There are few stories as inspiring as a convert's story of their conversion. For a long time, I thought I had no such story. I was raised in the gospel. As long as I can remember, I have been taught the doctrine and believed. I had no conversion in the way we often use it in our church.
But throughout the scriptures we are commanded to be converted. We find it in the New Testament with words like, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," and "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Its importance is also stressed in the Book of Mormon in the stories of Alma the Elder baptizing the converts in the Waters of Mormon to Ammon the missionary and the Lamanites who were converted and more.
Conversion was, and continues to be, an important part of our purpose on Earth. But choosing baptism and joining the church is not the end of our conversion, no matter how recently that happened. We can learn more about what it means to be converted by looking at the word and some of its different meanings.
The first thing I think about when I hear "conversion" is converting something from one unit of measure to another. For example, converting Fahrenheit to Celcius.
In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we measure ourselves with a different set of standards.
I heard a story shared at a funeral. The daughter spoke about attending a Home Ec class in high school. After finishing the sewing unit, she brought home her pillowcase and proudly showed her mother. Her mother inspected it closely, then instructed her to pick out the stitches and make the seams straight.
"My teacher gave me an A," the woman protested.
"In this house we sew with different standards," her mother replied.
Raised through the Great Depression, this woman's mother understood the value of sewing. It was an essential skill as much as reading, cooking, and driving.
Sometimes in life, we experience things like this. "Look, I contribute to society. I don't rob or steal. I'm a good person."
And that's true.
"But when we're truly converted, we measure ourselves with different standards.
Running a 5k is different than running 5 miles. And while the world will clap up on the back for a well-run 5k, the Lord is asking us to run a little bit farther.
When we are converted, we measure ourselves according to the Lord's requirements, even if others are pleased with the world's approval.
The next use of conversion is often found during home improvement projects. We might convert a basement into an apartment or convert a garage into a studio.
This happens in the gospel as well. There are changes we can make that will make us more valuable and effective in the work of the Lord.
There is a quote in Mere Christianity. "Imagine yourself living as a house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
"But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?
"The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-- throwing out a new wing here, putting an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
We all have walls to tear down in life-- forgiveness to offer, weaknesses to overcome. We all have wings and towers and courtyards to add-- talents to develop, callings to accept, trials to endure. It's difficult work. It's painful, it's messy, and it seems to never end. But that is what is required to convert a cottage into a palace fit for the King of Heaven and Earth.
Finally, when I think of conversion, I think of the process that converts boiling water to steam. Water literally transforms to a different physical state; it changes from a liquid to a gas. It's hotter, cleaner, and rises higher.
The Lord asks us to completely change our being, to put off the "natural man." When this happens, every piece of our minds, bodies, and lives will change. We will convert into something higher and holier.
Promptings will become actions.
Friendships will become missionary experiences.
Bread and water will become repentance.
It doesn't matter at what age we were baptized or at what age we gained our testimony. We can choose to become converted every day. The very nature of conversion requires a change-- a change of scales, a change of purpose, a change of existence.
There is no greater gift to ourselves, our families, or the Lord. As Bonnie L. Oscarson said in the October 2013 General Conference, "I testify that as we act upon the doctrines of the gospel and put then into daily use, we will become converted and will become the means of accomplishing much good in our families and in the world."
And Heaven knows the world needs more good.