Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say something, and in many circumstances the speaker pays no price if their words are inaccurate.
When we need more certainty that a person is telling the truth, we take formal steps to increase our confidence. For example, in court, we have witnesses swear an oath before they testify, with the understanding that they can be jailed if they make a false statement.
In other circumstances, we require written communications to be notarized—reviewed by an objective third party, who certifies with a special stamp or seal that the information is reliable.
When King Noah threatened to execute Abinadi because of his words, the prophet responded, “I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true…. and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you” (Mosiah 17:9-10).
After describing Abinadi’s execution, Mormon tells us that Abinadi “sealed the truth of his words by his death” (Mosiah 17:20). His words gained credibility because of the price he was willing to pay for them.
The official announcement of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith begins with these words: “To seal the testimony of this book [the Doctrine and Covenants] and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:1).
Two and a half years later, Brigham Young received a revelation in which the Lord explained why this martyrdom was needed:
Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.Doctrine and Covenants 136:39
Most of us will not pay the ultimate price for our testimony of the gospel, but as Robert D. Hales explained, our decisions and our actions attest to the truth of our words:
Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his own blood. The Prophet’s martyrdom was a voluntary acceptance of death to seal the testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 135:1) and to bear holy witness of Jesus Christ and his gospel in this dispensation. We do not give our testimony and life in the manner that Joseph Smith, the martyred Prophet, gave his life. Rather, we give testimony by devoted service in our lives each day to lift and strengthen others.“The Importance of Receiving a Personal Testimony,” General Conference, October 1994
Today, I will be grateful for men and women who have been willing to give their lives for the truths they shared. I will strive to live in a way that is consistent with my testimony of the gospel, so that my actions give credibility to my words.