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Testimony As Another Language

Rusty - December 5, 2005

Yesterday we had a wonderful testimony meeting. There were touching, heartfelt, sincere testimonies borne by both familiar and unfamiliar faces (only one testimony felt incongruous and it happened to be that of a visiting former stake president from Utah). I’d chalk it up as one of the best F&T meetings I’ve ever been a part of.

There was one particularly beautiful testimony borne by Sister B. Now you must understand that Sister B is one of the stalwarts, one of the great faithful members of our Brooklyn ward. She started by admitting to having had struggles with aspects of her testimony and then she made an beautiful analogy.

She prefaced it by explaining that she teaches English as a second language and has done extensive research on how people learn other languages. She noted that they generally accept the fact that they are not going to ever master the language, let alone firmly grasp it. She said they go places where everyone around them is communicating in a way that they don’t understand and learn and grow into the language bit by bit. When they are familiar with the easier terms and structures they move deeper into the more complex ones.

If it’s not obvious yet, the analogy is this: growing our testimonies is similar to learning another language. As someone who knows a second language I love this comparison because I’ve experienced the effects of each of these processes. The more you learn the structure the easier it is to learn the specific details. Many people speak the same language but say things very differently. It’s a struggle. It goes away if you go away. And one of the most beautiful aspects of it (and the reason I think she was explaining it) is that you don’t need to know everything about it to be able to communicate just as we don’t need to have all the answers to have faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

It’s a beautiful message.


  1. Very true. Losing a language and losing faith happen about at the same pace if you’re not practicing…

    Comment by Bob C. — December 5, 2005 @ 11:39 pm

  2. So when you read your scriptures in another language, what then? ^^

    Comment by Bryce — December 6, 2005 @ 6:04 am

  3. Many people speak the same language but say things very differently.

    Rusty, there’s a wonderful book on this phenomenon called After Babel. It basically runs through language theory and how people can be using the same words but mean something completely different. It’s requisite for anyone that does translation work.

    That’s an interesting analogy. My ward, sadly, has been plagued with analogy-mania to the point that nobody can speak in straight prose anymore. Everything is a foundation, or a beehive, or a motorcycle (!) or what have you. I like a good analogy like this one.

    Comment by David J — December 6, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

  4. David,
    At least it’s not the parable of the bicycle again.

    Comment by Bret — December 6, 2005 @ 8:49 pm

  5. At least it’s not the parable of the bicycle again.

    LOL! Thanks Bret, that was a good one.

    Comment by David J — December 7, 2005 @ 12:17 am

  6. I missed that F&T meeting, but I heard it was really good. Very heartfealt, very humble, and honest. It’s too bad that is some church environments, to be that honest is looked down upon (like we’re supposed to know everything with every fiber of our beings, or something like that).

    Comment by Travis — December 9, 2005 @ 9:00 pm

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