And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.
I must say, that is one of my favorite scriptures. They called the altar Ed. Just seems like a funny name for an altar if you ask me. But that’s because I think of Ed as a name for a horse. In Hebrew it means “witness.” Ed the altar was built by the Israelites that stayed on “this side” Jordan as a witness and testimony so that the children on both sides of Jordan would know they were all Israelite and had part in the altar of the tabernacle. Ed stood for who they were. Ed testified of their devotion to God.
A testimony is a statement of truth. It is not elaborate or ornate. On all the crime tv shows the witnesses are told to stick to the facts and answer the questions they are asked. They are told not to go in to long drawn out stories. A testimony is simple. Like Ed.
When I was preparing to leave to serve as a missionary in Brasil I was really worried about being able to share my beliefs in Portuguese. I did not have the Portuguese vocabulary that I have in English and thought that would diminish what I could say. I was wrong. Powerful testimonies are direct. I could say, “Deus vive” and I could say “Jesus é meu Salvador” (God lives. Jesus is my Savior). Simple. Direct. And powerful because of the truth in the words.
The testimony is not the story of the gaining of it, it is what you know to be true. In the 2008 April General Conference Elder Hales spoke of how he gained his testimony of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. His story teaches. He testifies in the last two paragraphs. Elder Oaks spoke in the exact same session about testimony, what it is and how to get one. His testimony is the last paragraph. I try to remember what he said in the second paragraph though “that the moment we begin preaching to others, our testimony is ended.”
Ed the altar was not words though, grandiose or simple. Ed was a stack of rocks. Ed stood for something. His very presence was a testimony. Each of us stands for something and testifies to what we believe every moment of every day. To do otherwise shows a lack of integrity, a lack of conviction, a lack of sincerity. In small ways and large our actions reveal who we are. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bore testimony with words, but it was their actions to not pray to the idol and to face death rather than deny their beliefs that truly gave strength to their words and bore testimony of the type of men they were. Their integrity was such that their words and actions were in perfect harmony.
I have never been bound and cast in to a fire for my testimony, verbal or otherwise. But in other small ways I’ve risked being “burned” by stacking my stones as a living testimony – at a class party asking that Sprite be provided because I didn’t want to drink Coke, not accepting high school jobs that would have required me to work on Sunday, and now, as I’m coming up to deadlines for research papers, leaving Sunday as sacred and not using those hours to write.
My life is a testimony. It is simple and direct. And whether I want it to or not, it reflects the truth that is in me.