Gain a testimony by pretending to have one

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Many testimonies come off like the bearer thinks that “I know” actually means “I really hope” or “I want to know”. When encouraged to bear a testimony to find it, this doublespeak almost makes sense.

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.

Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2008
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2008/04/testimony?lang=eng#20

Don’t have a testimony? Don’t think the one you have is strong enough to share boldly? Just share it anyway, that’s how you get a real testimony. To gain a testimony, we should talk like we already have it. Basically “fake it, ’til you make it”.

We’re being encouraged and told to testify of something that we don’t actually know. Is Oaks encouraging us to lie? Is it in order to fool ourselves into believing. Are we really learning and gaining a knowledge or just expressing a want of the knowledge and a reliance on the emotional high we get when sharing to reinforce our beliefs as fact. An interesting side-effect of this is when we hear repetitive statements, we are more likely to believe them as true, this is called the illusory truth effect.

Honesty is a church value, but we’re taught to testify even if we may not actually know something. Do the church leaders believe it is ok to lie for the Lord?

Those familiar with the practice of law, as Oaks is (remember he was a Lawyer and a Judge), would call this perjury: Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to an official proceeding. Those familiar with the 10 commandments (as all Christians should be), call this bearing false witness. To the mormon church though, it may be called gaining a testimony.

It is notable that this is not a particularly strong statement from Oaks, notice he counches the statement in “Someone even suggested that some testimonies…”. Interesting that an Apostle is quoting what “someone” “suggests”, who is this mysterious someone? Could it be Oaks himself? This gives him plausible deniability for when the “advice” falls flat, but still gives him the meme-worthy credit. Because, it has nonetheless become a meme-worthy-mantra for many youth and missionaries. They don’t see this as a suggestion only, it’s directly quoted from Oaks, that “testimonies are better gained on the feet” (sometimes with the perfected use of an ellipsis).

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