Let’s look, for a moment, at one well-known scripture about conversion.
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
I think many of us assume that our conversion has already happened at the point in time that we declare ourselves to be disciples of Christ. I think the Lord would have us understand that is only the beginning. Think back to when you first came to understand how deeply you loved Jesus Christ, is that the last time you learned anything about Him? Were those the only poignant feelings you have had related to His gospel and teachings? Unless that first experience was yesterday, I rather doubt it was your last. I think this is one of the things that Christ would have us understand about faith, testimony, and conversion. It doesn’t happen over night. Conversion is an ongoing, dynamic process. Every day our souls weigh out our testimony as well as our commitment to the gospel and the commandments. If we’re on the right path to conversion, that balance comes out on the Lord’s side, not the world’s. With all our human faults, the goal of the disciple is to keep the balance weighing toward total conversion to the gospel.
There are many stories of conversion in the scriptures. These events are also often referred to as a change of heart or being born of God. Conversion means learning to imbed Christ and His teachings so fully upon our lives and hearts that we have no desire for anything else. The goal of discipleship is to reach this point of conversion.
I don’t know about you but like the disciples of Luke 22, I don’t think I’ve made it there yet. There are days (though I wished there were not) when I let my fears and doubts out-weigh what I know about the Lord’s divine mercy and watchful care over my life. There are days when discouragement at my own trials keeps me from noticing the needs of another. There are days when my testimony of prayer is strong, but my testimony of forgiveness is weak.
Conversion is more than knowing and declaring, it’s feeling and understanding. It’s becoming. Convert implies a complete change to something new and different than you were before. When we are converted, we become someone new, someone like the Savior. That type of transformation only comes when we take what we know and feel and continually turn it into doing and becoming.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “It is not . . . enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something” (Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
Another part of conversion is testing. As difficult as it may sound, the difficulties of this life are the refiner’s fires that can solidify our hearts in the ways of Christ. This is one of the things the disciples at the last supper had not experience yet. Yes, they had trials, but the Lord was always there. Their conversion would not be complete until they realized that they could follow Him even when they could not physically see Him. That’s the great mission and purpose of this life.
“Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquility.” Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34
As we weigh our daily progress toward conversion, it might be wise to review the words of Alma from the Book of Mormon.
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts.
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption braised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? . . .
19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? . . .
26 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?
The important thing to remember about conversion is that Christ is praying for us. He wants that mighty, and permanent, change of heart for each of us. Then, He wants us to share what we have learned and experienced with others.