On Fervent Testimony and Subsequent Disaffection
By Ken K. Gourdin
An on-line acquaintance at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion described how a former missionary companion of his daughter, who bore fervent testimony (how Mormons describe sharing our witness) of the truths of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ on their mission, how has become disaffected. He asked how such a thing could happen, and how he could believe any testimony borne by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in light of such disafection.
Some of them are built on sand, some of them are built on rock. In fairness, it can be challenging to do the latter amidst life’s trials, struggles, ambiguities, vicissitudes, and unanswered questions, and it’s not as though I have all of the answers. I have simply determined to not let what I do know to be held hostage to what, as yet, I do not know.
In real life, although I have relatives who are very handy and could probably build pretty much anything they put their mind to, wherever I have lived has been built by someone else, and if the workmanship has been shoddy, I have fallen victim to that. However, with respect to my metaphorical “spiritual” house, I determine the level of its craftsmanship and its location. If it’s not “up to code,” if it is not built according to as exacting a set of specifications as it should be, or if it is in less than an ideal location, then I have the remedy for that.
It’s not as hard to understand why someone might bear a strong testimony as a missionary but might falter in “civilian life” later on as one might think. There is a commission that comes with missionary service that makes it hard to adjust to “civilian life” after returning home and being released. As a missionary, one’s focus constantly is outward, toward others; one is dedicated to serving them. In comparison to “civilian life,” one is literally immersed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in “things spiritual.” It’s little wonder there is such an adjustment.
How does one build a strong house in a safe location, spiritually speaking? Some are prone to deriding the “Sunday School Answers,” but in the end, that’s what it comes down to: That’s how one builds a strong house. Christ is The Rock. No other foundation is as sure. And we’re in the midst of the storm—the devil’s “mighty whirlwinds, all his hail and his mighty storm.” If we’re not determined, he will “drag us down to the gulf of misery and endless wo.” (See Helaman 5:12.) To be safe, we must trust in God, as Alma the Younger testified to Helaman: “[W]hosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and in their troubles, and in their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).
Also, experiencing even the “mighty change of heart” isn’t enough. Alma taught that one must renew that change regularly. (As an old saying goes, if I’m not as close to God today as I was yesterday, who moved?) It’s possible that one can “feel to sing the song of redeeming love” at one time, but not at another. (See Alma 5:26.) And, while I cannot, of course, see well enough into anyone’s heart to know if this is true of him or her, some of us, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell [a former member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] said, want to maintain a permanent residence in Zion, but not give up the summer cottage in Babylon.