What is a Witness?
Referring once again to Webster, a witness is defined as "one who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced." There are those today who know of the truth of the Church and the gospel it teaches for themselves by current and certain personal experiences. No matter how anyone else presents carefully packaged anecdotes, that does not change the underlying witness of the truth of this work.
What is a Special Witness?
In the Church, members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Quorum of the Seventy are called as "special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world." They are witnesses of His work as defined by Webster. It has been my privilege to associate with some of these men and their wives in personal ways. I have seen them at home, watched them interact with their children, and seen how they behave when they are "off stage." In the years I have watched, I've never seen them do anything that would lead me to believe their motives are anything more or less than they claim.
What Do Special Witnesses Do?
These men who are called and set apart as "special witnesses" stand before the world and boldly testify that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His church. They do this because of special and sacred experiences given them. While certainly not perfect, they are men of honor, and their wives are just as good, if not better, than they are. None of the sophistries of Satan can change what they have experienced, have seen, and know for certain. Like Jacob of old said of the anti-Christ, Sherem, “he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things” (Jacob 7:5).
Countless Latter-day Saints around the world witness to the truth of this gospel. Are they correct in their beliefs? completely deceived? convincing liars? If they were all deliberately lying, what would be their motivation? The only earthly reward for their service is long days and nights out sacrificing for others. There is no monetary benefit or worldly recognition. Instead, we look to their actions for a possible source of motivation. Overall, Mormons are generally regarded as being among the most kind, gentle, and humble people around. Their actions back up their words and are usually motivated by love. They are not deceived. They really have experienced what they claim and do stand as witnesses of God and of His divine work.
How Can I Receive a Witness of Christ and His Church?
In the end, each of us must live so as to receive a sure witness, which is a gift of the spirit, and to live true to it in spite of doubts and fears and failings. We all have weaknesses, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30).
So, how do we receive this sure knowledge and become one for whom there is no longer room for doubt? The path is not easy, but the principles are simple to understand. Elder Nash explained them this way in the October 2012 General Conference:
1. Exercise Faith
“Unbelief in the Lord or His gospel will cause us to resist the Spirit of God. The Lord’s antidote for doubt is simple. As King Benjamin declared, “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”
“If, because of unbelief or doubt, you find your faith wavering, remember that even the ancient Apostles implored the Lord to ‘increase our faith.’ Bearing in mind that faith and reason are necessary companions, consider the following analogy: faith and reason are like the two wings of an aircraft. Both are essential to maintain flight. If, from your perspective, reason seems to contradict faith, pause and remember that our perspective is extremely limited compared with the Lord’s. Do not discard faith any more than you would detach a wing from an aircraft in flight. Instead, nurture a particle of faith and permit the hope it produces to be an anchor to your soul—and to your reason. That is why we are commanded to ‘seek learning … by study and also by faith.’ Remember, faith precedes and produces miracles for which we have no immediate explanation within our experience.”
2. Take Courage
“Second, fear distracts from and undermines faith in the Savior. The Apostle Peter looked to the Lord one stormy night and walked on water—until he averted his gaze and ‘saw the wind boisterous [and] was afraid’ and then sank into the stormy sea. He could have continued walking if he had not feared! Rather than our focusing upon and fearing the boisterous wind and waves in our lives, the Lord invites us to ‘look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.’”
3. Repent as Needed
“Third, sin diminishes the presence of the Spirit in our lives, and without the Holy Ghost, we will lack the spiritual stamina to hold onto and exercise faith. It is best to exercise our faith to ‘touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing’ and to ‘be diligent in keeping all [the] commandments, lest … your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you.’ If sin has stained your life, I invite you to exercise ‘faith unto repentance,’ and the Savior, through the Atonement, will purify and heal your life.”
Every person who was once touched by the light of the gospel and finds it fading needs to ask the same question. Am I willing to do what the Lord wants of me so that I can have all that has been promised?
As Elder Robert Gay reinforced in October 2012, “This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.”
“Brothers and sisters, remember that this charge is more than just not doing bad things. With an engaged enemy we must also act and not sit in “thoughtless stupor.” Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.”
The promises of the Lord are sure and true. We can be safe and happy once again if we but choose to do the things He has asked and that His witnesses tell us are true. And when we are ready, we too can receive this sure witness that has been promised.
Nothing worth having is easy, and nothing easy to get is worth having in the long run. I pray that you will have the courage to make the changes so you can have the promised blessings.