someone while bearing thier testimony.

  32. The 420 minutes per year calculation caught my attention — thanks for it.

    I’m in a ward where I’m quite certain that at least 210 minutes per year in my ward is consumed by four members.

  33. This is suggested by the characters suggested by other commenters who have listened to sports testimonies and travelogues: There is a woman in our ward who regularly bears what I’ve come to call (privately) an anti-testimony. One time she testified to the truth that is found in other churches but is lacking in our own; another time it was a testimony of the lack of love exhibited by the member who accused her of being pregnant (she was a teenager with an ovarian cyst); and last month it was a testimony that we should disregard requests of Gordon B. Hinckley, because when he asked us to read the Book of Mormon she received a revelation that she should NOT read the Book of Mormon, but should read the Old Testament instead.

    I have no idea what other ward members think of her anti-testimonies, because of course we never talk about them.

  34. Alison, me too!

    If I had been conducting this thread, I would have stood up and announced the closing hymn right after you sat down :) There’s really nothing else to say.

  35. A few years ago (about four of five) the First Presidency sent out a statement to be read in sacrament meeting voicing concern that many members were not able to bear testimony who might desire and that bishops and leaders should teach and encourage members to bear short simple testimonies so there’s time for others. It also said that children who could not bear testimony on their own (those who go up with a parent whispering in their ear) should be encouraged to do so at home, not at the meeting. My guess is this was probably read way back then, but has been mostly ignored since then. A simple statement by the person conducting the meeting would go a long way, as would some direct teaching now and then.

  36. I, too, have often been intrigued by the “Utah Mormon” bashing. #30 confirms what I have believed for some time: Most of the time you’ll find just about anything anywhere.

  37. #37 I have had the opposite experience, In the 3 latest Wards I’ve been in since that statement came out ‘I’d like to bear my father/mother’s testimony’ children testimonies have been completely eliminated.

    Utah Mormon bashing, my most common response is, ‘boy, it’s a good thing there are Utah Mormons, what would we talk about during these activities otherwise’.

  38. #30: A fair point. The fact that I percieve experiences as more spiritual as they get away from the traditions of my fathers probably says more about me than about anything else–although it seems to me that quite a few people have said that the church seems more true when they go abroad, etc. The relationship between ‘the Deseret’ and ‘the mission field’ is a complex topic and is probably left for another thread.

  39. I would generally prefer that when we do have a brief silence that it be broken in some other manner than by having someone express an obligation to prevent the “wasting of time.” If you have no other purpose in speaking than to vibrate air molecules, then our time is probably still being “wasted.”

    I have not seen much of the children’s ventriloquist testimonies in recent years. It probably varies depending on the ward. Yesterday, two children, perhaps in the 8-10 year range walked confidently to the podium and without assistance, both bore appropriate, sincere, and eloquent testimony. That’s what I like to see.

    Several years ago, in another ward, a young girl about the same age gave a testimony without assistance. After a few minutes of articulate speaking, she paused for not more than about five seconds. She did not appear uncomfortable or to be at a loss for words. She looked to me like she was simply gathering her thoughts for a concluding statement. Perhaps listening to the promptings of the spirit. The brief pause focused the congregation’s attention in anticipation of her closing remarks. Suddenly a counselor in the bishopric, obviously more uncomfortable than she, approached the pulpit and began whispering, “I’m thankful for my mother and father…” She dutifully repeated his promptings, and sat down, leaving us to wonder what she might have said if not so abruptly cut off.

  40. For the record, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the kid getting help from dad at the podium.

    You ever had kids?

    They get all excited about going up there and participating, and then are too nervous to go up without mommy or daddy. Then they draw a blank when they actually look at all those people down there. So you help the kid out.

    Big freakin deal!

    The kid enjoyed it. The kid feels a sense of community participation and grownupness. Those in the audience who feel put upon are waaay overestimating the value of their time.

    Read Mormon Enigma or something if you must. But realize that the chapel probably belongs a lot more to those children than it does to you.

  41. When I reported (#37) what the First Presidency message said, I meant to include the item about children only as an aside. I should have made it more clearly parenthetical. Though I might have made the statement a little less seeming to judge a parent with the child, I’m basically reporting what the statement asked us to do. So I’m a little taken back by the seeming hostility in #42. Didn’t mean to offend.

    Still, what I found most important about the statement was asking folks to learn to bear brief testimonies so others have opportunity as well. Here I think we can do much better. It really is sad when you have, as reported above (and experienced by most I would guess) a long travelogue or sermon that takes up time when others could be bearing testimony.

  42. No problem, Seth. Just try not to let it happen every month, OK?

    No one has mentioned yet that the much-praised spiritual benefits of silence are available even during–or especially during–the non-testimonies. Tune them out and listen to the silence instead. If you rest your head in your hands for a moment, a couple of fingers discreetly pressing against the back of your ears can help if necessary.

  43. I had an interesting experience last Sunday. Our son had an accident at work a few weeks ago and was in the hospital for two days (he’s OK and back to work). I felt impressed to share my testimony in part to thank those who provided caring service during this difficult time, but also to share some powerful insights I had as well. I sat there, and I sat there, and the time to the end drew near, and…my son got up and bore his testimony and pretty much summed what I wanted to say. He was the one who needed to bear his testimony in our family and somehow the Spirit that prompted me “leaked” onto him and he acted upon it. He’ll be entering the mission field in a few months and oh wouldn’t I love to see him bear his testimony like he did on Sunday to the investigators he’ll be teaching.

  44. Heard my first MittRomneymony Sunday. Gave me a massive headache (or maybe it was the flu — who could tell?)

  45. My 9 year old son surprised me by getting up last week in testimony meeting. He hit a snag and paused about 30 seconds. It was everything I could do to restrain myself from mouthing words to him. I hate it when parents do that.

  46. The thing that’s hard for me about testimony meeting is my personal discomfort when someone says something that’s embarassing, but they don’t know it. (My cousin calls this the “retarded tingles”) It almost always seems to be a 14-16 year old girls who talk about how others in the ward are mean to them, etc. Or, it’s my sister. Every time she gets up to bear her testimony in her proud, aren’t you all priviledged to hear from me? kind of way, I get the retarded tingles and crawl under my bench.

  47. #37

    My bishop took that to heart, and had at least one RS/PH meeting where he talked about what a testimony is. He addressed having children practice testimonies at home, and discouraged children bearing testimonies who needed help (not to discourage children altogether, but to have them get to the point where they really are prepared to do it on their own). It’s all something I have never forgotten, and has influenced our parenting and perspective on testimony in general. I appreciated his teaching.

  48. I just don\’t like it when a counselor or even a Bishop says \”I quess it is my turn to say my testimony because I am conducting today\” or something similiar to this. It \”REALLY\” provides an incentive for people to go up and bear theirs (NOT).

  49. Mark (#51),

    It’s my experience that everyone seems to know the Mormon testimony protocol: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to . . . “

  50. As I have grown older and I have sifted through many things, I have come to realize that it is good for me to bear anothers burdens as well as bare my testimony. Such “bare-bearing” has quantum spiritual enlargement.

    Testimony meeting is not all about me, but about the sacred in those that are all about me.

    If a testimony is imperfect, perhaps it is beacuse I am imperfect.

    Little children were invited to come to Jesus, while others wanted to hold them back. We havent changed much have we!

    The holding back of a child may reflect on our own vision of Christ rather than on the young childs vision of Christ. Just imagine a child standing in front of the Master, what would he say? I think it would be something like this…….”I am thankful for my mother and father”. Why would I think that? Because the love that comes from Jesus, is the same love that the child has felt from his parents. A child really could not tell the difference, he just knows that he feels loved. It would be later in life before a child could verbalize the reality that God is love, and that he knows it. I wonder how many times in His holy life Jesus Christ bore witness to the Father by telling Him, I love you! A testimony for sure.

    Because of the love of God, everything that is holy, and everything that is wholly good becomes true and I know it, becomes real and I know it, becomes my testimony and I know it.

    Just a few personal musings…………..

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