In the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference (April 2016), Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson shared the story of a young mother who, while her son was being sent via Life Flight to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, she could see the Draper, Jordan River, Oquirrh Mountain, and Salt Lake City Temples all at once. As she was looking at those four Houses of the Lord the thought came to her, “Do you believe it or not?” This woman thought about all she had learned about temples, and knew that yes, she did believe it. At the end of the story, Sister Oscarson said, “This defining moment for Michele confirmed to her that what she had been taught all of her life was more than just words; it is true.”
That sentence caused me to ask myself, “What is your defining moment?” I immediately thought of a youth conference I attended when I was 16 years old. I got sick during the conference and missed almost an entire day of activities. We were camping, and the only access to medical help was a simple first-aid trailer. After taking care of everything physically, I was offered a priesthood blessing, which I accepted. That blessing went beyond a healing blessing and I heard some very special things.
As I contemplated the things I had heard in my blessing, I knew that the gospel was true. I had never doubted it before, but since then my faith and knowledge in Jesus Christ and His church has increased tremendously. Just a year later the words I heard in that blessing served as a great defense in helping me get myself out of a bad situation. Over the years I have thought back on that blessing during difficult times; and my belief in and knowledge of the gospel have helped me re-focus myself on the straight and narrow path many times.
I have had several moments before and after that one that have strengthened my testimony and have helped me make vital decisions. But I would say that this particular moment set me on my course towards true conversion. This is not unique to me alone. All of us will experience defining moments in our lives, and what we do with them is probably more important than the moment itself.
In the April 2015 General Conference, Bishop Gérald Caussé gave a talk titled “Is It Still Wonderful to You?” He said:
“To marvel at the wonders of the gospel is a sign of faith. It is to recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives and in everything around us. Our amazement also produces spiritual strength. It gives us the energy to remain anchored in our faith and to engage ourselves in the work of salvation.
But let us beware. Our ability to marvel is fragile. Over the long term, such things as casual commandment keeping, apathy, or even wariness may set in and make us insensitive to even the most remarkable signs and miracles of the gospel.”
He then goes on to talk about how within four years of its appearance, the people in the Book of Mormon began to forget about the star that announced Christ’s birth. During my personal scripture study, I noticed that a similar thing happened in the New Testament as well. After visiting the baby Jesus, the shepherds told everyone what they had seen and that the Savior had been born. I have never thought about how public Jesus’ birth really was. It wasn’t a secret; he wasn’t supposed to be hidden. People knew that the Savior of the world had been born. Luke writes that the people “wondered” (footnote “marveled”) at the news. (See Luke 2:17-18) This was good news! And what is interesting is that when Jesus grew up and started performing miracles, no one knew who he was. People had marveled at his birth, and then had forgotten by the time he was a grown man.
Quickly forgetting about defining moments in our lives is not the way we should respond to them. Sister Oscarson gives us a much better option: true conversion. She said:
“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.”
When we have a defining moment in our lives, we are given the opportunity to put ourselves on the path to true conversion. We use that moment to create a desire to please our Heavenly Father. With that desire to please Him we use our faith to study the scriptures, obey His commandments, pray to Him, attend the temple, and fulfill our responsibilities (parenthood, Church callings, missionary work, being disciples of Christ, etc.). And here is the not-so-secret ingredient to doing this successfully: action. Action comes before conversion. We need to be doing these things consistently; we need to make them a habit before we can gain a true testimony and truly convert to them.
True conversion is our strongest defense against the adversary and those in the great and spacious building. If we do not truly believe, our faith will be shaken when difficulties arise. In the Book of Mormon, the people in the great and spacious building mocked, scoffed, and pointed their fingers at the righteous, making fun of them. Today, our greatest danger is not people who make fun of us, though their words can hurt; the unoriginal and repeated jabs by those against us can roll off our backs. Today, our greatest danger is “well-meaning” individuals who act like they care about us and then present us with distorted facts and stories meant to challenge our faith.
The shame they make you feel is not the embarrassment of simply being religious, but the embarrassment of thinking that you don’t know enough about your own religion, and therefore can’t defend it. Guess what? You do know enough. Faith in Jesus Christ, the kind of faith that leads to action, is enough. Yes, continue to study, increase your knowledge, but you don’t have to know everything before you can say that you have a testimony, before you can say that you know the gospel is true. The adversary will have you believe that in order to be truly converted you must be perfect. That is not true. Conversion and perfection are not the same thing. Conversion is the willingness to be perfected in Christ.
That is what defining moments are meant to do, lead us to be truly converted in Christ.