Thursday, February 6, 2014

Testimony Stock - What's Yours Worth?

"My testimony took a 20% hit when I moved to Provo."  "Her testimony stock went up three points when she got her mission call."  "Their stock tripled after being sealed."  ...What is "testimony stock" and how do we get more of it?

tes-ti-mo-ny stock    noun
plural testimony stock
Could refer to:
  1. volume of tears cried from pulpit each Fast Sunday (in cubic centimeters): SPIRITUAL TEARS
  2. number of generations your family has been in the church: SPIRITUAL PEDIGREE
  3. current state before the Lord: OIL IN LAMP
  4. the prestige of your calling (in stewardship head count): SPIRITUAL POSTER-CHILD
Ok - so clearly the third is the only real definition.  And that "oil in the lamp" reference could be an entire post on its own...

What Is Your Status Before The Lord?

I talked with a friend after work the other day.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer late last year.  He noticed his foot slurring one day, and went to see the doctor.  Scans revealed tumors growing on his brain.  Suddenly - he was staring down the end of his life.  52 years old.  I knew the man's history to some degree.  He and his wife had no children.  They were each respected in their careers - he an engineer, she a teacher.  I didn't know his religious background - but I could see in his eyes that he wondered what his life meant.  If it all ended within the coming weeks... did he do what he was supposed to?

I asked him if he was scared.  He said, "You bet I'm scared!  I mean, I've always considered myself to be a good guy, but I can remember all sorts of things now.  For instance, I wasn't kind to someone way back in high school.  When you only have months to live, you start wondering if you've done enough to go [points up] or if you're going to go [points down]."

I had a chance to talk with him about the several states we can end up in - states of glory.  His worrying about his current state caused me to wonder though, how do we measure our state before the Lord?  Am I headed in the right direction?  If so, how quickly?  How can I know my state before the Lord?

Joseph Smith worried about his spiritual state.  After having the First Vision, he had relative silence from the heavens.  In response to his inquiry of his state before the Lord, the angel Moroni appeared.

The key to understanding where we stand before the Christ, is to approach Him in prayer.  To prepare for prayer, we might first reflect on the state of our souls.

Testimony Stock Metrics

Section 4 offers a verse that does well to account for our efforts to improve our standing before the Lord:

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him will all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (emphasis added)
The scripture begs for categorical analysis and will be used to form the basis for our Testimony Stock Metrics.  Notice that the four categories of effort when combined, produce a just state before God.

Metric 1: Heart

Scripturally, hearts represent desires.  In Alma, we learn that God grants unto men "according to their desire": (Alma 29:4-5).  In 3 Nephi 19:24, we learn that through sincere prayer, we can be "filled with desire".

To meet the requirements of Section 4, we must want to serve for the right reasons.  So that begs the question - what do you really desire?

Many of us think we desire one thing - but our actions evidence others.  For example: years ago, I was talking with my friend Brandon as we walked from our lab.  We were chatting about dating and when I told him that I wanted to get married, he laughed.  "Buddy - I'm not buying it!", he said, "If you wanted to get married, you'd be married.  You might think that's what you want, but if it really was, you'd be there already."

What do our patterns of actions and accomplishments say about the Testimony Heart Stock?  Do we sincerely pursue the good, or do we just tell ourselves that's what we want?

Metric 2: Mind

Let's consider "Mind" next; it's easier than "Might".  

If the heart equates to desires, the mind equates to thoughts and focus.  
The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.  Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse; he must commune with God.  - Joseph Smith
We are told in the Doctrine and Covenants to "seek learning by study and also by faith" three times.  Three times!  And as we study gospel truth, our capacities increase.  Joseph Smith also said:
We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect.
So how does the mind metric work?  Consider it a measure of your focus - your enlightenment.  Are you more capable to focus your mind than you were a year ago?  If so, your mind is increasing and your faculties are being enlarged.  Do you zone out to Netflix, YouTube, political arguments, and/or Pokemon?  Then you're probably not doing so hot with the Testimony Mind Stock.

Metric 3: Might

Heart = desires, Mind = thoughts and focus, and Might = physical strength.  Notice these two verses from Section 64:
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.
So to me, "might" refers to our physical exertion.  How many people sleep through church because they're tired?  How many times do we not bother to get up and go to an activity?  To hold family home evening?  To make it to the temple regularly?

Remember how the above quotes talk about the mind being developed and increased when it is righteously focused?  Similarly, remember that the Lord is capable of changing our hearts through our humility and His Atonement?  Keep that in mind as you check this out:
For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.  - D&C 84:33 (emphasis added)
Are you beginning to see a pattern?  As we give the Lord our heart, He improves it and gives it back.  As we focus our mind on worthy subjects and proper learning, our capacity is increased.  And as we give tireless service, our bodies are renewed by the Spirit.

So how do you measure your Testimony Might Stock?  By how willing you are to get up and do something that you would otherwise use the "too tired" excuse to avoid.  This metric is the inversely proportional to our laziness.

Metric 4: Strength

This one took me a while.  Strength?  Didn't we just talk about that?  It's not heart, not mind, not body... so what is it?

I believe "strength" refers to our "inner strength" or the yearning within our spirits.

I interpret it in two ways:  Firstly, I define it as our actual spiritual yearning that draws from our character and identity of the world before.  This is what drives us on when we've otherwise lost hope.  It's that feeling that you have yet to fulfill your personal sphere.  This spiritual force is fueled by a knowledge of our own divinity.  Think of it as your spiritual gumption.

Secondly, I would define it as the culmination of all the other efforts.  In this sense, it's more the sealing and balance of each of the others.  Sometimes this "inner strength" is referred to scripturally as your "soul".  I believe that's what Moroni had in mind when he kept using the verb "exhort".  It wasn't a logical argument he was laying forth, rather he was urging us with his entire soul.

The writer-prophet Mormon said,
Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your hear, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.  - Morm. 9:27
Similarly, in Joshua, we read:
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.  - Josh. 22:5
So consider the Testimony Strength Stock to be the exertion of your spirit.  How often do you pray intensely?  Are you calling on other strengths to supplicate your own lack?  Do you recognize when you need help, and have the humility to seek it?  In a large way - this measurement could correlate directly to how much we lean on the Savior when we have nothing left.


I hear funny things from people in the church.  For example: "I used to be WAY Mormon" - like it's a trend that doesn't apply to current life.  Or the arbitrary: "I have such a strong testimony of ______" - like they're bragging about their new car or hair coloring.  Frankly, I hear this way way more than I would like: "I know with EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING/BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that ________".  These phrases make me wonder how well we understand the process of obtaining and growing a testimony.

The Lord said, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."

Imagine if Joseph would have had the First Vision and never cared about any further revelation.  What if he never would have prayed for forgiveness and supplication - do you think he would have been visited by Moroni?

How many of us are too complacent?  We feel like we understand the gospel well enough, that we have a "strong enough" testimony, or that we're doing enough to maintain spirituality?

Abraham teaches us a lot about avoiding becoming complacent.  After he obtained truth, he wanted more:
And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessing of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.  - Abraham 1:2, emphasis added
Abraham wanted more.  He wanted to pursue greater light, live more righteously, accept greater responsibility for his generation and for generations to come.  He caught a vision that so many "lukewarm" members lack.

We have to be willing to sacrifice all things in order to obtain eternal glory - but too many of us don't bother to put any more than a mild effort in.  As those who do not make a consistent effort to improve their finances end up unprepared for retirement, so will those who do not monitor their spiritual progress and seek to improve find themselves coming up short when the "bridegroom cometh".

Here's the bottom line - if you're not repenting, you should be.  This life is enjoyed more through repentance than complacency. And the next life is enjoyed infinitely more for those who sought the Lord while in this second estate.

So measure your Testimony Stock.  Ask yourself the hard questions.  Find your purpose in life and pursue it vigorously per our Heavenly Father's individual plan for you.  Don't settle.  Each of us has divinity within us, and we'll realize it as we dedicate ourselves to serving God with all our heart, all our might, all our mind and all our strength.  And then, all that the Father has will be given us.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  - Romans 8:18
I testify that because of Christ, we can improve our Testimony Stock, become clean from sin, improve our character, grow to our full potential, and return to live with our Heavenly Father having accomplished all that He wanted us to do.

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