This is something I shared on 5/21/13 after I had met with my Bishop and Stake President for the first time in beginning my repentance process:
Over the past 6 months as this change in my heart has taken hold, I’ve been continually bothered by the idea that I thought for 37 years I had a testimony of the Gospel yet if that were true, how could I not have had that change of heart? That brought into question many of my previous spiritual experiences and a desire to reconcile the past to my present condition.
In studying 3rd and 4th Nephi, I came across a quote from President Marian G. Romney: “…membership in the Church and conversion are not necessarily synonymous. Being converted…and having a testimony are not necessarily the same thing either. A testimony comes when the Holy Ghost gives the earnest seeker a witness of the truth. A moving testimony vitalizes faith; that is, it induces repentance and obedience to the commandments. Conversion, on the other hand, is the fruit of, or the reward for, repentance and obedience.”
“…’conversion’, … is a faith that works a transformation , an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God…desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died, and substituted therefor is a love of God with fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments…”
I never differentiated conversion from testimony in this way. Not that I didn’t recognize that I hadn’t ever experienced this change of heart, for as I’ve stated before, I had to accept the sad reality that I was a man who had a testimony, yet honestly still had desires to sin, I simply was disciplined enough not to for so many years.
I cannot describe the peace this quote and these scriptures have given me this morning. To know my testimony was real, but that for reasons I can’t fully understand yet, I had not experienced the change of heart that would allow me to honestly say that I “no longer have a disposition to sin” – I no longer, in any way, want anything that isn’t “fit for the kingdom” and fit to dwell with my Heavenly Father and to be qualified to hear those words from my Savior, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
I can strangely and honestly say that while a member with a testimony for 37yrs, I am a very recent convert. I hope the Lord will afford me the chance to help others who may be experiencing the same thing in their lives.