Conversion means to change. When people are converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have a change of heart. One such person was a young man by the name of Saul. Saul was a devout Jew and a citizen of Rome. He thought that he was doing God’s will when he went about persecuting the disciples of Jesus Christ.
The scriptures record that Saul was present when Stephen was stoned for testifying of Christ. “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (Acts 7:58). The next chapter tells us that Saul consented to Stephen’s death.
Saul continued in his quest to persecute the church set up by Jesus Christ. He even went so far as to go into houses to lay hold up men and women and take them to prison. All the Saints were frightened of Saul, and many of them left Jerusalem for other areas. Saul continued to breathe out “threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). The high priest sent him to Damascus to capture men and women and bring them bound to Jerusalem.
While traveling with several companions to Damascus, Saul suddenly saw a bright light that “shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul answered, “Who are thou, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Saul asked the question that all of us should ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:3-6).
The Lord told Saul to go to Damascus and find a man by the name of Ananias. Saul was blind for three days and did not eat or drink anything. Meanwhile, Ananias had a vision where the Lord told him to go meet Saul. Ananias was hesitant to do so because he knew Saul’s reputation, but the Lord said to him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Ananias was obedient and went to meet Saul. He gave Saul a priesthood blessing, and Saul regained his eyesight. He also received a change in heart. Whereas he thought that he was doing God’s will by persecuting the Saints, he now knew that he had been wrong and set about correcting his wrong. Saul spent years and traveled many miles to share his experience with all who would listen. At some point during his missions, Saul became known as Paul the Apostle.
At the end of his third mission to the Jews and to the Gentiles, Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem and became aware that his life would be in danger when he arrived there. He had a choice. He could either continue along the road to Jerusalem and face the consequences of going there, or he could go somewhere else. His friends certainly tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem, but he was committed to going. “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus…. The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:13-14). He went to Jerusalem and was arrested. He spent several years in and out of prison, but he never stopped sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shared his experience on the road to Damascus and his testimony with Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa. He completed the mission given to him by the Lord and was killed in Rome.
Paul, who once persecuted the disciples of Jesus Christ and consented to their deaths, now became the persecuted and martyred. Paul’s experience shows us that even though adversity may come, we should always put the Lord first even though the consequences may not look good to us. If we know that we are doing the will of the Lord, He will bless us in our endeavors.
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) described the convictions of those who are true disciples of Jesus Christ: “Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ…. Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6).
Like Paul, disciples of Jesus Christ bear their testimonies boldly to all who will listen. They know that when they are serving God, He will stand with them. President Thomas S. Monson (1927-2018) taught: “When we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help” (“To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 62).
Paul, President Benson, and President Monson knew that they could follow the Savior no
matter the consequences. We are fortunate to live in a day when fifteen Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ travel to all parts of the world bearing their witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Where they do not go in person, they send their message through one of the many technological miracles of our day. They also send approximately 80,000 missionaries out into the world to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have the choice to either listen to the Apostles and other witnesses of Jesus Christ or to reject their message. Those who reject the message of God’s servants will one day be held accountable for their disbelieve. Those who listen and accept the message will be blessed. It is a choice that each of us must make at some point.