As I knelt to pray this morning, I felt to pray a prayer of gratitude. As I did so, I recalled a time when my prayers were mostly prayers of gratitude. I realized that I don’t pray as much about my gratitude as I used to. I pondered as I prayed this morning, and came to the conclusion that just a short time ago, my relationship with the Lord was largely defined by gratitude, but this gratitude came from the fact that I felt unworthy of the blessings that filled my life. I had committed to the gospel – I was keeping the commandments – and the Lord was blessing me – but the remembrance of my past sins was still fresh. I recognized those blessings, and felt grateful for them, but I still felt unworthy. I realize now that I was not yet converted.
Something has changed over the last couple of years, however. I have become converted. I have come to recognize a list of indications of that conversion:
– I no longer think of my past sins. I have been forgiven of those sins. He remembers them no more. I am a new person – reborn – looking toward my future with the Lord, not toward my past.
– I wrote recently of recognizing that there is no turning back in my life – for where would I go, as the Lord Himself has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). I wrote that I fear that if I were to turn back now, I would be in danger of becoming a son of perdition. Whether the Lord would impose such a penalty on me is up to Him, but I accept for myself that I have come too far, I know too much, and I am eternally committed to either exaltation or eternal darkness. There is no other choice for me.
– I no longer feel unworthy of the blessings the Lord chooses to bless me with. As a matter of fact, I have learned to ask for more and more, trusting completely that the Lord will not grant them to me until I am prepared to receive them. Furthermore, since I asked, and since I know that He desires in His boundless love to bless me with all that He has, I trust that He will prepare me to receive these blessings, and in doing so, He will prepare me to become one with Him. My part is to ask in faith, and to be humble enough to allow Him to change me.
– Even though I falter at times, I have learned to revile the spirit of contention. It is “poison to my soul”. I was counseled recently that all the Lord desires of me is a pure heart and pure intent. These are completely incompatible with the spirit of contention. I cannot imagine not delivering these two simple requests unto Him in love and humility. Even so, I recognize that my weakness remains such that, even after all that I can do, it is only through the atonement that this sanctification can be accomplished.
– As these doctrines have distilled upon my soul, my confidence in the presence of God has grown. (D&C 121:45)
– I recognize that I have not only been called, I have been chosen. With this recognition comes also the acceptance of great responsibility. Zion will be built. I will have a role in either building Zion or in preparing those who will. This is a responsibility of eternal import. I am a partner with the Lord in bringing about His purposes. I must be willing to sacrifice even as He sacrificed – a willingness which I have formalized by covenant in the temple endowment.
– Rather than attending the temple because I have faith in those who told me I should, I now attend the temple because I love it and because I have come to recognize both the eternal importance and the immediacy of the blessings that are promised therein.
– The words of Moroni in Mormon, chapter 9 are like arrows striking at my heart. I cannot bear the thought that He would be speaking of me when he says in verse 20 (I encourage you to read this chapter again, in full):
And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
I cannot bear the thought that I would in any way contribute to the phenomena prophesied by this great prophet.
It is obvious to me that I have experienced the “mighty change of heart” mentioned first during King Benjamin’s great speech (Mosiah 5:2) and later 3 times in Alma the Younger’s sermon to the Church at Zarahemla (Alma 5:12-14). The Guide to the scriptures describes it this way:
To have the Spirit of the Lord cause a mighty change in a person’s heart so that he has no more desire to do evil, but rather desires to seek the things of God.
Many who have experienced this change, this conversion, recount a singular event, a burning in the bosom or throughout the whole body, a true “Baptism by Fire” – similar to that experienced at the “Day of Pentecost” described in the second chapter of Acts. For me, and for many others I have spoken with, this mighty change of heart has been accomplished through a process of varying gradualness.
How is this conversion accomplished? Perhaps this is that for which I should be most grateful, because I’m frankly not sure. I don’t know exactly what I have done to help bring this about. I think it began in earnest when I asked the Lord what I needed to do to have my Calling and Election made sure, and what I needed to do to meet the Savior as promised in D&C 93:1. At that time, I said, basically, “Lord, whatever it takes, whatever trials I must endure, whatever changes I must make, I am willing. Whatever I must sacrifice, I will sacrifice. I am yours”. I am reminded of the King of the Lamanites, the father of Lamoni, who, when taught by Aaron of the Great Spirit, said, “Behold, said he, I will give upall that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.” (Alma 22:15). This formerly evil man, who had just recently been willing to slay his own son in His anger, was so changed, so converted, that he was willing to forsake his kingdom to receive the “great joy” of knowing the Savior.
Since that time, I have felt the Lord working in my life, effecting this might change of heart, that I might be prepared to receive the blessings that I asked for. My job in this was (and is) simply to remain humble and teachable – not an easy task for me. The scriptures abound with invitations, in various forms, to seek and receive all that “my father hath” (D&C 84:38)
And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’skingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
We must seek, ask, and knock. I have said before that to fail to do so is to disrespect the offered gift.
Permit me to express my gratitude to the Lord for His love, mercy and, perhaps above all, His patience. I trust Him with my life. My gratitude once was ironically based on unbelief. I felt unworthy of the blessings that had been bestowed upon me, because I didn’t truly believe that my sins had actually been forgiven – I had not truly been reborn. My gratitude now is based on faith unto knowledge – faith in His love and mercy; faith in His desire to bestow upon me the powers of heaven for purpose of bringing about His purposes; faith in the fact that HE has chosen ME to help build Zion. The creator of the universe has not only called, but chosen me to be on His team. As I conclude this testimony, my cup overfloweth with gratitude for the blessings He has bestowed upon me; blessings that I can never be “worthy” of, but which I accept because I am confident in and accepting of His love. My conversion is not complete, but the tipping point, commonly referred to as the Baptism by Fire, or the “mighty change of heart”, has been accomplished. I close with the words of Alma:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. (Alma 29:1-2)