Courage

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Question: Can we show courage, as Paul did, when he bore his testimony in front of King Agrippa?

Answer: When Paul delivered the powerful testimony to King Agrippa, he was being held prisoner by Roman soldiers. The people he spoke to had the power to condemn him to death. Yet he chose to boldly bear witness of Jesus Christ and “the heavenly vision” he had received.

Acts 26:19-28

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me (these are the reasons the Jews grabbed me in the temple and tried to kill me).

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light (and would bring the light of the gospel) unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he (Paul) thus spake for himself, Festus (the Roman ruler over Judea, the Jerusalem area, whom King Agrippa was visiting) said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded (convinced) that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. (I am convinced hat he is very aware of the things about which I have spoken.)

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (you have almost convinced me to become a Christian).

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M. Russell Ballard, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

I recently returned from an assignment in Asia where we met with faithful Saints and missionaries. One meeting was in a metropolitan area where we have approximately 14,000 Church members living within a population of nearly 21 million people. If that same ratio were applied to this meeting, in the Conference Center we would have only 13 members of the Church scattered among this congregation of over 20,000.

This experience impressed upon me how deeply grateful we must all be to know that after ages of darkness and apostasy, Joseph Smith beheld a remarkable vision of the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove. Clearly, in our world today it is a rare and precious thing to have a testimony that God our Heavenly Father lives; that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer; and that priesthood authority to administer the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored once again upon the earth. The profound blessing of having a testimony of these truths cannot be measured or ever taken for granted.

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Personal testimony is the foundation of our faith. It is the binding power that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique in the lives of its members, as compared with all other religious denominations of the world. The doctrine of the Restoration is glorious in and of itself, but the thing that makes it powerful and imbues it with great meaning is the personal testimonies of Church members worldwide who accept the Restoration of the gospel and strive to live its teachings every day of their lives.

A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primary ministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son. When one receives a testimony of truth through this divinely appointed process, it immediately begins to have impact on that person’s life. According to Alma the Younger, “it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves … the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).

Simply stated, testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost— changes lives. It changes how you think and what you do. It changes what you say. It affects every priority you set and every choice you make. To have a real and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be “spiritually … born of God,” to “[receive] his image in your countenances,” and to experience a “mighty change in your hearts” (Alma 5:14).

Like almost everything else in life, testimonies grow and develop through experience and service. We often hear some members, and especially children, bear their testimonies, listing things for which they are thankful: their love of family, the Church, their teachers, their friends. For them, the gospel is something that they are grateful for because it makes them feel happy and secure. This is a good beginning, but testimonies need to be much more. They need to be anchored very early to the first principles of the gospel.

A testimony of the reality of Heavenly Father’s love, of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and of the effect of His Atonement on every son and daughter of God brings about the desire to repent and live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It also brings a confirmation to our soul of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days. Real testimony of these precious truths comes as a witness by the Holy Ghost after sincere and dedicated effort, including teaching in the home, prayer, scripture study, service to others, and diligent obedience to Heavenly Father’s commandments. To gain and forever hold on to a testimony of gospel truths is worth whatever price in spiritual preparation we may be required to pay.

My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them...

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Remember also Abinadi and Alma. Abinadi infuriated wicked King Noah with his courageous testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually this great missionary offered the ultimate sacrifice for his witness and faith but not before his pure testimony touched one believing heart. Alma, one of King Noah’s priests, “repented of his sins …, [accepted Jesus as the Christ,] and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi” (Mosiah 18:1). Many were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ as a direct result of Abinadi’s powerfully borne testimony of the Savior, believed by one soul, Alma.

The Apostle Paul also bore fervent testimony of Christ and converted many through his missionary labors. He did not shrink in bearing his testimony before King Agrippa. So mighty were his words that even this influential representative of the Roman Empire was moved to exclaim, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

The lesson, I believe, is clear: having a testimony alone is not enough. In fact, when we are truly converted, we cannot be restrained from testifying. And as it was with Apostles and faithful members of old, so is it also our privilege, our duty, and our solemn obligation to “declare the things which [we] know to be true” (D&C 80:4)...

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Although we can have testimonies of many things as members of the Church, there are basic truths we need to constantly teach one another and share with those not of our faith. Testify God is our Father and Jesus is the Christ. The plan of salvation is centered on the Savior’s Atonement. Joseph Smith restored the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon is evidence that our testimony is true...

May the Lord bless you as you continue to nurture your testimonies through your prayers, your personal gospel study, and your acts of service. With great joy I humbly testify our Heavenly Father loves us, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith restored the fulness of the everlasting gospel, and the Book of Mormon testifies of these truths. We are led by a living prophet today. And I pray that the Lord may bless you, my dear brothers and sisters, as you teach and testify, which I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 119; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 75; Excerpts from General Conference, October 2004, “Pure Testimony,” by M. Russell Ballard, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.