A while ago my neighbor gave my husband two baking pumpkins (they’re the small pumpkins that are found inside the grocery store next to the gourds). Unsure how to even use baking pumpkins, I put them on the counter and procrastinated their use. Finally, I buckled down and googled how to use fresh pumpkin. I found that using fresh pumpkin took a lot more work, effort, and planning than the canned stuff. Determined to use those babies, I set to work. I followed the instructions and an hour later I found myself with two fresh cups of pumpkin puree. I finally started the cookies. Princess Pea helped me measure and mix everything together in the bowl. When it was all finished I was looking at the strangest pumpkin cookie dough I had ever made.
Usually my dough is that burnt orange color that sings fall, but my dough was more beige. Concerned, I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. I am not usually a pumpkin person. I eat it out of obligation (and the fact that Superman LOVES pumpkin chocolate chip cookies), but this time I really enjoyed it. It was the best batch I had ever tasted. I set to work scooping them onto the sheets to bake. They turned out a little darker (apparently natural fructose cooks differently). Anyway I had to make adjustments (they also did not keep their shape at all) but it was all worth it. These cookies were the best pumpkin cookies ever. At this moment I feel that I can never ever go back to making pumpkin cookies with canned pumpkin again. Of course this is unrealistic right? Once spring hits and there’s no more baking pumpkins is the store and the need arises for pumpkin cookies, I will once again have to bake with canned, but for the moment I am converted.
By pure coincidence I have been working on my lesson for Young Woman’s (the teenaged girls at church 12-18 years old, but I’m the Mia Maid Advisor so I teach the 14-15 year olds). The topic of my lesson is conversion. As I have been pondering conversion, the first thing that I thought of were the big conversion stories in the scriptures: Saul, Alma the Younger, Enos, Moses, Abraham, King and Queen Lamoni, and so on. These stories all involve this huge monumental moment where an angel, a burning bush, or a coma happens and they come out the other end believing in God and Jesus Christ and repenting of all their sins. First off, some people still today have these conversion moments. A vision or angel, or miracle happens and they come away committed to Heavenly Father and His plan for them. How do I know this? Because I am one of these people. I won’t go into the details of my story because it is so sacred to me, but I can tell you that I came away knowing that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, that Jesus loves me and provided a way for me to come Home again.
I’m sure some are reading this and feeling left out of the club, but don’t. Most people don’t have these amazing “touched by an angel” “had a vision” “miraculous” experiences to become converted. Actually, let me level with you. The big flashy event isn’t even the conversion. The flashy event is just the catalyst for it. Everyone has a catalyst, but most often they’re not big or flashy; In fact one of the most well-known and beloved Book of Mormon people didn’t have a flashy catalyst experience either. Nephi was the son of a prophet. When his father, Lehi told their family they had to leave Jerusalem and go into the wilderness, Nephi’s response was concern and questioning. He prayed to know if it was true, he got confirmation from the Spirit and he went forward in faith. That first step took him all the way to the wilderness and back. It helped him obtain the brass plates. It helped him stand strong during the many attempts on his life by his brothers, and it helped him become a prophet like his father.
Another great example is Alma the Elder. Alma was one of the wicked priests of King Noah. He listened to the words of the prophet Abinadi and became converted. This conversion took him into the wilderness, he taught and baptized many people, he lead people to freedom from bondage, and eventually became the high priest of the church.
The scriptures are filled with these stories: David, Daniel, Jeremiah, the list could go on. You could add your name to this list. The truth about conversion is that it doesn’t have to be big and flashy. Conversion is whatever changes you to take the steps every day until you not only know, but believe.
Like my pumpkin cookies, It wasn’t a big flashy thing. I had to spend at least an hour prepping the pumpkin, baking the pumpkin, separating the skin from the pumpkin, and pureeing the pumpkin before I could even try to use it. After that, I had to do the work, mix the ingredients, scoop the dough, bake the cookies, you get the picture. To get the best cookies ever, I had to put in a lot of work. I had many moments of doubt as I scooped the pumpkins and baked them. I had moments of doubt when I once again failed at roasting the seeds (I seriously have never succeeded at that). I had a huge moment of doubt when my cookie dough came out the wrong color. I almost tossed it out without tasting it. But lucky for me I remembered the advice from Duff Goldman “Don’t be afraid to taste your food.”
Conversion is the same way. We start out small. We may or may not have a testimony, but as we work for it and through the moments of doubt and uncertainty, we will have that sweet moment when we taste the dough and know that we are there! We are the best cookie ever, we not only know, but we believe it!
I want to share this awesome quote by Bonnie L. Oscarson: “To believe, we need to get the gospel from our heads into our hearts! It is possible for us to merely go through the motions of living the gospel because it is expected or because it is the culture in which we have grown up or because it is a habit. Perhaps some have not experienced what King Benjamin’s people felt following his compelling sermon: “They all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”
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.” (Bonnie L. Oscarson Do I Believe General Conference April 2016)
And because I can’t resist, one more from Sister Oscarson: “[W]e live in perilous times, and the decisions which you are called upon to make on a daily, or even hourly, basis have eternal consequences. The decisions you make in your daily life will determine what happens to you later. If you do not yet have a firmly rooted testimony and conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, now is the time to do what it takes to gain that conviction. To delay making the effort required to earn that kind of conviction can be dangerous to your soul.
True conversion is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts.”3 In the booklet True to the Faith, we learn that “conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of … righteous efforts to follow the Savior.”4 It takes time, effort, and work.” (Bonnie L. Oscarson Be Ye Converted October 2013 General Conference)
So how do we do it? The cookies were easier, I had recipes to follow. Just like the cookies, Elder Bednar shared the recipe for conversion: “[C]onversion is an ongoing process and not a onetime event that results from a powerful or dramatic experience. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.
Samuel the Lamanite identified five basic elements in becoming converted unto the Lord: (1) believing in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are recorded in the scriptures, (2) exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, (3) repenting, (4) experiencing a mighty change of heart, and (5) becoming “firm and steadfast in the faith” (see Helaman 15:7–8). This is the pattern that leads to conversion.” (Elder David A. Bednar Converted Unto the Lord October 2012 General Conference)
This recipe for conversion is the sure fire way to get the best conversion story ever: yours. Your story may be simple, angel free, and small, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s yours. You know it, you live it, and you believe it!
What is your conversion story?
(oh and here’s the link to the cookie recipe, in case you want to bake some now.)