Brynlee Ashton recently began life as a missionary. Before she left, I heard her excellent discourse on conversion, the process of becoming converted, and reasons we would choose conversion. I wanted to share her thoughts with you.
Brynlee Ashton on Conversion
Answering the Missionary Questions
I’m so excited to be here today and I’m glad all of you are here as well. I want to start by saying I opened my mission call about five months ago. Five months is a long time! And within those five months, many people have asked me the same questions and said the same comments. I will now answer them so you don’t have to take time out of the day to ask me!
- Where are you going?
- England Leeds Mission
- When are you going?
- I’m leaving the 28th to be there on the 29th
- Which MTC are you attending?
- The England MTC
- Are you excited?
- Are you nervous?
- Are you [insert any emotion]
- I have probably felt that emotion sometime within these 5 months
- Are you ready?
- I have never felt more ready and not ready in my whole life
- What are you excited for?
- Just about everything
- What are you nervous about
- Bad companions and blood pudding
- I know someone who has served, is serving, or will serve in England
- Wow, that’s really cool
- I’m excited for you (or anything of the sort)
Conversion is Our Goal
When I asked the bishop what my topic would be, I was a little scared he would say something like “Christ’s Atonement” and I’d have to teach the entire gospel in 15 minutes, but then he told me it was “Conversion is Our Goal.” I don’t know if this is special treatment, but I felt like this a really easy topic, especially for someone who is going out to help people convert to the gospel. Then I got to work and realized that there is a lot more to conversion than I had previously realized.
I also realized that I’m probably not the prime example of conversion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a terrible person — but at the same time, I’m not expecting to be the next prophet (my gender to the side). From the time I got the topic to now, I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon with this topic in mind and I realize almost every chapter has a guide or a step to becoming more converted.
When I first heard about conversion, I was 11 or 12 in Brother Capua’s class. He was teaching us the story of the man who didn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling the Spirit and Christ told him that he needed to be born again. Brother Capua told us that being born again is being converted fully to the gospel, and then proceeded to tell us his conversion story.
At that moment, conversion didn’t scare me. I was going to church, although sometimes forced. I was baptized. My dad was paying my tithing. I read a chapter of scripture about once every three months. I felt like I was in. I didn’t feel the need to convert more than I already had.
Then I got older and started to understand more fully the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the need for change and improvement, not only in the Church but in life as well. Reading the Book of Mormon these past couple of weeks, I realized it gives you a recipe to becoming converted. The Book of Mormon teaches you how to convert and why.
The Book of Mormon is like a guidebook. If you have a question that needs to be answered and you read with that question in mind, the Book of Mormon will help you find the answers. While I was asking about conversion, I realized that Christ gives us principles to become more converted.
Alma 32:13 basically tells us exactly what those principles are.
And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
Alma says all you need to do to be saved, or converted, is follow these four simple principles:
- Humble yourself
- Seek repentance
- Obtain mercy from repentance
- Endure to the end
Sounds a lot easier than it is. I know from personal—and secondary—experiences that those four actions can be some of the hardest things we’ll do in this lifetime. That’s why it’s so important to follow them: because doing good, difficult things leads us to become our best selves.
So let’s break these four principles down. The first step is humility. The Gospel Topic on humility defines humility as the ability to…
…recognize gratefully our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies.
Once again, it seems like such an easy concept, and yet it’s difficult. The natural man makes being dependent upon the Lord seem unwanted, unneeded, and unattainable.
However, King Benjamin, a prophet of God, lets us know that when we humble ourselves, we will “be filled with the love of God…” Talk about an amazing promise.
Have you ever had days where you just feel worthless, unwanted, hated by others or even yourself? King Benjamin gave us the solution—to forget our stresses and realize that we are awesome because we are created by a remarkable being. To have better days is to realize all our gifts, talents, and abilities are from God.
King Benjamin also promises a few more things, including that we will “grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” I find it interesting that he says you will grow in knowledge of God or of things that are just and true.
And I think it’s because King Benjamin understands that we are given knowledge piece by piece. We don’t get perfect knowledge when we ask, but rather we get imperfect knowledge to give us the urge to grow towards perfect knowledge. You won’t understand everything about God and everything that is just and true by being humble once — you understand it by becoming humble over and over and over again.
Jesus Christ’s Atonement
The last thing that King Benjamin promises is that you will “always retain a remission of your sins,” which leads perfectly into the second principle towards conversion—to seek repentance. When you’re humble, you “understand that [you] have constant need for [God’s] support.” After realizing that, you begin to want His help and He gives you the perfect source of support—Christ’s Atonement.
Now, like I said in the beginning, I don’t have time to change my talk into a talk about the Atonement, so I hope it’s okay if I summarize it. God sent His firstborn Son to sacrifice Himself for our sins. Jesus lived through every one one of our lives, individually, and felt every single one of our pains and afflictions in a couple of miraculous hours. Because of that, He can plead our case and take our sins upon Him, if we let Him, by repenting. Once that happens, God has no memory of them.
I find King Benjamin’s diction interesting in this verse. The word retain is defined as “continue to have; keep possession of.” And remission is defined as “the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty.” The phrase “retain a remission of your sins” can be translated to “continue to have the cancellation of your sins.”
However, Alma makes a promise that comes with different language. He says that if we SEEK for repentance, then we will achieve it. King Benjamin’s “always will receive remission” and Alma’s “you have to seek remission” seem to contradict themselves. However, if you look at the context they aren’t so different.
King Benjamin, in the verse before the one we’ve talked about, is talking about humility. So combining the Gospel Topic’s definition of humility, King Benjamin is saying that if you understand that you need constant help from the Savior and put that into action, then you will retain a remission of your sins — because once you realize you need help, you tend to go get help if you have humbled yourself.
In the case of conversion, the help you need is to gain mercy from God. Principle number three to conversion is to obtain mercy. Obtaining mercy is easy once you repent with full purpose of heart. However, repenting can be very difficult.
I use to think that repentance was a punishment — that if I fell into temptation and had to repent, I was in big trouble. Sometimes I still think that. Sometimes I feel that even to pray to God, I have to be perfect.
But that puts me in a tricky situation, doesn’t it? How am I supposed to repent if I’m too scared to talk to God? How do I become more perfected if I don’t repent? How do I heal my wounds if I don’t humble myself and realize that God doesn’t need me to be perfect to talk to Him? To repent?
If that were the case, none of us would get anywhere. God sent His Son not to make us feel afraid to go to Him, but to feel confident enough in our Savior to go to God and admit our imperfections.
That right there is the basis of why we’re here. It’s the path of our conversion. We need to humble ourselves enough to go to God on our knees, spill out our hearts, repent, and receive mercy from our perfect Father.
Enjoy to the End
You’ve probably realized that I still have one more principle to talk about. Alma told us that there are four principles to conversion, and I’ve only mentioned three of them. The four principle is endure to the end.
I’d like to change it, though. When my brother Liam came home from his mission, he taught our family something that has resonated with me since. When you say “endure” to the end, it makes this life, this plan, seem like it’s going to be us scratching tooth and nail to get to the finish line. Some days it may feel like that.
Liam taught us to say “enjoy” to the end. Despite the hard days, trials, pains, and temptations, life can be pretty awesome. We have these bodies that continue to amaze me day after day. God created this earth with flowers, trees, and mountains. He gave us delicious food, beautiful animals, and stars to gaze at. He gave us incredible brains, fantastic oceans, and most importantly—He gave us a choice.
Why Would You Choose Conversion?
God created us and this world so that we have agency, the power to choose. Just because a cute, awesome girl up here on the pulpit told you these principles to conversion doesn’t mean you have to follow them. So why would you?
In 3 Nephi 7 after Jesus came and worked many miracles among the Lamanites, verse 21 says
And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed.
The few who decided to choose conversion and come to the Lord were blessed with the Spirit of God.
Being Blessed With the Spirit of God
I’m just gonna list a few things the Holy Ghost does for us.
- 3 Nephi 16:6 claims the Holy Ghost witnesses of the Father and His Son
- Alma 21:16 claims the Holy Ghost will lead you or enlighten your path
- Alma 17:10 claims the Lord can visit you through the Holy Ghost
- Alma 12:7 claims the Holy Ghost gives you the ability to prophesy
- Moroni 7:16 claims the Holy Ghost helps you know good from evil
- Mormon 2:26 claims the Holy Ghost strengthens you physically
- Galatians 5:22-26, Alma 13:28, Philippians 4:7, and Moroni 8:26 claim the Holy Ghost brings perfect love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, hope, and so much more good.
And those don’t even scratch the surface. I mean, based on those, who doesn’t want the Holy Ghost with them at all times? Everyone says that Casper is the friendly ghost, but, honestly, he doesn’t even come close to the Spirit of God.
I know that I already said joy comes with the Spirit, but joy also comes with conversion. Helaman 6:3 proclaims that the people of the Church were full of joy with the Lamanites’ conversion. Joy comes from your conversion and when people you know and love convert.
That’s why missionary work is so fulfilling. You get to see others come closer to God and gain greater joy and happiness, and that rocks—especially if you were a part of their conversion. Remember, you don’t have to be a full-time missionary to be a missionary.
The Holy Ghost and joy are pretty great reasons to convert, but the best reason of all is eternal life. God promises to us over and over that if we turn away the natural man and convert to His gospel with full purpose of heart, then we will be able to get the chance to go back home and live with Him again. Oh, how glorious that day will be when we get to see Heavenly Father again and live happily in His presence.
I’m also excited for that day because I’ll be able to see my family again. My beautifully imperfect family that has supported me through my whole life. I hope it’s okay that I take a few minutes to thank them. Thank you, Malac and Layla, for teaching me one of the greatest lessons: patience. You guys haven’t always been the easiest to get along with, but despite that, I hope you guys know how much I love you and how much I’ll miss you. Malac, keep going with your basketball — you have so much talent. Layla, keep making good friends day by day.
David, thank you for helping me understand more fully the plan of salvation. I’m so excited to meet you.
Liam and Hadley, thank you for being the best older siblings I could ask for. Thank you for always being such good examples for me. Liam, stop being so smart and making me look bad. (I’m just kidding!) Thank you for always being there for me even if I permanently scarred your arms from my nails. Hadley, thank you for being the best older sister. I’m so happy Liam chose you for his eternal companion.
Mom and Dad, thank you for being my constant support in everything I do. I must’ve done something really good in the premortal life to have gotten you as parents. Thank you for putting up with my bad days and celebrating with me on my good days. Mom, thank you for being one of my best friends and a perfect example of a mother. Dad, I’ve been told that you only get through this life laughing or crying. But you’ve proven them wrong. You have made me laugh so hard that I cry with every single one of your dumb dad jokes and weird dance moves. Thank you for never giving up on me.
I love you guys so much.
I’m so excited to be able to go out and teach the people of England Leeds the lessons and promises of conversion and family. I’m excited to feel the joy of watching the people I’ve been teaching come to Jesus and change their lives for the better by following the four simple, but hard, principles with full purpose of heart and mind.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.