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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, June 22, 2019

When Thou Art Converted

            In my recent “Come, Follow Me” study I gleaned the principle that conversion is an ongoing process. Peter had walked and talked with Jesus Christ. He witnessed miracles and learned doctrine. Yet the Savior said until him, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32; italics added). Peter had a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but he was not yet converted. What does it mean to be converted to the Lord?

            Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about testimony and conversion in the October 2012 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He defines testimony as being “personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation. A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of His children.” He says that anyone can gain a testimony by seeking one through study and prayer. He adds that “Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days.”

            Elder Bednar defines conversion as being “a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement.” He says that “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.” He continues by saying that “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.” He adds that “Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God (see Alma 5:12-14). He later makes this important distinction between testimony and conversion.

Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.

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.

            Using the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Elder Bednar taught how a “testimony is spiritual knowledge of truth obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost” and “Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received.” There are ten virgins who are invited to a wedding feast. According to latter-day prophets, these ten virgins represent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of the virgins took lamps with them, and five of the virgins took extra oil. The bridegroom came later than expected, and the virgins fell asleep until someone cried that he was coming. The virgins all arose and trimmed their lamps. They found that the oil in their lamps was gone. The five wise virgins refilled their lamps with their extra oil, but they did not have enough to share with the five foolish virgins who left to buy more oil. Meanwhile, the bridegroom came, everyone went into the wedding feast, the doors were locked, and no one else could enter.

            Elder Bednar asks us to think of the lamps as “lamps of testimony” and the oil as the “oil of conversion.” He gives more understanding about this parable with the following words.

Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? Can the spiritual strength that results from consistent obedience to the commandments be given to another person? Can the knowledge obtained through diligent study and pondering of the scriptures be conveyed to one who is in need? Can the peace the gospel brings to a faithful Latter-day Saint be transferred to an individual experiencing adversity or great challenge? The clear answer to each of these questions is no.

As the wise virgins emphasized properly, each of us must ‘buy for ourselves.’ These inspired women were not describing a business transaction; rather, they were emphasizing our individual responsibility to keep our lamp of testimony burning and to obtain an ample supply of the oil of conversion. This precious oil is acquired one drop at a time – “line upon line [and] precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30), patiently and persistently. No shortcut is available; no last-minute flurry of preparation is possible.

“Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (Doctrine and Covenants 33:27).

            Elder Bednar closed his talk by promising that “as we come to a knowledge of the truth and are converted unto the Lord, we will remain firm and steadfast and never fall away…. We will be blessed with bright light from our lamps of testimony and an ample supply of the oil of conversion.” He says that “as each of us becomes more fully converted, we will strengthen” others around us.

            I was moved by studying Elder Bednar’s counsel about being converted unto the Lord
Jesus Christ. He says that “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.” I felt a certain urgency to strengthen my testimony by continuing conversion, and I was reminded of the closing words from the current prophet of the Lord, even President Russell M. Nelson, in the April 2019 General Conference of the Church. We have been told for years that we are living in the last days, even the last hour of the last days, but the Prophet’s words showed urgency.

My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to “come, follow me.”

Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.

            The Prophet is asking us to fill our lamps of testimony with the oil of conversion and then to obtain extra oil. He emphasizes that we are each responsible to attain our own oil, and he urges us to do it now because “Time is running out.” The Bridegroom will come soon, and we must be ready to go into the feast with Him -- or we will be locked out like the foolish virgins.

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