Friday, July 31, 2009

An anniversary, and the return of the testimony glove

So this blog is officially one year old today.

Looking back through all the posts, i find it interesting that the one that got the most comments, including some from people who just popped in to disagree with me on that topic and then disappeared completely, was on the rather bizarre phenomenon of the “testimony glove”. (The link should pop up a new window with my post on it. You may want to read it to provide context.)

I just think it’s interesting that such a cutesy item can be the source of such vehemence, both against it (that’d be me!) and for it (i’ve found a “testimony of the testimony glove” written by the person who claims to have invented them).

I still maintain that the whole “testimony glove” is harmless enough, except that it gets taken way too far when we start recommending that people use things like that as a cheat sheet for testimonies. Testimonies are supposed to come from the heart—any claim that there are “five essential elements of a pure testimony” (yes, that’s a quote) and that testimonies should stick to those misses the point, really—outside of a couple of rather technical uses, a testimony is a statement of what the utterer avers to be fact. In Mormon contexts, this is something you aver to be fact because the Holy Spirit has given you a witness of it. Full stop.

And creating a crib sheet for things that are claimed to be essential is dangerous, i’d argue. If the speaker knows the five things on the testimony glove to be fact (God lives, Jesus is God’s son, Joseph Smith is a prophet who translated the Book of Mormon through divine inspiration, we’re in the true church, and the church is led by a living prophet),* then that person should call that their testimony. However, if the person knows other things that aren’t on the testimony glove to be true (say, that priesthood keys have been restored, or that angels minister to humans, or that the book of Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations from God,** or that having love for each other is a good thing in God’s eyes), that’s still a “pure testimony”, no matter what the testimony glove may say.

The really interesting thing about the comments i got from my earlier post on the testimony glove is how (politely) vehement some of the responses were that the testimony glove is a good thing. (Sidebar in response to a comment i got off-blog: Just ’cause an idea appears in the Friend doesn’t mean it’s divinely inspired, you know?) One of the memes seemed to be that we have poor models of testimony-bearing in testimony meetings, so kids need a cheat sheet of sorts. Though i disagree that children need a cheat sheet for testimonies (a testimony in testimony meeting is supposed to be at least semi-unscripted, after all, since it’s supposed to be delivered when the Spirit moves you to deliver it, not when you’ve planned out what you’re gonna say)—and particularly that full-time missionaries don’t need one, or at least shouldn’t—i can understand the urge. However, the testimony glove does two things wrong in relation to this: It misdefines what a testimony is, and it wrongly limits the sorts of things that ought to appear in testimonies.

And yeah, as a couple commenters noted, travelogues and thankimonies can be annoying, but when they’re very short and used to illustrate a deeper point, they actually work. The people in your ward don’t do that? Fine. Start modeling better behavior, don’t hand out scripts. Is that so hard?

Well, for some people, apparently it is.

* I’d argue that some of these are wrong, in minor though not unimportant ways—for example, the church is not led by a living prophet, it’s led by Jesus Christ.
**I suppose some could argue that this one is subsumed within the Joseph Smith one—but if so, why would the testimony glove be needed to remind people that the Book of Mormon was translated via prophetic means?


Heather the Mama Duk said...

Happy blogaversary! The testimony glove thing is just plain weird.

Michelle said...

The testimony glove is worldwide. It's even hanging on the wall of our Primary room here in Romania. BUT...people in our branch bear simple, short and very appropriate testimonies every month. No travel-log, no story-telling. I am pleased to say that when Erik spontaneously got up a couple months ago to bear his testimony (in Romanian, with absolutely no prompting or help from us) it was sweet, heartfelt and to the point. No 5 points to hit on, and no recited American-style "I'd like to bear my testimony, I know this church is true, I love my mom and dad" etc. I, for one, am very happy that my son has learned to bear his testimony in a small overseas branch full of (fairly) recent converts.