First of all I need to say how awesome General Conference was this last weekend. If you missed it... then you missed out! But that's okay, because you can find everything (talks, music and all the nice stuff) HERE!
This week we talk about the link between testimony and conversion. The talk I'm going to use was given by Elder Bednar at the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 2012 General Conference -- "Converted unto the Lord".
Elder Bednar dives into the topic quite quickly by relating two events in the New Testament:
(a) "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:15-17)
(b) "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32; italics added)
In the first passage Peter bears his testimony of the Christ (he acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God); in the second one, Christ is addressing Peter referring to his conversion as something yet to happen.
These are Elder Bednar's words:
"Interestingly, this mighty Apostle had talked and walked with the Master, had witnessed many miracles, and had a strong testimony of the Savior’s divinity. Yet even Peter needed additional instruction from Jesus about the converting and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost and his obligation to serve faithfully."
When thus analyzed, it's clear to see how a testimony, a knowledge of truth didn't make Peter converted to it and neither will it make us. In Elder Bednar's words: "Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony."
The Book of Mormon is full of accounts of people who were truly converted. Elder Bednar mentions a few: the people of King Benjamin and the Lamanites converted by the sons of Mosiah. What do these converts have in common? Elder Bednar uses the 5 points given by the prophet Samuel in the book of Mormon to define what it takes to become converted:
1) Believing in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are reported in the scriptures; 2) Exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 3) Repenting; 4) Experiencing a mighty change of heart; 5) Becoming "firm and steadfast in the faith"
The process of conversion is the process of a lifetime. From my (yes, small and yes, still brief) experience, you are never converted enough. Since Jesus Christ is our example, and the kind of life He lived our goal, we are never quite as Christlike as we know we should be.
In conclusion, Elder Bednar uses the parable of the virgins to show the strong relationship between testimony and conversion. These are his words:
"Ten virgins, five who were wise and five who were foolish, took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Please think of the lamps used by the virgins as the lamps of testimony. The foolish virgins took their lamps of testimony but took no oil with them. Consider the oil to be the oil of conversion."
When the bridegroom came, the foolish virgins asked the wise ones if they could borrow some of their oil. The five wise virgins refused to lend them their oil and said: " lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." Elder Bednar goes on explaining:
"Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? [...] As the wise virgins emphasized properly, each of us must “buy for ourselves.” These inspired women were not describing a business transaction; rather, they were emphasizing our individual responsibility to keep our lamp of testimony burning and to obtain an ample supply of the oil of conversion."
To "buy" that precious "oil of conversion" Elder Bednar suggests that we -- for example -- obey the commandments and study the scriptures, thus experiencing the peace the gospel can bring in our life. As a missionary, I see everyday how it's not possible to give the joy and peace that come from living the gospel to someone else. As much as I would like everyone I meet and talk with to experience the blessings of the gospel, I can't do for them what only they can do for themselves. We can't be converted for others, although we can sure help others in their journey to conversion.
This quote sums up the meaning of this address:
Testimony is an excellent starting point. Becoming more and more converted to the Lord should be our goal everyday. Let's do it :)
Thanks for reading my blog. You're so many I could have never imagined!
Bye for now.