I think it was about 5 or six years ago I stood at this very pulpit for my sister’s farewell and told a lot of you this story, so let me quick catch up the rest of you. When my sister Keesha had received her mission call and was preparing to leave, we sat as a family chatting about how crazy it was she was going on a mission. My dad mentioned how he blessed her in her baby blessing that she would be a missionary, but he didn’t realize when he blessed her that it meant an actual mission. At that point we all lost it just laughing that instead of marriage, she was serving a mission. My dad turned to me with a complete serious face right then and said, “I said the exact same thing in your blessing.” It was a lot funnier before it became my reality!
Ever since that day my dad told me of my baby blessing, I always felt like I would go on a mission. Right before the age was changed I decided I would just drop it and worry about it when the time came. And of course right after my world was flip upside down and I was able to go right then at 19. I had friends and family text me right after and say, “So… are your mission papers started?” Oh brother. I did not want to go. After fighting that battle in my head last November, I realized Heavenly Father wouldn’t give me inspiration unless I made a decision, so my decision was not to go. (Because I didn’t want to pray and get an answer that I should go.) All my other plans in life were falling apart in the mean time. I couldn’t decide on a major, if I wanted to transfer schools, and I didn’t feel like being social. One day driving home from a friend’s house I just cried. I cried out loud to my Heavenly Father asking him to help me because nothing was working out. This sounds ridiculous, but I literally asked for the desire to have the desire to submit to His will.
At that point in my mission process I hadn’t exactly had a “mighty change of heart” that we hear about in Alma. I didn’t have a desire to have a change of heart. I was seeking for the desire to change, and I knew only Heavenly Father could help me gain that desire.
Alma tells us that even if we can no more than desire to believe, we need to let the desire work in us, until we believe.
That was my start. I knew I needed the desire. I knew that until I conformed to the will of God, I would not be a true converted disciple of Christ.
And just like gaining the desire to change comes through the Atonement of Christ, so does the actual change.
Elder Bednar said:
“The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.”
True conversion brings a change in your beliefs, heart and life, to accept and conform to the will of God. He mentions that the change is not only fundamental, but it’s permanent.
Maybe it’s only me, but that purely gives me anxiety. Just the word permanent scares me because I’m pretty sure I’m nothing close to perfect.
Mosiah 27:26 “And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God”
Unless we permanently convert we can’t inherit the Kingdom of God, Brothers and Sisters, what is more important than that? Before we came to this Earth, It’s obvious that each of us in this room told Heavenly Father that we could gain a body to go through trials, and become like Him. We didn’t come here only to live with Him again. If our goal is to live with Him we wouldn’t have left. Our goal was to become like Him and to become like Him and inherit what He has we must be permanently converted through Christ.
5 months later (after deciding against a mission) on March 26th I was having an awful day. I remember it being a day where nothing actually went wrong. The day was fine. But I felt empty. I felt like I was depending on friends, family, and worldly things for my happiness and I felt like nothing could change that. I felt hopeless. I stayed up until 2:00 AM reading talks on hope, and as soon as I shut my computer the word “mission” popped in my mind. I couldn’t believe it! It was the last thing I had thought of for months! I shut my eyes and tried as hard as I could to think of every single reason why I shouldn’t go on a mission. Not one thing came to mind. Within seconds of thinking of a mission, I knew it would be a good plan for me. I read my patriarchal blessing quickly after, and prayed and by 2:30 AM I was pretty set on serving a mission. The next week I read over scriptures that had stuck out to me for months earlier, on missionary work, bought books about it, fasted in church, and asked for a father’s blessing. I couldn’t deny that I was called to the work. I was as some would say, on a “spiritual high.” I had felt myself change, and I remember thinking ‘this feeling will never go away. It’s too amazing.’
In the 5 months after I got my call I began to slip. My bishop counseled me to stick to my decision because it was good. I would be tempted with every sin. Satan would try to make me not worthy, or feel apathy. Well lucky for me, I wasn’t tempted with my worthiness, but unlucky for me, I was tempted to become apathetic. And for a while I let Satan win. It got to the point that I knew I had felt a change of heart, but I could not feel it inside me anymore. I became more interested in the clothes I bought for my mission rather than my actual mission. I became more interested in just playing as much as I could before I left and taking advantage of the world possessions I have, rather than taking more time to prepare for my next 18 months. It wasn’t that I was making wrong decisions it was that I wasn’t making the very best decisions that would help me feel the spirit. And I for sure wasn’t feeling the spirit like I knew I could and should be. I felt myself reach that low point again that I felt back in March 26th, and I had brought it on myself. And although I brought it on myself, there was absolutely no way I could get out of it by myself.
In Brad Wilcox’s book ‘The Continuous Conversion’ he talks of teens coming home from a spiritual high at Youth Conference hoping to keep that spiritual high, all the time. He also gives the example of missionaries who come home hoping for the same, but quickly lose that spiritual high right after.
He says that:
“True conversion is more than a fleeting emotional response to a spiritual experience. It is a spiritual response even after experiences have passed and emotions have faded. It is not temporary, but permanent. It is not accidental, but intentional. It is not intermittent, but continuous. And continuous conversion is possible only as we apply the continuous Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
I want to ask you all now, from Alma 5:26, if you have felt a change of heart, can you feel so now? I now know that it is impossible to permanently retain a “mighty change of heart” without the Lord’s help. And I can now testify from my own experiences that Our Savior will help you and me receive and retain that change of heart because He wants our loyal discipleship.
Whether you’re still seeking the desire to change, or you’ve felt a change of heart, or you’re on the road of continuous conversion of discipleship, I echo Elder Holland’s words when he says, that maybe on the judgment day God will ask us, “Did you love me?” and just maybe we’ll be able to stammer out “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” Then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
Brothers and sisters I testify that this gospel is true. We didn’t come to Earth just to return home again, we came to Earth to become like God. It’s time to gain the strength through Christ to become His disciples. A kid in the Hurricane YSA ward said in his testimony that we need to “refrain from shallow living.” Every single one of us in this room chose to follow Heavenly Fathers plan and if we were loyal to His plan then, why shouldn’t we continue to be loyal to the plan now? Shouldn’t we continue to be loyal to our Savior and Redeemer and our Almighty Father in Heaven today, right now? Shouldn’t we refrain from the shallow things of life and commit to changing permanently? I know that no matter how hard it is to continue our conversion as disciple’s of Christ, we will never be alone. The more we are loyal to our Heavenly Father’s plan, the more we can apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to help keep that permanent change of heart we read about in Alma chapter 5.
I know that the Atonement is real. I’ve felt it change my life. I stand by my friend Charity Suttner when she said that “even if I was the only person on this Earth, I know that my Savior loves me enough to suffer and die for just me so that I can live again. He would have done it for every one of us individually.”
The Book of Mormon is true. I know it because I’ve read it and asked, just like Moroni told us to. I testify that if you are unsure, all you have to do is ask and you will receive an answer. I’m so grateful for the people who wrote it through revelation and protected it. I’m thankful for Joseph Smith giving his life for the restoration of this gospel. I know that he truly saw God and Christ that day in the sacred grove. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet and I know that because I have felt his words inspire me and teach me. I’m so excited to serve a mission. I’m really nervous, and feel incapable, but I know that God wouldn’t call me to His work if I had to do it alone or couldn’t do it. I know that my call to South Carolina was called from Heavenly Father through his Prophets.
Again, I testify of the truthfulness of this gospel. I especially want my parents and siblings to know that I know this is the true church. I’ve felt it change my heart and make me better and for that I’m eternally indebted to my Savior. And if any of you are doubting or losing that change you’ve felt, I invite each of you to ask Heavenly Father if it’s true, and I promise your prayers will be answered.
I say these things in the name of my savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.