True conversion is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts.” In the booklet True to the Faith, we learn that “conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of … righteous efforts to follow the Savior.” It takes time, effort, and work. My great-great-grandmother had a strong conviction that the gospel was more important for her children than all that the world had to offer in the way of wealth and comfort because she had sacrificed, endured, and lived the gospel. Her conversion came through living the principles of the gospel and sacrificing for them.
-Bonnie L. Oscarson, Be Ye Converted
Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change. Converted implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel. A faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct. In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.
-Marion G. Romney
Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence. Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God. As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation, “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ”, and endure in faith to the end, we become new creatures in 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.
They never did fall away and surrendered “the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more.” To set aside cherished “weapons of rebellion” such as selfishness, pride, and disobedience requires more than merely believing and knowing. Conviction, humility, repentance, and submissiveness precede the abandonment of our weapons of rebellion. Do you and I still possess weapons of rebellion that keep us from becoming converted unto the Lord? If so, then we need to repent now.
Note that the Lamanites were not converted to the missionaries who taught them or to the excellent programs of the Church. They were not converted to the personalities of their leaders or to preserving a cultural heritage or the traditions of their fathers. They were converted unto the Lord—to Him as the Savior and to His divinity and doctrine—and they never did fall away.
-Elder David A. Bednar, Converted unto the Lord
The conversion process was not linear for me. I was so eager and excited to learn, but when I had significant questions or when I heard criticism levied against the restored gospel, I felt intense fear. Still I pressed on, and, little by little, as we read and I prayed, I began to feel peace. I met with the missionaries, and they taught me things that I felt I had known before but had forgotten. I asked clarifying questions. I asked tough questions. As I studied with a teachable heart—and a willingness to do the work God required of me—my questions were answered. One day the evidence was overwhelming. I knew I was on the verge of something amazing. I knew my Heavenly Father was showing me the path—the path I had already pre-committed to follow.
When I was baptized on January 25, 2014, promising to take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ, I was filled with power. The clarity and energy that came from my covenants astonished me. I could see the path clearly for the first time, and I was energized to take it. I could discern the next step and understand more fully what my family needed. I had access to heaven, and this power filled my heart with love.
I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and each of you. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bridge the gap between our shortfalls and the perfection He requires. Through my covenants, I am endowed with power that helps me get up, repent, and optimistically face the future each time I fall short. Remember, “the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of repentance”—a gospel of change.
-Melissa F. Western, Vaulting to Greater Heights
Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, if a person is not born from on high, that person is not able to see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) When he was alone, those that were there with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those outside the kingdom it is all in parables so that "they may see but not perceive, and may hear but not understand, so that they do not turn and receive forgiveness." (Mark 4:10-12)
I can say with President Harold B. Lee: “As you can see, one is converted when he sees with his eyes what he ought to see; when he hears with his ears what he ought to hear; and when he understands with his heart what he ought to understand. And what he ought to see, hear, and understand is truth—eternal truth—and then practice it. That is conversion.”
President Ezra Taft Benson, at an area conference in Sweden in 1974, said: “It is not on the pinnacle of success and ease where men and women grow most. It is often down in the valley of heartache and disappointment and reverses where men and women grow into strong characters.”
I know the meaning of repentance and forgiveness as part of the process of conversion through faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Julio E. Dávila, The Conversion Process
What causes hearers to “have no root in themselves”? This is the circumstance of new members who are merely converted to the missionaries or to the many attractive characteristics of the Church or to the many great fruits of Church membership. Not being rooted in the word, they can be scorched and wither away when opposition arises. But even those raised in the Church—long-term members—can slip into a condition where they have no root in themselves. I have known some of these—members without firm and lasting conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are not rooted in the teachings of the gospel and regular in its practices, any one of us can develop a stony heart, which is stony ground for spiritual seeds.
-Dallin H. Oaks, The Parable of the Sower
In this discussion of the Church as the body of Christ, we must always bear in mind two things. One, we do not strive for conversion to the Church but to Christ and His gospel, a conversion that is facilitated by the Church. The Book of Mormon expresses it best when it says that the people “were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ. ” Two, we must remember that in the beginning, the Church was the family, and even today as separate institutions, the family and the Church serve and strengthen one another. Neither supplants the other, and certainly the Church, even at its best, cannot substitute for parents. The point of gospel teaching and priesthood ordinances administered by the Church is that families may qualify for eternal life.
-D. Todd Christofferson, Why The Church
His divine power has given us all things necessary for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness, by which he has given us his great and precious promises so that through them you may become participants in the divine nature after having escaped from the corruption in the world generated by lust. For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with perseverance, and perseverance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly kindness, and brotherly kindness with love. For if these attributes are yours and are increasing in you, they will keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever lacks these things is nearsighted, or even blind, having forgotten about the cleansing of past sins. (2 Peter 1:1-9)
When Christ becomes our constant companion, it will make our whole day different, and with this Spirit reflected in our language, in our daily work, at school, on the highway, in the marketplace, slowly, day by day, our conduct will become more unselfish, our relationships more tender, our desire to serve more constant, and we will find ourselves going about doing good. Always. We will have taken upon us not only his name, but his image in our countenances also (see Alma 5:14).
This experiment has been tried before, even in Christ’s lifetime. A few men were admitted to the inner circle of friendship and, day by day, his first disciples became more mellow and softened and began to grow spiritually with power and strength and influence.
For the apostle Paul, the process was more dramatic. On the road to Damascus he met the Savior, and from that time his words, his deeds, his career, his daily walk were different.
Have we experienced this encounter on our Damascus road? Or maybe in a less dramatic way? When it happens we will be allowed to witness miracles. We will better understand them; in fact, we will participate in them. Lives will be changed when we begin to see each other more as our Savior sees us. We will want to teach each other the way he would teach us. We will yearn for the spirituality to bear testimony of the things to which he bears testimony. And when we meet, it will be as someone said: “We will not just exchange words; what we will exchange is souls.” Not just with our friends and loved ones, but with every person for whose eternal welfare we share a responsibility. With his Spirit we will be allowed to see things—not as the world sees them, but more as he would see them. We will learn to hearken to the voice of the Spirit.
-Ardeth Kapp, Taking Upon Us His Name
Lehi’s message is to stay by the tree. We stay because we are converted unto the Lord. Alma taught, “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God.” As we yield our hearts to God, the Holy Ghost changes our very natures, we become deeply converted unto the Lord, and we no longer seek the spacious building. If we stop doing those things that bring about deepening conversion, we regress spiritually. Apostasy is the reverse of conversion.
-Kevin W. Pearson, Stay by the Tree
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee... (Alma 22:18)
The Master warned of those who “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.”
False gods can only lead to dead ends. If our journey through life is to be successful, we need to follow divine direction. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” And the Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Following such counsel demands not only conviction but conversion and often repentance. That would please the Lord, who said, “Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn … from all your abominations.”
-Russell M. Nelson, Living by Scriptural Guidance
Years ago, President Boyd K. Packer told of a herd of deer that, because of heavy snowfall, was trapped outside its natural habitat and faced possible starvation. Some well-meaning people, in an effort to save the deer, dumped truckloads of hay around the area—it wasn’t what deer would normally eat, but they hoped it would at least get the deer through the winter. Sadly, most of the deer were later found dead. They had eaten the hay, but it did not nourish them, and they starved to death with their stomachs full.
Many of the messages that bombard us in the information age are the spiritual equivalent of feeding hay to deer—we can eat it all day long, but it will not nourish us.
Where do we find true spiritual nourishment? Most often, it is not trending on social media. We find it when we “press [our] way forward” on the covenant path, “continually holding fast to the rod of iron,” and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This means that we must deliberately take time each day to disconnect from the world and connect with heaven.
In his dream, Lehi saw people who partook of the fruit but then abandoned it because of the influence of the great and spacious building, the pride of the world. It is possible for young people to be raised in a Latter-day Saint home, attend all the right Church meetings and classes, even participate in ordinances in the temple, and then walk away “into forbidden paths and [become] lost.” Why does this happen? In many cases it is because, while they may have been going through the motions of spirituality, they were not truly converted. They were fed but not nourished.
-Stephen W. Owen, Be Faithful, Not Faithless
Later on, Jesus taught these same men about conversion, which is far more than testimony. When the disciples asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:2–4; emphasis added).
Later, the Savior confirmed the importance of being converted, even for those with a testimony of the truth. In the sublime instructions given at the Last Supper, He told Simon Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
In order to strengthen his brethren—to nourish and lead the flock of God—this man who had followed Jesus for three years, who had been given the authority of the holy apostleship, who had been a valiant teacher and testifier of the Christian gospel, and whose testimony had caused the Master to declare him blessed still had to be “converted.”
Jesus’ challenge shows that the conversion He required for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 18:3) was far more than just being converted to testify to the truthfulness of the gospel. To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be “converted.” We all know someone who has a strong testimony but does not act upon it so as to be converted.
Dallin H. Oaks, The Challenge to Become
Stillness in our personal lives helps to provide perspective, clarity, and breathing space as we step away from the whirlwind of distractions that surround us and pause along our journey to recalibrate, reorient, and refocus our attention on what matters. In moments of stillness, distractions and uncertainties fall away. In moments of stillness, our hearts are changed and transformed. In moments of stillness, through the whisperings of the still, small voice, we come to know both the Father and His Son.
…I would like to emphasize that the process of transformative change does not adhere to a prescribed clock or schedule. It is unique to each one of us and can only be realized through our own personal commitment to growth and change.
…all of us can find ways to be more open and receptive to the transformative change that the Lord requires of us—even that mighty change that transforms us into someone new.
-Pam Musil, The Path to Transformative Change
The Lord has graciously provided the means for conversion even in the most simple and humble of circumstances. Unfortunately, some of us look beyond the mark and depend too much on buildings, budgets, programs, and activities for conversion rather than on the small and simple things that are central to the gospel. We need not look beyond our own hearts to experience the sweet spiritual feelings promised to those who obey God. That is why a new member in the most humble conditions can experience the gospel as deeply as a lifetime member who was raised in the shadow of Church headquarters.
M. Russell Ballard, Small and Simple Things
It should come as no surprise that one of the adversary’s tactics in the latter days is stirring up hatred among the children of men. He loves to see us criticize each other, make fun or take advantage of our neighbor’s known flaws, and generally pick on each other…
During an informal fireside address held with a group of adult Latter-day Saints, the leader directing the discussion invited participation by asking the question: “How can you tell if someone is converted to Jesus Christ?” For forty-five minutes those in attendance made numerous suggestions in response to this question, and the leader carefully wrote down each answer on a large blackboard. All of the comments were thoughtful and appropriate. But after a time, this great teacher erased everything he had written. Then, acknowledging that all of the comments had been worthwhile and appreciated, he taught a vital principle: “The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”
-Marvin J. Ashton, The Tongue Can Be A Sharp Sword
Some want God to tell them exactly what to do before they risk anything. Recently at a BYU fireside address, Elder Dallin Oaks said: “Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances where they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances where choices are trivial or where either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it, and upon our own best judgment if we do not.”
When we are converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ we become both humble and courageous. Our conversion strengthens us greatly in our decision making.
-Aileen Clyde, Confidence Through Conversion
When our hearts are no longer set upon the things of this world, we will no longer aspire to the honors of men or seek only to gratify our pride (see D&C 121:35–37). Rather, we take on the Christlike qualities that Jesus taught:
- We are gentle and meek and long-suffering (see D&C 121:41).
- We are kind, without hypocrisy or guile (see D&C 121:42).
- We feel charity toward all men (see D&C 121:45).
- Our thoughts are always virtuous (see D&C 121:45).
- We no longer desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5:2).
- The Holy Ghost is our constant companion, and the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven (see D&C 121:45–46).
Now, brothers and sisters, I’m not encouraging religious zealotry or fanaticism. Quite the contrary! I’m simply suggesting that we take the next logical step in our complete conversion to the gospel of Christ by assimilating its doctrines deep within our hearts and our souls so we will act and live consistently—and with integrity—what we profess to believe.
This integrity simplifies our lives and amplifies our sensitivities to the Spirit and to the needs of others. It brings joy into our lives and peace to our souls—the kind of joy and peace that comes to us as we repent of our sins and follow the Savior by keeping His commandments.
M. Russell Ballard, Be Anxiously Engaged
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32)
I know that whatever challenges or trials we are faced with, whether they are physical weaknesses, personality quirks, addictions, same-sex attractions, gender issues, low self-esteem, or mental health challenges, the Lord gave all of us the same directive, for He is no respecter of persons, and He is a God of order. We are to align ourselves with His will. Whatever that takes on our part to do is very personal and between the individual and the Lord, but I know we can choose to do hard things and have those trials sanctified unto us to our complete conversion unto the Lord, to make our stumbling blocks, whatever they may be, into our stepping-stones, and return home when our time here on earth is finished.
-Melanie Walker, Conversion in the furnace of Affliction
In one of the most profound verses in all of scripture, Alma proclaims, “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”
Local leaders across the world report that when viewed as a whole, Church members, especially our youth, have never been stronger. But they almost always raise two concerns: first, the challenge of increased unrighteousness in the world and, second, the apathy and lack of commitment of some members. They seek counsel about how to help members to follow the Savior and achieve a deep and lasting conversion.
This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation—including the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven—Alma’s challenge has never been more important.
-Quentin L. Cook, Can Ye Feel So Now
The Savior beckons, “Come unto me,” and we respond, taking His name upon us. Not one of us wants this journey to be a brief flirtation with spirituality or even a notable but finite chapter. The road of discipleship is not for the spiritually faint of heart. Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us. Approached with faith, these refining experiences bring a deeper conversion of the Savior’s reality. Approached in a worldly way, these same experiences cloud our view and weaken our resolve. Some we love and admire slip from the strait and narrow path and “[walk] no more with him.”
-Neil L. Andersen, Never Leave Him
So, what can we give to Him, who paid the incalculable price for our sins? We can give Him change. We can give Him our change. It may be a change of thought, a change in habit, or a change in the direction we are headed. In return for His priceless payment for each of us, the Lord asks us for a change of heart. The change He requests from us is not for His benefit but for ours.
President Henry B. Eyring teaches: “True conversion depends on seeking freely in faith, with great effort and some pain. Then it is the Lord who can grant … the miracle of cleansing and change.” Combining our effort with the Savior’s ability to change us, we become new creatures.
-Becky Craven, Keep the Change
We are instructed to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), to become “new creature[s]” in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off “the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn.
-David A. Bednar, Ye Must Be Born Again
I have often heard men say they were convinced that “Mormonism” was true, and that they would cleave to it; but as for their hearts being converted, it is altogether another thing.
-Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses