So… this literally just happened last Sunday, and it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve heard in church for a long time.
I was in a mission prep class with about 20 priests and laurels. About 3 feet away from me on the other side of an aisle was a young man, a recently baptized member of the church in our stake.
The topic of the pre-missionary class was on the importance of the Book of Mormon in your message as a missionary. The instructor asked a question about how to testify of the Book of Mormon and this young man sitting nearby subtly raised his hand to share a couple thoughts.
What happened next left the class in silence and awe.
“I’m not sure if the Book of Mormon is true or not. I haven’t been around all that long…” the young man said.
“I can’t say that I ‘know‘ the Book of Mormon is true, but I believe that the book is true. What I do know is that when I read that book, I have a better day and I’m a better person.”
I sat there… stunned. It felt like we all sat there stunned. The raw honesty and vulnerability shook us to the core. The humility to admit… “Look I don’t know a lot of things… but I’m striving for greater light and knowledge. What I do know is that I’m better when I read this book and live its teachings.”
Dangit, we need more people like that in the world. He wasn’t worried about what his peers might think. He wasn’t trying to fit in with the crowd or keep the status quo. His humble testimony might have been different than 99% of the other people in the room, but it was his testimony, and it was powerful.
As a recent convert, he was the most inexperienced with church jargon, culture, and expectations. But there he was with a belief so strong that it almost moved me to tears.
It seems like all we hear is about everyone who “knows without a shadow of a doubt” and “with every fiber of their being” that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that the Church is true. We hear 3 and 4-year-olds get up in sacrament and tell us that “they know.” Well dang, if they know, then is something wrong with me for not knowing? It can be tempting to just follow suit and regurgitate others testimonies.
But it doesn’t need to be so. As this young man was talking, I immediately recalled these words from Elder Holland when he shared these words:
“A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field. I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest.”
The honesty of this young man is going to allow him to find common ground with many people who are in his same position. There is power in the concept of belief and hope, and faith, and charity. But sometimes those concepts get buried by the words “I know.” We rarely hear the words, “I hope” or “I have faith” that such and such will be. You might get looked down on as “not putting in the work to get a testimony” if you say something like that.
“You only believe? Why don’t you know? Pray harder…”
To have a burning hope for something is a primary driver of faith. Your actions reflect your faith… but not necessarily your knowledge of something. It was Nephi’s strong belief, his persistent hope, and his dedicated faith that drove him to keep the commandments. It wasn’t his knowledge that moved him forward… and he had plenty of it. Conversely, Laman and Lemuel had lots of knowledge but lacked the desire to believe in the things they had learned which caused them to fall.
This same example could be extended to many ancient and modern apostles. You don’t have to have a perfect knowledge of something to be a powerful disciple of Christ. It is the desire to believe that effects change.
I know plenty of people who never come to church anymore but will quickly say that they “know” the church is true. Really? It seems counterintuitive, but those people would be far better off if they believed in the church, and their hope drove them to exercise faith in the promises associated with being an active participant in the gospel plan.
I’m not trying to say that one is better than another. Some people “know” and some people don’t. Some people believe and hope and some people don’t. All I’m trying to say here is that this young man inspired me by his honesty and his quest to gain a stronger testimony by only believing first.