Once you gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel, you will feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops and to do all you can to save your fellowman. You will reject all other ideas and beliefs that are partial truths and cling only to the gospel and its teachings. Anything else does not constitute a testimony.I have issues with people who speak in absolutes. I have issues with those who tell me what is and isn't a testimony. I have issues with people who tell me what I must believe and do. I have issues...
My disagreement went something like this (in list form, because that is the only true way, of course):
1. A testimony of the gospel is deeply personal and takes many forms.
2. As every person has a different personality and experiential background, some may not "feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops," especially those who have acrophobia.
3. Rejection of partial truths and beliefs, especially if those have led one to complete truths and beliefs, is not only foolhardy, but exhausting. And who is to arbitrarily decide which truth is partial and which is whole? It seems there would be better uses of one's time.
4. If one sincerely believes the gospel is true, it makes sense to cling to its teachings. The problem arises in distinguishing between statements made by fallible human beings and actual revelations from God. And it's also a fact that what resonates as truth with one person might not be the same for another and there are some who have difficulty distinguishing between inspiration and sentiment--proof of this is that some people still feel moved by portions of Especially for Mormons or Chicken Soup for the Soul.
5. At what point does "...all you can to save your fellowman..." constitute intolerance or force? I feel very strongly that "saving" means less preaching and more accepting and loving. I know I have been "saved" so many times in my life by a loving hand, lifting me when I was at my worst. I've been "saved" by conversations which never mentioned my unhealthy behaviors or weaknesses. I've been "saved" by grace, not by those who would have me conform my life to theirs. And in the end, I will be the one who chooses, not the one who is living his/her life to be my "example," nor the one who makes clear that I'm a sinner, or that I don't have the real truth. And my choice will be based on my experiences, knowledge, logic, and love. So please, if you want to know me, that's one thing, but don't try to "save" me. My understanding is that that's Christ's job.
6. Don't EVER tell me what my testimony is or is not.
The ensuing discussion became ugly as the audience took sides. My side "won", of course, because we didn't resort to the emotional tactics used by the other side (you know--I'm a woman so how can I possibly have a valid thought...people like me lead others astray by encouraging them to think rather than follow in faith...testimony isn't about logic, it's about feeling...), but I was left feeling a little embarrassed that I'd caused a ruckus in Sunday School. Just for the record, after stating my points, I didn't enter into the discussion again. I left. I know...cowardly, but they were so emotional...
Later, when I arrived at my Young Women's classroom, I found about six Brothers and Sisters (not Young Women) waiting for me. They wanted to stay. They'd heard from their daughters that we have fun lessons and treats. Since they were parents, I couldn't really ask them to leave. The Bishop joined us as well. As luck would have it, it was a lesson dealing with chastity (imagine that! in Young Women!) and I quickly rethought my planned frank discussion in light of the parental attendance. I decided that they just as well see me at my best, so we talked about sex/marriage/hormones/honesty/chastity/safe boundaries/good emotional health just as I'd planned. I found out later that one couple in attendance (they have six children) has a rather unhealthy sex life as the sister hates being touched by her husband--sad.
So today I'm supposed to teach a lesson that combines two from the book. They're not necessarily spiritual topics: Participating in the Cultural Arts, and Financial Responsibility. Naturally I'm already annoyed that we're not discussing something more blatantly related to Christ. However, I'm also quite certain that before we're through, I'll have twisted everything around so that we're somehow talking about Him. It's tricky, but I'll manage it. I'll probably have to incorporate some ideas and beliefs outside the mormnorm...and I'm feeling a bit spiteful, because I'm wishing that my contentious brother would come...not because I want him to help with the lesson...but just because I'm feeling the need to argue with someone today...