Testimonies are powerful things. They are your own personal witness of something. The trouble with testimonies is that sometimes they need to be vetted or fact-checked. It is possible to receive witnesses of things that go against the revealed word of God and His prophets. We need to make sure our source of information is a worthy one.
I was disturbed recently by a post I received from a blogger who said that she received revelation in the temple that God wanted her to be gay, take a wife, and be happy. I was blown away.
At first I wanted to argue all the most obvious points, like, ‘then you didn’t get that revelation from God,’ or ‘but it goes against everything the scriptures and the prophets have taught us.’ Then I thought but to what point? A testimony is a nontransferable witness of what you know to be true. If she received a witness of something, even as blatantly false as that, and accepts that witness as the truth then no amount of arguing is going to change her position.
I finally commented on her post that no one can argue with her witness, that was her experience, and her’s alone. But when we receive a witness about something we also have the responsibility to know that it fits in with the rest of what we are taught. The Lord will not tell us to do something that is outside the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures. It is our responsibility to understand that and to know if the witness we have received falls within those guidelines and boundaries.
A good example of someone who understood this principle was Lorenzo Snow. He received the revelation that “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.” That was a doctrine that was not being taught at that time, so he said nothing about it until the Prophet Joseph Smith taught it publicly. Then he was free to use his knowledge freely. Even personal revelation has boundaries of proprieties. Just because we learn something new doesn’t mean we are obligated to go spread it around, especially if the Brethren have not taught it or written about it. That is when we, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, keep it and ponder it in our hearts.
Unless this young lady realizes that the witness she received is completely outside of the gospel’s boundaries, and that some witnesses need to be challenged, she will follow that witness and do long-term damage to herself and to who knows how many others. Not all witnesses of things come from God, even if you are in the temple when you receive it, an important point to remember. A witness of anything is a big responsibility, and what we do with that witness can affect generations to come for good or for ill.
Concerning the quote: “The Lord will not tell us to do something that is outside the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures” – I do agree that this principle is the general rule with VERY few exceptions. But I can think of one counterexample. The Lord directed Nephi to kill Laban– which was contrary to the values he had been taught. Nephi also got a second and third witness to that direction as well as a clear explanation s to the reasoning behind the direction. Nephi needed to be absolutely sure that this direction really did come from God – otherwise taking action on that direction would put his eternal standing in jeopardy. Notice that the specific direction to Nephi in this instance did not alter or change the teachings of the scriptures and prophets.
Likewise- anyone acting on personal feelings of direction that are contrary to the general teachings of the scriptures and prophets should not assume that the direction they received applies to other individuals or circumstances and they better be absolutely certain that their direction is indeed from God or they could or will hamper their eternal progression.
When I worked at the Temple, someone asked the Matron, “Can Satan come into the Temple?”
Her answer: “Yes. With a recommend.” I figured she knew something about that and I have
never doubted it. Everything needs three witnesses: One, our experience; two, the Prophets
(especially the current one) and three, the scriptures. All three will give us an assurance that we are on the right track. Thanks for a good article.