The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Help Others Feel and Recognize the Spirit

Bear Testimony

Missionaries are taught to bear their testimonies to cause you to "feel the spirit."  A testimony is a spiritual conviction that you know something or another is true.  "Bearing testimony" means to express with certainty and confidence that they know that what they are teaching is true.  Their testimonies are to relate directly to the point they are teaching, should be free from jargon, and should "maintain an equal relationship" with the investigators. 

The Missionary Guide quotes Boyd K. Packer as saying,

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle.  A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that "leap of faith," as the philosophers call it.  It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.  "The spirit of man," as the scripture says, indeed "is the candle of the Lord." (Prov. 20:27)

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning.  It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true.  Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it?  As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase! ("The Candle of the Lord," Ensign, Jan. 1983, pp. 54-55)

The implications of this are important for the investigator to understand.  When a missionary bears his testimony and says, for example, "I know from the Holy Ghost that the priesthood was restored," that doesn't necessarily mean that he has that spiritual conviction, but rather it could mean that he is looking for that spiritual conviction.  He may be bearing his testimony in an effort to find his testimony. The fact that missionaries are taught to express convictions in efforts to gain convictions must be taken into account when weighing their testimonies as evidence that their message is true. 

Share Experiences

The Missionary Guide quotes the late apostle Bruce R. McConkie as saying, "Perhaps the perfect to teach what is found in the scriptures and then to put a seal of living reality upon it by telling a similar thing that has happened in our dispensation and to our people and--most ideally--to us as individuals" ("The How and Why of Faith-promoting stories," New Era, July 1978, pp. 4-5)

Missionaries are instructed to be simple, clear, and direct when they share their experiences.  They should keep the story focused on the point, only share the uplifting details of the story.  One part that is emphasized is "Do not share past transgressions, even if you are trying to help a person who is having problems that you have had." (Missionary Guide, pp. 77)  It's interesting to note that the scriptures, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and even the Doctrine and Covenants, don't hesitate to tell details of "past transgressions" of the heroes, be it when David slept with Bathsheba, Peter denied Christ, Alma Junior tried to destroy the church, or Joseph Smith disregarded God's commandments and gave the manuscript to Martin Harris.  But now, Mormon historians are excommunicated for telling the whole truth about past church leaders and missionaries are taught to only expose a holy facade.

Personally, I find the honesty of telling the truth about "past transgressions" and the way you overcame it or deal with it to be more inspiring pretending that your life has always gone according to the blueprint.  Don't you respect the man who gets up in front of a group and says, "My name is Jason Thomas, and I am an alcoholic."

Identify the Influence of the Holy Ghost

The Missionary Guide doesn't give much help in how, specifically, to identify the Spirit.  Rather, it assumes that whatever the investigator is feeling during the message is in fact, the Spirit.  In the section of the Missionary Guide that deals with instructing the missionaries to develop their own Christlike attributes, the missionary is told, "You must learn the difference between your own desires and feelings, and the promptings of the Spirit.  Revelation from the Lord will always be in harmony with the scriptures and revelations of the Lord's prophets." (Missionary Guide, pp. 29)

Other than that, they don't give you much clue of how to tell if a particular feeling is the spirit or your own emotions and thoughts.

Returning to the section on the commitment pattern, the steps the missionaries follow are these:

  1. Ask the investigator how he feels.

  2. Explain that feeling is the Holy Ghost telling them the Church is true.

A friend of mine was having the missionary discussions.  After one of the discussions, they knelt down to have a prayer, and after the prayer they stood up.  My friend was feeling a little dizzy head-rush that was clearly due to having been sitting and relaxing for a while, and then kneeling down and standing up.  One of missionaries asked her how she felt, and referring to the head-rush, she said, "I feel pretty good."  The missionary  quickly responded, "that is the Holy Ghost telling you that our message is true!"

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