Warning: A seminary teacher story follows.
My senior year of high school there was a girl in my seminary class who had sent her boyfriend on a mission. They were pretty serious and she was, you guessed it, “waiting for him.”
We had monthly testimony meetings in seminary, and our teacher made a big deal of instructing us that testimonies are declarations of faith in the gospel.
Shortly after my friend’s boyfriend flew out she got up during our class testimony meeting and proceeded to give us a very teary update on how much she missed her boyfriend, and how hard it was to send him off and so forth.
After a few minutes she hit her stride and showed no indication of explicitly tying any of it to a gospel principle.
Maybe you can see where this is going.
My seminary teacher interrupted her, and said “I know that you’re having a hard time, but this isn’t a testimony.” He encouraged her to start over. After another couple minutes he interrupted her again, and she ultimately left the room crying.
On one hand I actually see where he was coming from. It wasn’t a ‘testimony’ per se, and I’m not convinced that testimony meetings should necessarily moonlight as group therapy sessions. Also, if there is a place to teach kids what sort of testimony bearing is and is not appropriate it would, theoretically, be a seminary class testimony meeting.
On the other hand correcting her in front of the whole class was a bad a idea. For one it was probably not good for her already delicate emotional state. For two, while she was monopolizing that particular meeting, and it was rather uncomfortable to listen to her, there wasn’t any good reason he couldn’t have addressed her privately later, or addressed the broader topic with the whole class later. And for three, in a sense it was a testimony- she was miserable, but her misery had a purpose- a gospel purpose. She didn’t say verbatim “I have a testimony of the importance of full time missionary work” but that was the underlying premise of the entire situation.
What do you think? Do testimony meetings function as group therapy? Should they? At what point does a testimony get off-topic enough to be justifiably interrupted? Must a gospel principle be clearly tied into the story for it to count as a testimony?