Poll: Honesty

Have you ever acted as though you had a testimony of something you were still unsure of at church? Maybe you found yourself hoping that if you played the role, it would eventually feel real? Sort of a “fake it til you make it”? Or have you ever said you believed something that you didn’t have a testimony of because you knew it was expected of you, and you were surrounded by people that wouldn’t hesitate to confirm their own witness of the same subject? Is this being dishonest? Is there any value in living as though we believe something because we hope that we will eventually be able to say that we truly do? How does this fit with our views of integrity in the Church? Is being true to ourselves as important as being honest with others?


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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18 Responses

  1. There is no value in pretending to believe something you don’t. Trying to fool others results in keeping you from figuring out what you really do believe.

  2. MJK says:

    Self-preservation. It’s easier to smile and nod and give the answers they want to hear than be honest about your doubts and be jumped all over for not believing and having well-meaning the missionaries sent over to your house once a week to call you to repentance, because -gosh! – if would just pray and read the scriptures my doubts would go away.

  3. Two of Three says:

    The only one at church (besides my husband) that knows about my doubts is, funny enough, the bishop. Sat down once with him about a year ago and spilled the beans. He has been my best supporter and friend. No pressure. No guilt. No missionaries. Less and less, I stray into the trap of saying things I don’t believe. I asked for a release from my calling at that same meeting a year ago so I wouldn’t have to teach things I don’t believe. I happened to be carpooling with a bunch of women in my ward this week when the subject turned to the comfort of garment fabrics. As they discussed their most and least favorite fabrics ( the ones that ride, that breath better, etc), I stayed quiet. No one asked my opinion, but if they had, I was ready to nonchalantly say “I don’t wear them anymore.”

    • DefyGravity says:

      You’re lucky. I accidentally let spill my issues to the bishop (long story starting with him asking how often we went to the temple and my response that I hated going.) Since then I’ve been called in to weekly interviews where I was called to repentance, told I was proud and too smart for my own good, and that my marriage was falling apart (which is a load of crap) because I had doubts about the church. So after a few weeks of that I just stopped talking to him. There was no point. It’s amazing to me how some bishops are completely supportive and others turn you into an unworthy sinner.

  4. ssj says:

    It’s hard to say yes or no to this question. Yes I used to testify I believed in the church, but at the time I really thought I believed it. Now, I don’t say anything I don’t believe. However I do sometimes act as though I believe when I’m around my family and friends even though I don’t.

  5. anon says:

    you have no idea. I have just been thinking this week how this dissonance and lack of integrity to one’s true self is very destructive. I have been VERY careful in the past few years to only bear testimony of the things I believe in.

  6. Caroline says:

    I don’t think I lie. At least I can’t remember doing so. But I do use language that is truthful to me, but that others may not know how to interpret. I use words like ‘hope for’ or sometimes ‘believe,’ but avoid using the word ‘know’. Another phrase I like is “I take it on faith,” but I personally haven’t used that one. I don’t use the word ‘testimony.’ I talk about being inspired by certain religious figures and that I find their ideas compelling and transformative. I certainly never use phrases like “I know this church is true.” (I have no idea what that even means when people say it.)

    Basically I try to do a pretty careful rhetorical dance. One that allows me to participate in my faith community and discuss those religious insights I find empowering and compelling, while not claiming I believe more than I really do.

  7. charlene says:

    I’ve acted (e.g., I’m happy to talk about the great benefits of temples even though I will probably never go in one again), but never said something that was entirely false.

    I have never said “I know” from the pulpit or from the front of a class (unless I was talking about mathematics, which I used to do as a Sunday School teacher). I once was told to bear my testimony in a talk, and fortunately I could say a lot of things about my dad, so I told people that I was going to bear his testimony — and I did. (He has a fabulous testimony. I don’t.)

    Actually, the first counselor in my ward at the time picked up on what I had done immediately. At tithing settlement that year, which is when the bishopric tends to ask you how you are doing and all that, and ask how your testimony is going, I fell apart when he asked me how I felt about the Book of Mormon and the church being true… and he asked me if I remembered what I had said in my talk. (This was months afterwards, so I’m impressed he remembered at all.) He was very, very nice about it. I remember also hoping that he would tell me I didn’t have a testimony because I had some great horrible sin on my soul, so I could walk out and never come back, because I knew I didn’t! And he understood that too. Really, if it wasn’t for how understanding he was about the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t be in the Church today.

  8. Juliane says:


    thanks for this! Testimony bearing in the church can be so wonderful, and so horrible. Some of my most favorite, and most gut wrenching sundays have been fast and testimony sundays.

    I have very seldomly used the words “I know” in bearing my testimony, and if, then only in conjunction with concepts such as love and forgiveness, not certain church doctrines, prophets, scriptures, etc. So, I don’t feel like that I’ve ever lied in order to people please, and I’ve always been pretty comfortable saying “I don’t know”.

    However, I have heard many times that a testimony is strengthened by the bearing of it. To me that can mean that when I testify of something, the spirit can confirm its truthfulness to me. Sometimes, however, it seems that in practice we teach our children to say “I know the church is true”, and then expect them receive a testimony from simply regurgitating what they have been told to say to properly bear their testimony.
    This to me is a form of brainwashing, and not helpful in raising critically thinking adults. Often people simply believe something they have heard over and over, or told themselves over and over, whether or not it’s true. That seems to sometimes be the case in how we teach our children about testimony.

    When my kids have requested to go up to bear their testimony, and asked me what they were supposed to say, I have always told them that it wasn’t for me to say what they believed in, and that they should only say what they believed in their hearts. They’ve never actually born their testimony. I think it takes some time to become aware of one’s beliefs and then formulate them to be able to express them. I will wait until my kids have done that, rather than tell them what to say, and then pat them on the back for saying things at church that have nothing to do with their own beliefs.

  9. Corktree says:

    I actually find myself looking back on all the times that I wanted so badly to have the same strength of faith that those around me did in things like Christ and the Atonement. It’s not hard for me to own up to my lack of belief in modern revelation and Church doctrine, as they are things that I struggle to even *want* to believe in and I’ve never born testimony of them or led anyone to believe that I felt differently towards those aspects of our religion than I truly do.

    But when it comes to acting and talking as though I have a testimony of Christ, I find that I want so badly to have that faith that I have at times acted as though I did in the hope that the act itself would inspire the faith. And in a way, I think I’m okay with that because I feel that it is the “substance of things hoped for”. Isn’t that all faith really is? It isn’t this “knowledge” that we strive for and speak of in church culture, which I think is actually pretty damaging to those who recognize the logical fallacy in thinking that we can know such things. So that’s where I’m at. I never “testify” of anything because I don’t feel right leading anyone along to something I can’t accept fully for myself, but I’m absolutely still in that hopeful stage of faith in some of the more beautiful and inspiring aspects of the gospel.

  10. Stella says:

    I used to skirt issues. Now I’m probably too vocal for my own good. It’s not been awesome in regards to familial relationships.

  11. Stella says:

    Not to mention that I’ve lost a lot of friends as well.

  12. Diane says:

    The Last time I bore testimony in Church I talked about the prophet Abraham and how he basically questioned everything including his testimony of God, I basically said it was okay to question and to have doubts. I got some encouragement from some, but, my Bishop said it wasn’t really a testimony.

    Mind you I would have said more, but, just prior to my getting up I had a sister tell me I had Satan in my heart because I had problems with Anxiety and Panic Attacks, Not kidding, right before I bore my testimony.

  13. Mike H. says:

    This is tricky in some ways. The original 11 were told:

    John 14:1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

    So, it looks like the 11 were having trouble with their faith, hours before the betrayal. Yet, they later bore witness of all that they saw that was Divine.

    Sometimes, we have to posses faith to do something before we get a witness afterward. Sometimes, though, we are asked to have a Testimony of minor procedures or policies, or “show faith” in someone’s pet project.

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