Good afternoon brothers and sisters. I’m so happy to be back in my home ward and grateful for the opportunity to share my testimony with you today before I leave on my mission to Korea.
I have been asked to speak on becoming truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and I want to begin with a personal story. Many of you in the ward know that my parents are avid hikers and three years ago I definitely could not say the same for myself. My sophomore year, my parents took us on a hike for family home evening. I had an important dessert party later that night…therefore I felt completely justified in my sassiness, complaining and constant urging the family to finish the hike as quickly as possible. As we began our hike, my dad kept saying, “I can run up this mountain and finish it round trip in 35 min.” Well…not only did I want to get home, but I am really competitive. With zero hiking experience, I had to prove I could run it as well. Even though it was my first time on the trail, my prideful self was convinced that I knew the path as I left the group and started sprinting down the mountain. I kept running, running, tripping and running about 10 minutes past the exit I was supposed to take. Eventually I stopped and realized everything was starting to look the same. Next imagine me running in circles in the wilderness, climbing through barbed wire fences, scratched, bleeding, sweaty…so angry and scared as the sun started to go down. At one point I was sitting on a rock—seconds after running away from a snake—when I just started crying and didn’t know what to do (I’m also really dramatic). Accepting the fact that I was lost and setting aside my pride, I knelt and said a prayer that I would find my way back to the car. Immediately I felt peace, chose a direction and started walking. I was led, yet again through the broken barbed wire fence, until I found a house and eventually our car through the gate. About 5 min. later my family came down the road, where I obviously pretended to have been waiting on them the whole time.
As I prepared for this talk, I tried to remember significant moments that have helped develop my testimony in Christ and the gospel. I realized my most meaningful memories were when I directly felt God’s love for me. There have been several periods in my life where I have felt lost and alone; wandering on different paths, unsure of who I am and where I should be going. Each time I have been led to my knees, sacrificing pride and sincerely praying for direction as I recognize my dependence on the Savior. Through these experiences I came to know that the Savior loves us. He will always provide strength and direction as we choose to come unto Him.
Elder David A. Bednar said,
“Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established…it is a point of departure; it is not the ultimate destination” “Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.” (Converted unto the Lord – Oct. 2012)
We develop our testimonies by studying, learning and living the principles of the gospel, but conversion is a step further. It requires a change in our hearts as we commit to faithfully and obediently live the gospel for the rest of our life.
Although I am grateful for each humbling experience that shaped my testimony, I never felt a conversion and refining change within myself until I opened my mind to a mission.
Honestly I never saw a mission in my path. I thought I had my life planned out perfectly with future internships, study abroads, getting my MBA and starting a family. Up at BYU, I was amazed at how many of my close friends chose to serve a mission and watched them progress as they prepared to leave. I remember always being so happy for them as they opened their calls, wondering what it would be like for me…but always thinking I was supposed to do something else. Last April, my mom asked me if I had genuinely prayed about a mission and for the first time I could see myself going. This idea really scared me and I pulled out my patriarchal blessing mid-conversation, hoping to find a clear answer within it. I found it centered on my future husband and family, not even briefly mentioning a mission. I was so relieved thinking, “Awesome! Don’t need to worry about that one!” Then I moved to New York to intern for the summer. It was an amazing growing experience for me and I loved everything about the city, except that it was loneliest I had ever felt in my life. Moving to New York was something I had wanted since I was 12 years old, and yet I could not figure out why I wasn’t happy there. I also could not see ahead into my future. I was not excited to go back to school in the summer; I did not want to live in New York any longer; I did not think I would enjoy staying home in Arizona. I just felt lost and confused. As I learned to rely on the Savior during my time there, the thought of a mission was constantly on my mind. I would consider it for a few days, come up with every immature/ridiculous reason not to go, make up my mind with a confident "no" and move on. However, just a few days later, the thought would pop up in my head yet again.
One Sunday, I prayed to Heavenly Father and told Him I was going to sincerely open my mind to a mission for one week...and then make a decision and not look back. During this time, I promised to search the scriptures every night, pray, go to the temple, fast and ask for a blessing from my Dad. The first two days, my thoughts were completely flooded with doubts and I thought that was my answer. My mom reminded me that when Joseph Smith knelt in the Sacred Grove, he was overcome with "thick darkness" before he saw the "pillar of light." I remained open and two days later, received a distinct impression that Heavenly Father needed me to serve a mission. I am normally a very indecisive person with everything, but for the first time I felt peace, comfort and certainty. Exactly one week later I went into the Bishop’s office, talked through my process and told him I was going on a mission, again feeling that peace and comfort that this was right for me.
I know that Heavenly Father loves us enough to redirect our paths and lead us on our way to becoming more like Him. Sometimes we may not understand why things happen the way they do, but Heavenly Father cares a lot more about our progression than our comfort. This was not the path I originally had in mind for myself, but I have no doubts that it is the happiest and what I am supposed to be doing right now.
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin taught his people that true happiness comes from putting off the natural man, repenting of their sins and coming unto Christ. After believing his words, they recognize all of their sins and cry unto the Lord to apply His Atonement and forgive them. Through their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, they are forgiven and experience a “mighty change of heart,” having “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). In gratitude, they take Christ’s name upon them and promise to be faithful, obedient and diligent for the rest of their lives.
Elder Bednar said
“Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God”
As we look at the conversion process of King Benjamin’s people…they believed the word, repented of their sins and promised to be diligent in keeping the commandments.
The first step is believing the word. We are lucky to have the scriptures and words of Latter-day prophets as a guide so we don’t have to wander in the dark. We have already obtained the word and must decide how to use it and apply it in our daily lives. Elder Bednar teaches that “obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking and knocking with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior.” It is a completely new experience in earnestly studying the Book of Mormon, when compared to passively (half asleep) reading a verse or two at night. As we prayerfully read, ask questions, seek inspiration and have faith that we will receive answers, the prophet Moroni promises that God “will manifest the truth of it unto [us] by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).
The first missionary, Samuel Smith, left to preach the gospel in New York in 1830. In one of his first weeks, Elder Smith approached Phineas Young, handed him a Book of Mormon and bore testimony saying, “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart, and ask God to give you a witness, you will know the truth of this work.” (Ensign, Oct. 2007) Phineas bought the book and went home planning to read it, mark it up, and “expose its errors to the world.” He read the Book of Mormon in a week and was surprised to find that he had made no markings. He read it again the following week and was convinced that the book was true. Phineas then passed the book to his father, his sister, and eventually his brother Brigham Young, who would become an influential leader in the Church. We are counseled to “search the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets every day, every day, every day!” (Kevin W. Pearson). I know that as we sincerely study the words of Christ, we will find the direction and spiritual strength that we need to go about our days.
After we obtain the word and believe it to be true, this knowledge will inspire a desire to follow God’s will by repenting and forsaking our sins. Elder Robert D. Hales said, “If we seek the truth, develop faith in Him, and, if necessary, sincerely repent, we will receive a spiritual change of our heart which only comes from our Savior” (Healing Soul and Body – Oct. 1998). In the Book of Mormon, Alma shares his repentance and conversion process with his son Helaman. After being visited by an angel, Alma experienced “eternal torment” and pain as he spent three days realizing the seriousness of all of his past sins (Alma 36:12). Recalling the teachings of his father and the hope of Jesus Christ, he begged for forgiveness. As he was spiritually born of God, Alma’s soul was “filled with joy as exceeding as was [his] pain” and he “could remember [his] pains no more” (19-20). He was converted and spent the rest of his life sharing this hopeful message and bringing others unto Christ.
The repentance process is not easy. It requires a humble and willing heart. The Lord teaches that as we come unto Him, He “will show unto [us] [our] weakness that [we] may be humble.” Because we are imperfect people striving for perfection and because the Lord loves us, He will show us our weaknesses so we can improve and progress in becoming more like Him. This was the hardest part for me as I have been preparing to serve a mission. I recognized that as I spent more time studying the gospel and coming unto Christ, my flaws became more apparent. Being a perfectionist, it was really painful for me to recognize all of my faults and mistakes. It honestly seemed impossible to overcome and I felt inadequate in teaching others while I live so imperfectly. But then I realized that I can’t do it on my own and I won’t ever have to try. God will show us our weaknesses but he won’t leave us alone to overcome them, promising that if we are humble and faithful, He “will make weak things become strong unto [us]” (Ether 12:27). The gospel is for imperfect people striving to become more like Christ. “God cares a lot more about who are and who we are becoming than about who we once were” (Elder Dale G. Renlund – Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying – Apr. 2015) I am so grateful for the Atonement in my life. I’ve realized that sometimes the healing process is long and painful, but I know that without it there wouldn’t be any growth. The Atonement allows us to change and I know that Christ is there for us through every step, no matter how long it takes for us to truly come unto Him.
After sincere repentance, true conversion requires diligence, offering our whole beliefs, desires, and souls to living the gospel. Once they were converted, King Benjamin’s people renamed themselves the “children of Christ,” promising to take Christ’s name upon them forever. The prophet Jeremiah says, “Saith the Lord, I will write my law in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). In order to write the gospel in our hearts, our heart must be open, sincere and willing. We have to turn from the world and align our desires with God’s will. In the Book of Mormon, the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s were converted and found peace from their sins after sincere repentance. They buried their weapons of war to stand “as a testimony to God at the last day” that they had committed to change (Alma 24:15). Elder Bednar taught that in order to become truly converted, we have to surrender our own “weapons of rebellion,” by repenting and turning from whatever is impeding our progression. Omni invites us to “come unto Christ…and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26). As we choose Christ and prioritize the gospel in our lives, we will come to know of the blessings from obedience. It takes faith to turn away from the world and stand up for the gospel, but I know that this is the only way to true happiness. We can apply the steps of conversion in our lives every single day and eventually our beliefs, desires and hearts will align with the Lord’s. We will slowly progress to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I want to close by sharing one of my favorite poems.
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.” (Footprints in the Sand – Mary Stevenson)
I want you all to know that I have a testimony that this is true. I know that the Savior lives and that He loves us. Any trials, fears and pains we are going through, He understands completely and will always be there to carry us. Honestly some days I am so afraid of what is coming. I feel inadequate in my abilities to teach the language, terrified of war in Korea, and sad to leave my family and friends behind. I also know that because of Christ, I will never be alone. Through faith and trust in Him and the enabling power of the atonement, I will receive strength every single day.
I am so grateful for the incredible guidance and support I have had throughout my life. I was blessed with an amazing family and I know I wouldn’t be here today without their examples. Thank you to all of my friends who loved and supported me through every stage of my life. I’m going to miss you guys so much but I know that Korea is where I am supposed to be for the next year and a half.
I’m grateful that Heavenly Father loves us enough to refine us and lead us on the path of becoming more like Christ. I know that as we become truly converted to the gospel, we will find purpose and direction in our lives and be happy no matter what our circumstances may be. I am so excited to share this message with the people in Korea and I already feel so much love for them. I know that Christ lives, loves us and is waiting for us to come unto Him. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.