Lesson 22 of the Gospel Doctrines Class covers Alma chapters 5-7 in the Book of Mormon. It emphasizes the “mighty change” of heart that Mormonism labels conversion. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, points to Mosiah 5:2 to describe what that mighty change involves. “The Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, … 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.”
It also refers to 4 Nephi 1,2,15-1: “the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. … And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people…And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God…There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” As this quote emphasizes, LDS conversion involves more than no more having a disposition to do evil, but also entails the actual refraining from evil.
There are two other aspects of conversion, as defined by Mormonism, that can be emphasized. One is that it is “a process, not an event” (True to the Faith, p. 41) and secondly, “you have primary responsibility for your own conversion” (p.43). “Your capacity to experience a mighty change of heart will increase as you strive to follow the Savior’s perfect example. Study the scriptures, pray in faith, keep the commandments, and seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.” (p.43)
Compare that to the most famous conversion described in the Bible. It’s Paul’s conversion recorded in Acts 9. Does it fit the criteria above? Was Paul striving to be converted? Did Paul have the primary responsibility for his own conversion? Was he striving to follow the Savior’s perfect example? The answer is no to all the above. He was persecuting Christians. The last thing he had in mind was to convert to Christianity! How about after his conversion? Did he refrain from all evil? No. He had a sharp contention with his co-worker, Barnabas (Acts 15:39). He lamented how he could not do the good he wanted to do, but instead did evil (Romans 7). He, an apostle, had not achieved what Mormonism lays out for its members. Furthermore, Paul says his conversion is a pattern for others (1 Timothy 1:16).
This then serves as another in a long line illustrating how Mormonism defines terms differently than the Bible does. In the Bible, conversion is an act of God as so aptly illustrated in Paul’s conversion. He is the one who makes us spiritually alive when we were spiritually dead. He is the one who spiritually enlightens us when we were spiritually blind. And in the Bible, conversion is a turning away from trust in one’s own worthiness and works to trust in Jesus’ worthiness and works for you. Converted people still sin. But they also know that they are forgiven instantaneously in Christ. Instead of undergoing a long painful process of repentance to obtain forgiveness, converted people praise God and rejoice in the forgiveness that is already theirs in Christ. Unlike how it is portrayed in Mormonism, conversion in the Bible doesn’t focus people on themselves and their efforts, but on the amazing love and effort of God. Also when it comes to conversion the following applies. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)