Jessica's Farewell talk, given Sunday, March 9, 2014
"To testify is to know and to say; to be converted is to do and become."
So for many of you who might not know, I’m going to be leaving for my mission this week. I'll be leaving for the Provo Missionary Training Center to prepare to serve in the Argentina Rosario mission. It’s amazing how fast the time has gone since deciding to serve my mission to today.
The topic I was given actually has much to do with missionary work. “To testify is to know and to say; to be converted is to do and become.” So the first part of this quote - to testify is to know and to say - is about gaining a testimony and then sharing it. We go throughout life and learn and experience things and we come to know of truths. We might come to know that Christ is our Savior, and that God is our loving Heavenly Father. Once we come to know this and feel the Holy Spirit testify it in our hearts, then we come to the desire of sharing that knowledge. We can speak about how our lives are better and enriched from following our Savior. Testifying of what we have come to know for ourselves is a lot of what missionary work is all about and it is wonderful. Testifying is a step towards conversion.
Moving on to the second half of the earlier statement - "to be converted is to do and become" - we separate testimony from conversion. When I was first up at college I had no desire to serve a mission. Over the previous summer I had lost sight of a lot of things that were important to me, and was caught up in living my own life. I focused on everything else besides anything spiritual. I hardened my heart and had little interest in anything concerning too much of this Church. But I did go on to Utah for school. After living there for a month, my friends began to have a wonderful influence on me. I began participating in church activities I hadn’t before. I read my scriptures daily and I began to really rely on prayer. At this time in my life I was rediscovering my testimony. I built a relationship with my Savior and he became my best friend. The power of the atonement changed my life. It made me happy, and at peace with myself. The atonement gave me a change of heart and I lost the desire to be rebellious and gained the desire to be closer to Heavenly Father.
In Dallin H. Oaks's talk “The Challenge to Become” he speaks on how Christ challenged His apostle, Simon, to become converted and once he was converted, to strengthen his brethren. Simon had followed Christ for three years and had been a valiant disciple of Christ, yet he was told he still needed to be converted. Dallin H. Oaks says “If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed, but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be “converted.”
If Simon wasn’t converted after all that he had sacrificed I wonder, what does Christ mean when he says we must be converted? In Mosiah 27:25 it reads:
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming sons and daughters.
This scripture tells us that we must be born again. To be fully converted we must humble ourselves before Christ. We must become like little children and follow the example of our Savior.
Dallin H. Oaks continues saying, “Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquillity,”
Being converted is not going to come easy. Most of the time, or at least in my own experience, when I have humbled myself before Christ it is because of hardship and trial. We come to Him in times of need but I think that when we are truly converted we turn to Him at all times; we are constantly humble and prayerful. Not just when times are bad but when we are enjoying life and being blessed, we can turn to the Lord then and express gratitude. Everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father and when things are going well we cannot forget that.
One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the story of Alma the Younger. He was born and raised by a prophet of God and yet he rebelled. He and his friends went around speaking against the church and defiling it in every possible way. This continued until one day, Alma and his friends were confronted by an angel of the Lord. Alma was struck dumb and for two days and two nights he was unable to move or speak. In Mosiah 27:28-29 Alma awakes and says, “Nevertheless after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” Even after spending most of their lives up to that point hardening their hearts and the hearts of others against the Church, the Lord saved them. Through the love that God has for us, it doesn’t matter what we have done in our lives, there is always a way to happiness as long as we accept Christ into our lives. Alma, and his friends who shared this experience with him, spent the rest of their lives sharing the gospel of Christ and dedicating themselves to the service of God.
Alma the younger came to know of Heavenly Father, he felt the healing power of the atonement and also the atonement’s power to change ourselves so that we can be more like Christ. Through the atonement we can become refined followers of our savior. To be converted is to embody this truth. To know, live and become all that we can. To be converted is to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and to give the Lord everything we have and everything we are. Nothing is more important in this life than being closer to Christ and coming unto Him so that we can be perfected in Him.
President Howard W. Hunter says, “What does the atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others…a great indicator of one's personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.”
The atonement is the foundation of which we become converted. This gospel is very simple: Accept Christ, come unto him, and strive every minute to be more like him. Love Christ, love yourself, love your family and everyone around you. Allow the atonement to enrich and refine this life so that we can be forever happy and with our family, our Savior and Heavenly Father.
Conversion doesn’t happen overnight. It comes progressively throughout this life on earth and all we have to do is strive to achieve that full conversion.
I came to know of this while I was on my own. I came to know my Savior. I am so thankful of everything that has happened to me that has led up to this moment; to me being able to serve my mission. I am so excited and thankful to dedicate these next 18 months to serve and give 100% of me, and my efforts to the Savior. I hope that my experiences and testimony can lead to the conversion of others so that they may not only feel the same happiness and completeness I have felt, but for those people I meet to come closer to Christ.