I have multiple friends that have made serious mistakes, changed their lives around, gone through the repentance process, and through doing so have grown extremely close to the Savior. They have an incredibly deep, strong, and personal testimony of His Atonement and sacrifice. I haven’t committed any major transgressions. I want to know what they know, feel what they feel, and have that relationship with my Savior. How can I do this without having to go through some drastic repentance process?
This is a great question. I have thought that the main difference between the Nephites and the converted Lamanites was this very thing – an understanding of the Atonement. As you know, the Nephites went through cycles of righteousness and wickedness, mostly due to pride. What is the antidote to pride? True conversion. The Lamanites, on the other hand, once they were converted they remained solid in their testimony of Christ; the Anti-Nephi-Lehies even sealed their testimonies with their lives. They knew the importance of the atonement.
You can gain this kind of conversion without committing major sin, so I’m glad you asked. First, realize that even though you have not committed any sins that require the help of your Bishop to resolve, you have committed sin, and as such you are unclean and need the Atonement in your life. Second, take your desire to the Lord. Pour out your heart to God, and let Him know of your desire to have this conversion (testimony of the Atonement). Then ask Him, “What lack I yet?” There may be something you need to work on first. The Holy Ghost will tell you. If you don’t receive an answer right way, keep asking. Fast if you need to. Then follow the counsel of the Holy Ghost. When you have completed that, or have a good start on a path that takes a life time (like overcoming pride), then ask the Lord again “What lack I yet?” And follow the answer that you are given. This is part of your preparation for conversion.
The other step is to study the Atonement. Read everything you can find about it. Start with the scriptures, then read everything you can find on LDS.org. When you are ready, ask the Lord what He would like you to understand about the Atonement.
This is how the process worked for me, and I believe these steps will work for you as well. I have a couple suggestions to get you started:
“What Lack I Yet?” by Elder Larry R. Lawrence He says, in part,
“The atoning sacrifice of the Savior is what makes perfection or sanctification possible. We could never do it on our own, but God’s grace is sufficient to help us. As Elder David A. Bednar once observed: “Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better. I would like to suggest that each of you participate in a spiritual exercise sometime soon, perhaps even tonight while saying your prayers. Humbly ask the Lord the following question: “What is keeping me from progressing?” In other words: “What lack I yet?” Then wait quietly for a response. If you are sincere, the answer will soon become clear. It will be revelation intended just for you.”
“Ye Must Be Born Again” by Elder David A. Bednar is a wonderful answer to your question. Study it!
“The Lord’s authorized servants repeatedly teach that one of the principal purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
While there are many, many great talks on the Atonement, conversion and being born again, I will only suggest one more (I’ll leave the discovery of the others to you.) This is my favorite:
“The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality“ by Elder David A. Bednar:
“Thus the journey of a lifetime is to progress from bad to good to better and to experience the mighty change of heart—and to have our fallen natures changed.
May I suggest that the Book of Mormon is our handbook of instructions as we travel the pathway from bad to good to better and to have our hearts changed. If you have your scriptures with you this morning, please turn with me to Mosiah 3:19. In this verse King Benjamin teaches about the journey of mortality and about the role of the Atonement in successfully navigating that journey: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (emphasis added).”
This is a wonderful goal that you have set, Blake. I’m sure the Lord is pleased with your desire. Don’t give up, and you will accomplish your goal.