A Testimony Meeting Experiment

tabooOne of the things I’ve written about before is the problem of common, broad terminology, that allows us to speak, without expressing what we mean (if we even know ourselves). For example, what does “true” mean in an LDS context, e.g. “the church is true” or “the scriptures are true”? It can be a problem. See my old post here, for example.

I’ve encountered two professors in the last year who make students think by requiring them to avoid certain words. In one non-BYU course on comparative religion, the students were barred for the first month from saying “religion”; in another (at BYU), students were barred from saying “atonement.” This means the students have to slow down and think about what they actually mean, since they can’t use those words. (Imagine if we struck the words “nourish and strengthen” from food blessings.)

If I were a Bishop (and I thank the heavens I am not), I might try having a sacrament meeting wherein all testimonies had to be expressed without using the words “atonement,” “true,” “church,” “gospel,” “testimony,” or “know.”  I think it would be really interesting and edifying. And yes, it’s a bit like the game Taboo, but the purpose here would be to induce more thought, sincerity, and clarity into our Fast and Testimony Offering Personal Witness Meeting.

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6 thoughts on “A Testimony Meeting Experiment

  1. I believe that it would be counter productive for a bishop to impose (even if hr had that authority) such restraints on testimony bearing. Testimonies, in my opinion, should be borne by inspiration and not as an intellectual exercise. I can listen to two different people bear testimonies and “feel” it with one, but be lft feeling blank by another.

    Glenn

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  2. Great idea, Ben. It bothers me quite a bit when members, especially little kids, stand at the pulpit and say they “know” things they certainly do not know. Maybe they ought to be taught the meaning of the word “know” and the word “testimony.” Then we might be spared the stream of little kids for whom bearing testimony is merely a cultural experience that may come back to bite them as they grow older and realize their knowledge is far less complete than they imagine.

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  3. I disagree. The context of “knowing” is in all the parts that make up its whole. For instance- when I bear my testimony I testify of the truthfulness of the gospel because I see the good works and fruits of the work put in. I feel it in my heart and the Holy Ghost testifies to my mind and body the truthfulness of the results. Testimony should include a “knowledge” of known fruits, or good works of something. For instance- I can testify of paying fast offerings and tithings because I know of the miraculous blessings that come to me as a result. Its not conjecture, or a wavering belief, no, its a sure knowledge of seeing and feeling the fruits firsthand. This is why we must testify of Christ and his gospel. We put forth the faith first, nourish it and then, after the trial of our faith comes the knowledge of truth and the sure witness. Should we not thus testify of God and his miraculous works?

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  4. I think what it means to say the Church is true is something most grasp. It’s also I think fairly easy to explicate either linguistically or otherwise. I think it just causes problems because it’s a construction no longer particularly common in English so it can appear strange even to people who say it and understand what they are trying to say.

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  5. (Whoops hit enter too early)

    By the same token I fully agree it’s an incredibly useful practice to force people to change terminology. While I love that Pres. Benson asked us back in the early 90’s to switch to using scriptural language it has the problem that we often talk past one an other using the same terms but meaning different things by it. By making us think carefully about what we mean it also provides a helpful degree of introspection that significantly aids our spiritual and intellectual growth relative to the topic. (This is true not just of scripture but in many other fields such as say physics)

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  6. It still wouldn’t have solved the problem of the weird old lady in my ward who spent 20 minutes at the pulpit last week having a (one-sided) conversation with a ward member in the back of the room about her memories of his grandparents.
    Even my bishop was cringing.

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