In a recent post, I talked about one of the topics at our recent stake conference where Elder Packer from the 1st Quorum of the Seventy presided and spoke. Now I’d like to talk about a second topic which several speakers touched on and also which Elder Bednar recently spoke at General Conference in his talk Converted Unto the Lord . I seem to be hearing it a lot lately so I think there is something important for me to learn from it right now. The subject is being fully converted unto the Lord and the difference between conversion and testimony.
Of course, we must begin our process toward becoming disciples of Christ by first gaining a testimony, but we must continue the journey by putting into action that which we learn and believe in our hearts. First I will share with you parts of Elder Bednar’s talk. It is so hard not to just share the whole thing so it is a long reading assignment for you, my readers. I added the bold to a few of the parts that stand out to me---but I love it all.
“The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.
For many of us, conversion is an ongoing process and not a onetime event that results from a powerful or dramatic experience. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.
Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced.
Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.”
As Elder Bednar says, a testimony alone is not enough to help us withstand the tempests that are all around us in the world, the discouragement, the temptations, the filth everywhere we turn. We must take that step and become fully converted to the Lord and show that change and conversion by our strict obedience, by our every action. That gives us a protection like armor that we need. It is easy to say we believe and even easy to feel it for many of us, but it takes commitment to act in the way be believe and to center every decision in our lives on what our Heavenly Father would have us do, making our heart’s desires align with His.
Let me share now a few of the thoughts from speakers at stake conference about this.
President Daines, President of the Provo Temple, spoke to us and quoted Elder Oaks.
“Testimony is to know and to feel, conversion is to do and to become.”
Dallin H. Oaks, quoted in Kenneth Johnson, “Coming to Know for Ourselves,” Ensign, July 2008, 29
I really liked what President Daines said following that, which I summarize the best I can here. “We send a signal to the Lord about the depth of our conversion by what we do and become.” I want to send a strong, bright signal to the Lord that I love Him and am willing to do all He asks of me. I can only do that by obedience and enduring faithfully in all things.
In his talk to us, Elder Packer told us that the only way we can inoculate our families towards the enemy in our world is through personal spiritual conversion. We as parents need to help our children gain their own testimonies and be fully converted by our example, giving them opportunities to feel the Spirit and recognize it, teaching them and loving them. Elder Packer also said (I put in quotes, but it’s the best quote I could write down as he spoke), “When we are converted, we make decisions that honor our Father because we know who He is and who we are.”
The final note I wrote from Elder Packer’s talk is “Our destiny is tied to our obedience to the doctrine.”
We do not have a set fate with no choice in this life. Our lives are full of agency and choices and those choices lead us to how happy or unhappy we will be here and where we will eternally be. We cannot say on our judgment day that the ruling is unfair. Because of the atonement, we will all be resurrected. Because of the atonement, we can repent and our spots made white. But we cannot live contrary to that which we know to be true and then expect a reward in the life to come. Mercy cannot rob justice. We can live with our Father in Heaven and with our family in the celestial kingdom someday, but only if we choose it with our daily choices, with the degree of our conversion.