Joseph Smith was an ordinary fourteen-year-old boy when he knelt before God in the Sacred Grove. There was nothing extraordinary about Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, or Martin Harris when they became witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Many of the early Saints were inexperienced, uneducated, and struggled with mortal weakness when God called them to witness for Him. Their examples teach us that God calls the weak things of the world, ordinary people like you and me, to do His work (see 1 Corinthians 1:27).
We may feel inadequate or that our life's light is too dim to have any impact on the world. Indeed, we are weak, but through faith in Jesus Christ, hope in His Atonement, and charity, He will strengthen us for the tasks we are to face. As we witness the goodness of Jesus, His help for us, and the light He shines in our lives, we will want to reflect that light to others. Like the early Saints, God will magnify our humble effort and give us the strength to do His work (see February 15-21, 2021 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families).
Receiving a witness of Jesus comes over a lifetime of experience, and sometimes, at a high personal cost. When Jesus invited His early disciples to follow Him, He promised them both a witness of the Holy Ghost (see John 14:26) along with a cross to bear (see Matthew 16:24). My testimony is that when we are humble, a witness of the Savior will always accompany the crosses we bear. Many of my sweetest experiences have come while bearing a cross.
The Witness of Christ
Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught that to be a witness of Jesus Christ 'is to possess a sure, personal testimony that He is the divine Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world' ('Becoming a Witness of Christ,' Ensign, Mar. 2008). Jesus taught Peter that receiving a testimony of His divinity comes as a gift from our Father in Heaven (see Matthew 16:15-17). In the Book of Mormon, Jesus instructed the people to 'hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do' (3 Nephi 18:24). The light we are to hold is not our light but Christ's. We are to reflect His light that shines in our lives. We do this by becoming like Him (see 3 Nephi 27:27).
Being a witness of Jesus is more than speaking of His goodness; it is becoming His goodness. The consistent choices that we make are part of the journey that will change us over time. As we struggle to emulate Christ, a mighty change will occur in us, and our selfish desires are replaced with desires 'to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2). 'Doing good' is the essence of gospel living and at the heart of Christ's earthly ministry (see Acts 10:38). Becoming this type of witness implies much more than comfortable discipleship. It requires us to seek the welfare of others as desperately as we would seek our own.
When Jesus visited the Nephites, He did more than pray for them. He made Himself available to them, listened to them, instructed them, mourned with them, wept with them, had compassion for them, and healed them (see 3 Nephi 12-18). He gave them the Holy Ghost, which comforted them, and gave them a witness that He was indeed their Redeemer (see 3 Nephi 26:17-18). If we want to make a difference in our world, we must serve our fellow men and women in the same way that Christ served us.
The Cross of Christ
Standing as a witness of Christ will not always be convenient or comfortable. Some hold up their light while being rejected, misunderstood, or ignored. Some hold up their light while simultaneously carrying the cross of physical or mental illness. Jesus experienced all of these things yet never failed to hold up His light or extend His hand of mercy. He endured His cross well, which is what we must do.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: 'True enduring represents not merely the passage of time, but the passage of the soul—and not merely from A to B, but sometimes all the way from A to Z. To endure in faith and doeth God's will (see Doctrine and Covenants 63:20; Doctrine and Covenants 101:35) therefore involves much more than putting up with circumstance. Rather than shoulder-shrugging, true enduring is soul-trembling. Jesus bled not at a few, but 'at every pore' (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18)' ('Endure It Well,' Ensign, May 1990). We can expect that opposition to our witness of Christ will come. When it does, Jesus promised that we would not be left 'comfortless' (John 14:18).
For me, a witness of Jesus Christ has come many times and in many different ways. One of these ways is as I have struggled through the trials, tribulations, and obstacles that I have experienced. For most of my career, I have worked in a city where I do not live and, therefore, spent a great deal of time traveling. Over the past seven years, I have watched thousands lose their jobs (or taken significant pay cuts) due to sizeable economic downturns in my industry. For a short time, I had to swallow the bitter pill of unemployment.
The effect of COVID-19 has only multiplied the uncertainty of my career path. It is not easy to be unemployed or to be away from my family, and the cross of uncertainty has been hard to bear. Despite these years of adversity, I have tried my best to hold up the light that Christ has given me. During this time, my testimony of Jesus Christ has strengthened in a way I cannot measure. Like John and Peter Whitmer Jr., God has revealed Himself to me in a way, 'which no man knoweth save [Him] and [me] alone' (Doctrine and Covenants 15:3; 16:3).
Because of these and other experiences, I am a witness to the goodness of God. I know He is familiar with the details of my life. I know He loves me and helps when I seek Him for guidance. A strong feeling of peace has replaced my fear of the unknown. I do not know what the future holds, but I know that I am in His hands, and I have faith that He will guide me.
My Witness of Christ
I am a witness to the goodness of God in my life. I know that He has helped me hold up the light He has given me, even when it's been hard. Much of what I have witnessed of Christ has come 'after the trial of [my] faith' (Ether 12:6). It is out in the darkness—after having exhausted all of my strength—when there was no earthly source of comfort that I have felt the words 'My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment' (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7). These trials have helped me to recognize that God is the source of all that is good in my life. He has helped me endure the 'crosses of the world,' and I have learned to despise the 'shame of it' (2 Nephi 9:18).
There is no better way to share our witness and conversion to Christ than to live it. As ordinary people, we center our faith firmly in Jesus Christ; our example in word and deed will stand as a witness to a suffering world that He stands ready to 'give you rest' to those who are 'heavy laden' (Matthew 11:28). God lives and loves us. He is always watching, always waiting, always ready to succor those who will come unto Him.