Friday, January 29, 2016

Harold B. Lee on the inner change of conversion

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"To settle an apparent controversy among his disciples as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, he said: '...except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of [God].' (Matt. 18:3.)
"To become converted, according to the scriptures, meant having a change of heart and the moral character of a person turned from the controlled power of sin into a righteous life. It meant to 'wait patiently on the Lord' until one’s prayers can be answered and until his heart, as Cyprian, a defender of the faith in the Apostolic Period, testified, and I quote, 'Into my heart, purified of all sin, there entered a light which came from on high, and then suddenly and in a marvelous manner, I saw certainty succeed doubt.'
"Conversion must mean more than just being a 'card carrying' member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances."
- Harold B. Lee, "The Iron Rod," Ensign, June 1971, pp. 5-10
Click here to read the full talk

This is a question that seems to come up regularly: what does it really mean to be converted?  What does it mean to be really converted? President Lee defines these characteristics:

  • having a change of heart
  • the moral character turned from the controlled power of sin into a righteous life
  • knowing that prayers are answered
  • having a heart purified of sin, filled with divine light
  • doubt erased by certainty
  • overcoming the tendencies to criticize
  • striving continually to improve inward weaknesses and not just outward appearances
That's a wonderful list to ponder. It reminds me of this beautiful question posed by Alma regarding the spiritual life of his followers:
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)
The life of one who is truly converted is a joyful, blessed one.

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