Why Do We “Bear” Witness?

To “bear” something is to carry it. The word has a connotation of effort or difficulty: we bear a burden. We bear suffering. A woman may bear a child. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that the word bear “usually implies the power to sustain without flinching or breaking.

So I think it’s interesting that we “bear” a witness or a testimony. The words “provide” or “share” would both seem reasonable. But when I think of a witness in a court of law, the word “bear” does seem more appropriate. What they say and how they say it will influence decisions that have far-reaching consequences in people’s lives. Their words on that occasion are in effect a burden, and their responsibility is to speak the truth without flinching.

The Greek word for witness is martus (μάρτυς), which is the root of the English word “martyr.”

The prophet Abinadi preached the gospel to a group of people who did not want to hear him. He was protected long enough to deliver his message, but in the end, he gave his life rather than deny his testimony (Mosiah 17:9-10). Shortly after, Alma, who had been converted by Abinadi’s testimony, challenged a group of people to be baptized “as a witness before [God]” that they were willing to serve Him and keep His commandments (Mosiah 18:10). As part of that covenant, they agreed to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places…even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). The seriousness of that promise must have been particularly evident to these people, who knew that Abinadi had just given his life for that same testimony.

Last Sunday, during a church meeting in New York City, I heard a church leader say that one of the great privileges of her current calling is the opportunity to be a witness. I was impressed by the sense of meaning and fulfillment which she derives from bearing testimony of the gospel

Today, I will strive to fulfill my duty to stand as a witness of God. I will remember that to bear witness is a serious activity with significant implications for other people. I will be grateful for the opportunity God has given me to bear testimony of His gospel, and I will strive to fulfill this responsibility faithfully.

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