Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Testimony vs. Conversion

            In my scripture study this week I came across the story of Peter receiving instructions from the Lord. Peter already knew by personal revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but he was not yet converted as shown by this story. In Luke 22:31-32 the Lord tells Simon Peter that “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

            In the following verses Peter pledges his loyalty to Christ, but Christ tells Peter that he will betray Him three times before the cock crows the next morning. When Peter realized that he had done exactly as prophesied by the Lord, he wept bitterly. He later repented, became truly converted, and strengthened many other people.

            I took the following principle from the Lord’s commandment to Peter: As I become converted in my heart to Jesus Christ, I should follow Peter’s example by repenting of my sins, becoming spiritually strong, and blessing the lives of other people.

            I found some commentary from the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie that added much understanding to my scripture study. I know that the quote is long, but I believe it is necessary to include it all to show why it deepens my understanding.

   Conversion is more – far more – than merely changing one’s belief from that which is false to that which is true; it is more than the acceptance of the verity of gospel truths, than the acquirement of a testimony. To convert is to change from one status to another, and gospel conversion consists in the transformation of man from his fallen and carnal state to a state of saintliness.

   A convert is one who has put off the natural man, yielded to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” Such a person has become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19.) He has become a new creature of the Holy Ghost: the old creature has been converted or changed into a new one. He has been born again: where once he was spiritually dead, he has been regenerated to a state of spiritual life. (Mosiah 27:24-29.) In real conversion, which is essential to salvation (Matthew 18:3), the convert not only changes his beliefs, casting off the false traditions of the past and accepting the beauties of revealed religion, but he changes his whole way of life, and the nature and structure of his very being is quickened and changed by the power of the Holy Ghost.

   Peter is the classic example of how the power of conversion works on receptive souls. During our Lord’s mortal ministry, Peter had a testimony, born of the Spirit, of the divinity of Christ and of the great plan of salvation which was in Christ. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he said, as the Holy Ghost gave him utterance. (Matthew 16:13-19.) When others fell away, Peter stood forth with the apostolic assurance, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69.) Peter knew, and his knowledge came by revelation.

   But Peter was not converted, because he had not become a new creature of the Holy Ghost. Rather, long after Peter had gained a testimony, and on the very night Jesus was arrested, he said to Peter: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.) Immediately thereafter, and regardless of his testimony, Peter denied that he knew Christ. (Luke 22:54-62.) After the crucifixion, Peter went fishing, only to be called back to the ministry by the risen Lord. (John 21:1-17.) Finally on the day of Pentecost the promised spiritual endowment was received; Peter and all the faithful disciples became new creatures of the Holy Ghost; they were truly converted; and their subsequent achievements manifest the fixity of their conversions. (Acts 3; 4.) (Mormon Doctrine, 162-63).

            Elder McConkie explains that having a testimony of Jesus Christ is much more than being converted to Him. The scriptures tell us that even the devils know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. So conversion is much more than simply receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost. Conversion takes not only knowledge but action.

            Another quote explains that we must do something and become a different person. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explains that the words of Jesus Christ to Simon Peter at the Last Supper (see Luke 22:32) “confirmed the importance of being converted, even for those with a testimony of the truth.” He says:

   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 Matthew 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….

   Now is the time for each of us to work toward our personal conversion, toward becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 33). 

            I remember when I heard Elder Oaks give this talk and how amazed I was at the thought that conversion is different than simply receiving a testimony of truth. I immediately understood what he was teaching, but I did not remember hearing the concept previously. Now I seem to see and hear it often.

            When I began the Pathway Program in September 2015 one of the first things that caught my eye was the motto at Brigham Young University-Idaho. It is “Know. Do. Become.” It is not enough for me to know what is in the scriptures. What am I doing with what I know? What am I becoming because of what I am doing?

            Each religion class that I have taken has a “Becoming Project” in which students are required to choose a Christlike attribute to learn about and acquire during the semester. I am amazed at how much more I get out of my scripture study and assignments because I am trying to gain that attribute and become more like the Savior. As I study and learn about the Savior, I am trying to become more like Him but the acts that I am doing.

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