The steps towards personal conversion is not new to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ; it has been taught through the ages and is as old as the beginning of time, serving as a welding together of how the Lord directs the work through His chosen servants. It is simple in practice, yet when one learns to search, ponder, and pray, it becomes a divine process with Eternal blessings.
The concept began with Adam and Eve who, searching for guidance waited upon the Lord after having left the Garden of Eden and “ceased not to call upon God.” (Moses 5:16).
It was Mary the mother of Jesus who kept all the things which she had come to know and “pondered them in her heart”
The Savior taught us in His last hours when instructing His disciples to “pray that ye enter not into temptation,” and then when “he was withdrawn from them ... kneeled down and prayed ,” and with closing words of supplication to His Father said, “ Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”
In our day, young 14 year old boy Joseph Smith commenced his search. He writes: “During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”
“While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
In pondering what he had read Joseph said: “I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know;”
“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to ”ask of God,“ concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.”
After searching, pondering, and with faith unwavering, the confirmation came through sincere prayer: “So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for in the midst of all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.” The morning breaks, the shadows flee and to Joseph the vision opened up a new dimension of understanding for “when the light rested upon me, I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
As with Joseph we too can learn what may be on the horizon for each of us and what the pages of our book of possibilities may hold. Joseph found the answer to his searching question and learned the steps he was to follow. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ”they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.“
As Joseph returned home, the first person to whom he was to reveal what had just occurred was his mother. ”And as I leaned up to the fireplace, my mother inquired what the matter was. I replied “Never mind, all is well – I am well enough off.” He then explained to her what he had learned in answer to his searching question.
I am certain that at the moment his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, who had been a follower of another religious sect of the day recounted what had come to her in 1803 – 2 years prior to the birth of Joseph Smith. It was at a time when she writes of her own search for truth, “I retired to a grove not far distant, where I prayed to the Lord ... that the true gospel might be presented” (History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 43).
Seventeen years later, in the Spring of 1820, the young Joseph Smith, in search of truth, calls upon God. “So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt.”
Joseph's conversion was not yet complete, even though he had seen a vision, as he wrote: “So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages and they did in reality speak to me. For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it.”
The process was repeated and set the stage for the coming forth of The Book of Mormon:
As a boy with continuing persecution Joseph recounts: “I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, and all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continue to affirm that I had seen a vision.”
Once Joseph had set himself on that course it was a beginning not an end. “In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God.”
Moroni then awakens Joseph and instructs him: “that God had a work for me to do.” Moroni also makes known to him the existence of the plates which contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. Three separate times throughout the entire night he was instructed further by Moroni.
The next day, as you can imagine, Joseph was exhausted, and his father, not understanding the lack of strength in his son, told Joseph to go home. Joseph on his way home is met yet again by Moroni who provided, for the fourth time, a remembrance of what had occurred during the previous sleepless night. At the conclusion, Joseph was instructed to return and to tell his father. He was to learn even from his father what he was to do as he recounted to him the events of the night and morning. His father said to his son: “that it was of God and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.”
Joseph's continuing to search, ponder, and pray is repeated over time, during which period he receives the plates and begins the process of translation. “Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven.”
The Book of Mormon Another Witness of Jesus Christ is the record of which representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bring to the world.
Subsequently, priesthood authority was revealed in May 1829 when Joseph and Oliver “on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism... While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us.”
In the same month, the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred under the hands of Peter, James and John.
The Church was organized on April 6, 1830, and the rest is a continuing history, a prophetic example for each of us to follow.
Ways will vary and the answers will not always come in the desired manner, but the practice and simplicity of an individual's desire to search, ponder and pray will always be within ones grasp of divine truths.