As a mother, I have struggled to find a simple, effective method to help my children understand and gain personal testimonies. I have found one such method.
Several years ago, Utah’s 19—Mother of the Year, Joan Erickson, received a direct, personal revelation which helped her teach her own children about testimonies. She had recently given a Relief Society Spiritual Living lesson on testimonies and decided to share that lesson with her family in Family Home Evening. At one point in the evening, she quoted President Heber C. Kimball: “To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves . . . the time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?”
As the quote ended, her young son’s face clouded with worry. “Mama, do you think I have a testimony?”
Sister Erickson knew that her son was a spiritually sensitive young man who said his prayers, attended church, and tried to do the things that would please our Heavenly Father; so instinctively she wanted to respond, “Of course you do,” but she felt restrained. She looked steadily at her son, silently praying to know what to say.
Suddenly, the light of knowledge filled her mind. She picked up a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a circle. She then divided the circle in half and asked, “Son, do you believe that Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits, that he loves each of us very much, and that he hears and answers our prayers?”
Her son answered, “Yes,” and Sister Erickson wrote the words “Heavenly Father” in the top half of the circle.
Next, she said, “Kevin, do you believe Jesus Christ lives and that he died for us that we might live with him again?”
Again her son answered, “Yes.”
Sister Erickson wrote “Jesus Christ” in the bottom half of the circle and then formed a ball with her hands. “You see,” she continued, “this is the core of a testimony. No matter what else you believe, if the core is not there to sustain it, it will fail.”
After this explanation she asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Ghost and know that He will protect, prompt, and comfort us?”
He nodded, and his mother drew a line straight up from the top of the circle. She then asked several other, gospel-related questions, including:
“Do you believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet?”
“Do you believe the Book of Mormon is true?”
“Do you believe the present day prophet is called of God?”
To each, he answered, “Yes,” and she added another ray to the circle’s perimeter.
When she finished, she referred to her drawing and asked, “What have I drawn?”
“A sun,” he answered.
“It looks like a sun,” she replied, “but what I’ve really drawn is a picture of your testimony. And yes, your testimony is like a sun. Just as the sun gives life, light, healing, and warmth to your soul. As you continue to grow in the gospel, the rays will become thicker and brighter.” She put down her pencil. “Now, do you have a testimony?”
Her son’s eyes opened wide, and with obvious relief, he said, “I do!”
Sister Erickson now witnesses that Heavenly Father knew her son needed to know for himself that he had a testimony. I am very grateful she has shared this experience, but I am even more grateful to Heavenly Father for revealing it to her. Now I know I can not only measure the strength of my own testimony, but I can also teach my children; I will simply start with the Son’s core and work outward.