But for lack of a better description, Caleb gave his farewell talk in sacrament meeting today. It was so good and the spirit was strong in the meeting. He had lots of family and friends there to support and listen to him. The Matt and Tim Deaton families, the Stewarts, the Taylors, and Nana and Papa Deaton were all able to be there. There were lots of friends including the Estes, Landon, Jordan, Sara, Audrey, Brooklyn, Shea, and Nathan and Kendra from the ward. We are so grateful for all the love and support we felt.
I am including a copy of the talk Caleb gave. There was a bit of improvisation at the end where he talked about Peter and his conversion experience that is not in the talk, but it was so good and a perfect metaphor for each of us in our journey to conversion.
Caleb's testimony was powerful and as one person said afterwards, "You can tell he will work miracles on his mission." We are so proud of him and felt the power and strength of his testimony today.
Brothers and Sisters, I would first like to testify of the truth of this gospel and what’s been said before me. I know Christ lives and that this is his true church upon the Earth.
First, I would like to begin with a story. Last year at school, I took a Greek literature and philosophy class, something you can really only find at BASIS. We had just finished the unit on Drama and were about to move on to some new material when my teacher suggested we read the Lysistrata. I later learned that while it has great historical value and importance to the class, it was also vulgar and obscene as according to Greek custom. As this was the case, my teacher needed a unanimous vote in order to be able to read the book. He gave us some time to think about it and I did. But ultimately, I decided that despite its academic value, I couldn’t participate in this. I told my teacher and I was the only vote to stop the class from reading it. Well actually they read it on a day when I wasn’t there. The experience stood out to me because it was a time I stood up for my faith and had the desire to live it. I attribute it to part of my conversion.
Bonnie L Oscarson describes it like this:
“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.”
While faith and a testimony are essential to our spiritual progression, they are nothing if we don’t live it. As it says in James 2: 17-18:
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."
As the Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Faith is not so much something we believe; faith is something we live.”
The actions we perform everyday represent the faith we have. For example, every week during the sacrament we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. This is more than just calling ourselves Christians but rather living as Christians or as Christ would.
So how do we change from being a believer to being converted? Well according to the scriptures, it starts with our desires. The prophet, Alma the Younger, spoke concerning the desires we have in life to his son, Corianton.
5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
7 These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil
We have all been given the ability to choose in this life, enabling us to either do good or evil. It is through the knowledge of the gospel and the Atonement that enables us to have a “might change in heart”.
In the Book of Mormon, the people of King Benjamin describe a mighty change of heart occurring with them upon receiving the knowledge and faith in the gospel.
(Mosiah Chapters 4 and 5)
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
In the next chapter, listen to what the people of King Benjamin say after learning about how to achieve salvation.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
As we can see, a change of heart comes from understanding the plan of salvation and having hope in the Atonement of Christ. This change of heart is what brings us closer to true conversion. Bonnie L. Oscarson puts it like this:
"We all need to seek to have our hearts and very natures changed so that we no longer have a desire to follow the ways of the world but to please God. True conversion is a process that takes place over a period of time and involves a willingness to exercise faith. It comes when we search the scriptures instead of the Internet. It comes when we are obedient to the commandments of God. Conversion comes when we serve those around us. It comes from earnest prayer, regular temple attendance, and faithful fulfillment of our God-given responsibilities. It takes consistency and daily effort."
While there are so many areas of our lives like our responsibilities to our family, our calling and to God that we can change our hearts toward and improve, I only want to highlight a couple things.
The first one is following the prophet. While we sometimes take it for granted, as part of our faith, we believe in following a prophet and as it says in D+C 21:5, obeying all of his counsel as if we had received them directly from Christ through faith and patience. I relate obeying the prophet’s counsel to an experience I recently had whitewater rafting. Our guide would give us commands to move forward, backward, and turn in order to navigate through the choppy and turbulent waters. At certain points, it would seem we were going to hit a rock; I was tempted to use my oar and correct my guide’s navigation without any command, like in the old Testament, where Uzzah attempts to steady the ark of the covenant because it looks like its about to fall. And every time, the boat missed the rock by plenty.
The prophet, like our guide, is leading the old ship of Zion through our world which is turbulent and changing in values. There are times when we may doubt the prophet’s counsel and wish to guide it ourselves because we might be going the wrong but I challenge us that we should follow all his words with faith so that we may gain a testimony of it when his counsel leads us to safety through the waves of the world.
My dad lost his job about 7 years ago or so....(story about following the prophet and food storage)
This is one reason why I’m serving a mission. Because I want to follow the prophet
While it may seem like there are so many things to begin changing that it seems hopeless and hard, remember conversion is a lifelong process. Begin one step at a time.
And the best way to begin is to pray.
In the New Testament, Jesus is approached by a man, who asks
17 ¶And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
In October of 2015, Elder Larry Lawrence of the Seventy explains it like this.
"The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer."
President Harold B. Lee taught, “Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must [at] one time ask ourselves this question, ‘What lack I yet?’”
He goes on to say that by humbly asking this question in prayer, we can receive personal revelation that will help us come closer to true conversion and even perfection if we act on it.
In conclusion, I believe Alma said it best to his son, Helaman, saying:
Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept?
3 And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe.
4 And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come?
5 And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken.
6 And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments?
7 And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart.
8 Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.
This is the easiest way to begin to act upon our faith, by keeping the commandments given to us. For if we believe the gospel, then we must live it.
Story of Peter's conversion and how it relates to each of our own (if there is time.) After we are converted we must strengthen our brethren.