Thursday, August 23, 2012

I know that the church is true......

How many times have members of the Mormon church have heard that phrase?  Hundreds? Thousands?  It is a common statement every first Sunday of the month during fast and testimony meeting.  Members of the congregation stand and declare their belief about the church and occasionally, about Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter if the speaker is 8 or 80 years old.  It is repeated over and over.  It has become a memorized statement to probably 98% of those speaking.  "I want to stand and bear my testimony that I know this church is true..."  It is about the same as, "bless this food to nourish and strengthen our bodies..."  Yes the Mormon church has "memorized prayers" like the Catholics.  After 35 minutes of such statements, the bishopric member thanks those who have shared their beliefs and comments on how strong the spirit has been.  For those that have never attended a fast and testimony meeting, it is very interesting.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Member of the Quorum of the 12, has given a talk about finding one's testimony. He stated, "Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared to the methods of obtaining other knowledge.  We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them."  (General Conference, April 2008).

That is an interesting statement.  The human mind is interesting organ.  It soaks up information like a sponge. Elder Oak's statement shows the process of "gaining" a testimony or belief.  It is an example of what psychologists call availability  cascade. Which is, a self reinforcing process by which something gains more plausibility through the repetition of the item.  Or to summarize Elder Oaks, if you say something enough times it will become true to you.  This in turn affects those in the audience to begin to accept the statement as true.  It is an interesting cycle and repeats over and over.  A speaker claims to know the church is true, which not only reinforces that statement to themselves, it also reinforces it collectively to the congregation.

This is contrary to what I taught on my mission.  Testimonies are obtained through the praying and asking God if something was true.  That is how Joseph Smith received his answer. 


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