It all seemed to start simply enough.
It was from a Worldwide Leadership Training broadcast when Sister Kristen M. Oaks heard Sister Sydney S. Reynolds, first counselor in the General Primary Presidency from 1999 to 2005, quoting a November 1998 general conference talk by Sister Susan L. Warner, point out the five points of a testimony that leaders should be teaching children. Sister Warner, then-second counselor in the Primary General Presidency, had held up her hand and counted off the five foundations.
Those five points are knowing that God is their Heavenly Father; Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer; Joseph Smith is a prophet of God; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church on earth today; and the church is led by a living prophet.
“When we were teaching a mission presidents seminar, we decided to use those five points just using pictures,” said Sister Oaks, who at the time was serving in the Philippines with her husband, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Then the idea of using a glove with a picture on each finger for each point was developed, and soon Sister Oaks was taking gloves with her as she and Elder Oaks traveled around the world.
“It took on a life of its own,” Sister Oaks said of how thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the gloves have been made, distributed and used since 2003.
The glove represent the Holy Ghost.
“They are so clear and so simple, and you always have your hand,” Sister Oaks said.
The book “The Testimony Glove,” which tells the story of a little girl and her testimony, was published recently by Deseret Book.
testimonygloves.blogspot.com, these five fundamentals of a testimony are available in nearly two dozen languages along with links to ideas for sharing time and family home evening lessons. The Friend magazine also published an activity on the Testimony Glove in the October 2008 issue. Barb McKeown from Washington, D.C., wrote “My Testimony.”
Creating the testimony gloves
JoAnn Phillips helped make the first testimony gloves. She and her husband, a physician, were serving in the Philippines area. Phillips worked in the area office, volunteered with Sister Oaks at a local charitable organization and also worked in the temple.
The first ones were made out of paper, and they used hand-drawn pictures. They put together kits with the glove, pictures and a handout explaining it.
At one point, Phillips decided she needed to see if the testimony gloves worked.
She shared it in Primary in a local ward where they made the kits and practiced testimonies.
Phillips and her husband were the sacrament meeting speakers, and she explained about the testimony gloves that the children had learned about in Primary.
She asked a 9-year-old boy named Dan to come up and bear his testimony.
“It just amazed me how well he did,” said Phillips, of the Fruit Heights 8th Ward, Fruit Heights Utah Stake in Fruit Heights. “It changed the way people bore testimonies.”
They started using cloth gloves and pictures from the LDS Church’s Gospel Art Kit.
“Children need to see real pictures,” Sister Oaks said. “If they are looking at a cartoon, they are seeing it as a cartoon. When you are teaching spiritual things, you need to have the referent or the real thing.”
When Phillips returned from serving in the Philippines, she continued to make the kits for Sister Oaks to pass out. Others heard about it and wanted to help put the kits together.
People from California to Hawaii to Canada contacted her, and just about every organization, including Young Women, Primary and Relief Society groups at both the stake and ward level, wanted to be involved, as did individuals.
Lillian O’Neil, of the Olympus 3rd Ward, Olympus Utah Stake in Holladay, Utah, heard of the gloves as ward members who served in the Philippines had heard about the gloves from Sister Oaks.
“I really enjoy finding service projects that people can do in their homes,” O’Neil said. In addition to church groups that helped put together the testimony glove kits, her 89-year-old parents, Leonard and Mildred, helped, too, along with others who were homebound and one woman who was legally blind.
“This has been a lot of people helping and a lot of youth groups would want to do them for a service project,” O’Neil said.
Sister Oaks and Phillips were at a fireside with about 800 Young Women at Christmas time.
“Their testimonies changed making them,” Sister Oaks said. “There is story after story about people who are working on them.
“The people who make the gloves, it changes their lives,” Sister Oaks said.
Teaching about testimony
As she travels, Sister Oaks takes the gloves with her, leaving only a little bit of room in her suitcases for her personal items.
Sharing the gloves is more than passing them out. Primary children put on the glove, which represents the Holy Ghost. Then, they put the pictures on the appropriate finger as they discuss each of the five points.
“You have to be a participant,” Sister Oaks said of the glove and sharing a testimony, adding that the glove is not just something nice to look at.
She has passed out the gloves and kits in many countries — Japan, Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Romania and Samoa — as well as to mothers in places in Africa. Others have shared testimony gloves in their own wards across the United States. She has also used the concept when she has spoken at single adult conferences. The gloves have also been given to missionaries and mission presidents.
“It’s not that you just get a glove and say it, you have to teach it to someone else,” Sister Oaks said. At singles conferences, she would have them share parts of their testimonies with the person sitting next to them.
“They were sharing something really meaningful with each other,” she added.
It’s not just a rote testimony. She’s seen how children have made the five points into their own testimonies as they’ve understood the principles that also help prepare them for baptism.
“All other things fit into the (five points)” Phillips said. For example, in discussing Heavenly Father, prayer can be discussed.
During a visit to Samoa, Sister Oaks asked Becca Winegar, who has Down syndrome, to help share the gloves in the area. Winegar, who was with her parents in Samoa as they were performing humanitarian service, shared the gloves with Primary children and at zone conferences.
“These gloves are special and have helped me realize the important values that they teach to each of us,” said Winegar, 33, of the Foothill Ward, Edgemont Utah North Stake in Provo, Utah.
Since returning home, she and Sister Oaks have shared the gloves with sister missionaries at the Missionary Training Center and with Primary children.
Kyle Stevenson, the teenage son of Elder Gary Stevenson, president of Asia North Area, takes the gloves with him as he travels with his father, Sister Oaks said. He’s been to Micronesia and all over Japan sharing testimony gloves.
“When young people teach, the Spirit is so strong,” she added.
She also hears stories from people about the impact of the gloves in Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Washington, D.C., Delta, Utah, and California, to name a few.
In Brazil, leaders have shared how giving and explaining the gloves to children have helped reactivate families: “It reminds them of the Spirit,” Sister Oaks said.
In Romania, just having the pictures has helped leaders teach the gospel, she said.
In South Africa, the gloves given to women have helped them teach their families about the gospel, she added. Many women there are illiterate.
During a trip to Korea and Japan right after President Gordon B. Hinckley’s funeral, she didn’t have time to put pictures of President Thomas S. Monson in the 1,200 kits she had with her.
President Hinckley was well-known and well-liked by the LDS Church members in Asia, where he had made dozens of trips.
In Japan, Sister Oaks called up the Primary presidents and told them about the kits and that they would need to switch out the pictures.
“They took it … and they were so excited about the new prophet and were quick to obey,” she said, adding that to them, this is a way to explain the line of authority.
Sister Oaks, who had served a mission in Japan, could hear their excitement about the new president of the church.
“I saw the obedience of people thousands of miles away,” Sister Oaks said. “It has taught me more than I ever thought.”
In Los Angeles, Mary Kay Stout used it as a hands-on learning experience for the Primary when she was a leader a few years ago.
Between the visual learning with the pictures and the tactile experience of the gloves, many of the children picked it up quickly and wanted to bear their testimonies. They asked the Primary members to go home and share it with their families.
“It’s the perfect learning experience for children,” Stout said. “It’s the most essential elements. They really can’t wait to tell someone about it.”
Stout has also found that adults can benefit from the five points that helped anchor her testimony.
“When I remember those five, all other things fit into place,” Stout added.
‘The Testimony Glove’
“The Testimony Glove” isn’t just to be read.
“It’s a book you interact with and make it your own,” Sister Oaks said of the 31-page book that follows a family as they teach a young girl, Emily, about testimony.
During a focus group, a father in Boston was sharing it with his children and he added in personal experiences from his family and also taught more about the plan of salvation.
“It’s discussing personally who the Savior is and what he is like and what does he do,” Sister Oaks said. “One thing we need to teach our kids is about revelation and what it feels like and this book really delves into that. … They need to know what is pleasing to Heavenly Father.”
It also discusses how to share a testimony.
“These are core doctrines. There’s nothing fluffy about it,” Sister Oaks added.
Included in the book is the song “My Testimony,” along with a list of other songs from “The Children’s Songbook.”
She had specific things she wanted in the book, and Deseret Book officials and illustrator Dan Burr helped make sure those things were in there, she said. The authors aren’t receiving any royalties from “The Testimony Glove.”
Sister Oaks is quick to say that this isn’t about her, but about helping children and families share their testimonies.
Long after the glove is gone, children will recall the principles, she added.
“Those are eternal principles, and they will remember them.”