I Have a Question

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    What did Jesus mean when he said to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”? What is conversion?

    Daniel H. Ludlow, Chairman, Adult Correlation Committee of the Church: The basic meaning of the word convert is “to turn around, to transform, or to change.” Thus, when a person is truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, his whole life is changed. The scriptures refer to such a person as having been “reborn,” because he becomes a new person.

    However, a person can be convinced of something without being so affected by it that it causes a change in his behavior. For example, millions of people in America today are convinced that cigarette smoking is not good for them, yet they continue to smoke cigarettes.

    When the Savior was at Caesarea Philippi, he asked the disciples who they thought he was. “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:16–17.) This answer indicated Peter was convinced of Christ’s divinity.

    But the Savior knew Peter was still not fully converted. Thus, at the Feast of the Passover, the Savior said to Peter,” … when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren.” Peter replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” Then the Savior, who knew Peter even better than Peter knew himself, said, “… I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” (Luke 22:32–34.) The events of that night later proved Peter was not yet converted, even though he was convinced.

    President Joseph F. Smith suggested that none of the disciples of Jesus Christ were fully converted at the time of the Feast of the Passover, or even at the time of his crucifixion. He stated:

    “To my mind it strongly appears that not one of the disciples possessed sufficient light, knowledge, nor wisdom, at the time of the crucifixion for either exaltation or condemnation; for it was afterward that their minds were opened to understand the scriptures, and that they were endowed with power from on high; without which they were only children in knowledge, in comparison to what they afterwards became under the influence of the Spirit.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th edition, Deseret News, 1919, p. 433.)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie has suggested that the conversion of the faithful disciples, including Peter, took place on the Day of Pentecost:

    “Conversion is more—far more—than merely changing one’s belief from that which is false to that which is true; it is more than the acceptance of the verity of gospel truths, than the acquirement of a testimony. To convert is to change from one status to another, and gospel conversion consists in the transformation of man from his fallen and carnal state to a state of saintliness. …

    “In real conversion, which is essential to salvation (Matt. 18:3), the convert not only changes his beliefs, casting off the false traditions of the past and accepting the beauties of revealed religions, but he changes his whole way of life, and the nature and structure of his very being is quickened and changed by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    “Peter is the classic example of how the power of conversion works on receptive souls. During our Lord’s mortal ministry, Peter had a testimony, born of the Spirit, of the divinity of Christ and of the great plan of salvation which was in Christ. ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ he said, as the Holy Ghost gave him utterance. (Matt. 16:13–19.) When others fell away, Peter stood forth with the apostolic assurance, ‘We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (John 6:69.) Peter knew, and his knowledge came by revelation.

    “But Peter was not converted, because he had not become a new creature of the Holy Ghost. Rather, long after Peter had gained a testimony, and on the very night Jesus was arrested, he said to Peter: ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ (Luke 22:32.) Immediately thereafter, and regardless of his testimony, Peter denied that he knew Christ. (Luke 22:54–62.) After the crucifixion, Peter went fishing, only to be called back to the ministry by the risen Lord. (John 21:1–17.) Finally on the day of Pentecost the promised spiritual endowment was received; Peter and all the faithful disciples became new creatures of the Holy Ghost; they were truly converted; and their subsequent achievements manifest the fixity of their conversions. (Acts 3, 4.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Bookcraft Co., 1973, vol. 1, pp. 770–71.)

    The lesson taught by Peter’s experience is one all of us should learn: to be convinced is not enough. We must also become converted.

    Can you give me some practical suggestions on how I can fulfill my calling as the patriarch to my children?

    H. John Ploeger, President, Denver Colorado Stake: The calling of a father in the home is the most important calling that a man can have. In an eternal perspective, it is a position from which a man is never released. He always has the great responsibility to bring his wife and children back to the presence of our Father in heaven.

    One of the first responsibilities is to know your children; know their goals, aspirations, and problems. It would be a good thing for a father to sit down in a private session with each of his children on a regular basis and, where appropriate, help them set goals and evaluate their progress in achieving the goals they set. These sessions should be special for each child and should reflect the love that grows between a father and his children.

    These special sessions between a father and his children need not wait until they encounter the problems that come with being teenagers. Sessions can begin much earlier as a father prepares his children for baptism and begins to teach them the gospel.

    Of course these “special times” should reflect unity in the home and should be supportive of the relationship between a mother and her children. A father and mother should counsel together “always” about the stewardship God has given them.

    Another significant way a father can fulfill his patriarchal role in the home is through the example he sets. Our children learn best by imitating our actions and words, especially the words we use when we are not talking to them. Our sons notice when we go uncomplainingly to priesthood meeting and when we show honest concern for our assigned priesthood home teaching families. Our daughters observe the way we treat their mother and their brothers. Our children soon come to understand the way we deal in business and with our neighbors. This power of example, both for good and bad, cannot be underestimated.

    The Church has developed and encouraged the family home evening program which helps every father fulfill his responsibilities. It can become a highlight of the week and give the father the opportunity to lead his family as they learn the gospel from each other.

    A father is exercising his patriarchal responsibility when he teaches his family to pray and uses his priesthood power to give father’s blessings and to heal the sick in his home. Father’s blessings serve the same function as a guide and teacher that patriarchal blessings do. Fathers may be inspired to promise their children the blessings of the gospel with the same spirit that prompts ordained patriarchs. These priesthood functions cannot be delegated to a mother; they are uniquely patriarchal.

    All that we do as fathers in the home is directed at the end result of preparing our sons to be fathers and our daughters to be mothers, the kind of fathers and mothers that the Lord wants them to be.

    How are we to look at the Beatitudes and make them useful in our lives?

    Dr. Monte S. Nyman, associate professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University: The Beatitudes should be looked upon as the higher law given to those who have come unto Christ through the waters of baptism. This is made known through the Book of Mormon restoration of the plain and precious parts lost from the biblical account in Matthew. The Book of Mormon account begins with two blessed conditions that have not been retained in the account in Matthew: (1) blessed are those who were present and accepted baptism at the hands of the Twelve, and (2) blessed are those who were not present but later believed and accepted baptism at their hands. Both groups were promised a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. While these two blessed conditions have been listed by some Latter-day Saint writers as two additional Beatitudes, they are really the foundation upon which all the following Beatitudes are built.

    The third verse in the Book of Mormon rendition (3 Ne. 12:3) agrees with the Matthew account: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but adds “who come unto me” (Christ) before promising a blessing. The phrase “who come unto me” restates the doctrine of the first two blessed conditions of believing and being baptized. This is further substantiated by the addition of the beginning word “yea” in 3 Nephi 12:3 [3 Ne. 12:3], which is to say “indeed” or “truly,” reaffirming the principle that the believing will enter the waters of baptism. (See also 3 Ne. 21:6; 3 Ne. 27:20; and D&C 84:49–51.)

    Both of these fuller teachings in the Nephite account are in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version rendition of chapter 5 of Matthew. The reward of the kingdom of heaven is of course for the baptized, since only those who have been baptized can be in the kingdom of heaven (compare Mark 16:15–16; D&C 84:74). The rewards for each of the subsequent Beatitudes are likewise applicable only to those who have been baptized.

    As a unit the Beatitudes may be looked upon as a complete set of laws to bring about perfection. As the Savior declared on another occasion, all the law and the Prophets hang on the two commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. (Matt. 22:36–40.) The Beatitudes can likewise be summarized into these two commandments. The first four—being poor in spirit or lacking in spirit, mourning over one’s sins, being meek or teachable, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness—are all rewarded by turning to or loving God. The last five—being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and enduring persecution both from without and within—are all related to one’s relationship with his neighbors and are really a test of true neighborliness as they deal with those who would normally be considered one’s enemies.

    The Beatitudes are useful as we strive to meet the conditions specified. The beginning point, of course, is to realize our lack of the Spirit in our lives and to come unto Christ through the waters of baptism that we might receive the blessing of the Spirit. Further, as we recognize and mourn over our sins, we are comforted by the Holy Ghost’s bringing us remission of those sins. If we are meek and teachable, the Holy Ghost leads us eventually to inherit the earth. As we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we are filled with the Holy Ghost or become sanctified, which is prerequisite for entering the celestial kingdom. As we are merciful to our fellow human beings, we receive the mercy of the atonement of Christ in our lives. By purifying our thoughts and actions, we prepare ourselves to live with God, for no unclean thing can dwell in his presence. Peace comes through living the gospel, and as we teach this to others we become peacemakers and are recognized as God’s children. Finally, as we endure persecution for the right reasons, we receive eternal joy, gladness, rewards, and added strength to endure, knowing the prophets have endured persecution in ages past. The meaning of the Beatitudes for us today depends on the degree to which we live them.

    The challenge of the Beatitudes is a celestial challenge, and applying them in our lives leads to eternal life.