First off, I want to thank my ward for everything you guys have done form me. You have really prepared me for this moment. Quite literally, because I think I have given around 10 talks in this ward and I have only been here 3 years.
In home Mtc, this past week, we went over the baptismal invitation and while doing so something stood out to me. After you extend the invitation, it informs you to remind them that "baptism and confirmation are not a final destination." This stood out to me because growing up in the church, I never saw these two as the final destination. Personally for me and what has been taught in the church, they are just the beginning.
Two feelings arose after their realization, the first being that I felt so grateful to be born into the church and grow up knowing these truths, but the second, which is a phrase I have seen mentioned a lot while in the MTC, which is one's ongoing conversion. This really made me think of my ongoing conversion . The way I viewed it is, there is a beginning, middle and end. There was a slight problem though. I knew what the middle and end of my conversion were, but not the beginning.
First, I want to read out of the Book or Mormon to explain what an ongoing conversion is. I will be reading in 2 Nephi 31:19-20. To clarify, in this chapter, Nephi is explaining why Christ was baptized and in turn why we need to be baptized, and what life you will lead after baptism. It reads, "And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Chapter 20, "Wherefore ye must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." What I like about this scripture is that I think it outlines the middle and the end of our ongoing conversion. The middle is a means to the end and the end is seen in this scripture as eternal life. The scripture also tells us how to receive eternal life and that is by enduring to the end.
So if the middle is the means or the steps to the end, then that would mean as a baptized member of the true restored church, I am in the middle of my ongoing conversion. Where the problem lies is, what is the beginning. For some t
hey can read this scripture and say that baptism is the beginning of your conversion. That is a totally valid answer as for some it does start there or at least around there, but it doesn't resonate with me.
I was blessed to be born in the church and for those that don't know, the earliest you can be baptized is at the age of 8. So does that mean my conversion unto the Lord during that 8 years of going to church, of learning and growing doesn't have anything to do with my conversion? Well, as Nephi says earlier in chapter 31 "for my soul delighteth in plainness..."It is only natural that I will Give you a plain answer that is easy to understand. No!!!
My conversion did not start when I was baptized. Those 8 years were very important to me as they were an early foundation in christ. So then when does your conversion begin? This is a question I had and I was able to find an answer in Moroni 7:12-13. It reads, "Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and entirety to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."
Our conversion process begins at the moment we no longer desire to do wrong. So that means my conversion progress probably started after I was 8. When I was younger my brothers would make me mad and I most definitely had a desire to do wrong. In all seriousness, your conversion starts when you desire to do good. That real desire to do good probably happened for me before I was 8.
As a kid I was always really sensitive which resulted in me crying a lot. My brothers can attest to this, but with that sensitivity I was able to be sensitive towards those around me and care for their well being. Now a little Evans definition of someone's well being probably falls along the lines of if they have access to candy. As it's evident I am not perfect in my actions. As I mentioned I fought with my brothers a lot which does not fall under the desire to do good. However, the plan that our Heavenly Father made for us is so perfect because it allows us to repent and be forgiven of our sins.
That plan is the plan of salvation and within it, it holds the atonement. The atonement is the very reason we are able to repent of our sins. the atonement is also very personal to every single one of us and is something that is very sacred to me. 2 Nephi 2:7 reads, "Behold, he offered himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of law, unto all those who have a broken heart ad a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered."
Jesus Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for all of us, and he would have done it for only one of us. I stumbled across a song in the gospel library called 'For me Alone.' I want to read just a couple lines from that song that struck me. "But if I alone had stumbled, If I alone had strayed, If I alone had wandered from the straight and narrow way, If I alone bore guilt for which my all could never atone, He would have come for me, for me alone." When Jesus was in the garden of gethsemane he bled from every poor while suffering for the sins of the world. I know that I contributed to that pain that he felt, and that hurts me to know that, but I know Jesus Christ loves us so much and so individually that he would go through all that pain for me, and for melon. He took upon our sins and died with them on the cross so that we may be free from them all. And as he was dying we read in Luke 23:24, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." He was not asking our Heavenly Father to forgive those casting lots for his raiment. He wasn't even asking for hose who crucified him to be forgiven. He was asking for all of man to be forgiven because we know not what we do.
We have been forgiven of our sins and as I read earlier in 2 Nephi, all we have to do is come to him with a broken heart and contrite spirit. That's all we have to do to be forgiven. Brothers and sisters forgiveness is at the very center of this plan. We are not expected to e perfect by any means. Jesus has already done that for us. All that is asked of us is to lie by his perfect example, and if Jesus Christ was able to forgive us for all that we have put him through then we should be able to forgive those around us and just as importantly, forgive ourselves.
In Mosiah 26:30-31 it reads, "Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor's trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation."
If all we have to do to be forgiven of our sins is to have a broken heart and contrite spirit there should be nothing else stopping us from doing that. We should not prevent those around us from being able to repent because we ourselves have not forgiven them and push them away from receiving Christ's atonement. We should not prevent ourselves from the saving powers of Jesus Christ's atonement because we cannot forgive ourselves.