I remember being trained as a missionary to testify of each principle I was teaching to invite the Spirit, because the Spirit is what converts. In other words, sharing my testimony was the best tactic for convincing those we were teaching that we had the Truth. At the time, this totally made sense. When I shared my testimony, I could feel the Spirit, and it was a meaningful experience for me. When others shared their testimony, I also felt the Spirit, and it was a meaningful experience for me. So there you go. Air tight case…
Except for a few glaring flaws that I couldn’t see at the time.
I didn’t feel the Spirit when someone testified of a truth that conflicted with my Truth. In fact, I felt anxious. I felt like there was contention, simply because they didn’t agree with me. A testimony was only convincing when it confirmed my beliefs. I never considered how unconvincing my testifying was to someone who believed differently than me.
unbeliever skeptic, I have a much different perspective on testimonies. I no longer feel “the Spirit” when someone shares their testimony. Rather, I feel exasperated. Why? For the same reason I didn’t feel the Spirit when someone testified of something that conflicted with my beliefs. The Spirit is nothing more than the comfort of someone agreeing with you. It is the opposite of cognitive dissonance. If you agree with the moral of a story, you feel the Spirit. If someone sacrifices for something you consider worthy of sacrifice, you feel the Spirit.
This isn’t unique to Mormonism. Many (most? all?) supernatural and pseudo-scientific beliefs are professed by their believers using the same tactic as a Mormon testimony. People testify of Christianity, Islam, essential oils, chakras, auras, spirits, etc. Unless you can provide rational explanations supported by evidence, it just isn’t convincing. It would be like me testifying of leprechauns, or Thor, or pick your favorite mythological character. No matter how much I claim it is true, unless I provide enough evidence to convince you, you won’t believe me.
One more thing. If I have to believe something first before I will be given evidence that it is true, I’m not being asked to believe something that is true. I’m being asked to delude myself into believing something that shouldn’t be believed. You are implicitly admitting that there is no good reason to believe your claim. Telling me I have to have faith in God in order for him to reveal himself to me, tells me there is no good reason to believe in God.
So, the next time you’re going to bear your testimony to me, save it. All you are doing is showing you have nothing of value to contribute to the conversation. Frankly, the more you do it, the less I want to be around you.