Knowing, Believing, and Hoping: Going Beyond the Usual Testimony Words
A couple of weeks ago, in our awesome Gospel Principles 2 class, we talked about the first chapter in the manual which focused on the existence of Heavenly Father. Gospel Principles 2 is a class our ward constructed to give people who were at different places in their faith journeys a place to openly and honestly discuss their questions. We are about 15 classes in, and I am loving it.
We went around the class and each discussed where we were on that issue of knowing that there is a God. Being the closest person to the teacher, I kicked off the discussion by mentioning that I had no knowledge there is a God. God has not revealed him/herself to me. God has not spoken to me. Nor have I had the warm feelings of comfort confirming God’s presence to me when I pray. Did I believe there was a God? I was uncomfortable even saying that, given my lack of experience with confirmation. I did however say that I hoped there was a just God, that I love the idea of being with my family forever and that I desperately hope that there is a just and loving divine presence in the universe.
Other people in the class mostly avoided the “know” word and spoke about their beliefs in God, their experiences of feeling God’s love, though a couple people likewise talked about hope rather than knowledge or belief.
While I was clearly in the minority in my unwillingness to use the “believe” or “know” words, I loved that there was space in this little class for me to be totally honest like that. That’s a rare occurrence for me at church.
As a Relief Society teacher, I walk something of a tight rope. I want to be authentic and honest, but I have to speak very carefully in order to not derail things or upset people. This means that I can’t authentically testify of many things. I can’t say “I know God lives and Jesus loves us.” I can’t say “I’m grateful we have a prophet on earth today who speaks for God.” The list goes on and on.
But what I can do, that I think works reasonably well, is talk about things I find loving or compelling or thoughtful or poignant. When I conclude a lesson I talk a lot about how this scripture verse resonates with my sense of what is just and good. I talk about how I find this quote or this story compelling because of its emphasis on xyz. I talk about how grateful I am for a community with which to discuss these important ideas. By using language of “resonating” “compelling” and “insightful” or “profound” I avoid having to use those testimony words that don’t feel authentic to me.
What testimony words are you comfortable with? Do you have words other than “know,” “believe” and “hope” that you use in order to meaningfully contribute to church discussions?