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)



11 Responses to “Conversion”

  1. 1 shematwater
    May 31, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    You need to read Paul’s conversion again. He suffered greatly. In fact he was blinded and lay sick in bed for a number of days until Ananias came to heal him. According to Acts 9 he was blind and did not eat or sleep for three days, but prayed unto God.
    After this experience he went to spend some time in Arabia before he ever set out to preach.
    So “Was Paul striving to be converted?” I would say yes, as shown by his behavior after seeing the vision, and especially in taking time off in Arabia before preaching. There was a definite process to Paul’s conversion.
    “Did Paul have the primary responsibility for his own conversion?” Again yes, as shown in the fact that he was praying, and in the fact that God said that this was the reason Ananias was sent to him.
    “Was he striving to follow the Savior’s perfect example?” Again yes, as evidenced through his entire ministry and the many epistles that he wrote.
    So, by the evidence of the Bible Paul’s conversion is the perfect model for what the LDS teach is the way to conversion.

    One big problem you have in your analysis of LDS doctrine is your assumption that the striving has to come first. You speak as though one must be striving to follow Christ and be converted before the process starts, when it is clear that it is part of the process. For Paul that process started after his vision, and thus it is the time after the vision that we have to look at to see evidence of this process, not the time before.

    You also make an error when you quote 4 Nephi and then claim “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.” Conversion does not entail refraining from all evil. That is found in complete and total repentance, which is achieved by very few in this life. Repentance is not the same as conversion, though the two must go together.\

    Fourth Nephi is describing a perfect society; one in which no person has a disposition to do evil, and thus they strengthen each other, hold each other up, and limit any temptation to do evil. In a society where many have a disposition to do evil, and tempt others into doing evil as well, those without this disposition for evil can still be lured away into sinful acts. This difference in society must be understood before any analysis or comparison can be done.

  2. 2 markcares
    May 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    You need to read the story of Paul’s conversion again. He was converted when the Lord appeared to him. That is the point he makes in Acts 26 when he recounts the story. Paul’s view of his conversion is not centered on himself. His is a Christ-centered view.

  3. 3 JBR
    May 31, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Interesting observation … and correct.
    Two supposedly “great civilizations” and not a one person had “contentions and disputations … no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness”

    Really… ? no lying? ——- Let’s forget that there is no evidence of two such civilizations which would discredit the writer of Nephi …

    But he is calling God a liar when God revealed that the hearts of people are evil all the time, no one is righteous-not even one, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rages.

    Conditional forgiveness …. how Satanic of a message is that?

  4. 4 joshtried
    May 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    If Paul’s conversion was not a process, and no other apostles conversion was a process, none of them would have ever doubted Christ. The very fact that every single one of them questioned Christ at some point shows that they were “still working on it.”

    I am also noticing a difference in the way i post vs. the way a lot of you post. Often times there are posts with very specific scripture saying “Look, you are wrong because of this one single scripture.” You must take all scripture into account in its fullness to give a proper answer. Almost any person can pull out a SINGLE scripture to support whatever they want. Making that view fit with the ENTIRE Bible or any other scripture is a different matter. Please try and keep this in mind.

    Two supposedly “great civilizations” and not a one person had “contentions and disputations … no envying, nor strife, nor tumults, nor whoredom, nor lying, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness” Really… ? no lying?
    JBR, you and I would (and should) both concede that through Christ ALL (ALLLLLLL) things are possible. Why do you say that Christ is not able to work this out? Why can these people not work this out THROUGH CHRIST, in whom all things are possible?

    Also, Mark. In an unrelated matter, would it be possible to get your email address? I would like to ask you something “offline.”

  5. 5 JBR
    June 2, 2012 at 3:35 am

    A person can not be sort of righteous or sort of perfect. What is being described of these two peoples is nothing short of sinless people….. and there is no such creature.

  6. June 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

  7. 7 shematwater
    June 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm


    I still don’t agree. He saw the vision as the point of conversion, which would indicate more when he started the process. He does not speak of this as the only moment, but as the defining moment.
    One must also note that he is testifying before a King as a prisoner. While not on trial the setting is going to affect his words, and thus he is going to focus on that part that will resonate the most with his audience; in this case, the vision.
    The Bible does not say that at the moment of the vision he was fully converted.

  8. 8 joshtried
    June 5, 2012 at 4:18 am

    JBR, my appologies for not replying in a more timely manner. I forgot about this thread as there werent many posts here..
    Anyway, you are partly correct in your assumption that these people would ve sinless. From THAT POINT FORWARD, they would be sinless. Do you deny that God has that kind of life altering power? We are not saying the people’s lives were always perfect, we are saying from X point forward there lives are perfect. What makes that difficult to understand?

  9. 9 markcares
    June 8, 2012 at 2:52 am

    A few days I sent you an email with my email address as you requested. Did you get it?

  10. 10 JBR
    June 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    God could (and I emphasize c o u l d ) do anything to his pleasure, however “what if” isn’t factual truths.

    The truth is that what is being described of these two peoples is false for several reasons:

    [1] These peoples have never existed
    [2] People do not behave as described … be that if they are a believer or heathen

    Jesus revealed in 1 John 1:8 that when such claims like 4 Nephi 1,2,15-1 …. then it is that source ( 4 Nephi 1,2,15-1) is the lie.

    And for what ever reason, this seems to be harder for you to understand than for me (in your opinion) to legitimate a what if scenario.

  11. 11 shematwater
    June 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm


    What you seem to find impossible to understand is that no one, not even the book of 4 Nephi, is claiming these people were without sin for their entire lives, which is partly what Josh is getting at. They had a perfect society, in which no one tried to control others, where there was no dispute as to rulership and law, where there was no contentions over what was true and what wasn’t.
    Nowhere does it say that the individuals in this society were perfect and never sinned. It says that the society itself, as a unit, was a perfect society. As the Bible only speaks of individuals it does not apply to the descriptions in 4 Nephi. This is what you need to understand.

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May 2012

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