Search for the Truth DVD/Call to Leaders/Individual witness


All Need Their Own Witness

Church leaders have repeatedly taught that members should not just "believe them," but should seek their own witness of the truth.

I believe it is good to investigate and prove all principles that come before me. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, and reject that which is evil, no matter what guise it may come in. I think if we, as "Mormons," hold principles that cannot be sustained by the Scriptures and by good sound reason and philosophy, the quicker we part with them the better, no matter who believes in them or who does not. In every principle presented to us, our first inquiry should be, "Is it true?" "Does it emanate from God?" If He is its Author it can be sustained just as much as any other truth in natural philosophy; if false it should be opposed and exposed just as much as any other error. Hence upon all such matters we wish to go back to first principles.

—John Taylor, (14 March 1869) Journal of Discourses 13:15.

Teach the children not to accept that which they read in a book as true, because it is printed; but. . . teach them to weigh for themselves, to examine for themselves, and test for themselves the statements which may be made upon any and every subject that may be brought to their attention through the medium of books, whether scientific or otherwise. The danger in indiscriminate reading on the part of young people lies in this: their impressions are vivid, and if what they read be incorrect; if, in point of fact, what they read is based on unsound premises and be entirely wrong, but it is presented in an agreeable taking and specious manner, they are apt to accept it as being true. Now, as we have heard this morning, God has revealed certain principles which we know to be true . . . We should teach them to our children . . . and endeavor, by the help of God, to implant them in their hearts, so that they afterwards in their search for knowledge, of any kind, may be able to bring what they may read to this standard and test the same thereby. And if our children are taught thus to read, the danger of infidelity, the danger arising from superficial reading, and the imbibing of incorrect ideas, sometimes set forth in a scientific way will be, to a great extent, obviated . . . Let us endeavor to cultivate this disposition in our children, to investigate carefully, to weigh properly the statements which may be presented to them.

—George Q. Cannon, (5 April 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:264.

I will say a few words in regard to your belief in being led, guided, and directed by one man. Brother Jackman has said that our enemies hate the fact of our being led by one man. Thousands of times my soul has been lifted to God the Father, in the name of Jesus, to make that verily true in every sense of the word, that we may be led by the man Jesus Christ, through Joseph Smith the Prophet. You may inquire how we are to know that we are so led.

I refer you to the exhortation you have heard so frequently from me. Do not be deceived, any of you; if you are deceived, it is because you deceive yourselves. You may know whether you are led right or wrong, as well as you know the way home; for every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind, and there is no calling of God to man on earth but what brings with it the evidences of its authenticity...Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

—Brigham Young, "Eternal Punishment–'Mormonism,' Etc.," (12 January 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:150.

Many think that the people called Latter-day Saints are a deluded, ignorant set, led by cunning priestly leaders, who exercise power over them because of their shrewdness and ability, and that the people are a blind herd led at the will of these shrewd deceivers. We know that this is not the case. We know that the most frequent appeals that have been made to the Latter-day Saints have been to investigate for themselves and to know for themselves . . . every man and woman, boy and girl, ought to live so that they will have this testimony within them, that they may know concerning the doctrine and the counsel that is given; and when President Young speaks, we may know for ourselves whether it is from God or not, and when any other teacher among us speaks, we may know whether the doctrine he advances is from God or not; and so that, if necessary, we could go to the stake, and have no doubts on the subject.

—George Q. Cannon, (28 March 1875) Journal of Discourses 17:342.

It is the design of the Lord to develop within every man and woman the principle of knowledge, that all may know for themselves. He has poured out His holy spirit upon all of us, and not upon President Young nor upon bro. Joseph alone. The Lord designs that the principle of knowledge shall be developed in every heart, that all may stand before Him . . . doing understandingly what He requires of them, not depending upon nor being blindly led by their priests or leaders, as is the universal custom, and one of the most fruitful sources of evil to the people on the face of the earth. God intends to break down this order of things, and to develop in the bosom of every human being who will be obedient to the gospel and the principles of truth and righteousness, that knowledge which will enable them to perform understandingly all the labors and duties he requires of them . . . We must all learn to depend upon God and upon Him alone. Why, the very man upon whom we think we can rely with unbounded confidence, and trust with all we possess, may disappoint us sometimes, but trust in God and He never fails.

—George Q. Cannon, (21 April 1867) Journal of Discourses 12:46.

I told the people in Nauvoo . . . that if they were not Saints at that critical juncture, they ought to repent of their sins, and get the Holy Ghost, and not live another twenty-four hours without the Spirit of revelation within themselves, for who knows but what you are the elect; and you know that false prophets were to arise in the last days, and, if possible, deceive the very elect, and that many false shepherds would come and pretend to be the true shepherds. Now, be sure to get the spirit of revelation, so that you can tell when you hear the true Shepherd's voice, and know him from a false one; for if you are the elect, it would be a great pity to have you led astray to destruction.

—Brigham Young, (15 November 1857) Journal of Discourses 6:45.

What is the cry against us? "Brigham Young has too much influence! All the people hearken to Brigham Young! All these poor deluded Latter-day Saints take his counsel!" I wish it was so. If this were the fact you would see Zion prosper upon the hills and upon the plains, in the valleys and in the kanyons, and upon the mountains. Go to with your might, seek unto the Lord your God until you have the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ upon you, until your minds are open, and the visions of heaven are plain to you. Then follow the dictations of the spirit, and watch Brother Brigham, and see if he counsels you wrong.

—Brigham Young, (28 April 1872) Journal of Discourses 15:6.

I have said to the Latter-day Saints, many and many a time, and I say to them now, live your religion, that the Spirit of God may be within you like a well of water springing up to everlasting life. Suppose I were to give way to the spirit of the enemy and leave the spirit of the Gospel, then, if you were not prepared to judge between the voice of the Good Shepherd and the voice of the stranger, I could lead you to ruin. Be prepared that you may know the voice when it comes through the servants of God, then you can declare for yourselves. "This is the word of the Lord." My caution and counsel to the Latter-day Saints, and to all the inhabitants of the earth is—"Live so that you will know truth from error.

—Brigham Young, (25 Mary 1873) Journal of Discourses 16:75.

I say to you . . . brethren and sisters, be faithful, live so that the Spirit of the Lord will abide within you, then you can judge for yourselves. I have often said to the Latter-day Saints---"Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not." Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not.

—Brigham Young, (23 June 1874) Journal of Discourses 18:248.

It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you. I say it is your duty to live so as to know and understand all these things. Suppose I were to teach you a false doctrine, how are you to know it if you do not possess the Spirit of God?

—Brigham Young, (31 August 1875) Journal of Discourses 18:72.

When Joseph Smith lived upon the earth . . . he stood as God's ambassador---not clothed with the attributes of God, for he was a mortal man; but he stood as the representative of God upon the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom of God upon the earth, with the power to bind on earth and it should be bound in heaven. He occupied that position when he lived, and on his departure another took his place upon the earth and stood in precisely the same capacity to us as a people that Joseph Smith did. That was Brigham Young. When he passed away another stepped forward and took the same position, and holds the same keys and exercises the same authority and stands precisely in the same position to us that the Prophet Joseph did, or that the Prophet Brigham did, when he lived upon the earth. Now, was not Joseph Smith a mortal man? Yes. A fallible man? Yes. Had he not weaknesses? Yes, he acknowledged them himself, and did not fail to put the revelations on record in this book [the Book of Doctrine and Covenants] wherein God reproved him. His weaknesses were not concealed from the people. He was willing that people should know that he was mortal, and had failings. And so with Brigham Young. Was not he a mortal man, a man who had weaknesses? He was not a God. He was not an immortal being. He was not infallible. No, he was fallible. And yet when he spoke by the power of God, it was the word of God to this people.

—George Q. Cannon, (12 August 1883) Journal of Discourses 24:274.

Our testimony does not depend upon Joseph Smith; it does not depend upon Brigham Young; it does not depend upon John Taylor, or upon the council of the Twelve Apostles, which is now the presiding quorum in the Church. I pin my faith to no man's sleeve; I am a believer in the Scripture which says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.”

—Charles Penrose, (17 August 1879) Journal of Discourses 20:295.

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