Not Given to Explanation
Remember TBC’s first paragraph? They write,
” ‘Testimony’ is understood by some to be… essentially an inner experience not given to explanation or based on reason or logic.”
What of this criticism, that a testimony is “not given to explanation”?
This is partly true. It is difficult to entirely explain revelation from the Holy Ghost to someone that has not felt it. And yet, it is likewise difficult to explain the color red to someone who is blind, or the sound of a bell to someone who is deaf, or the taste of salt to someone who’s never tasted it.
Why don’t you try it for yourself? Pretend you’re with someone who has never tasted salt, and describe the taste to them.
Elder Boyd K. Packer told a story illustrating this principle. He said,
“I will tell you of an experience I had before I was a General Authority which affected me profoundly. I sat on a plane next to a professed atheist who pressed his disbelief in God so urgently that I bore my testimony to him. “You are wrong,” I said, “there is a God. I know He lives!”
“He protested, “You don’t know. Nobody knows that! You can’t know it!” When I would not yield, the atheist, who was an attorney, asked perhaps the ultimate question on the subject of testimony. “All right,” he said in a sneering, condescending way, “you say you know. Tell me how you know.”
“When I attempted to answer, even though I held advanced academic degrees, I was helpless to communicate….
“When I used the words Spirit and witness, the atheist responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The words prayer, discernment, and faith, were equally meaningless to him. “You see,” he said, “you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.”
“I felt, perhaps, that I had borne my testimony to him unwisely and was at a loss as to what to do. Then came the experience! Something came into my mind… and I said to the atheist, “Let me ask if you know what salt tastes like.”
” “Of course I do,” was his reply.
” “When did you taste salt last?”
” “I just had dinner on the plane.”
” “You just think you know what salt tastes like,” I said.
“He insisted, “I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.”
” “If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?”
” “Now you are getting juvenile,” was his reply. “Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt tastes like. It is an everyday experience—I know it as well as I know anything.”
” “Then,” I said, “assuming that I have never tasted salt, explain to me just what it tastes like.”
“After some thought, he ventured, “Well-I-uh, it is not sweet and it is not sour.”
” “You’ve told me what it isn’t, not what it is.”
“After several attempts, of course, he could not do it. He could not convey, in words alone, so ordinary an experience as tasting salt. I bore testimony to him once again and said, “I know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know, I would be able to tell you exactly how I know. My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God! He does live! And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t know, for I do!”
“As we parted, I heard him mutter, “I don’t need your religion for a crutch! I don’t need it.”
“From that experience forward, I have never been embarrassed or ashamed that I could not explain in words alone everything I know spiritually. The Apostle Paul said it this way:
” “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
” “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:13–14).“
Can those who’ve tasted salt convey perfectly that experience to those who haven’t tasted it? No, they can’t. Others would have to taste it for themselves to fully appreciate that experience.
But we can still convey what we feel like when we taste salt, or how we react when we taste salt. These explanations will of course be incomplete, but they will be the best we can do. Talking about my experiences with the Holy Ghost, my experiences receiving revelation, is the same way.
Because TBC, and others like them, criticize me and my Church for our (completely biblical) view of revelation, I can only assume that they have never “tasted salt”. Had they tasted it themselves, they would know exactly what we mean when we talk of our experiences with the Holy Ghost.
How sad it is that TBC and other mainstream Christians have never had the Holy Ghost communicate with them! How tragic that they have never tasted “spiritual salt” in such a way that they can understand what Latter-day Saints say and write!
Yet just as we can help others know how to taste salt if they want to taste it themselves, we can lead others to have their own experiences with the Holy Ghost. I can only hope that one day they accept the invitation to “taste salt” so that they too can experience the wondrous joy that comes from receiving personal revelation.