This weekend we had stake conference. It was by far the best stake conference I've ever attended... We had a broadcast from Salt Lake to 96 stakes in Arizona, and my two favorite speakers from this past general conference addressed us - Elder Christofferson and President Uchtdorf (as well as 2 other speakers)! I was THRILLED, to say the least. It was like general conference, but more specifically addressed to just US in Arizona. For some reason I don't remember stake conference being quite so powerful in the past.
Elder Christofferson was the 3rd speaker, and he began by sharing a story of a man he knew and loved well, who came to him many years ago in confession of a sin he'd committed (I believe it was when Elder Christofferson was serving as a stake president, but I can't quite remember the details). The man was grieved, remorseful, and repentant of what he'd done, but he was also surprised by his actions. Elder Christofferson confessed he was surprised, too. This man had served in high leadership positions in the church, he was well known and well loved in the church... what had caused him to committ such a serious and grievous sin? Elder Christofferson said this experience led him to contemplate the subject of conversion, and explained that such thoughts were the ones he wanted to share with us. Immediately when he said that I knew that his message would be an answer to my prayers, as I have been thinking heavily on the same subject lately. This week I read the talk "Converted to His Gospel through His Church" by Elder Donald L. Hallstron from the May 2012 Conference Ensign. In it, he says:
|At the Ward Halloween event|
"Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.
I struggle knowing that there are millions of members of the church that are active in the church (and even more millions who aren't), but aren't actually converted to the Gospel. Yesterday as Elder Christofferson went on, he explained that there are 4 levels of conversion in the church. I'll try to review them as past as I can from my notes (it was so frustrating because his talk was so good and my hand would NOT write fast enough!).
Level 1: This consists of members of the church who know the Gospel, but do not follow it.
Level 2: These members follow the outward performances of the Church, but to whom the spirit of the Gospel is not known. They lack understanding. They show outward forms of devotion only.
Level 3: Many members of the Church fall under this level. Their conversion extends beyond outward manifestations.. they read the scriptures and pray regularly. They are active in their callings. They feel the Spirit of the Gospel. But they are like the apostle Peter when he denied Christ 3 times before His crucifixion: They love the Lord and the Gospel, but perhaps are not strong enough to withstand persecution. This is where the man from the story was. These saints fail to overcome when the going gets tough. The law of God governs their actions, but they will not follow it at all costs.
Level 4: These members are those like the converted Peter, who was martyred rejoicing that he'd been found worthy to suffer in Christ's name. They have a clear understanding of the Gospel plan and they can teach it to others powerfully and simply. They are bold in declaring the word. They are persistent in the faith until death. Their fear of man is washed away. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just something they practice, it is part of their very NATURE.
Elder Christofferson's thoughts were spot on. He put the feelings and observations I have made into words, and outlined this trouble within the church clearly. Though it is discouraging to know that many members are not quite truly converted, he offered a word of hope: "Your mighty change of heart may not yet be complete... continued faithfulness will bring real conversion. Do not become discouraged if becoming Christlike is slow and at times imperceptible. For every Paul, Enos, and King Lamoni" (who experienced a change of heart in a powerful, single experience) "there are hundreds and even thousands of people for whom the process of conversion takes a lifetime. We must not give up hope."
He shared this scriptures from Proverbs 7: