How Can I Strengthen My Testimony?

Happy Sunday! As I said the week before, I am the Beehive Adviser in our ward. Teaching is a whole new experience for me because I've never really taught before so it has been a growing experience for sure. But I do love it. I feel like I am getting so much out of teaching because I am studying out the lessons and am probably learning more than my girls haha But this week I chose to give the lesson "How can I strengthen my Testimony?" It was interesting because when Dave and I got to church, the talks in sacrament meeting were on testimonies. I had no idea! Pretty cool. Anyways I thought I'd share some of my thoughts from my lesson and what I learned.

A plant and a Testimony are very similar. What needs to happen for a flower to grow? Well for one you need a seed. That seed needs soil, water, sunlight etc. Then one day that seed can become a beautiful flower. It needs constant nourishment in order for it to grow. So how is growing a plant like gaining a testimony? To gain a testimony we must nourish it! We can nourish our testimonies by praying, reading our scriptures, attending church, going to the temple, keeping the commandments etc.

Alma 32. I LOVE this chapter, I invite you to go read that chapter if you haven't read it! If you have then I invite you to read it again...and again!! I always seem to get something new every time I read it.

Alma 32: 27-34

27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than adesire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
 28 Now, we will compare the word unto a aseed. Now, if ye give place, that a bseed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your dunbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to eenlighten myfunderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
 29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
 31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its ownalikeness.
 32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
 33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
 34 And now, behold, is your aknowledge bperfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your cfaith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your dmind doth begin to expand.

 Another way we can gain a stronger testimony is by sharing it!

President Boyd K. Packer said, "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!"

So I want to share with you some experiences I have had in my life that have really helped me to gain and strengthen my testimony.
In high school I was in seminary and I had a seminary teacher who challenged all of us students to read from the scriptures every day...with out fail! Even if it was one verse, a line or even a word! Just open the scriptures and read something everyday. I took this challenge to heart because I had never truly read the whole Book of Mormon by myself before. So I got my pen to highlight as I went along to mark anything that stood out to me on my freshly unmarked scriptures and I also got tabs to put in my scriptures to help me mark things that really stood out to me. So I began from the beginning and read a little everyday. Even if I didn't have much time in my teenager world I still read at least a little. Well, time went on and so did high school. I made a lot of new friends. One friend in particular, we used to hang out a lot but then didn't for about a year and then started to hang out again. I remember when I started to hang out with him again I noticed something was different... He was not the same person I used to hang out with. I kept feeling this gut feeling that I needed to find out where this kid stands before I kept on hanging out with him. I needed to know what was most important to him. The thought kept creeping up in my mind even if I tried to wave it away. It was kind of an embarrassing thing to ask for a high school kid. But one night we were sitting on the couch alone talking. The thought came to my head again and my heart started pounding.  The thought came in my head "Now is the time to bring it up!" Oh great here we go... So I finally just asked. "What's most important to you?"
 My friend looked at me and then looked down thinking. "To be good." He said finally.
I waited a little before I asked what he meant.
He then was an open book all of the sudden. He told me everything! He told me he had got into trouble  in the time that he and I weren't hanging out and that he didn't even know if he could serve a mission anymore. His testimony was shaken. He said, "I want to be good. I want to do what's right. And I want to serve a mission. But I'm not sure how."
I listened intently. This was way more than I had imagined! But as I listened to him and looked at him... really looked at him... something happened. It was then that I understood the phrase "seeing people the way God sees them." I could see this 'desire to be good' my friend had. The real desire to change. I could see that he truly was a child of God and that he had so much in store for him. I felt like I really saw who he was inside.
 All of the sudden a thought popped into my head. "Alma 32. You need to read Alma 32." In my scripture study I had just read that chapter a couple days before so it was fresh on my mind. I got my scriptures and read. We read the whole chapter. And I shared with him my testimony. Afterwards my friend asked how I knew to read that to him? That it was exactly what he needed to hear. I wasn't really sure how to answer him because I hadn't had an experience like that before. I responded "I just felt like I should..."
Alma 32:27

 27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than adesire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

I saw that beautiful desire in my friend. That little seed, and he planted it. He worked at it and worked at it hard. He nourished it and became worthy to serve a full time mission! I am so proud of that friend! He taught me so much. That experience really strengthened my testimony where I put myself in a place where I had the spirit with me. I had been reading my scriptures and doing the things that are right. I had been putting on the 'Armor of God' everyday with praying and reading my scriptures even if I didn't realize it at the time. Because I did that I was able to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit that I needed to talk to my friend about this subject and then the promptings I got to share Alma 32 with him. What if I hadn't been reading my scriptures?? I wouldn't have known what that chapter was and it wouldn't have been fresh on my mind! I am so glad that I was able to help my friend to go on a mission and I am so grateful for the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit to help us out.

 I know that when we share our testimonies with others it really will help are own testimonies grow stronger and stronger. It's like you don't realize how much you really know something until you have to teach or explain it to someone else. Like with my career. I am a cosmetologist and I work in cosmetics. Clients come in asking about how to do their make up or have questions about skin care. It's something that I know and do so much that I subconsciously think that everyone knows how to do it! But then when I have to teach someone how to do it I am reminded how much I really do know about cosmetics haha. A Testimony is a lot like that I think. With spiritual experiences that we have had through our lives sometimes you just need to be reminded and sometimes sharing those experiences with others is the best reminder for yourself on what you do know. 

Another experience in my life that strengthened my testimony.
In fourth grade I met my best friend. Like my BFF! haha But really though we were inseparable! We did everything together. We were the craziest kids in the whole school but we didn't care because we had so much fun together. Her family was like my dream family. They seemed perfect. Her dad was the sweetest most spiritual guy ever. My friends siblings were so awesome and her mom was like a dream mom. The whole family was a spiritual strength for me in my little mind. Time passed and my friends dad got into business with this guy from California and one thing led to the next and next thing you know their whole family was falling apart. My friends dad left her mom. Her siblings went in every direction and my dear friend started to become really bitter towards God... It of course didn't happen over night so I didn't notice the changes all at once. But me and my friend started down a path where I felt empty. I was unhappy. My brother at the time was preparing to go on a mission. He and his friends would go do baptisms for the dead at the temple every week. My brother invited me to come so I did. I didn't think much of it but continued to go. After a while as the spirit was entering into my life again I noticed what was happening. I tried talking with my friend but she was in a place where she didn't want to hear it. I was in a place where I wasn't strong enough to pull her up with out her pulling me down. I prayed....and I got a prompting. One that scared me to death. I felt like I couldn't be friends with my best friend BFF! The thought haunted me but kept hitting me like a hammer. I tried ignoring it, and denying it but it was so strong. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. I was so heartbroken after I left our friendship..but no one can force you to change. You have to decide for yourself and that's what I had to realize with my friend, she would have to decide for herself. I will always love her and cherish our memories together.  
Now over the years as I look back on this experience I realize all of the blessings that I had received for staying close to my Heavenly Father that I hadn't noticed during the time of going through it. What if I hadn't listened to the Holy Spirit? What if I would have continued down the path I was headed when I was 14? Got involved in the wrong crowd and became unworthy to go to the temple. I wouldn't have ever met my husband...but because I did what I could to nourish my testimony and stay true to what I knew was right even though it was so hard, I was blessed. I was able to stay true to my standards and be temple worthy and to be sealed to my AMAZING husband in the temple of God. Now we are sealed as an eternal family. What greater blessing? My testimony has grown so much on how important our decisions are every day. What you do today is going to determine who you are tomorrow. My testimony grew on how Heavenly Father knows me and knew where I would be happiest. My testimony grew that this joy and happiness comes from no where else but with God. Also how important it is to care for our testimonies and work on them all the time because like a plant not taken care of, it will die! And it can happen to ANYONE! You must always be on your guard because the adversary is always there waiting to attack. My testimony has also strengthened on the Atonement. We can always come back. God is always waiting for us with open arms. 

I got this analogy from John Hilton III:
Now there are many levels of a testimony.

I hope it’s true . . .
I think it’s true . . .
I believe it’s true . . .
I know it’s true . . .
For example, what if we told you that your ring finger is less flexible than your other fingers? Do you hope, think, believe, or know that is true? What is the only way to move from “hope” to “know”? We must experiment and test it out. Do the following:
  1.  Put your hands together, palm to palm
  2.  Keeping your palms together, see if you can separate your pointer fingers. Can you do it? Good, now keeping your palms together fold your pointer fingers over.
  3.  With your palms together and pointer fingers folded over, try to separate your pinkey fingers. Can you do it? Good. Now fold those over.
  4.  What about your thumbs, and your middle finger? Good. Fold those over.
  5.  Now with your palms firmly pressed together and all your fingers folded over except your ring finger, try to separate your ring fingers from each other. Interesting, isn’t it?

So do you now “know” your ring finger is less flexible than your others? Gaining a witness of spiritual things is much the same: When we first experiment and act in obedience, then the testimony comes.

My challenge to you is to experiment! Take your "seed," plant it and nourish it! If you are feeling sad or angry open your scriptures. Pray everyday, talk with your Heavenly Father because I know he loves you so much and wants to talk with you! I know that as we nourish our testimonies that they will grow. I know that God is watching over us. I know that he knows me individually as he knows you individually. I've experienced that for myself. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that he is my loving brother... I know that this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true Church of God! And it makes me soooo happy! That real peace and comfort doesn't come from anything else. I know that and I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for my calling as Beehive Adviser in my ward and for the chance I have to teach so that I have the opportunity to study out the lessons and "nourish" my own testimony. I hope what I have to say is in someway a help to my sweet beehives. 
Have a happy Sunday!!!
xoxo Natalie

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Maira Gall