What does being “truly converted to the Lord” mean? In Book of Mormon, the group of people were converted and “never did fall away”(Alma 23:6). So when we are truly converted we never do evil again. But we have weaknesses, we sometime make mistakes and do sin. Does it mean we are not truly converted? Are we only partially converted? How can we say we are truly converted if we sometimes disobey God? Does being truly converted measured and judged by others or just between us and the Lord?
In our New Testament the Lord provided this truth for our profit and learning, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) This scripture highlights the relationship between “knowing” (an element of true conversion) and our ability to receive “eternal life.” The attribute of knowing is what we would define as a testimony. Elder David A. Bednar provided additional information regarding the fundamental components of having a testimony, “Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days.” In our modern day, three fundamental principles/doctrines of truth are necessary for true conversion and for us to obtain eternal life:
1) The knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us
2) The knowledge that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior
3) The knowledge that the gospel of Jesus Christ is once again restored
Elder David A. Bednar elaborates further on how our testimony will lead to true conversion and how being truly converted will cause us to never fall away, “The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.” In the Pearl of Great Price we are informed that Abraham understood the correlation between our testimony (to know Heavenly Father and to know Jesus Christ) and true conversation when it is said, “And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge” (Abraham 1:2)
One of the fundamental elements of true conversion, induced by our testimonies, is the willing heart and mind that “seeks” after the Lord and his righteousness. Truly, if every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour, and every minute we were seeking a permanent change to our very nature through the Savior’s Atonement, would we ever fall away? The answer is apparent, no we would not fall away. We would gain knowledge. We would then repent and become even a greater follower of righteousness. This aspect of testimony (knowledge) and change (repentance) is emphasized in the “Tree of Life” vision as given by Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
1) We are first surrounded by a mist of darkness (any trial, any weakness of flesh)
2) We pray for mercy (Ether 12:27)
3) Darkness is dispersed and we behold a “rod of iron”, or if we grab we gain knowledge (our testimony is increased)
4) We then partake of the fruit, or the love of God, which is manifest in God’s grace (the Atonement)
This cycle of our testimony increasing and a change of heart and mind (true conversion) is repeated again, and again, and again, until one day we will know Christ because we have become like him. This is highlighted at the end of the Book of Mormon when Moroni said, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (Moroni 10:32)
Elder Bednar provides the same witness, the same knowledge, with different words, “Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence. Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God (see Alma 5:12–14). As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation (see D&C 20:25), “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), and endure in faith to the end (see D&C 14:7), we become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.” Or, as simply put as Abraham, I desired to be obedient. I desired to possess greater knowledge. I desired to be a greater follower of righteousness. If we endure to the end (persistence and patience) with this mentality, this desire, this motivation, indeed, like those in the Book of Mormon, we would never fall away.
How then are we truly converted if we disobey God either from willful disobedience or personal weakness? Nephi’s words seem to properly address this question, “And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” (2 Nephi 4:19) Our personal weakness will be shown as we come unto Christ. Our personal weakness doesn’t mean we are not truly converted. Our personal choices, when shown our weaknesses (Ether 12:27) determine if we are truly converted or not. God already knew we would disobey, and thus a Savior was provided that we might be brought back into our Heavenly Father’s presence. These are individuals who have removed themselves from the fold and are now foreigners and strangers; they have estranged themselves from the blessings of the Atonement.
Your last question is addressed by this verse, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” True conversion is personal and it involves our relationship with Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ; however, if we are truly converted then others will see that we are converted because our works will glorify our Father in heaven, and our works can indeed be measured (Matthew 25:32-40). In saying this though, it is not others that determine if we are converted, only God knows our full commitment, because he knows our heart and our mind.