Being Converted Through The Atonement
The dictionary defines convert as "cause to change in form, character, or function." Not simply to change but to become something completely different than what we are. The bible dictionary confirms this by telling us that being converted "will change a natural man into a sanctified, born again, purified person—a new creature in Christ Jesus." We all have the ability to be converted. To be changed and become new. However, conversion is neither quick nor painless. If it came to us easily, it would not be as important or altering.
It is an ongoing process. Complete conversion comes after many trials and much testing. Like it says in
D&C 98: 12 “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.”
When I was around 12 I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. By the time I was 14 my spine was curved to nearly a 90 degree angle. It was painful and made it difficult to breathe, so it was decided that surgery to straighten my spine was the best option. My parents have told me that after the surgery the doctors had to lower the dosage of my pain medication because it was causing me to stop breathing. I don’t remember that, but I do remember the unbearable amount of pain I was in. And I remember my wonderful mother whispering in my ear telling me to say a prayer. She told me that Christ had felt what I was feeling and he would help me with it if I asked. So, I asked and immediately felt comfort. The pain was still there and still awful, but it was bearable. I know that my Savior took what I could not carry. I know that without that terrible trial, I would not have the testimony that I do today. I would not trust my Savior the way I do. Every single one of us has trials. If we let them, these trials can bring us closer to our Heavenly Father and be the stepping stones to a change of heart.
In Alma 5:26 it says “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, 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?”
If we have lost this feeling, what can we do to regain it? A mighty change of heart includes a mighty change of thinking. When we fall short of what we feel we need to be, we mustn’t lose hope. The Savior’s love for us is eternal and he stands with open arms and waits patiently for us to accept his love and his atonement. As Alma puts it so well:
"Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely; Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire-"
The Book of Mormon gives us many great examples of true conversion. One in particular is the story of the Anti-Nephi Lehis. After being taught the gospel the Lamanites made a covenant with God that they would not participate in war and buried all of their weapons in the ground.
We read in Alma 23: 7-8 “For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren. Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord”
What weapons of rebellion do we carry with us in our daily lives? What do we hold onto that keeps us from being fully converted to Christ?
In the story of the conversion of King Lomoni’s father who was king over all the Lamanites. Aaron, one of the sons of Mosiah helps the king to become converted. He taught:
"If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest. And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying: 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."
Both the king and the anti-Nephi Lehis were willing to give up that which kept them from gaining access to the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Conversion comes as we continuously keep the commandments. Day after day, month after month. In 2012, David A. Bednar gave a conference address where he said: “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.”
The word convert comes from the Latin word convertere, which means to “turn around” or “send in a different direction”. Conversion is truly turning to Christ and his gospel.
Alma 39 reads 13 “... turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly.”
This past year at school I had the opportunity to serve as a ward missionary in my YSA ward.Through this calling I witnessed this turning to the Lord from both investigators and from less active members. I watched as some of them completely changed the way they were living their life. They used The Atonement to become new in Christ and draw closer to their Heavenly Father. David A. Bednar has said: “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 and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.” As my friends at school committed to becoming disciples of Christ, they became happier and a very obvious light entered their lives. I will forever be thankful for this calling because it brought a change of heart in me. Helping others come closer to their Savior brought me closer to him as well.
It is currently the Christmas season! Is there a better time to draw closer to Christ and his love? There are so many things this time of year that can remind us to do this. One of my favorites is the temple lights. This year my family had the opportunity to see them at the Mesa temple. The lights are beautiful and even the simple lights on a Christmas tree have the ability to make me think of my Savior.
In D&C 88 says: "He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things."
I hope as all of us go about our lives this holiday season, that when we see the lights, we will think of Christ and the atoning sacrifice he made for each of us personally.
Another benefit of this holiday season is that we will beginning a new year. Just as the year renews, we too can become new through our Savior. As we enter into January, many of us look back at the past 12 months and make New Year’s Resolutions, goals for the future. I challenge you to make drawing closer to Christ one of these resolutions.
Our ultimate goal in life should be to return to our Heavenly Father. Returning to him is only possible through conversion to Christ and his gospel. This conversion is not easy but it will bring us happiness. I love the hymn With Humble Heart. The last two verses remind me what my goal is, not only as a child of God but as missionary as well. It reads:
3. To be like thee! I lift my eyes
From earth below toward heav'n above,
That I may learn from vaulted skies
How I my worthiness can prove.
4. As I walk daily here on earth,
Give me thy Spirit as I seek
A change of heart, another birth,
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.