Truth and Testimony


There is a phenomenon in our latter-day culture that I find quite interesting. I bumped into it again two Sundays ago when I was teaching the High Priests group. The lesson was on Temple Marriage, and how to make it eternal. I chose to address the principle that Temple Marriage only has its full effect and blessing to those who actually enter into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Every other degree and Kingdom does not offer eternal families and eternal increase. I went on to say that every ordinance, including temple ordinances, must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to be of effect into eternity.

I read multiple scriptures and statements by solid authorities to establish this principle. The point I was trying to make was that temple marriage was in a sense the signing of a contract which required us to diligently seek and  qualify for the celestial kingdom in order have the ordinance of fullest value to us. This is solid and true doctrine, though not well understood.

One fine gentleman took exception to this, and brought up as an argument, an unfounded doctrine for which there is no scriptural evidence, and no quotable latter-day authorities. He maintained that just the ordinance itself guaranteed us the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, and that the Sealer had the authority to bestow every blessing. He spoke with loud authority, as if he were correcting a child.

I say he is a fine gentleman because he is presently a temple ordinance worker and a former bishop, and a person who loves the Gospel and faithfully attends to his duties. He apparently can’t see far beyond his “testimony” into the eternities.

Of course I didn’t argue. I just thanked him and went on with the lesson as if nothing had changed. I am always of the opinion that our job is to speak the truth, not to convince anyone of it. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

The interesting phenomenon I mentioned is that some people seem to believe that knowing the church is “true” is the end objective of the journey. They apparently believe that after you have a “testimony” your search is over, and once you participate in the ordinances, that you have “earned” exaltation. What has really happened is that we have, by our faithfulness thus far, been given vast promises which we must then go out and seek diligently and sacrifice to obtain.

I don’t mean any of this to sound critical, because this is the way it is supposed to work. We start from wherever our life’s experience has taken us, and by belief and faith we find and embrace the gospel where things actually are “true”, and a “testimony” is a triumph of faith. These things are gloriously good.

But, there is so much more that builds upon this necessary foundation! There is a greater body of truth which we must obtain by further searching, greater obedience, and by hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This requires searching the scriptures, searching our souls, and searching the heavens in mighty prayer. The scriptures testify repeatedly of the fact that those who seek do obtain, and those who ask do receive, and those who knock do have the heavens opened unto them. The 7th verse in the whole Book of Mormon speaks of Lehi’s seeing God upon His throne where he obtained his great call as a prophet, and his great blessing that his family will be spared the destructions of Jerusalem.

Almost every chapter that follows is teaching us that we can seek and obtain the same.

Brother John

© September 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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18 Responses to Truth and Testimony

  1. Debra James says:

    I needed to read this today, at this time in my life. Still amazed at how the Lord leads me to answers in His way

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  2. Ken h says:

    On the Holy Spirit of Promise, the Lord said that the Second Comforter is the Holy Spirit of promise. “… is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom.” (D & C 88:4) Again, “And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.” (D & C 76:53) Overcoming by faith is a lot of work, so also is becoming just and true. Temple Marriage is a new and glorious starting point that leads to the Second Comforter (faith becoming perfect knowledge) that leads us back the Father in His kingdom. Thank you John once again.

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  3. Donald says:

    …. and there is this warning from Nephi (2 Ne 28)

    27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!

    28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

    29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

    30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

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  4. Toni says:

    Brother John said, “I am always of the opinion that our job is to speak the truth, not to convince anyone of it. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.”

    Thank you for this. We don’t defend. We don’t argue. We simply present, and let the Spirit do the rest. Awesome, yet simple.

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  5. James says:

    Well it’s been quite a summer, now winding down for another fall, children in school, etc. This and many other recent posts and comments I much appreciate and learn from. What has been and is still most amazing to me is that the Gospel is true, all of it, no matter what portion of it we elect to seek and obtain, it is all true regardless. The scriptures, words of living prophets, whisperings of the spirit, utterances of babes in the spirit, are all true, even if we as individuals fail to acknowledge them for all the truth that’s in them. Then there’s that word “automatic”. We were doing youth temple baptisms and a new adult convert joined us. She was asking us questions about the gospel and she asked if upon these ordinances people were automatically saved. I told her that there is no automatic in the Gospel. Every blessing is obtained according to known laws based on eternal truth.

    When we bake bread we use ingredients and a process that makes it turn out right; if we omit a key step or ingredient, it doesn’t turn out. It’s not
    magic, it’s real. Heaven is also real and not magic or automatic. Earthly institutions or symbolic acts cannot exalt anyone; only by seeking and obtaining the truths by which our very existence is governed.

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  6. Pearl says:

    I substitute taught this lesson in RS. Our discussion led us more down the road where the unequally yoked are travelling… it was a good experience.

    Even more common in some LDS circles than this Temple Marriage=3rd Level of the Celestial Kingdom idea is the idea that if you are baptized, you are automatically in the Celestial Kingdom. That one is more pernicious, in my opinion.

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  7. Frostie says:

    One part of the “sealing” by the HSoP is the commitment between the spouses!!! There can be no covenant with the Lord if the two other parties in the covenantal relationship don’t wish it!

    Once, in the Idaho Falls temple in August of 2006 while doing proxy work for sealings, and the temple sealer was going through his list of names, it was our turn to kneel across the altar.

    Imagine my tremendous surprise when the third person for whom I was proxy literally shouted, “NOT!!!!” when it came to the affirmation!

    I looked at my spouse, who saw the startlement on my face. I looked at the sealer and witnesses, who continued on, not having heard anything. I paused, then I did give the requisite answer.

    Obviously, the one partner in this marriage did NOT agree to the sealing.

    Another experience was with an elderly couple we have had a long relationship with. Though sealed in the temple, they have not been active for decades and it has not been the happiest of marriages. When talking to them once in their home the husband was startled when we pointed out that there would be others around them in heaven, associating with each other. He replied he was expecting just to have his wife with him. She loudly proclaimed she was going to be out visiting her friends!! Even though he is expecting one thing, the truth will be different.

    So – the diligence you speak of — it includes the attention toward the other half who walks beside you in the Lord.

    Frostie

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  8. Elizabeth says:

    Do you cringe when at Church you hear the philosophies of men mingled with scripture? My own spiritual knowledge is so limited and yet I crave to hear members testify of Christ and the things of the spirit.

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    • John Pontius says:

      I hear you, Elizabeth. The church is like a fruitcake, it is very mixed content between wards and and from stake to stake. Our ward and stake here in Saratoga Springs is amazingly Christ-centered. Our Stake is the most Zion-centric stake I’ve ever seen. There really is an awakening taking place in my view. There is so much truth spoken openly that was obscure just a dozen years ago. When I wrote “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence” I was labeled a heratic by some. Now, 19 years later, that doctrine is basic and taught often and repeatedly. I didn’t cause the change – I just wrote about something true, which accorded with the timetable of the Lord in opening the windows of heave.

      I’ve lived in wards that were otherwise too. I am certain the Lord gives the people the level of leadership they are able to follow.

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    • darrell brashear says:

      I can empathize with you completely Elizabeth. Every testimony meeting we have I constantly hear in testimonies about how the Church is true, and Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet, and while those things are certainly true and good things to testify of, it bothers me that very seldom is Christ even mentioned.

      I don’t say these things to be negative, only to tell you that I know how you feel. That’s one of the things I love about this unblog is that we can all share our testimonies of Christ with each other.

      Brother D.

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  9. Steve says:

    It was Marion G. Romney paraphrasing Joseph Smith in the 1949 October conference. He said, “[We] take too much for granted. We assume that because we are members of the Church, we shall receive as a matter of course all the blessings of the gospel. I have heard people contend that they have a claim upon them because they have been through the temple, even though they are not careful to keep the covenants they there made. I do not think this will be the case.
    We might take a lesson from an account given by the Prophet of a vision of the resurrection, in which he records that one of the saddest things he had ever witnessed was the sorrow of members of the Church who came forth to a resurrection below that which they had taken for granted they would receive.”
    I guess it has always been a problem…

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  10. Robw says:

    We often view the ordinances of the temple as static. We speak of us going through the temple or that we are sealed or I have my endowments.
    In reality the ordinances are dynamic. The ordinances is the thing that changes us.
    There are two kinds of men that go to the temple, those who have been washed and pronounced clean and those who, through faithfulness, can become such.
    The ordinances first change our flesh (the bread), and then change our spirit. (the water/ blood). Eventually we can become one with Christ, but only through the ordinances.
    Satan tries to hide these truths by convincing us that since we are endowed, we have made it.

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  11. K-Jo says:

    I am so glad that you commented on this, Brother John. Not only is there complacency about temple marriage, but just belonging to the church in general. We as a people are so converted to the programs of the church, activity in the church, and fulfilling our callings in the church, thinking that all of these outward works will guarantee us a place in the Kingdom of our God! The programs, activity and callings are an important part of what we do, but they were all instituted as tools to help us come unto Christ, which is a very personal journey which takes a lot more effort, searching and sincerity than just going through the routine. Initial faith, testimony, baptism only takes us to the door. Many don’t look past the door to the broad expanse beyond. I have to admit that I used to be one of these and didn’t even realize it until some trials pushed me to the brink of despair. I have had to search very deep in order to come out of this despair, but it has lead me to you and other great teachers who know, through personal experience, the deeper things of the Kingdom. One of my greatest challenges now is pride. I have to constantly push away the temptation to feel that I am better than those who are complacent because I understand more of what needs to be done to truly forge ahead.

    I loved the part where you said you just thanked him for his contribution and went on. That is how we all should behave…..always with love, repsect and understanding that all of us are on different levels and that God is no respecter of persons. Loved this post! You always say it so well.

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  12. Sharon Cox says:

    I must admit that I don’t fully understand this scripture:

    “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the HIGHEST, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (see D&C 131:1-3). (emphasis added).

    My understanding is that the basic qualification for entry into the celestial kingdom, is temple marriage, providing a person has lived a celestial law and qualifies for this kingdom of glory. However, is this scripture implying that one can enter into the lower levels of the celestial kingdom without a temple marriage?

    If the answer to this question is no, then it seems to me that, obtaining the HIGHEST level is dependent upon temple marriage IN ADDITION TO a person’s level of righteousness. If the answer is yes, then the assumption could be that those who do not have a temple marriage are the ones who will obtain the lower levels, and those who do, will obtain the highest level.

    Please help me understand. Thanks!

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    • Toni says:

      Sharon, temple marriage is required for the highest kingdom, just like the scripture says. Remember, infants and mentally retarded (or whatever the current euphemism is today) who cannot understand are automatically saved in the celestial kingdom, yet we don’t seal them to anyone. I suppose it’s possible that God takes care of that in the spirit world/in the millennium, though.

      We are assured that if we are worthy (having taken full advantage of the Atonement), we will not be denied any blessings we would have had had we been able to be sealed to a worthy spouse. It seems to me that not much has been revealed in regards to the divisions in the celestial kingdom. We just shoot for the best we can be.

      I expect that, if one receives the Second Comforter, one can have that question fully answered. (So, there’s a carrot for you – 🙂 Possibly all of your questions answered if you get to that point.)

      Like

  13. Donald says:

    “… every ordinance, including temple ordinances, must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to be of effect into eternity.”

    I can still hear Brother Skousen teaching us this important doctrine in my freshman BYU Book of Mormon class back in 1971. There is clear scriptural support for the doctrine. Until ordinances are ratified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (for me) I move forward in fear and trembling working out my salvation and that of my family.

    One of the truly glorious things about the Gospel (imo) is the opportunity to continue growing, learning, seeking further truth, light and knowledge. Even after receiving a testimony, we must continue to gather light and knowledge.

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  14. Lance says:

    John,
    This latter-day cultural phenomenon you have described is readily apparent in my own ward (in Utah). There seems to be an incredible sense of complacency amongst so many of us. It is as if once the temple marriage ordinance has been checked off of the “to do” list, many saints think they have reached the end of the line and start coasting.

    On the one hand, I see so many good people who are unwilling to even entertain the thought that there are greater things that must be sought out individually because they are so satisfied with their comfortable lives as they are. On the other hand, there are many members who may not be satisfied with their lives as they are, but nevertheless mistakenly direct their efforts to the pursuit of material wealth and perceived worldly status.

    It is difficult to see such apathy, but I am no longer surprised by it, and I can’t let someone else’s apathy stop me from continuing forward. In my own ward, my family and I have not received a hometeaching appointment in over 3 years, but that doesn’t excuse me from my own hometeaching responsibilities. When I was recently re-assigned to hometeach a new family, I was informed by that family that they had not had hometeachers come by in more than 4 years. This was a good reminder for me that we are all free to contribute our time and talents to do as the Lord would have us do, or we can fall prey to the apathy surrounding us, thereby contributing to further dysfunction.

    Anyway, the disappointments I have described regarding my ward are certainly offset by my happiness in being able to associate with you and the other participants in this un-blog community who have inspired me so much.
    Lance

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  15. Steve says:

    Sorry–I can’t find the quote or the reference, but I will get back to you on this one: Joseph Smith said something to the effect that the saddest thing he had ever seen was when people were resurrected and judged and entered a kingdom of glory lower than the one they had thought they were going to enter, because they had not lived according to their covenants.

    It is indeed sad that folks don’t quite grasp that the ordinances are only the doorway to a long, arduous journey.

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