One of the longstanding objectives of the Church is to deepen conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which prophets have promised will lead to lasting joy and happiness.1
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, my wife and I were blessed to experience this joy and happiness amongst a wonderful group of Saints in Windhoek, Namibia. Here we witnessed Saints who showed by their actions their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The following are three examples which touched me deeply.
During a leadership meeting on Saturday, after providing some training, we opened the meeting up for questions and answers. A sister on a pew towards the back raised her hand, identified herself as the district Relief Society president, and asked the following question; “Can we have a second or third or even fourth calling in the Church?” My immediate assumption was that she was concerned about sisters becoming overburdened by the demands of Church service, especially in a district where the total membership is not large. So, I proceeded to explain that in the Church we try to follow a policy of no more than one calling per member. To my surprise, she looked somewhat crestfallen and disappointed by this response. In the tender discussion that followed, I came to understand the purity and honest intent of her question. Although she is serving as a Relief Society president, she yearns to do more, and far from complaining, was actually hoping she could have more callings and assignments. I was profoundly humbled by her righteous desires to serve and was taught a beautiful lesson by her remarkable example of deep conversion. With renewed spiritual understanding, we then talked about how even with one calling we can find great joy in ministering and seeking opportunities to serve as the Saviour would, well beyond our prescribed meetings and specific assignments. In recalling this humbling experience, I am reminded of the Saviour’s statement as he visited with the Nephites that “so great faith have I never seen”2.
During that same Saturday afternoon leadership meeting, I noticed some youth slip into the meeting and reverently and attentively listen to the teachings and discussion. I was surprised to see them, as those invited to the leadership meeting were adult district and branch council members, and typically youth are not anxious to sit through long additional Church meetings, especially when not directed at them. After the meeting, we went to meet these fine young people and to learn more about them. I was astonished to learn that they had just arrived on a public transportation bus from seven hours away. They had come straight to the meetinghouse with the desire to feel the Spirit during this weekend district conference. It was obvious that they were full of joy at being in the midst of fellow members of the Church far from their homes in the north of Namibia. Several were new converts, and several were actively preparing to serve missions despite living in a town where there was no organized unit of the Church. They were led by a wonderful returned missionary who radiates the joy of the gospel and is appropriately named Happy. Immediately following the Sunday session of the conference, this impressive group of young people would once again get on a bus for the seven-hour return journey so they could be home in time for school and work on Monday. I marveled at their willingness to journey from so far at great personal sacrifice to hear the word of the Lord and am delighted to know that now in their own town of Ongwediva, we have since organized a branch of the Church.
The third example of deep conversion began after the Saturday evening adult session of conference. It was a wonderful Spirit-filled meeting where many members shared their profoundly personal experiences of how they were introduced to the Church or how, through the love of a fellow member, they were brought back to the fold. The Spirit clearly taught all of us the great spiritual power that accompanies a simple invitation extended with love to come and see or to come back home.
I invited all present to think of a family member or friend who was less active, or not of our faith, that they could call that very night and invite to join with us on the morrow. The next morning, at the conclusion of a spiritually uplifting Sunday morning conference session, I was overwhelmed as many members came forward eager to introduce us to their nonmember friends and less-active family members, who they had invited the night before to come with them for this Sabbath conference meeting. It was a joyous experience to witness the love felt by those invited, and the love and faith of those who had acted on the invitation received the night before. Truly, they experienced the joy Ammon described in being an instrument in the hands of the Lord by inviting others to come and partake of the joy of the gospel.3
In the months since this privileged association with our brothers and sisters in Namibia I have thought often of the Lord’s promise that “where two [or more] are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.4 My heart is changed, and my testimony strengthened as I learn from faithful Saints like these what it really means to be a disciple of Christ. And I feel great joy from feeling the love of God that is poured out upon those who gather together to strengthen one another by “the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost.”5
Through these simple yet powerful examples of true conversion, we learn what it is to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”.6 We see the difference between testimony and conversion. There is a difference between knowing what is true and acting on what we know to be true. Jesus Christ taught that conversion is deepened through a willingness to act in faith. He plainly taught that it is by doing His will that we will come to know of His doctrine.7 Each of the three examples I have shared were not only outward manifestations of conversion but were also acts of faith by which conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ would sink even deeper into the hearts of these good and faithful members.
May we seek to deepen our conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ by following His example in all areas of our lives. This includes serving others, sacrificing to hear the word of the Lord, and sharing the joy of the gospel with love and enthusiasm. I testify that no matter our circumstances, this is what will bring each of us lasting joy and happiness.
S. Mark Palmer was named a General Authority Seventy in April 2016. He is married to Jacqueline Ann Wood; they are the parents of six children.