One of the Philippine Area Goals in 2014 is to establish the Church. As we ponder the concept of establishing the Church, we often think about stakes and districts and wards and branches. Our thoughts are drawn to increasing numbers and organizations, creating new units and building new meeting houses. However, if you analyze what truly is needed to establish the Church, you will find that the Church is established when you and I become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I were to ask you, how you could best assist in establishing the Church in the Philippines, the answer would lie in your personal conversion. When members become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church is established.
We might then ask the question, what does conversion look like? How can I know if I am truly converted?
In Matthew 24, in the New Testament, the Savior shares with us the signs of the times, or the things we should be watching for as we prepare for His second coming. Then in Matthew 25 he teaches us the parable of the ten virgins. As we read that parable, if we will understand that the Savior is the bridegroom; the wedding feast his second coming; the ten virgins, members of the Church; the lamps, testimony; and the oil, conversion, we can learn a very important lesson.
As the bridegroom approaches, the ten virgins awake to meet him. Five of them have been converted and have oil in their lamps. Five of them have a testimony. They have a lamp, but they have not paid the price for the oil or conversion. When the bridegroom comes they are desperately searching for oil, and try to get it from the five who have oil. They leave to try to purchase oil, and they are shutout from the wedding feast. Elder Bednar teaches that the reason that the five with oil do not help the five without is because they can’t. You cannot give conversion to another. It is a price each person must pay individually. (October Conference 2012, Converted unto the Lord)
We may still ask, what does conversion look like? Two scriptures are interesting as we measure our own discipleship. In Luke 22:31-33 the Savior tells Peter that Satan desires to have him and sift him as wheat. He then tells Peter that when he is converted he should strengthen his brethren. Peter’s response is thought provoking. He can’t believe that the Savior is telling him that he is not converted. In vs. 33 he tells the Savior that he is ready to go to both prison and death if necessary. The Savior then tells him that before the cock crows Peter will deny Him three times. Peter wasn’t yet converted. He still lacked some things before he had oil filling his lamp.
The other example is in 3 Nephi 9:13. These are some of the first words of the Savior as he visits the faithful members in the Book of Mormon. Many cities have been destroyed. Thousands have been killed. There are only 2,500 who have gathered to the Temple. They have been spared because they are righteous. What does the Savior say to them? “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” These were the righteous ones. These are the ones who were spared. What did they lack? They still needed to put oil in their lamps and become converted.
In Matthew 19 the Savior has the experience with the rich young ruler. This young man has kept all of the commandments and then asks “what lack I yet?” The Savior tells him to sell all that he has and come and follow Him. The young man turns away sorrowful. The interesting part of the story is that the Apostles are amazed. They can’t believe what the Savior told the young man. The Apostles then ask the Savior in verse 25, “who then can be saved?” In other words, “it sounds to us like none of us can be saved.' In verse 29 the Savior tells us what conversion looks like. “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
Is that what conversion looks like? Certainly sacrificing temporal things is an indication of conversion, but it isn’t just about giving up money or property or even family. It is about being willing. It is a self-analyzing process that when the question is asked, what lack I yet, we somehow are able to recognize our blind spot and correct the mote in our own eye.
Alma 23 gives us a very good example of what conversion looks like. Verse 6 describes the Lamanites becoming converted. Verse 7 then teaches us something that is very visual. “They did lay down the weapons of their rebellion that they did not fight against God anymore.” In verse 8 it says, “Now these were they who were converted to the Lord.” Can you see yourself carrying the weapons of your rebellion? Do you have that one thing that you can’t seem to overcome? It is that one thing that keeps us from moving to the next level of discipleship and conversion. When we understand what that one thing is and “we lay down our weapon of rebellion,” we become converted because we are willing to finally do whatever the Lord asks.
Whenever Sister Nielson and I are on a mission tour the most common question we are asked by missionaries is one of trying to find out if they themselves are converted. Their question is this, “how can I know that the Lord is accepting of my service?” The answer to the question is found in D&C 97:8. The Lord teaches us that those “who know their hearts are honest and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice-yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command-they are accepted of me.” What is He saying? He is asking us to give it all. He is asking for a willing heart. He is asking us to be willing to submit to whatever the Lord requires of us. It is when we follow the example of the Savior and allow our will to be swallowed up in the will of the Father (Mosiah 15:7) that conversion finally comes. That is what it looks like.
This life long process takes on different sacrifices for all of us. For the wonderful sisters of the Church, they actually give up their body to give life to another and then care for that child until the child moves into adulthood. This is a very difficult process that only a mother who has done it can understand. I think it is why mothers seem so willing to give to their children. They were willing to give it all to bring life to their children. For young men it may be giving up family and friends for two years as they serve a mission, or surrendering freedom in exchange for a rigorous missionary schedule that requires their very best effort. For new fathers it is giving up sleep and games and their own recreation to become a real father to their kids. It is losing your life in the service of others.
The interesting thing seems to be that as soon as you lay down what you think is your last weapon of rebellion, the Lord quietly, softly, and with great kindness, shows you another, weapon of rebellion, and another, until the perfect day.
Once we have become converted, we see that the heavens open and the Lord pours out a blessing so great that we can’t contain it. We are always in His debt. We can never get ahead of Him. That is what conversion looks like. That is what causes our bosom to burn and our testimonies to grow to conversion. We have laid down the weapons of our rebellion and said, here am I send me and the Lord in His great wisdom has blessed us beyond what we ever thought was possible.
Do you want to help establish the Church in the Philippines? Start with your own individual conversion. And then, when you are converted, strengthen your brother. (Luke 22:32)