Elder Holland gave a talk he titled “The First Great Commandment.” When I first listened to it, I didn’t understand the point in the talk aside from the apostles being reprimanded for going back to fishing after Christ’s crucifixion. I came across a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that opened my understanding of the two great commandments. Then I began to understand what Elder Holland may have been saying. Let me try to explain.
“15. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16. And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
The question that I am asking is, “Who is the one soul?” Once we identify the one soul we can then easily identify the many souls. I believe that Elder Holland was pointing at Christ telling the apostles that they where the one soul, and now it was time to tell others- the many souls. The one soul will be the topic of this blog.
A return missionary spoke this Sunday in my ward. He said that when he read this scripture before his mission he thought that the one soul was the first convert baptism he would have. He learned throughout his mission that the one soul was himself. I had the same impression about that scripture. It is my understanding that the Lord needs us to come unto him first, we are the one soul. We are to seek an individual conversion.
I’ll use a few scriptures to illustrate, including the one I used above, but I want to point out a pattern to all of these scriptures that might help you recognize how they all connect. The pattern is always: first the individual conversion, then the turning and helping build zion by serving others to obtain individual conversion.
“21. Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
Can you see the pattern here? It is: First seek to obtain my word (individual conversion), then our tongue is loosed to teach others (help others obtain individual conversion.)
“32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
33. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”
Recognize the pattern? Peter is told that when he is converted (individual conversion), strengthen thy brethren (help others obtain individual conversion.) Also notice that Peter is not happy hearing this. He tries to convince the Lord that he is converted by claiming that he would go to prison with Christ, even to die with Christ. Perhaps Christ is asking for Peter to live as one with Christ, to give up his mind and will for Christ’s mind and will.
“37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38. This is the first and great commandment.
39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Do you see it here too? Love God with all your heart, soul and mind (individual conversion). Then we are commanded to Love thy neighbor as thyself (help others obtain individual conversion.) In the following verse the Lord tells the lawyer that, “On these two commandments hang all… the law and the prophets.” That seems to be a lot of weight placed upon two great commandments.
The pattern is evident that first there must be a personal individual conversion, before you are to assist others with their conversion. Two questions naturally occur from there:
- What does it mean to be converted?
- What do we do in the mean time as we work toward conversion?
Obviously Peter thought that he was converted at the time Christ told him, “when you are converted…” Many of us may feel the same right now. We might say, “I am converted?”Some members believe that all they need to do to be considered converted is to do the basics (attend church, keep the basic commandments, pay tithing, do home teaching, scripture study, family home evening, etc.). There is a large range of people who believe that all you must do is be baptized. And a greater range of people who believe that merely confessing that Jesus is their savior is enough. So how do you know that you are truly, guaranteed converted, without a doubt? I want to suggest that one can know for a certainty that they are definitely converted when Christ comes to you in the flesh, lays his hands on your head and seals you his. Then there can be no doubt! No man can convince you that you are not. A person with this testimony will never, no never, no never forsake.
Peter had not had this yet. He had yet to be converted, even though he had been involved in miracles after miracles. It wasn’t very long after his conversation with Christ that Peter became converted. We don’t have the account that pin-points the event at which Peter was considered converted. However, the prophet Nephi in the book of Helaman does highlight a point of conversion.
Helaman 10:4-5, 12
“4. Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
12. And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him, concerning their destruction if they did not repent.”
Here we find Nephi being announced by an Angel as one who has been converted. Nephi was the “one soul” that was brought to Christ. An Angel appeared to declare Nephi’s blessing. That Angel said, “thou art Nephi and I am God…” Interesting, huh. Now Nephi has the experience of understanding how great is his joy in the kingdom of the Father. The Angel also declares what qualified him as converted. He lists them:
- With unwearyingness declared the word of God
- Did not fear the negative repercussions of onlooking men
- Not sought his own will, or his own life
- Sought for God’s will and to keep his commandments.
It is evident that the Angel has previously observed Nephi in times past, without disclosing his identity to Nephi. But this time the Angel has been given permission to disclose his identity to Nephi, …and to give him power. Here is a list of the powers Nephi was entrusted with, because he would not ask that which was contrary to God’s will (Nephi’s mind and will was the same as Christ’s mind and will- Zion):
- Blessed Forever (Nephi is inseparably connected to the powers of heaven now)
- Made mighty in word
- Made mighty in deed
- Made mighty in faith
- Made mighty in works
- All things would be done according to his word
After obtaining such wonderful blessings and experiencing the joy, Nephi, in verse 12, goes out to call the many to repentance. He doesn’t go home, he goes straightway to teach others to do the same as he did, so that they too can obtain the same power and trust from god.
This brings us full circle back to the point of Elder Hollands talk. Peter and the other apostles had been converted, but were lost to what to do now that Christ was dead. They went back to what they understood- fishing. After a long night of catching no fish, just like the first time, a figure on the beach calls out to them and tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they catch a bunch of fish, Peter recognizes the savior and leaps off the boat and swims to shore to embrace Christ. Christ asks Peter, “Why are you here fishing?” Peter and the apostles had obtained the first half (individual conversion) and had brought one soul unto Christ, themselves. Now Christ reminded them of the second half of the law, upon which hang all the laws and the prophets. The apostles spend the rest of their days teaching others to be converted, they loved their neighbor as themselves. Christ’s question to the apostles of “why are you fishing?” was an call for to the apostles to share the “right way” back to Christ with others.
Unless you have been sealed his, by the laying on of hands by Christ himself, you are not yet converted! I hope that this doesn’t offend you. Repentance has never been a negative thing. Repentance is only a call to all men to align with Christ. It is only when you do not desire to align, that you will be offended when called to repent. Every word from the mouth of the Savior is a call to repentance and alignment. This is not to be confused with “accusation.” The words “to accuse” are represented in the Greek language as “de-a-blos” (diablos or devils), and in Hebrew as “Sha-tahn” (or satan). Satan is the father of contention or… accusation. This is not the same as crying repentance. Repentance is a gesture of love. Only through love can one align with Christ.
So what do we do until we are converted?
2 Nephi 25:26
“26. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
Nephi, in the example above, was observed by the heavens doing this very thing with unwearyingness. If we want the same blessing, we must do the same thing. I conclude by repeating that there is not a right and a wrong way. All we have is a right way… and then there is everything else. When you and I discover the right way, by the study of the words of Christ and by revelation, we will automatically be on the same path- one heart and one mind (Zion). Our personal journey and efforts are meant to bring the “one soul” unto Christ. That “one soul” is you.
Note: I discussed this topic with a friend of mine and he asked me, then what about missionary work and sharing the gospel? I responded with a quote I was told about making a million dollars, which goes, “I heard that making your first million is the hardest, so I decided to start by working on my second million.” It just doesn’t work out that way. The horse comes before the cart, not the other way around. What I’m saying is, missionary work is a bi-product of talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, etc. Our traditional mentality uses compulsory means to get us out of our “comfort zone,” hoping that in the sharing of the word, you might gain an understanding. Not the most effective method. That flame will always peter out. The best method for sharing the gospel is to experience it for yourself. Now when you share, it’s not just theory, it’s testimony.