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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The trauma of bearing my testimony. » The trauma of bearing my testimony.

The trauma of bearing my testimony.

Susan M - May 5, 2008

I don’t get up to bear my testimony unless I’m promted to by the Spirit. My heart starts pounding, and I know I have to get up.

Generally, I’ve already been thinking about my testimony and things I might want to say. Then my heart starts pounding and I know, oh boy, I have to do it.

There have been times when my heart’s started pounding and I had no clue what I should say, though. First time it happened, I went up and winged it. But this Sunday I was totally not ready for it and it was all rather…well, brutal.

I hadn’t even really thought about it being fast Sunday. I’m diabetic and don’t usually fast. Often during fast meeting I’m sitting there thinking “I don’t want to go up today. I hope I don’t have to go up today. I just want to listen to people today.” Interspersed with “I hope my kids don’t go up today, it’s so nerve-wracking when they do. I just want to listen to people today.” I’m not overly anxious about it. Mostly I am just hoping I can sit and enjoy other people’s testimonies.

So I was taken totally by surprised when as soon as I saw the first person go up to the microphone my heart started pounding, hard. I thought, “Maybe it’ll pass. Maybe the Spirit is just telling me to pay attention to this sister!”

And it faded a bit. I kept thinking, “If I’m supposed to go up, and I don’t, I’m going to feel really horrible the rest of the day.” But I had NO CLUE what to talk about. Nothing. I was a total blank. And I just couldn’t do it without something in mind to talk about. Eventually a favorite phrase of mine from the scriptures came to me: Full purpose of heart. And I thought, OK, I can handle that.

Meanwhile my daughter kept leaning on me. Holding my hand. Laying her head on my lap. Pulling my shoe off. I kept pushing her away, she was driving me crazy. I had to go up there soon! I can’t get up when you’re laying on me! (She’s 16, btw, not 6.)

I must’ve struggled for about 20 minutes, my heart poubding the entire time, before I got up and bore my testimony. I was wearing new really high heels, slip ons, and I worried I’d stumble on my way up. But I didn’t. No, I stumbled on my way back down. I was shaking a lot worse after than before.

Now you’d think I could relax after I was done. But I couldn’t really. Because I knew what was coming next. And yep, as soon as the meeting was over and I stood up to leave the pew, a kind woman I didn’t know was putting her arm around me and commenting on my testimony. I can easily bare my soul to a bunch of strangers (this post being a fine example), but one-on-one emotional confrontations (even positive ones) are a personal nightmare.

I looked at the far side of the chapel, which had the door closest to the library and my primary room, and I saw all the people I’d normally be wading through to get to it, and I knew it for what it was: A minefield of people who would put their arm around me and say something nice. So I bolted out the nearest door, down the empty hallway, taking the long way around.

I knew I’d made the right choice when my husband later told me how many people were commenting to him about my testimony. I was actually nervous the rest of the day that someone would come up to me and say something nice. I was relieved when my primary class didn’t mention it.

I don’t usually react that way. Just something this Sunday was putting me in full on avoidance/panic mode. Often when I’m prompted to bear my testimony I hear from someone later that it was exactly what they’d needed to hear. I figured that was the case this time, too, I was just so unprepared for it I panicked.

So under what circumstances do you bear your testimony? Is it something that’s easy for you? Difficult? I don’t know why it was so hard for me this Sunday. I think it was a combination of it taking me so by surprise—I tend to have to warm up to things a bit—and how I had no clue what I was supposed to say. Trauma.

24 Comments »

  1. I’m the same way—I have to feel totally compelled by the spirit to get up. Mostly because I’m a very private person who doesn’t like to show her emotions, but put me in front of a microphone and I turn into a blubbering idiot. Ick!

    Although in primary, I bare my testimony every time I do sharing time and it’s no big deal. Maybe because I don’t use the podium with the mic—it must be the mic.

    It’s great that you’re willing to follow the promptings. Obviously you are touching people—even if you don’t want to hear about it!

    Comment by bythelbs — May 5, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  2. Susan,

    What did you say? I may be the person who needs to hear what it is you had to say.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — May 5, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  3. My problem is that I’m a cryer. Guys aren’t supposed to cry, as the saying goes, but I can’t help it. I bear my testimony quite often these days but only when I feel my heart pounding like you, Susan. But my testimony is usually filled with thanksgiving for the blessings in my life and the folks in my ward who are sitting right in front of me are one of the great blessings in my life. So I usually find something to cry about.

    A couple of years ago I discovered a relative I never knew I had by surfing the net. It turns out that her great great great grandfather was my great great grandfather, even though she is a couple of years older than me. As we exchanged e-mails and pictures she asked me if I have a copy of a book that was published in the 60′s that contained the family histories of our relatives who setttled a small town in Idaho. I explained that I would always take that book off the shelf when I visited my grandmother and study the words and the pictures for hours and that when my grandmother died she left a note to give the book to me. I told her the book was on a prominent shelf in my home and it was one of the treasures of my life. She wrote back and told a similar story about how her grandmother had passed away while she lived overseas. Her siblings got the piano and the dining room set and she wondered what her grandmother had left her. When she moved back to the states her mother gave her the family history book, saying her grandmother wanted her to have it, and now IT was one of the treasures of HER life.

    I told that simple story about finding a lost relative with whom I shared a common interest and my emotions got the best of me. I cried like a baby. In fact I’m getting a bit emotional just writing this experoence down. For me feeling the spirit usually involves shedding some tears, almost always tears of joy. It embarrases me somewhat but then I realize that it’s just who I am, and I accept it.

    Comment by lamonte — May 5, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  4. Thomas: I don’t remember exactly. Something about how that phrase in the scriptures leaped out at me the first time I read it and I’ve never forgotten it. How if you do things with full purpose of heart—pray, read the scriptures, fullfil your calling, pay tithing, whatever—the blessings you receive are amazing. I think I said something about the world beating us down and how I start to do things only half-heartedly, but when I can find the ability to do things with full purpose of heart, that’s when I’m blessed.

    Comment by Susan M — May 5, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  5. Nice, Susan. I hate bearing my testimony. I have no problem being up on stage or even giving a talk, but bearing my testimony is really hard. Lately, I’ve been doing it a lot and it’s because I’ve been in small groups and wards and it was actually more awkward for me not to bear my testimony than to get up there and bear it!

    last time was last month. I did it because my little 1st grader said, C’mon mom, go up there! I had to save face although I didn’t know what I was going to say. Then as I started talking it really hit me. And I cried and my voice got all shaky which it never does. I talked about going into yourself into that deep dark place and asking yourself what you really believe — and when I do that, that’s when I know that the church is true and that the gospel is real. I kind of surprised myself.

    Comment by meems — May 5, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  6. Let me get this straight: you shrugged off the old woman?

    Comment by Kim Siever — May 5, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  7. I didn’t say she was old. I nodded and smiled at whatever she said, with a quiet, “Yeah…thanks” and slipped away in the crowd.

    That’s neat, meems. You too, Lamonte. I’m sometimes surprised by which men are the criers. The FBI agent, the fireman…

    Comment by Susan M — May 5, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

  8. Ditto on the heart pounding. My heart has to be leaping out of my chest before I bear my testiomony. I used to love the attention afterwards (I’m all about social validation. Don’t ask.), but now I can’t stand it. Sure, it’s nice to know my testimony is all fabulous and such, but I don’t bear it for social validation anymore (and yes, social validation was a part of it. Again, don’t ask.). I just do it because I’m supposed to and it strengthens me.

    My favorite places to bear testimony, though, are in RS and Primary. Somehow, it just means more…

    Comment by cheryl — May 5, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Susan M:

    Congratulations. The Spirit has put you in the next level of training. You should be grateful that you got “promoted” or “passed” to the next grade.

    Telling you to get up and say something, but not telling you _what_ to say until _after_ you start talking is something that the Spirit often does in order to exercise/stretch our faith and thereby make our faith grow.

    If the Spirit treats you the way He’s treated me, you’re not going to be able to go back to the old way of getting the warnings and “warm-ups”. Now you’re going to have to jump when the Spirit says “jump”, and start talking when the Spirit says “start talking.” Remember the Savior’s promise that it isn’t until the very moment you need to say it that the Spirit tells you what to say.

    That “opening line” or conversation starter is almost irrelevant, since it is only needed as an act of faith, and then the spiritual faucet is turned on. If or when the Lord ever does in fact need you to start with a specific opening line, you’ll be prompted or impressed with it before hand (or you’ll be able to cook it up yourself with your own powers of discernment/observation, or a combination of your own powers with divine help). But even then it too may be just in the nick of time, after you open your mouth but before uttering a sound.

    Treasure up before-hand the words of life, but when the Spirit gives the “go” signal, then it’s a matter of living in the moment.

    Once we learn to listen for, understand, and obey the voice of the Spirit, we can become very useful instruments in the Master’s hand.

    The Lord used you to bless others that day. You should feel very blessed.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 5, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  10. Bless your heart Susan. You are so brave. I can only bear my testimony about once every 10 years and it never goes well. I feel like such an idiot afterwards.

    Comment by JA Benson — May 5, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

  11. Lamonte,

    Sometimes I’m emotional and sometimes not – sometimes I won’t be for a long time – then things hit me a certain way. Once when I was teaching EQ I knew I was going to be talking about things that were close to my heart, and that I’d probably show some emotion. So I warned “I’m going to touch on some things that are very close to my heart today, and will probably be emotional. I ask that you not be embarrased for me, becasue I’m not embarrased.”

    But sometimes I am embarrased, of course. :)

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — May 5, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

  12. Susan,

    Thanks. I can’t begin to say how thankful I am for people in the church who aren’t piccolos. It does my heart so much good knowing a little bit about who you are, and that you are up in church bearing your testimony. Wish I’d been there to hear it.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — May 5, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  13. You know, when I first started bearing my testimony- I say that like an old pro, when I’ve actually only done it maybe half a dozen times- it was hard. I would sweat it, hope the heart-pounding would stop, and I could just skip the whole thing. Nope. When the sweats and heart racing kicks in, I gotta go up.

    Except the last time…

    Last time was odd- it was kind of like yours- I had no idea what I was going to say, I didn’t even have time to get nervous and jittery- all the sudden, I just found myself up on the stand. I think David was even out in the hall with Abby- or Bean?- I dunno. But it was surreal.

    Comment by tracy m — May 5, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  14. Slightly off topic, but whatever happened to the mikes on long cords that the teachers used to pass around the congregation during testimony meeting? I remember them clearly from the old Provo 8th Ward, during the early 1960′s, but then I can’t remember seeing them in other wards since then.

    But, there was an elderly woman in the old Brooklyn 1st Ward who would bear her testimony from time to time, standing at her place in the pews, without a microphone. She would have had a difficult time making the walk to the front and the climb up the two steps to the stand.

    Do any wards in the church still use the old traveling mikes, or are we all in the climb up to the pulpit school now?

    Comment by Mark B. — May 5, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  15. Hey Mark B. I remember the mikes too. They were for the old people. The custom was that if an elderly member desired to bear their testimony (it seems like they always did) they sat in the first few rows to utilize the mike. I remember the praactice was still in use in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s in Midvale Utah.

    Comment by JA Benson — May 6, 2008 @ 6:21 am

  16. Bookslinger: That’s a cool and terrifying thought.

    Tracy: I wish they all could be like that.

    Mark B: Most of the wards I’ve been in have had those roving mikes, I just realized it’s only the one I attend now that doesn’t.

    Comment by Susan M — May 6, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  17. I think the audience is more nervous than I am when I take the stand.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 6, 2008 @ 8:38 am

  18. Haha. Why is that?

    Comment by Susan M — May 6, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  19. Last time I was up, I made the point that the diversity of spiritual gifts Paul lays out in Corinthians meant that it was not “given” to everyone in the audience to “know of themselves” that the Church was true.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 6, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  20. Re: #7

    See what happens when I imagine people’s stories while reading them. ;-)

    Comment by Kim Siever — May 6, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  21. Susan M: You’ve already described elsewhere how you and your husband (and kids) are different than the majority of other active members in your ward, like you don’t fit in. But that means you’re just another member of the body. Sometimes we take the concept of unity too far, and become (or think we have to become) homogenous, thinking we have to be just like everyone else in terms of gifts, responsibilities, assignments, and standard-operating-procedures. But, we can be just as diverse as the parts (members) of the human body.

    We don’t have to adopt the Utah sing-song rythm of public speaking. We don’t have to use the over-earnest “Primary voice.”

    I sort of feel a kinship with you and your husband. Our ways of service and communication can be a bit different than “Mormon Standard”, but still well within doctrinal parameters. Our different-ness, especially seeing things from a different perspective (but still within a gospel view) can be very refreshing to others when the monotony of the beehive gets to them, or even us.

    “Amazing Grace”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “When the Saints go Marching In” may not be in welcome or appropriate in Sacrament meeting, but there’s nothing wrong with a special “Gospel Music Night” including those numbers organized at a ward or stake level. Kind of like Gladys Knight’s Saints United Voices. We’re allowed to get together and sing outside of the 3-hour Sunday block, and by doing so are not restricted to Sacrament meeting-type songs.

    So don’t be afraid to think outside the box! There’s plenty of examples in the scriptures that we could follow, but we just don’t have time for them in our normal schedule and in our traditional Wasatch-front-based cultural milleau.

    There’s talk of doing a Glady’s Knight style “Gospel Music Sing-along” in our stake.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 6, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  22. I am coming back to the church.
    This is due to a few powerful things and one of them being that I found out that more people than I thought had been praying for me. And when I say “more” I mean all the members of my small ward.
    When I get re-baptized I don’t feel like having everybody there. It has nothing to do with love but with the fact that they were not there when I was excommunicated, they did not attend it. Why should they be there for this? I feel it is a personal thing and I feel as comfortable about them witnessing it as I would feel comfortable walking naked among them.
    But it the mean time I wanted to tell them how much grateful I am for their prayers.
    So over month ago I stood up in sacrament meeting and told them that I know that some have prayed a lot for me. Some have only prayed a little for me. Some may have not prayed for me at all but they thought about me.
    I told them that I knew that.
    I wanted to tell them that they made me acquire a real and strong testimony of prayer but I don’t think I was able to voice it. So I told them “thank you” and “I am fine now”.
    We are a small unit and I could read in their eyes that all of them have prayed a least once.

    Comment by G — May 10, 2008 @ 10:06 am

  23. That’s really neat, G. I know I’ve had times where I felt like people were praying for me, only to find out later that my mother-in-law had put our names on the temple prayer list.

    Comment by Susan M — May 10, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  24. Susan, from what the feedback was from the ward, it sounds like people need to hear your testimony. Don’t worry about what you think about what you said or what people may say to you directly. Be grateful that you can be an instrument in the hand of God.

    I don’t think I ever had that racing heart and pounding heart at Church. It was super hard to stand to bear my testimony at first and even more difficult to walk up to the front. However, it became much easier after a few times back when I was in the practice.

    G, thanks for some good news. :)

    Comment by Barb — May 14, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

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