In the New Testament, speaking to the Corinthians, Paul taught, “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Cor 13:1)
I’ve come to understand those witnesses are literal. Our Father in Heaven loves us so much, that he allows us to learn at our own pace and in our own way. He provides at least three different witnesses for each of us. Three witnesses that I have personally come to know are:
1) Faith (through the spiritual) 2) Experience (through the physical) and 3) Understanding (through the logical)
There may be times that it seems like our children are not getting the message of what we are trying so hard to teach them. On several occasions our children have come home excited about something they had “just” learned from Seminary, or from their teachers at church; we had taught them those same truths many times before in our home. Not until I learned the power of the second witness did I come to understand what was really happening.
I’ve learned that we may be their first witness; and once they hear or experience that same concept through another source, a second witness, things click.
The Witness of Faith (A Spiritual Witness)
By far, I’d have to say that the most powerful witness I’ve had is that of the Spirit. However, once we come to recognize the Spirit’s influence in our lives, we learn that, truly, all things are spiritual; all things have “elements of” or are “combined with” the Spirit.
Some spiritual experiences are very sacred and personal, and are usually meant for the person having the experience; others are meant to be shared, to uplift and inspire. The beautiful thing about all spiritual experiences is that they are evidence of God’s love for each of us, individually and personally.
Each of us have spiritual experiences; we just need to observe what’s happening in our own lives. They come in many forms including dreams, or thoughts and impressions; they include warnings, or promptings to act, to do something; and they are always found in confirmations of truth. They might come as feelings of peace in troubled times; or may be the solution to a problem we’re facing. It could be an answer to prayer.
For those who don’t feel they have any (many) spiritual experiences, I would ask, what if the definition of a spiritual experience is found in the question: “To whom do we give the credit?” Some think things happen "by coincidence," while others recognize the involvement a loving Heavenly Father.
The Witness of Experience (A Physical Witness)
Physical experiences weren’t meant to be easy, but rather to be life changing. C.S. Lewis referred to personal experience as the “brutal teacher” through which we were sure to learn. Experience offers the most intense, highly concentrated course of learning available.
Through experience, we can find our true selves. If we let her, experience can be our friend; an intimate companion throughout life who bestows gifts upon those who travel with her on the journey of adversity; gifts that only she can give. Gifts of knowledge and understanding, love, patience, joy, endurance, and success.
Only experience can offer opportunities to conquer feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, fear, pain, hate, loss, uncertainty, or sorrow. If we take her by the hand and walk through life with her, she can fulfill her real mission, which is to personally lead us back to our Savior, and back to our Father.
It was during one such time in my life that I was inspired with this poem.
“Purpose and Peace in Pain”
(Dec. 9, 2004)
What can I learn from this? How can I grow?
What is it Father would have me to know?
I think of my Savior, as He fell to His knees
pleading with Father, “Remove this cup, please!”
An angel was sent to strengthen our Lord;
for purpose in pain was in Father’s accord.
The life of our Savior was required for mine.
Each drop of His blood was the price for mankind.
Our Savior submitted, it came in one line.
He said to His Father, “Not My will, but Thine.”
The price to be paid, which Jesus affords,
Could only be paid through the hands of our Lord.
Still we beg Father our pain to appease.
But more can be had in the pain; it is peace!
And as we sit quietly and feel the peace grow...
Maybe it’s Father, Himself, we can know!
The Witness of Understanding (A Logical Witness)
Up until I married into the Wood family, the majority of my witnesses came from the Spirit or through experience. The Wood’s introduced me to a different way of thinking; the logical, and sometimes the illogical.
Over time, Kieth and I have had several discussions on gospel subjects with both of his parents; some were one-on-one with me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The discussions with his mother tended more towards the spiritual way of thinking; while those with his father were more down the logical, and sometimes, illogical; especially when he spoke through absurdities in his serious kind of way.
One such conversation has come to be known by me as “the bunny” story. Of all the logical witnesses I’ve seen with this man, this one is my favorite.
It was proof to me that our Heavenly Father is very aware of each of us, and willing to meet us on our terms. Keep in mind that through the passing of time, a “word for word” account is impossible for me to come up with. The quotes represent the person speaking, not the “word for word” conversation of what was said; however, the details and words will be as close to “word for word” as I can possibly remember.
On this particular visit to his house in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, I directly asked Bill what it would take for him to know for himself that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. His reply? “If a bunny were to come out of the woods and tell me it was true, then I’d believe.” Absurd? Perhaps; but the Spirit still became involved and taught a beautiful truth.
I said to Bill, “Let’s assume that the Lord granted you your request. Let’s assume that, in fact, a bunny came out of the woods and said, ‘Bill, it’s true! Everything you’ve been told is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the earth.’ The next step for a person after they’ve received a witness for themselves is to share what they know to be true with others; to bear witness, to bear testimony of that truth. So let’s say that you go to your oldest son (who’s also named Bill) and say ‘Bill, I’ve come to know for myself that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
is true,’ and he asks, ‘How do you know that, dad?’ and you would say, ‘because a bunny came out of the woods and told me so.’”
With a light-hearted chuckle, Bill quickly acknowledged that he would have a difficult time explaining this to his son. We then discussed the Lord’s way of revealed truth; through the Spirit.
John, the Baptist, testified, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt 3:11) And in John 3:5 “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
I then asked him, “Wouldn’t it be easier doing it the Lord’s way? And be able to testify with millions of others, ‘I know the church is true, because the Spirit has born witness to me in such a way that I cannot deny it.’”
To this day, that conversation brings back fond memories and feelings of love. I reflect on that occasion with warm delight. The Lord loves us and can be very logical in His approach, for He has confirmed in our day that He will reason with us: “Wherefore, come ye unto it, and with him that cometh, I will reason as with men in days of old, and I will show unto you my strong reasoning... Wherefore, hearken and I will reason with you, and I will speak unto you and prophesy as unto men in days of old.” (Doc. & Cov. 45:10, 15)
If we look close enough, we will see evidence of a loving, actively involved Heavenly Father, who throughout our lives, will bear witness to us through the eyes of faith (the spirit), through personal experience, and through the eyes of understanding (or logic).
He loves us and has promised us two or three witnesses. Can we see them? If not, there’s a good reason why. We as mortals oftentimes need things defined, boundaries identified; or we think we do. We tend to look at things as black or white, good or bad.
In reality, as stated with the spiritual, many things have “elements of” or are “combined with” each other. I’ve tried to identify different witnesses and have named them as the witness of faith (spiritual), the witness of experience, the witness of understanding (logic); however, many evidences of understanding and faith are seen through the eyes of experience.
Even though there may be three ways to get a witnesses, all three support each other; all three testify of each other; all three are one in purpose, to bear witness. Sound familiar? To me, it’s symbolic of the Godhead: three separate entities, all three support each other, all three testify of each other, and all are one in purpose; to bear witness. How significant is this process of becoming one? Let’s see.