“Every Step Closer” ~ with Kristin Stiles

Question: What is conversion?

Answer: Conversion is something hard for me to define. That’s in part because it’s not a single event or process; it is woven into the seams of every waking moment of our existence, and it is unique to each individual who undergoes it. What I do know about conversion is this: God tell us His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39)—so even in the moments where we think or do nothing, He is at work in our lives, inviting us to come closer to Him so that we can partake of that same work and glory. Isn’t rewarding to know that we’re that important to Him? Doesn’t realizing this is true for all human beings change our perspective of humanity in general?

Question: Why must one have a change of heart?

Answer: Having a change of heart is necessary because it is at the root of our lives here on earth. If we didn’t need to progress or change, than there would be no need to come here. No one besides Christ will be perfect during this life, but we have a commission to get as close as we can—and that is the great thing—because of Him, we can. There is no better way to thank the Savior, who died that we might change, than to take advantage of His Atonement. And frankly, we owe it to the spirit child inside us that misses Heavenly Father desperately and longs, more than anything, to be back in His presence. I find that the closer we become to our Savior, the more we desire this change of heart. Repentance ceases to be a punishment and burden. It becomes a tender mercy, the sweetest of blessings.

Question: What is the hardest/most rewarding thing about serving a mission?

Answer: The most rewarding part about a mission is that it’s hard. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but a mission is like its own mini life, and the things in life that require work and suffering at our hands mean the most. Overcoming challenges with Christ’s grace and establishing a pattern of daily repentance were some of my most cherished achievements from the mission. Being a part of God’s work in a very literal sense does something wonderful to you. Seeing a small part of how He views His children opens your eyes and working with them to get back to Him . . . it transformed every thought I had about the purpose of this life completely. It changed every thought I had about our relationship with God.

Question: Do you believe you have changed since serving a mission?

Answer: Sometimes people ask me, “How did you change on the mission?” It’s a common question, and an excellent one, but I think a better one is, “How didn’t you change on the mission?” RMs always talk about how much they changed on their missions, and there’s a reason for that. Here’s the thing—Ether 12:27—“when men come unto me, I will show them their weakness”. Every step closer to Christ, whether for yourself or alongside someone else, inevitably changes you. John 3:5 explains that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ. How can you know someone without being like them? Think of the people you love best in the world: family, friends, what have you. Are these not the people you resemble? Can you not point out a character trait or funny catch phrase you have borrowed from those close around you? We cannot come closer to our divine family without first changing to be more like them. Because the purpose of missionary work as a whole is the invitation to come unto Christ, to be like Him, to partake of all He has, than change plays an integral role in the lives of every missionary.

“The Strength to Endure”

“The Strength to Endure” by Elder Richard J. Maynes was a fantastic talk this October 2013 General Conference. Elder Maynes offers great advice about resisting temptation, enduring to the end, and becoming converted. Here are five quotes that I personally loved:

1. “Many of the challenges we face in life can be solved and overcome; however, others may be difficult to understand and impossible to overcome and will be with us until we pass on to the next life. As we temporarily endure the challenges we can solve and as we continue to endure the challenges we cannot solve, it is important to remember that the spiritual strength we develop will help us successfully endure all the challenges we face in life.”

I loved this quote because I think it is so true. There are so many things that I don’t understand. I find myself asking questions, such as “Why did that have to happen to that person?” or “Why does somebody have to suffer that particular challenge?” He seems to emphasize the word “temporarily” because these challenges we face in this life can sometimes be solved here, but sometimes we must develop hope and faith to endure trials that will become resolved in the next life. That’s not easy to hear. But it offers at least a little hope to those of us who are struggling.

2. “Heavenly Father has organized our journey through life to be a test of our character. We are exposed to both good and evil influences and then given the moral agency to choose for ourselves which path we will take.”

What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? What are we suppose to be doing? We are here to test our character. We are here to make choices. We have agency or the ability to choose between right and wrong.

3. “Endurance is an important principle found within the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It is important because the quality of our eternal future is proportional to our ability to endure in righteousness.”

This line is beautifully written. Endurance isn’t easy, but it is entirely possible.

4. “Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion. When our testimonies are strong and we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, our choices will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will be Christ-centered, and they will support our desire to endure in righteousness. If our testimonies are weak and our conversion superficial, the risk is much greater that we will be enticed by the false traditions of the world to make poor choices.”

I believe this quote is a continuation from the previous quote. Enduring in righteousness is vital, but it depends on our testimony and conversion.

5. “Spiritual endurance also comes at a price. It is the same price: dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline.”

How do you develop spiritual endurance?

Dedication.

Perseverance.

Self-discipline.

You really can endure trials. It takes faith, and it takes hope, but it is possible.

❤ I hope you have a beautiful day!

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-strength-to-endure

Sunflower Tree

Sunflower Tree

Walking home one afternoon, I saw this incredible tree. The bark was a deep brown color, and the leaves were bright yellow. As I looked up, I stood in awe at the magnificent lighting. This tree reminded me of an {abstract} sunflower.

What really struck me was all the branches. They spread out, sometimes thin, sometimes thick, crossing each other. It seemed to me like they were supporting each other.

In the talk “General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony,” Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Oh, how we need general conference! Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened. And when we are converted, we strengthen each other to stand strong…”

I believe it is entirely important to strengthen one another and help each other. When we become converted, we desire to encourage others to stand strong and not to give up on hope.

And that’s pretty important.

“To Consistently Renew Your Faith” ~ Riley Jay Barrington

“To Consistently Renew Your Faith” ~ Riley Jay Barrington

Question: Why did you choose to serve a mission?

Answer: Honestly, that’s a tough question. At first I never really thought about it personally – at least not before I was actually on my mission. As unfortunate as it sounds, I started my mission mostly out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, but mostly fear of letting my family down. At the time I felt that if I didn’t serve a mission, then the world would look down on me. My self worth kind of hinged on whether or not I served a mission. That being said, I am happy to note that with time, my mission became just that – mine. I was amazed at the effect the gospel had on people, including myself, and I came to really want to be there for me, and not for others. I came to love who I served and gained a desire to work. In the end, I chose to serve a mission because I wanted to.

Question: What does conversion mean to you?

Answer: Conversion to me really just means to consistently renew your faith. This, of course, includes both thought and action. Therefore, to me, conversion means that when you feel something is right, then you consistently try to act on those feelings. It means to be true to what you believe, and to stand up for it. It means that even when we feel down and defeated, that we still continue on until those times get better.

Question: Could you tell a trying/ challenging experience from your mission? What did you learn about yourself from this experience?

Answer: One of my favorite stories from my mission takes place somewhere near the middle of my first year as a missionary. It was transfer time and I was with a new companion, Elder Burrows. Both of us were relatively young in the mission, he younger than I, but I remember he was annoyingly chatty that day as we drove back to our apartment in Fontainbleu, Florida. It was my first time driving in the mission and I soon realized that I didn’t know the area as well as I thought I did. We had gotten onto the freeway and all seemed well until I started to see road signs displaying Key West on them. I knew that my area was nowhere near the Keys, and so I quickly exited the freeway, thinking that I must have driven too far already. My companion began to shuffle through the glove compartment to find a map, but the only one he found had been taped over to show only the borders of the Fontainbleu area. I eventually turned the car back around to head back to the freeway, realizing that Key West must advertise its whereabouts really early.

As we headed back I remember noting an intersection with a green light up ahead, and so I glanced over at my companion who was still trying to un-tape our map. When I looked back up, the street light had turned bold-red, and the car in front of me (a brown Escalade) was already at a stop about 20 yards in front of us. I was going 45 mph, and rammed head-on into the SUVs back bumper. Luckily, no one was hurt, but our car was completely demolished. The Escalade didn’t even have a dent! As the police arrived (and an ambulance) things seemed to slow down for me. When my mission president called to ensure our safety, I was told not to worry anymore – I wouldn’t need to drive for the rest of my mission… Not necessarily happy news, I began to “wallow in self pity”. Our area was massive, covering what seemed to be hundreds of miles. We had no progressing investigators, and in the past our area had been termed a “dead zone”. I didn’t really have much hope for the transfer, and already my companion was getting on my nerves. He had this ridiculously large smile on his face. I wanted to ask him what was wrong with him? Couldn’t he see that this was not a good thing that had happened? We were going to have to walk or bike everywhere in the sweltering heat and he was actually happy! Before I got a word out, he said, “Elder! Do you know what this means?” I obviously did not, but said, “What”. With an even larger smile he practically sang, “This means we are going to baptize a family this transfer!”

I remember wanting to punch him right then and there, but stopped myself. He would realize soon enough that our area wasn’t all that great. We eventually got to our area (a random man whose wife was a member pulled over and offered us a ride) and started to work. We had one true investigator at the time, but who we hadn’t been able to visit at all during the previous 2 months.

His name was Nelson Montilla, and although he came every week to church, his wife and 3 kids had shown no interest in the church and because of this, we hadn’t been able to establish a working relationship with any of them. The day after our car accident, Elder Burrows and I knocked on their door without calling them before-hand. Nelson answered and let us in! I don’t remember much of the actual lesson we gave, except for the very beginning. Elder Burrows and I had decided to begin each of our lessons with a hymn, and so on this particular day, we started our lesson with “Oh Esta, Todo Bien” (also known as “Come Come Ye Saints”). A feeling of overwhelming peace was there instantaneously, and as we sang the, the rest of Nelson’s family came out of their rooms to join us. It was truly amazing! We soon found out that Nelson was battling a brain tumor, which kept growing back after each operation. The song we sang had touched Nelson deeply and made him want more of that spirit that it brought, testifying that all would be alright. Nelson and I developed a great, close relationship and within weeks Nelson was baptized, soon followed by his wife, Jenny, and kids – Kathi, Genesis, and Nelsito. It was one of my favorite times in my mission.

I could stop the story there, but what came only a few months later defined the rest of my mission. Just after Halloween I was transferred to a new area, and so was not there when Nelson passed away in the middle of the night at the hospital, right after one last operation on his tumor. His funeral was beautiful – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people come to pay respects to someone before.

Because of Nelson my outlook on my mission completely changed. Instead of it being about me and the blessings I received, or the hard areas I was sent to, I began to really feel blessed to be a missionary. I realized that what really matters are the people around me – and the happiness that the gospel of Christ can bring them. It’s not up to me to decide whether an area is bad or “dead” or not. But it was my responsibility to give those people the chance to accept the gospel into their lives. I also learned that miracles come from bad situations, and that as long as we keep faith, we will see those miracles happen in our lives.

“Be Yourself and Be Happy!” ~ Elizabeth Schumann

“Be Yourself and Be Happy!” ~ Elizabeth Schumann

Elizabeth Schumann changed my perspective on thinking about life. I’ve known her since I was in high school, and she helped me become the person I am today. I will always appreciate her friendship and the many hours we have spent talking, laughing, singing, eating, etc. She is truly beautiful on the inside and the outside. Her kindness and many talents have touched countless number of lives. She has blessed my life. She said, “Be yourself and be happy!” It’s fantastic advice, but in fact, she actually lives that advice herself. If you don’t believe me, you’d have to just meet her for a second to know that it’s true.

Question: What is a personal/favorite memory you have from your mission? What did you learn from this experience?

Answer: My favorite memory of my mission was teaching people. I know it’s not that specific or personal but it is the best. There is nothing like sitting with a humble person who wants to know the truth. They have questions about life and are honestly seeking the answers and you have them! You are able to help them find true happiness! This was the most exhilarating part of the mission for me. I was able to teach a few people and see them get baptized. Watching them find answers, accept truth, and change into a new person is amazing! Last year I had a friend in NYC get baptized. I was able to help him find the truth also. See, you don’t have to be a full time missionary to experience this, all you have to do is share the Gospel. One of the things that impressed me the most about these teaching experiences is how humble the investigators were. They would believe whatever we said. They trusted us. Their only desire was to be obedient, even if it meant doing hard things, such as quitting smoking or kicking your boyfriend out of the apartment. I often think of their humility and try to emulate it in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I am still working on it but I will be forever grateful for their examples!











Question: What is it like to be a missionary for a day?

Answer: What is it like to be a missionary for a day? It stinks! A typical day for us was six hours of tracking. Maybe we had a dinner with members and maybe we had an appointment with members or went to a church activity or did more tracking.

Question: What advice would you give future missionaries?

Answer: Advice? I would say gain a strong testimony of the Gospel which consists of the five main things, the Savior, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, living prophet, and I forget the last one. The other is to be yourself! I felt like I had to be some super spiritual nun type which is not true. Be yourself and be happy! Share the light of the Gospel with others.

Question: What are some reasons that people should go on missions? / Why should everyone be a missionary?

Answer: People should go on missions because they know the Gospel is true and that is will bless the lives of others. Hopefully, future missionaries have lived the Gospel themselves and can testify about how it has blessed them.

“You Guys Were Made to Be Our Missionaries” ~ King Eliason

Photo: “The Area of PJ”                                               DSCF2104

Photo: Baptism                                                                DSCF1571

Photo: “me reading on one of our long drives” DSCF1993[1]

Photo: The Wedding of Tatho and Kede DSCF4343[1]

Q: Why did you choose to serve a mission?

A: The reason why I served a mission is kind of complex. I was nineteen years old, and in the Mormon religion this is a tough age. People say that young men aren’t pressured to serve a mission, which is not the truth. For myself I was pressured into serving a mission. I did not want to go, life was good for me where I was at. I was nineteen years old I was attending a LDS institute class, we were studying in D&C 121. As we read verses 34-36, the words “…Many are called, but few are chosen…” really stuck out to me. In my head this meant God chooses favorites. I walked away from that class saying to myself, if God doesn’t want to pick me, cool, I’ll do my own thing! Later that night something told me to study that section again. As I read verses 34-36 in section 121, it hit me like a brick! God doesn’t choses favorites, we decide if we get to be chosen. Right then I told myself I’m going to do everything I can to do to have God choose me, and the first step was serving a mission.

Q: Do you believe that serving a mission is important? Why?

A: Yes! It is the greatest decision I’ve made in my short lifespan. As a missionary you learn so many things. Of course you learn the gospel; you go from believing its true, to knowing its true. Also you learn life skills, you have to make choices for yourself you can’t call mom and dad to help you make a decision. The greatest thing missionaries learn is how to love. I look at young men who don’t serve missions and I used to be mad at them, now I feel sorry for them. It is sad when young men don’t go because they miss out on so many lessons and blessings.

Q: What was the most rewarding thing about serving a mission?

A:  The most rewarding thing about serving the mission was being able to teach people. As we knocked on doors and people let us in, being able to teach them was the best feeling anyone can have. You bring light to a dark room. Still to this day I’ll look back and say did I really teach people? Did I help them on the path to their Heavenly Father? Yes I did, and there is no greater feeling than knowing I helped my brothers and sisters get in the right direction. The Savior did so much, so teaching and serving my fellow man is just a one way I can repay for what He has done for me.

Q: What’s a personal experience you had on your mission that changed you?

A: There was this couple named Tatho and Kede. I had just gotten transferred to new area called, Phuthaditjhaba. My companion and I was walking down the street and came across this couple sitting outside doing their washing. Of course we pretty much ran up to them to talk to them. They tried to run in the house, but we go there just in time. They were the nicest people you’ll meet. We taught them and invited them to church, they said they’ll come. Sunday rolls around they are nowhere to be found, so on our way home from church we stop by and they were sicker than dogs! So we made an [appointment] to see them later in the week. We went there and they ready for us, they had not only read the pamphlet we gave them, they had it marked as well. We taught the restoration, it was the most spirit felt lesson I ever taught. We saw them every day teaching lesson after lesson, they could not get enough of the gospel. When we taught the Word of Wisdom they poured out all the beer and wine. We taught the Law of Chasity, they couldn’t afford to move on their own, but Tatho started sleeping on the ground. They wanted to do everything they could to live the gospel, after that first Sunday I never saw them miss another Sunday. Their parents did not approve of them or the church, this cause[d] a great [trial] in their journey. After many struggles, we throw them a wedding, we [barely] had any money but it didn’t matter it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to. The next day both of them entered into the waters of baptism, one year to the day they entered into the temple with their son to be sealed for time and all eternity. They changed my life, I don’t know how my mission would have been if I didn’t meet them. I looked at them as we taught them and they had become more converted than myself and I was the teacher. One of many lessons I learned from them was, they know the gospel was true and they were going to do everything they could to live it. I made it my life goal to be as faithful as these two are. They used to joke with us saying “you guys were made to be our missionaries” it is so true for the first day I walked in we were best friends. If it wasn’t for them I truly don’t know how my mission would have went.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Phuthaditjhaba/105627616136494?ref=br_rs

http://www.google.co.uk/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Phuthaditjhaba&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=11mUUpv-L8OshQeGpYCoBA

Blur

Blur

While I was traveling north, we were on the road going to Liverpool. I don’t want to use a cheesy cliché, but… it was seriously raining cats and dogs. So much rain! The coach windows up in the front became hard to see out of. Yep, I’m one of those people. I like to see where the driver is driving. You know, looking ahead at the road in front of me.

The thing about English rain is that it rains but then it also mists and sometimes that means that there’s this weird combination of mist and rain simultaneously, and I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s really not that complex. Basically, it’s beautiful. But it’s also scary sometimes. I can’t imagine driving in it. Awgh. That would be terrifying.

Looking out of the window up front was practically impossible, like I said. The window wipers would go swish, swish, and almost instantaneously the window would be misted up again.

Almost everyone on the coach was either asleep or on the verge of going to sleep or attempting to pretend to be asleep with eyes half shut. Generally, I am one of the above. But this morning, a bright ‘n’ early kind of morning, was different. I guess you could say I was feeling metaphysical or whatever. But I’m like that a lot. I like thinking about the world around me.

Because my front-window-view was, well, not working out too well, I spent a large part of that drive thinking about life and looking out of the side window. It was an incredible drive. Truly amazing. So much greenery. (Is that even a word?) The window to the side of me was like a giant glass screen, separating me from the world just out of touch, barely out of reach.

The window by my side was large and clear. It was definitely misty outside still, but I could see the road better. Raindrops splattered across like tiny dewdrops across a meadow. Some raindrops were isolated, little worlds alone in the vast universe of the windowpane. Other raindrops melded together to form bigger raindrops like little ponds become lakes. Yet some raindrops formed a trail. They followed the other one in front of it, and sometimes the blurry lines meshed together, while other times the lines formed a connect-the-dot trail across the wide window.

I watched these raindrops for a long time, and I thought about my conversion and who I am. I couldn’t pin my conversion on a single event. It just kind of happened over time.

Since I was a child, all the family scripture studies, family home evenings, and family prayer seemed to meld together – like the raindrops on the window. There were lots of memories that in the moment were so vital to helping my growth as an individual, but together seemed to form this bigger picture.

So although I can’t remember an exact date or time when it happened, what I can say is that it began in my home. I grew not only physically but also spiritually in my home and developed a love for Christ in my home. That’s where my conversion began. Like each minuscule drop of rain, each experience contributed to the whole of my beliefs.

But growing up, I also didn’t want to be like the raindrops that were in the connect-the-dots line. I was and still am very independent in many ways. I never wanted to just “follow along” or just do what everyone else was doing. I didn’t want to be a member just because my parents or my grandparents were. I wasn’t just going to follow the path of what my family was doing. I didn’t want to just follow previous patterns of faith blindly. I remember wanting to know for myself.

I became truly converted on my own.

True conversion. It sounds almost pretentious – like is there even a false conversion? That seems contradictory. But I think true conversion is sort of like trying to be loyal to something greater than yourself, being honest to yourself of what you really belief, or being exact about what you want to do with your life. I gained my true conversion by living the principles I was taught. I read the scriptures by myself. I went to church activities, and I think usually tried to have a positive attitude. I prayed and asked. By doing these things, I felt something change inside of me. Once again, I can’t pin down a precise moment, but it was a transformation or a gradual turning away from mere obedience to a greater motivation – a greater love of God. I remember feeling this incredible warm feeling inside my chest, a burning, a glowing fire, a remarkable feeling, really, that seems impossible to describe. But it’s a feeling that I can’t explain any other way. The logical part of me had studied it out and spent lots of time thinking and pondering. But the feelings that I experienced really did shape my conversion.

My conversion, I guess you could say, is kind of a blur. I can’t pin it down exactly, but I know that by the taking little steps I mentioned above and then living my life in the best way that I could, and if I could take a step back in my life, I know that each memory, each experience, like each raindrop, blurs together to shape who I am today and what I believe.

“I Learned the Lord’s Love for Me” ~ Forrest Ross

“The mission. Two years where I willingly volunteered to go beardless, to not eat undercooked meat (yep, that’s a rule), and to work nonstop with no video games or movies to break the monotony. I sacrificed my lifestyle to go around preaching the Gospel to everybody I saw.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that a mission is the longest shortest two years of your life. Or maybe it was that it was the shortest longest two years of your life. I can’t remember. All I know is that it wasn’t true for me. My mission was the shortest shortest two years of my life. I couldn’t believe it when the end came, and I had to go home. I would have been willing to serve another two years. They say that the days are long, but the weeks are short, but for me the days were short and the weeks were shorter. The days felt like hours, and the weeks felt like days.

“My mission was not a sacrifice. I hear a lot of people say that missionaries “sacrifice” two years of their lives to serve the Lord. Well it didn’t take me that long to figure out the truth: I didn’t make a sacrifice to go on a mission; the Lord made a sacrifice to let me go on a mission. I wasn’t ready to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ. I don’t think any 18-20 year old is. I was immature. I was inexperienced. My testimony was just in its baby stages. For the Lord to allow me to preach His gospel full-time showed a lot of sacrifice on His part. He let a young man who was still learning from his mistakes go into a new and different world to ultimately turn me into the man I need to be. Elder Bednar has said that the Lord doesn’t send us on missions to learn how to be missionaries. He sends us out to learn how to be members of the Church.

“So I want to share some of the things that I learned on my mission. Some of the things that have shaped me into the man that I am today. Some of these things are obvious and are talked about regularly. Some are a little more obscure.

“First- I learned how to be a husband. For two years you spend 24 hours attached to somebody at the hip, whether you like them or not. You have to learn to get along, regardless of your differences. Sometimes my companions and I had almost nothing in common. I was the nerdy city boy from Las Vegas. He was the simple farm boy from Kingston, Utah (population 100). I had to learn how to compromise and accept that we had differences, just like I someday will have to do with my wife.

“Second- I learned how to work. On a mission, you do nothing but work nonstop. You wake up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10:30. The time in between that is filled with work. From studying, to teaching, to knocking doors, to planning, everything was devoted to furthering the Lord’s work. Free time was just something that didn’t exist. I didn’t know what to do with free time when I got home. My work load was intense, and it taught me how to handle working and going to school now that I’m home.

“Third- I learned how to love unconditionally. It was hard sometimes. One time my companion and I knocked on a door, and the person answered and told us that he prayed every day that our ministry failed. People like that are hard to love sometimes, but being a missionary and being constantly surrounded by the Spirit really helps to learn how to love them. I learned to love people regardless of their circumstances. And today, I’ve learned how to love people for who they are, and not to judge them by their mistakes.

“Fourth- I learned how to be a leader. I spent over a year of my mission as a district leader. I had to use the Spirit to learn the best way to further the Lord’s work. I had to motivate and inspire the missionaries in my district, some of which were in very difficult areas. I learned how to encourage obedience without condemning every flaw a missionary had. I learned how to speak simply and clearly. And I learned how to love every missionary in my district, regardless of who they were or what they were going through.

“And most important, I learned the Lord’s love for me. I thought I understood God before I left on my mission. I thought that I had felt His love and was ready to preach that to the world. I had only seen the very tip of the iceberg. I felt the Lord’s love and saw the answers to my prayers on a regular basis. I woke up every morning knowing He was going to be with me that day. It was a beautiful thing. I learned the joy of repentance, and of seeing other people repent. It was beautiful, and it changed my life and shaped my testimony….

“Missions aren’t just about preaching the Gospel. They are about becoming the person that you are going to be for the rest of your life. They are the Lord’s way of shaping us into His vessels, the people who are going to be the example of Christian living. I will never regret having served a mission, and I will always be grateful for those beardless, movieless two years of my life.”

“Be Ye Converted”

“Be Ye Converted” was a talk given by Bonnie L. Oscarson in the October 2013 General Conference.

Here is an outline of some ways she explains how to be truly converted:

• “One of the great heroes from the Old Testament was the prophet-warrior Joshua. He extended this invitation to the children of Israel, whom he led: ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ Joshua’s declaration demonstrates true conversion to the gospel. For Joshua and all of us, conversion to gospel principles comes through righteously living the principles of the gospel and being true to our covenants with the Lord.”

• “True conversion is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts.” In the booklet True to the Faith, we learn that ‘conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of … righteous efforts to follow the Savior.’ It takes time, effort, and work.”

• “True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month.”

• “It is well to remember that no matter how inspired your parents and youth leaders may be, ‘you have [the] primary responsibility for your own conversion. No one can be converted for you, and no one can force you to be converted.’”

• “Conversion takes place as we are diligent about saying our prayers, studying our scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in temple ordinances.”

• “Conversion comes as we act upon the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom.”

• “Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost.”

• “Conversion comes as we understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives.”

• “As you are converted, you will have a desire to share with others what you have learned, and your confidence and ability to testify to others with conviction and power will increase. This desire to share the gospel with others and the confidence to testify boldly are natural results of true conversion.”

• “A person who has experienced true conversion draws upon the power of the Atonement and receives salvation for his or her own soul, then reaches out to exert a powerful influence upon all those who know him or her.”

http://castroller.com/podcasts/AudioGeneral/3773296?start=0

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/be-ye-converted?lang=eng

“The Priceless Pearls of True Happiness”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave the talk “You Can Do It Now!” in the Priesthood Session of this past October 2013 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is the Second Counselor in the First Presidency. If you haven’t read or watched the talk or were unable to, I highly suggest that you read or watch it! President Uchtdorf always gives incredible talks, but I was so moved by this talk. Although everything he says is important, I am going to look at five passages that touched my heart:

1. In the section called “The Delusion of Toughness,” President Uchtdorf states, “We may think that women are more likely than men to have feelings of inadequacy and disappointment—that these feelings affect them more than us. I’m not sure that this is true. Men experience feelings of guilt, depression, and failure. We might pretend these feelings don’t bother us, but they do. We can feel so burdened by our failures and shortcomings that we begin to think we will never be able to succeed. We might even assume that because we have fallen before, falling is our destiny. As one writer put it, ‘We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’”

One reason I love this quote is because President Uchtdorf quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), which is a fabulous book in and of itself. Also, I love how President Uchtdorf talks about men and women. It is imperative to realize that both men and women feel inadequate at times or disappointed about life. These feelings are part of being human – not just because you are a mother with children or a husband who feels he must provide for his family. Every human experiences guilt, failure, and sadness. That’s perfectly normal. However, it is how we, as human beings, respond to these feelings that determines who we will become. I think that sometimes people want to put on a pretense that they are perfect, that they have no shortcomings, no flaws, no emotions. This façade is harmful. It’s okay to be down sometimes. But it’s also necessary to learn from these emotions. We learn from our past but live in the present and look to the future. We must learn to hope.

2. “And thus, they go on, living only a shadow of the life they could have led, never rising to the potential that is their birthright. As the poet lamented, these are among those unfortunate souls who ‘die with [most of] their music [still] in them.’”

President Uchtdorf quotes “The Voiceless,” in The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1908). It’s a beautiful and powerful line. I love how he describes “a shadow of life they could have led.” A shadow bears the likeness or the outline of the thing it follows, yet it is not quite the same and misses the main important aspects the person or object it is shadowing. For example, if there is a shadow of a tree and we could only see that, we would only see grey lines and blobs or maybe sometimes it would move. We would be missing out by looking at the ground and not to looking up to see the shimmering leaves gently waving in the wind or the various colors of green or the great, deep brown bark, rough and worn. We would be missing something vital to understanding what a tree is. I think that is the same thing with people. Most humans (unless there is some sort of accident or other issue) have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, two hands, two legs, two feet, etc., etc., etc. But there is a lot more to a person than mere physiological aspects. Shadows, especially psychological shadows, such as depression or doubt or hopelessness, can mask human potential, which is not a physical aspect that could be seen. This potential mentioned is what we do with our talents that impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

3. In the section titled “Godly Sorrow,” President Uchtdorf states, “Godly sorrow leads to conversion and a change of heart. It causes us to hate sin and love goodness. It encourages us to stand up and walk in the light of Christ’s love. True repentance is about transformation, not torture or torment. Yes, heartfelt regret and true remorse for disobedience are often painful and very important steps in the sacred process of repentance. But when guilt leads to self-loathing or prevents us from rising up again, it is impeding rather than promoting our repentance.”

This passage is beautiful and so simple to understand. When we feel godly sorrow, or a deep desire to change and become a better person, as opposed to worldly sorrow that is temporary and fleeting, we gain a desire to change our hearts. Godly sorrow truly can lead to personal conversion. Guilt that creates self-loathing is not good because it prevents instead of promotes true repentance or change.

4. “We have a champion, a Savior, who walked through the valley of the shadow of death on our behalf. He gave Himself as a ransom for our sins. No one has ever had greater love than this—Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish, willingly laid Himself on the altar of sacrifice and paid the price for our sins to ‘the uttermost farthing.’ He took upon Himself our suffering. He took our burdens, our guilt upon His shoulders. My dear friends, when we decide to come to Him, when we take upon ourselves His name and boldly walk in the path of discipleship, then through the Atonement we are promised not only happiness and ‘peace in this world’ but also ‘eternal life in the world to come.’”

We must choose whether we will come unto Christ.

We must choose whether we will take upon His name.

We must choose whether we will become a disciple.

We must choose.

5. In the section “Who Are You?,” President Uchtdorf explains, “Satan’s purpose is to tempt us to exchange the priceless pearls of true happiness and eternal values for a fake plastic trinket that is merely an illusion and counterfeit of happiness and joy. Another method the adversary uses to discourage us from rising up is to make us see the commandments as things that have been forced upon us. I suppose it is human nature to resist anything that does not appear to be our own idea in the first place. If we see healthy eating and exercise as something only our doctor expects of us, we will likely fail. If we see these choices as who we are and who we want to become, we have a greater chance of staying the course and succeeding.”

I love how he writes “the priceless pearls of true happiness.” The comparison of pearls versus fake plastic trinkets is just beautiful.

We must decide our own choices because that will determine who we will become. I love his promise that if we make our own choices and take it upon ourselves to carry out those decisions, we will have a greater chance of achieving our goals. That is a remarkable promise.

Do you want to be happy?

Then you must change.

And you can do it now…

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/you-can-do-it-now