Here’s an excerpt from the “Evidences” chapter of my new book, “How Do I Know If I Know?”:
Jesus spoke of evidence when He taught how to recognize false prophets: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). In other words, in order to know, look at the results. The fruits and the results are evidence.
If you plant an apple seed, how long will it take before you get your first apple? It actually may take four to six years or even longer. Similarly, seeing the fruits of the gospel may take time, but eventually, those seeds produce evidence. If it’s good fruit, then you also know it is a good tree, since “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).
What does the gospel of Jesus Christ do for people? How are they changed? How do they grow? What do they become? If we were to live what the gospel teaches for many years, then what would we expect the fruits of time spent in study, self-control, service, and standards to be? (For the sake of contrast, what would you expect the fruits to be of a life spent in drugs, pornography, alcohol, and unchastity?)
The teachings of the gospel are what we know. The fruits of the gospel are what we become. You’ll remember that the stripling warriors were described as young men who “were true at all times” (Alma 53:20). It doesn’t say they knew the truth at all times, but they were true. This is something beyond just knowing what’s right. When we live what we know, we become true. The thirteenth article of faith begins by saying, “We believe in being honest, true . . .” Why doesn’t it just say, “We believe in honesty and truth”? The key word in there is being — being honest, being true. It’s not just about knowing things, it’s about being something, or, in other words, becoming something.
Look around you. Look at the people you most admire. Look at your grandparents. Look at the faithful members of your ward. Look at the leaders of our Church. What has the gospel helped these people become? Look at the evidence! Know them by their fruits.
I am blessed to have met hundreds of teenagers around the Church. They are wonderful! Happy, energetic, curious, faithful, and smart. They have their problems, too, which is part of life on this fallen planet, but through all the bumps in the road, they are headed in the right direction, and the goodness of their lives is evidence of the truth of the gospel.
Robert F. Bennett, a former United States senator, spoke of the fruits of the gospel enjoyed by Latter-day Saint teenagers when he reported:
Our daughter told me of a high school teacher in California where our grandson was enrolled who knew all about all of her students: which ones were on drugs, which ones were caught up in messy sexual relationships, and which ones were drinking too much. This teacher told our daughter that our grandson had none of these problems; indeed, she said, “All the Mormon kids in my class are just fine.” (Why I’m a Mormon, ed. Joseph A. Cannon, [Ensign Peak, 2012], 28)
Jesus made this interesting statement: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). We may well ask, “Free from what?” Among other things, you’ll be free from addictions to drugs or alcohol, free from having “messy sexual relationships” and all the associated heartache — in a nutshell, free from the bitter fruits of living like the world.
I don’t want to make a list, but how many Hollywood celebrities, even teenage pop stars, who appear to “have it all” — fame, money, and popularity — proceed to make a train wreck of their lives? You can name names, no doubt. Forgive my informal language, but dude, when even the tabloids have no respect for you, that’s bad.
Latter-day Saints have problems too; we’re not perfect. No doubt some LDS teens might be struggling with the problems mentioned above. But we’re not talking about individual teenagers here. We’re talking about examining the fruits of the gospel. And when people live the gospel, no matter their age, they enjoy the fruits. And those fruits are evidence of the gospel’s goodness and its truth.
You’ve been reading an excerpt from How Do I Know if I Know? Here’s a review by Dr. Robert L. Millet, former Dean of Religious Education at BYU:
“Recently I read John Bytheway’s newest book, How Do I Know If I Know? I enjoyed it immensely; it is excellent — inspiring and extremely informative. As I read the last page my first thought was that I wanted to buy several copies for my children and grandchildren. It is a solid and substantive treatment of how to gain and retain a testimony. In a day when many of our brothers and sisters are wrestling with matters of faith and conviction, I am grateful to Brother Bytheway for writing this book. I predict that it will bless many, many lives, young and old.”