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Devotionals

Testimony Box


Aloha mai kākou,

I teach theatre. In essence, I teach how to be more human, investigate our differences and similarities through the medium of performance, and see each other in all our glory as children of heavenly parents and earthly parents who created us all with perfection.

The very famous painter Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” I want you to take a moment and imagine something with me, something very special. Let’s imagine, as Picasso says, and make it real. Everyone close your eyes, even the people who think they are too cool to close their eyes. (They are probably behind me.) Now that your eyes are closed make sure that your legs are uncrossed, both feet flat on the ground. Your eyes should be barely closed, not tightly, but the top and bottom eyelids should just be softly touching.

Thoughts come in your mind judging the work and/or feeling silly about what we are doing and about to do; allow those thoughts to come into your mind and allow them to leave as easily as they came in. Using your mind’s eye or your imagination, imagine that you can see your whole brain. Even if you don’t know anatomy, imagine all the parts of your brain that work together to make your intelligence. See if you can imagine all the neurons firing and working to keep you alive and present at this moment. Really see them.

What do they look like? Are they light? Are they pictures you have seen in a textbook? Now that you can see your brain in your imagination, and with your eyes still closed, simultaneously turn your focus to using your imagination to create a box. This box is very special to you. It can be round, square, or oval. It can be large or small. No matter the size of your box, it has a lid and is strong, but you can handle it. Perhaps it is small enough to fit in your hand.

Really set this box in your mind. Now, it is time to specialize your box. This will be a completely unique box for you. Using your imagination and without words, what is your box made of? Remember, it is special. Is it gold or silver? Is it glass or cardboard? Really see this box. It is special and has meaning only for you. Now that you have made your box, decorate it. Is it covered in jewels or precious stones? Is it light or dark? Is it camouflaged or hand-carved? Is it covered in a painting so beautiful that you want to look at it forever, or is it plain and simple?

Now that you have created this box in your mind’s eye or imagination, this box needs a home. Remember when we used our imaginations to view our brains with your eyes still closed? See if you can find a space in your brain for your box. Your box might have to grow or shrink to fit; that’s ok. It can do that. Find the safest spot in your mind for your box. My box fits in exactly the middle of my brain. I can see it surrounded on all sides. In your own time, place your box in its newfound spot inside your mind.

Continuing to keep your eyes closed, can you see your box in its new home? Can you see how it fits perfectly along with all the other things around it? Now, this box is very special. In fact, it is essential. You actually might have already had one but didn’t know its name. This is your testimony box. It is the safe space within your mind containing all of the truths you hold most dear. It is the box that might even hold things you forgot were in there. Please open your eyes slowly; it will be bright. Now we are all on the same page. We all have our testimony box securely in our minds. It is beautiful, strong, and personal.

I asked some primary children to build their testimony boxes the way you did. Some were decorated in unicorns and glitter; one young boy has a plain cardboard box for his. Another boy had his box carved out of bone. The box you created is the same box that you need. Every testimony box is unique and perfect. Keep your testimony box activated in your brain; you will need it during devotional today.

Let’s talk about why you need this box and what might be in it. I will start with my own. I can’t tell you what my testimony box looks like. I can’t describe it. But it is beautiful and safe, and mine is tucked away in a spot in my brain where I feel that nobody can reach but me. My testimony box hasn’t always had much in it, but I have always had it waiting to be filled. On the flip side, my testimony box will never be too full. It can expand and contract as I need it to. I remember the first thing that was ever put into my testimony box.

When I was eight years old, I was baptized. I was baptized on my eighth birthday. My dad baptized me. I don’t remember much, but I do remember a few things. I remember how the water pressure made the baptism jumper stick to my body like glue. I remember how diligently I had practiced where I put my hand so that when my dad put his arm out, I wouldn’t fumble but could confidently put my hand out. I had practiced in the bathtub for many weeks holding my breath so that I could stay underwater the whole time. I walked into the font with confidence. I put my hand out for my dad, who lovingly touched it and guided it into place. I was nervous. I remember closing my eyes so that I would be the most reverent I had ever been. The next thing I heard was “Jesus Christ,” and then I was lowered under the water. The water was warm and washed over me.

When I stood up and wiped my eyes, I saw my dad standing next to me. He hugged me. I felt different, and I felt the same. I felt both new and old. But I knew that I just made a promise that made God happy. I was so proud of myself. Soon after, I was given the gift of the Holy Ghost and knew I felt different. This experience was the first thing I put in my testimony box; I feel safe when I follow God’s direction. I feel loved, and I feel whole. Baptism was essential for me.

Small things were added to my testimony box over the years. Some things went in, and other things came out. My testimony box was still relatively empty for years. In 2003, I decided for the first time in my life, I would write in a journal. This is from the first page of that journal, “And so it begins. (I guess I am even dramatic when I write) Nothing really matters up until this point. Since this is the first page of my journal, I have the obligation of explaining why I, all of a sudden, after 20 years of life, have decided to keep this daily log.

Well, reader, if it is good enough for the prophet, it is good enough for me. Just think of where we would be if the prophets of old didn’t record their daily lives. Now, I don’t claim to be anywhere near their league, but I am still important.” I am still important. That went in my testimony box. I am important. You are likewise important. As I tell my students, exactly who you are is exactly enough! If you haven’t already, put that in your testimony box. Tuck it in between the lid and the side. Just slide “I am important” into your testimony box.

I only wrote in that journal for one year. And I haven’t written in a journal since. Oops. At the end of that year, I added another thing to my testimony box. The temple. I felt for a while like I needed to go to the temple. I needed to receive my own endowment. I was just 21 at the time, and in those days, women didn’t go through the temple unless they were getting married or going on a mission. I wasn’t getting married, so I assumed that I was supposed to go on a mission. I prayed and prayed and couldn’t get an answer to go on a mission. I went to my branch president and told him my impressions. He calmed my heart and let me know that he had been praying for his own answers recently, and my telling him this impression answered a question that he had been diligently seeking clarity for.

I received a calling in my branch that needed me to be endowed. I went through the temple a few short weeks later. I had a profound experience. It was sacred and has provided me with spiritual clarity ever since. During the years after, I was able to bring people to Christ in a way that only could have been seen by God beforehand. I was able to add both the temple and how interconnected we all are in the eyes of God to my testimony box. He gives us opportunities to be linked together. I was the answer to someone else’s fervent prayer. And in turn, I received my response. God always uses us for good. Testimony box.

I am usually taught in whispers and subtle nudges. I am nearly never hit over the head with revelation and grand visions. I think the Lord knows I would be skeptical. God knows me so well; testimony box. After my graduate work, I taught at Penn State University in Pennsylvania while my husband was finishing his degree. I had just been offered a new job to teach theatre at BYU–Hawai’i. I was full of uneasy feelings at how we would be able to live with a large family in Hawai’i. I told my Heavenly Father that I couldn’t see how this would work in pleading prayer. How could we move with so much uncertainty? At that moment, I was given a vision.

The heavens opened up, and my spiritual eyes saw a path five years down the line from that moment. I could see all the uncertainty being fixed. I saw what could happen with theatre at BYU–Hawai’i. It immediately went into my testimony box; I saw something that I couldn’t deny. As Joseph Smith said, “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it….” 1 Later after I had been teaching here for a while, I was meeting with John Bell, our prior Vice President over Academics. I shared this vision with him. He said, tears in his eyes; I have had that vision. He and I had both seen the future. We had been brought together through the Spirit’s testifying witness of truth. Testimony box.

Recently I lost my niece to cervical cancer during the pandemic. We were raised like siblings. She was a critical part of my life. In her last moments of earthly life, I had gone to lay down for a minute after having been up for most of two days with her. The family was gathered at her bedside in the living room, talking and laughing. I set my alarm for 1 hour to get some sleep but not be too far away to check on her. Someone, with words as clear as I am speaking to you now but with no physical body, told me to get up. My alarm still had ten minutes on it. I was so tired. I got up and went into the next room.

I walked out to see my family and friends telling me that it wouldn’t be long as they lovingly looked to her bed. I walked over to her and felt the need to place my hand on her shoulder. In that very moment, as I touched her, she passed. She needed me to come out and be with her body as she left it. A few months ago, she came to me in a dream for the first time since she left this earthly life. I was in Hawai’i but a mirrored reality. I was here but not here. I was entering the temple. It was so busy and full of energy, much more than normal. I walked over to a woman with a clipboard who looked in charge to tell her that I would be back later to pick up my friend. As I crossed to her, my niece came walking to her from within the temple with a clipboard in her hand. My breath was taken away.

I couldn’t believe I was seeing her. It was so real. I was frozen in my spot, hoping she would turn and see me looking at her so I could make sure this was real. She looked up at me. Our eyes met. She gave me a warm smile and turned to go about her work; she was busy. I wished she could run to me and tell me how much she loves me and misses me. But she didn’t need to because I already knew that. I awoke in tears. At that moment, I knew that life continues in the spirit world. It is busy and full of purpose. It is happy and exciting. The Lord gave me a glimpse, and I put it in my testimony box.

In General Conference, probably before most of you were born, a remarkable woman named Chieko N. Okazaki spoke. She began her talk with “Brothers and Sisters, aloha!” Before this general conference talk, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had just established more members outside the United States than within. Along with other leaders, sister Okazaki had just finished visiting some of the islands of the sea. She made it a point to speak in whatever language was native wherever she went. In a talk entitled “Baskets and Bottles.”

Sister Okazaki explained that in Polynesia, families don’t preserve fruit. It is harvested, shared, and eaten when it is ripe. It nourishes at that moment. In comparison, in Utah, fruit is harvested, shared, and stored when it is ripe. On the mainland, fruit is often only plentiful in the summer and barren in the winter. Fruit is preserved in glass jars to keep it viable for many months. It provides nourishment to the whole family long after the tree stops producing fruit. That is not needed in the islands of the sea. Fruit is available all year long in some form. It nourishes families all year long. She says, “… the fruit of the Spirit unites us in love, joy, and peace whether the Relief Society is in Taipei or Tonga, whether the priesthood quorum is in Montana or Mexico, and whether the sacrament meeting is in Fiji or the Philippines.

All over the world, as brothers and sisters in the gospel, we can learn from each other, grow closer together, and increase in love for each other. Our unity grows from what we have in common all around the world. They are the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel, our faith in the Savior, our testimonies of the scriptures, our gratitude for guidance from living prophets, and our sense of ourselves as a people striving to be Saints. These are the principles of the gospel.

Brothers and sisters, whether your fruits are peaches or papaya, and whether you bring them in bottles or in baskets, we thank you for offering them in love.” 2

We are all different. We will not have the same things in our testimony boxes. But we all matter. You matter. And you matter just as you are.

I have spent the last several months learning to make kapa from harvesting the wauke, or paper mulberry plant, to scraping the outer bark off with an opihi shell, to pounding it out, soaking it in water for weeks to ferment it, to pounding it together and fixing all the holes, to leaving the finished product with a unique watermark, to dying with plant dyes and stamping the final product with hand-carved bamboo stamps. My Kumu repeated a phrase many times as we learned through trial and error and frustrating mistakes through this time-consuming process. She said, “They are not mistakes; they are part of the story.” If my hand slips while I am stamping and I smear the paint, it becomes part of the story of that kapa.

If I pound too much in one spot and it is becoming thin and translucent, it is part of the story. The challenges you are going through are not mistakes; they are part of your unique story. Our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother created us with divine potential and the ability to have a story, however flawed we think it is. I imagine when I see them again that they might ask me, as I ask my children each day when I see them after a long day of school, “So?! How was it? What happened?” They will lovingly enjoy my story and see its uniqueness not as a flaw in who I am but as a badge of my journey, my own story.


What is your story? What can it be? Just as pounding kapa takes weeks from start to finish, your story is unfolding moment to moment and line upon line. Those truths you discover, add them to your testimony box. Nurture them. Protect them.

Richard G. Scott said, “A strong testimony is the unshakable foundation of a secure, meaningful life where peace, confidence, happiness, and love can flourish. It is anchored in a conviction that an all-knowing God is in command of His work. He will not fail. He will keep His promises.

A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life. It is centered in an understanding of the divine attributes of God our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. A willing reliance upon Them secures it. A powerful testimony is grounded in the personal assurance that the Holy Ghost can guide and inspire our daily acts for good.” 3

Sometimes we think we have lost or misplaced our testimony box. Or we try to run away from it. It lovingly waits for you to come back, open it up, look inside again and notice that the contents never left. It can never leave you.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of our testimony’s depth or height. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.

The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” 4

My testimony box is far from full. I keep putting things in there for safekeeping. Sometimes it feels like I go months without adding to it or nurturing it. When I get back around to it, I discover things I forgot I put in there. They might have been lost at the bottom. But my box has things in it. I put them there intentionally. Here are some of the things in my testimony box that I can share:

I am a child of heavenly parents. I have divinity. I have worth. I am loved. I am part of an eternal family with my Savior, Jesus Christ. When I read the scriptures, I feel the light of Christ. I feel something good that often doesn’t have words to describe it. I can lay my burdens on the altar of my God and be healed through the atoning sacrifice of my brother Jesus Christ. I can love others. My testimony box is full of remembering that God loves and cherishes all. I know that God can speak through prophets and apostles and can speak through friends who happen to stop by because something told them to or through a hug offered when you didn’t even know you needed it. I know that this earthly life is but a moment even when it feels never-ending.

The deepest joy of your life will be connections, connection to God, connection to others. Be human. Connect. See one another. See your differences as beautiful and not shameful or odd. Let the contents of your testimony box push the shame in your life away. Christ didn’t suffer for our similarities; he suffered for us the same. You control what goes in your testimony box. It is inside of YOU. You never lose it. Never. Sometimes you may put a lock on it for protection or because you want to pretend it is gone. But it can’t leave you because “everything you can imagine is real.”

A hui hou.

I say these things in the name of a perfect, loving Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Notes:

1. Joseph Smith-History 1:25.

2. Chieko N. Okazaki, “Baskets and Bottles,” General Conference April 1996.

3. Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” General Conference October 2001.

4. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth,” General Conference, October 2014.