I am a Mormon woman. I have roots in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) back to the beginning on my father's side. I am a third generation member on my mother's side. I was born and raised actively in the church. It is my culture and my history. It is that nurture part of my "self". I am an individual within a 14-million member collective. It influences the way I think, the way I dress, the way I eat, the way I talk. I am who I am because of the doctrines I've been taught. But that doesn't make me a zombie or a blind follower.
To the rest of the world outside the Mormon religion I am strange... peculiar... odd. I don't mind that opinion. That is all it is after all... an opinion. Opinions are not facts, just points of view. Nothing more, nothing less.
Just because I was born into the church doesn't mean I automatically knew it was true or that everything I was told was correct. I have had to learn that for myself. Even people who are born into other religions, no matter what religion or lack of religion that may be, still have to be converted to the information they've been given. Even Agnostics and Atheists have been converted to the information they've been taught.
As a member of the LDS church I hear the word "convert" a lot. We talk about converts on a regular basis. Converts are generally referred to as people who join the church on their own and are baptized after the age of eight years old (the youngest age children are baptized into the LDS church - commonly referred to as "the age of accountability"). We are a missionary minded people, inviting as many who will hear to come and be included. We have open doors and welcoming hearts.
I have spent a great deal of time dissecting the ins and outs of conversion. It is a deep concept and not taken as seriously as it should be. I believe conversion is something that happens within the bounds of religion as well as without. We are converted or not converted to every piece of information we hear all throughout our lives.
As members of the LDS church we are taught: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30).
Conversion is making a change in one's behavior as a result of accepting knowledge as truth. But we still have to determine if the knowledge we accept as truth really IS truth. Conversion is only the first step. It takes work and effort and a desire to prove that knowledge. We can't just take someone's word for it. We have to KNOW for ourselves. We have to take the time to learn the basic foundations of any subject and then progress to a higher level of understanding... line upon line, precept upon precept... one step at a time. I have to know how to add before I can understand how to multiply.
So. Any time we are taught anything we have to decide if the information we are hearing is true or false. There are no "half-truths". Either something is true or it isn't. Period. When I am taught that 2+2=4 I have to KNOW that the information is true in order to be truly converted. Someone can tell me that 2+2=4 and I can say, "Okay. If that's what you say, I believe you." But if that is all I am going to do then I would also believe that 2+2=5. I have no basis to know otherwise because I just choose to accept someone else's word for it. There is no proof. A falsehood cannot stand alone and cannot be built upon. If you apply the principle that 2+2=5 it will not be long before everything else you base on that knowledge comes breaking apart.
If someone shows me by giving me two apples and two oranges and then asks me to count them I will KNOW that I have four pieces of fruit. Therefore, the knowledge I have been given has been proven true. I am then converted to the information that 2+2=4. I KNOW it is true. Then I can progress to learn that since 2+2=4, 2 times 2 must also equal 4. Each truth builds upon the truth below it. If it is truth it will never cancel out the knowledge it was built upon. Each higher level of understanding is built upon the lesser degree of knowledge, complimenting and building upon each other to prove the greater knowledge as truth. As each new level is proven and solidified, a new level of understanding can then be added.
Therefore... a person cannot know that what I believe is false until they have done the work to prove that it is false. If they say that Mormons are "this" or Mormons are "that" because someone told them those things without doing the research to find out for themselves, then they might as well say that 2+2=5 because it is the same thing. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we are encouraged to learn the doctrines we are taught and asked to pray to know for ourselves whether or not the things we have been taught are true or not. As a child I relied on my parent's beliefs, but as an adult I am capable of a level of understanding to know for myself.
I am continually being converted every day. I was born into the church, but I am a convert as well. We are all converts to something. We are converts when we become something different as a result of accepting certain knowledge as truth. If I were once a smoker and then quit smoking because I now believe the information that smoking is dangerous for my health, I am now converted to being a non-smoker. I accept the information that smoking is bad for me as truth and change my behavior as a result of that knowledge.
So again, that is what conversion is. Conversion is making a change in one's behavior as a result of accepting knowledge as truth. If I am truly converted I will change my behavior to match what I believe. If I am truly converted to my religion I will live my religion.
So far I have not found anything in all of my lifetime of research and learning as a Mormon to change my mind or to cause me to want to leave the church. I believe it is true. I have not found anything to cause me to believe it is false. I study every single day. I also study other religions and what they believe. I believe in education in order to make a correct choice. I am converted to each principle and doctrine individually as I am capable of understanding them as I cross-reference in the scriptures, ponder, pray and listen to the words of a living prophet on the earth today. I know he has been called of God by the power of the Priesthood. I know this because I have had a witness in my soul by the Holy Ghost that Thomas S. Monson is the one and only living prophet of God on the earth today. There can only be one at a time or else there would be chaos. This church does not belong to Thomas S. Monson. He is a representative of Jesus Christ and is a righteous man. But this church belongs to Jesus Christ. He IS the head of it. I know that He is aware of us, knows us individually by name, and is the Great Mediator for us with God the Father. For me... all of the pieces of the puzzle fit. It all makes sense and the picture becomes clearer and clearer to me with each piece I lay into place. Yes, I was born into the church. I am a lifelong member. But I am also a convert. I've worked hard for that title.