The word “conversion” refers to a changing or a turning. Conversion manifests in many ways: a change from one belief to another; a turning from lack of belief to faith; a change from one religion to another; or a turning from selfish will to following God’s will.
In the Old Testament conversion is often characterized by the idea of “turning.” The prophet Joel wrote these words about conversion:
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2: 12, 13).
This is the story of my
The flight from Salt Lake City to Calgary, Alberta was surreal. It was like riding a rocket to another planet; luckily, the creatures at this new planet spoke English–eh! It was wintertime, and looking out the window of my rocket, I could see miles and miles of white, frozen fields below.
After three days in Canada, I wrote these words in my journal:
“I went tracting for the first time. It was kind of discouraging. My companion and I approached one lady who wasn’t very nice. Sometimes I wonder if this will in fact turn out to be the best two years of my life. I learned from this experience of being rejected that a missionary needs to be constantly worthy of the Spirit. For only through the Spirit can we touch the hearts of the people.”
Staying at the Calgary mission headquarters for about a week, I was then transferred to Lethbridge in southern Alberta. While teaching investigators a lesson about the restoration of the gospel, I realized just how spectacular this story of “Mormonism” might seem to someone hearing it for the first time.
The reality of the restoration is such a colossal occurrence, that the prophet Isaiah calls it “a marvelous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29: 15). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, boldly proclaim to the world these amazing truths:
1) God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to a young man named Joseph Smith.
2) The angel Moroni directed Joseph to translate an ancient record engraved upon gold plates–the Book of Mormon.
3) John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored priesthood authority to baptize.
4) Peter, James, and John bestowed the “keys of the kingdom of Heaven” upon Joseph and Oliver.
As I taught this story of restored truth and encouraged truth seekers to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ to receive a Heaven’s witness, I knew that I needed to receive my own “burning” witness, independent of my mother’s testimony.
For some, answers to pray will come almost immediately by sincerely asking; for others, a sure witness comes after a trial of faith; and still others receive Divine witness only after humble repentance. I sensed that receiving my heavenly witness would require more than just “asking.” The 4th chapter of James provides a guide for receiving Heaven’s revelation:
“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4: 6-10).
According to the Lord’s will and timetable for me, I sensed that receiving a sure witness involved becoming pure and humble, and pushing aside “double minded” flip-flops between doing my will and following His will. Therefore, I prayed for Christ’s redeeming miracle to make me clean and “new” (2 Cor. 5: 17). After faithfully preparing myself in the way the Spirit guided, an overwhelming witness from God was in store.
As Elder Dunn spoke, I thought to myself, “either this man is a representative of God, or he is not.” A key question was directly before me: Did Loren C. Dunn possess priesthood power, restored to earth by Peter, James, and John, and John the Baptist.
I had a good feeling as I listened to Elder Dunn’s message. I can’t recall the subject that he spoke on, but I cannot forget his concluding words–his testimony of the living God. As he humbly expressed his Heavenly witness, something happened to me which far surpassed a “good feeling.”
His testimony was simple and direct:
“I know God lives.”
After a short pause, Elder Dunn said the same phrase again,
“I know God lives.”
Then after an longer pause, where it seemed he was reaching into the depths of his soul to say what the Lord wanted him to say, . . . he repeated the same phrase a third, a fourth, and a fifth time:
“I know God lives!”
Elder Dunn had captured my attention after his third saying of the phrase, . . . and by his fifth saying, something happened beyond words to describe: A spiritual explosion filled my entire being; it was a magnificent feeling far beyond the experience of mortal emotion. Heaven’s awesome power visited me personally and in a moment of transcendent clarity: I knew that I listening to one of God’s authorized servants–a man duly ordained to the priesthood.
In that amazing moment of being lifted up by overwhelming Light, I also received an unmistakable answer to the questions I had be praying about:
Peter James and John were indeed sent from the presence of God, to restore the keys of the kingdom of heaven–the authority to perform the covenant of eternal marriage. I knew that John the Baptist was commissioned by Christ to restore the authority to baptize. And I was crystal clear that both of these priesthood restorations came through the man who communed with the Father and the Son–the prophet Joseph Smith.
This unmistakable spiritual witness was given to me from God; the same omnipotent God who created heaven and earth; and the same gracious God who hears and answers the prayers of all humanity.
More than a decade after serving my mission, a Mormon Hymn entitled “Testimony” would be added to the Mormon Hymn Book; coincidentally, the text of this hymn would be written by Loren C. Dunn (1930-2001), and the music would be composed by my own brother, Michael F. Moody.
Hymn #137 – Testimony
The witness of the Holy Ghost, As borne by those who know,
Has lifted me again to thee, O Father of my soul.
I know that thou art in the heav’n. I know the Savior reigns.
I know a prophet speaks to us For our eternal gain.
My eyes are wet; my heart is full. The spirit speaks today.
O Lord, wilt thou my life renew And in my bosom stay.
As testimony fills my heart, It dulls the pain of days.
For one brief moment, heaven’s view Appears before my gaze.
From the time of my first testimony, the Spirit of Truth has blessed me with many more unmistakable affirmations.
Through graduate studies in social psychology and family sociology, I have thoroughly researched and observed how social environment absolutely shapes the thinking and actions of individuals–the most profound influence coming from the social environment we cannot see. I therefore say with informed conviction that my knowledge of restored truth is not just a function of social upbringing. While I did lean upon my mother’s loving light in the beginning, I know of myself that the Lord’s “marvelous work and a wonder” commenced in 1820, as the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the prophet Joseph–this I know independent of my mother’s significant influence.