Come, Follow Me: The Unseen Costs of Conversion
The long road to conversion is painful and filled with trials – for our benefit and strength.
After a lot of hard work… the sons of King Mosiah had a successful mission among the Lamanites, helping many come to a knowledge of the truth and find peace and happiness.
At least… that’s the story I was told in primary.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this presentation. It is an important perspective. The sons of Mosiah not only refused to accept the throne of the Nephites, but they were willing to endure hunger, thirst, prison, rejection, and sorrow so they could share the message of Jesus Christ with the Lamanites. There is value in learning about the sacrifices they made as missionaries, and how the Lord blessed them.
Of course, the story does not end with a “they lived happily ever after…” In fact, the Lamanites who converted were absolutely terrified they may fall back into old habits. So much was their fear they buried their weapons of war, abandoning physical defenses to resist spiritual dangers. And not long after, their enemies came to test their resolve. Determined to cleave to the spiritual truths they had discovered, they allowed their opponents to slay them without opposition.
But then… more Lamanites felt guilty and were converted to the truth than the number who had been slain… so then everyone lived happily ever after.
At least… that’s the story I was told in youth Sunday School.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this presentation. It is an important perspective. The faith of those who gave their lives was not only a means of salvation through them, but their humility and sacrifice influenced other precious children of God to repent and come unto Christ. There is value in learning about the sacrifices they made, and how the Lord blessed them.
Of course, the story does not end there. In fact, the Lamanites knew they could not simply rely on the mercy of enemies who were becoming increasingly hardened. And so they negotiated with the Nephites and made for the land of Jershon, where they hoped they would be able to live and work in peace. But not long after, their enemies came to test their resolve again. The Nephites, who were not in the process of repentance for bloodlust, were fully able to stand up to the armies of Lamanites.
And then… Mormon writes, “And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad. Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi…. And now this was a time that there was a great mourning and lamentation heard throughout all the people of Nephi – Yea, the cry of widows mourning for their husbands, and also of fathers mourning for their sons, and the daughter for the brother, yea, the brother for the father; and thus the cry of mourning was heard among all of them, mourning for their kindred who had been slain.”
When the sons of Mosiah went to bring the Lamanites the truths of Jesus, it was certainly not to provoke a war that cost their people dearly, but ultimately, the results of their missionary efforts came only with a great and unexpected cost.
Was it worth it? All the pain and death for a bit of missionary work?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the hidden cost of conversion:
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?”
The same story can be said for your conversion.
Jesus wanted YOU to learn the truths that can bring lasting peace and happiness. He knew it would not be easy. He knew He would be required to suffer, and ultimately, to die. Even this knowledge was insufficient to express the hidden cost of conversion. He trembled with pain and plead with his Father for some alternative – but there was none. He suffered worse than any other has ever suffered, only to be betrayed, mocked, and murdered.
Perhaps you have struggled with your own unexpected hardships for the sake of your testimony. Perhaps it has cost relationships, jobs, or opportunities. Perhaps you have been mocked or hurt. Perhaps it has, at times, seemed unbearable. And in these moments of pain and doubt, an enemy may come to test your resolve. And even if you hold on, it may not mean that you get a “happily ever after” right away… or for months… or for years…
Was it worth it?
Jesus seems to think so.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.“
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, June 29-July 5.
- “Overcoming the World” -Elder Neil L. Andersen, April 2017
- “God Will Have a Tried People” -Elder Howard W. Hunter, April 1980
- “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear” -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2017
Brett Jensen manages The Ward Preacher. You can follow him on Twitter @wardpreacher.