It took her a few minutes to digest what follows, then we were engaged in conversation the rest of the trip. As we parted, she looked at me with wide eyes and said something I've never forgotten. Said she, "You're not like any Mormon I've ever talked to before!"
There is a modern contortion of the truth, and it is twisted and inaccurate. It is that one must forsake the Mormon Church to be born again and to be saved by Jesus.
Throughout my life I have known many who have plied their wares with such apostate drivel. Once I had a counselor in the bishopric whose father started "Saints Alive in Jesus." Their ilk is all too familiar to the living prophets among us, and I have always thought President George Albert Smith had it about right when he said: "Many have belittled Joseph Smith, and those who have will be forgotten in the remains of mother earth and the odor of their infamy will be ever with them, but honor, majesty, and fidelity to God attached to Joseph Smith's name and exemplified by him will never die." Elder Harold B. Lee, reacting eighteen months later in General Conference, said: "I wish that statement could be heard to all the ends of the earth." (CR, October 1941. 66-67).
There is one such character on the airwaves today, whose web page I encountered after I had decided to blog about this topic this morning. He can be found on Google by searching "Born Again Mormon." I clicked on a You Tube link because it intrigued me, but I was sorely disappointed in his eight-minute interview of a faithful member of the Church, "John," who struggled to make the "linkage" I have supplied below. We simply need to be better equipped as members of the Church to respond to false doctrine when confronted with it.
Do not be deceived, fellow members of the Church -- the quest of a lifetime is precisely this: To become a Born-Again Mormon.
The writings of Paul, Alma, Nephi, Moroni and others are replete with references to the necessity of being “born again,” yet it is a doctrine that seldom receives the attention it deserves in the institution of the Church today. When was the last time you heard a sermon from the pulpit about being born again? So fundamental is this doctrine in the plan of happiness that it is the first thing Alma declares when he awakens from the stupor with which he was afflicted when the angel appeared to him and his companions. Let it be remembered that Alma had done nothing to “earn” his salvation. Like Paul, his conversion was a gift:
For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off. Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more. (Mosiah 27:24-29, emphasis mine).
Once he was converted, “born again,” “born of the Spirit,” his voice was one continuous appeal for the rest of his life. He took up his cross of discipleship as his father before him had done. Was his father, Alma, the member of wicked King Noah’s court, also born again?
And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell? Behold, I can tell you — did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them? And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true. And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body? Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely; And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again. (Alma 5:10-15; 33-34; 49, emphasis mine).
Paul’s is the same voice as Alma’s to the members of the church in his day, reminding them of the nature of the covenant they had entered into when they were baptized:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead rection: Knowing this, that with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (Romans 6:3-13, emphasis mine).
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24, emphasis mine).
Baptized members of God’s kingdom on earth walk through a gate placing them on a path leading toward eternal life. (See 2 Nephi 31:17). It is a new life as they walk that path. They leave their former sins outside the gate. They are born again into a newness of life. They die pertaining to sin and live in the Spirit. They put off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19), bury their sins I the watery grave of baptism, and come forth “resurrected” to righteousness. All of this, of course, is symbolic. The spiritual reality of the symbolism depends entirely upon the individual’s desires after he or she walks through the gate of baptism. Righteousness is a gift of the Spirit. Goodness comes from God. Being good is having the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to direct us. We must accept the gift that is offered to us. We can do nothing to earn the Spirit, but we must yield our hearts and our will, submit and welcome the Spirit.
Often we are so blinded by Satan’s power over us in this world that we walk contrary to the covenant we make, and his subtle persuasion binds us down with “flaxen” (slowly woven) cords. (See 2 Nephi 26:22). In this life, we observe a lot of breakage among our family members and others. Anything more or less than these following elementary truths designed to overcome the carnage and wreckage comes of Satan:
Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely. Behold, this is my doctrine — whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. (D&C 10:66-69).
Note that in the passage just cited the word “church” is spelled with a lower case “c” – not an upper case “C”. Institutions cannot save people just by baptizing them and putting their names on the records of the Church. All the institution can do is to administer the outward ordinances by the authority of the priesthood keys it possesses. Do not misunderstand – the ordinances are absolutely essential, but they have no intrinsic power to save. That's what concerned President Hinckley so much -- "retention."
Listen again to these words, as the Savior defines discipleship to the Nephites:
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine. And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth. (3 Nephi 11:31-41).
Nephi summarized the doctrine of the path of salvation and eternal life at the end of his record in this synopsis:
And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. (2 Nephi 31:16-21).
It would be difficult to find a member of this Church who would quarrel with the doctrine of Christ as it is outlined above in the two previous references. However, there are those in the Church today who will stand before you and tell you there is something more, some extraordinary condition or set of conditions you must first satisfy in order to gain your exaltation. I have stood before congregations and asked how many expect to be exalted, and literally had no one in the audience raise their hands. How sad! How shortsighted! How lacking in faith in the power of Christ’s atonement to save and exalt!
The problem seems to be applying the principles and ordinances of the gospel as defined in the 4th Article of Faith. We stumble and fumble away our righteousness from time to time, but sooner or later we must each submit to a true conversion of self, whether we were born under the covenant or arrived later in life via the waters of baptism in our adult years. To think conversion is “automatic” because of our noble birthright and we’ve grown up in the Church from the time of our birth and received all the ordinances in due course is just silly and contrary to the revealed Word. Where “breakage” is concerned, we need look no further than the increasing number of young adults who complete all their Eagle Scout and Young Women’s Recognition awards and then drift off into forbidden paths.
"John," the interviewee to whom I made reference at the beginning, when asked where he would go if he died today, responded without hesitation that he would go the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. When pressed, however, his answers were comprised of a long checklist of things he had done to merit that degree of glory: Married in the temple, paid his tithing, attended Church, went regularly to the temple, kept his covenants, believed in the Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, knew the Church was true, etc. Not once, however, did "John" mention that he was a repentant sinner who was relying upon the saving perfection and blood of Christ's atonement.
We are baptized and confirmed at the age of accountability – age eight – and we move through the various programs of the Church. We receive all the outward ordinances. We engage in all the performances, practices and attend a thousand meetings calculated to produce in us Christ-like qualities and attributes. We even go to the far-flung corners of the Earth to proclaim these truths, but none of this diligence can help us when our “moment of truth” comes into our lives.
When our faith is pressed to the wall, we sometimes come up empty, doubtful, disillusioned and angry at God that we are hurting so much. We appear to everyone around us to be a lush and green tree in the vineyard, but inwardly we are barren and unfruitful in the gifts of the Spirit. There is really nothing the Church can do to help us in our crisis. Sadder than this, however, is the member of the Church who never has come to awareness that he is anything less than saved. It is the man who thinks he is saved by his activity in the Church who is a more tragic figure than the one who finally wakes up to his true condition in the pit of his spiritual abyss.
This crisis of faith is happening right now to someone in the Church, probably to someone you know intimately. It is universal, and none escapes the ultimate confrontation with this reality. All that happens to us in mortality is calculated by design to show us the futility of thinking we can somehow save ourselves. The discovery that the Church as an institution is powerless in supplying the gifts of the Spirit is a frightening truth to deal with, but the Church can only offer an invitation to partake of the Spirit – it cannot really “give” the Holy Ghost to anyone.
In our hour of disillusionment and discovery we go to the well of the Spirit, seeking relief from our spiritual misery only to find that we have done little or nothing since age eight to prime the aquifers of faith lying beneath the surface of the performances and practices the Church sets out for its members.
We become so preoccupied with our “checklists” that we look beyond the simplicity of it all and fail to get the Spirit first as we were invited to do when hands were laid on our heads and we were confirmed as members of the Church. To think we could have spiritual power conferred on us at such a youthful age by sitting in a chair for a few brief minutes is folly, and we all know it don’t we? Yet we seem to plow ahead full steam, checking off each item on our list (real or imagined) of good works, filling up the reservoirs of our self-righteousness, searching here, there and everywhere for the Spirit to follow our good works. But when the red hot fires of adversity and the winds of doubt begin to torch our shallow roots, we find we have not really been nourished by the cool, deep and satisfying well waters of the Spirit.
Our well that we once thought was so deep and full is really as dry as a bone. We finally thirst so much for a drink of eternal truth we would give anything to quench the drought in our souls. It is then, and only then it seems, in the hour of our deepest extremity that the Lord is finally discovered as we shriek out our anguish. Only then, can He answer our petitions. It comes only because we seek it and ask for it, and it comes as a gift, not as something we can “earn” through our vain good works alone.
Imposition of Hands Not Sufficient
Joseph Smith taught:
We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of tongues, and also the gift of prophecy are gifts of the Spirit, and are obtained through that medium; but then to say that men always prophesied and spoke in tongues when they had the imposition of hands, would be to state that which is untrue, contrary to the practice of the Apostles, and at variance with holy writ; for Paul says, "To one is given the gift of tongues, to another the gift of prophecy, and to another the gift of healing;" and again: "Do all prophesy? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" evidently showing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift, and another received another gift—all did not prophesy, all did not speak in tongues, all did not work miracles; but all did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; sometimes they spake in tongues and prophesied in the Apostles' days, and sometimes they did not. The same is the case with us also in our administrations, while more frequently there is no manifestation at all, that is visible to the surrounding multitude; this will appear plain when we consult the writings of the Apostles, and notice their proceedings in relation to this matter. Paul, in 1st Cor. 12, says, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant;" it is evident from this, that some of them were ignorant in relation to these matters, or they would not need instruction.
Again in chapter 14, he says, "Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." It is very evident from these Scriptures that many of them had not spiritual gifts, for if they had spiritual gifts where was the necessity of Paul telling them to follow after them, and it is as evident that they did not all receive those gifts by the imposition of the hands; for they as a Church had been baptized and confirmed by the laying on of hands—and yet to a Church of this kind, under the immediate inspection and superintendency of the Apostles, it was necessary for Paul to say, "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy," evidently showing that those gifts were in the Church, but not enjoyed by all in their outward manifestations. (TPJS, 243-44, emphasis mine).
One of Satan’s most cunning lies that he implants in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints is that we can sit in a chair for a few minutes when we are eight years old, have hands laid on our heads, and thus receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It does not come through the imposition of hands, even if those hands were to belong to the President of the Church.
Rather, we must actively seek for that gift through the exercise of our faith, we must call upon the name of the Lord continually to guide us, and we must ask to be filled with His Spirit – in short, we must seek the gift He proffers with all our hearts. We sometimes think we must “prove” how righteous we are before we can receive God’s gifts. That’s a little like thinking you have to cure yourself of cancer through home remedies before you go to see the doctor. There is no way to “earn” the Spirit through our good works, nor will the Spirit automatically come to dwell within our hearts just because we join the true Church.
“Ye Must Be Born Again”
Fundamental to an understanding of the necessity of having the Spirit come to dwell in us is the doctrine of our fallen condition in mortality, and the doctrine of being “born again:”
Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment. (Moses 6:58-61, emphasis mine).
While it is possible to multiply words on the absolutely imperative principle of being born again, the most straight-forward approach to teaching the doctrine is a comparison of our physical birth to our rebirth spiritually. The similarities are compelling, and help to explain the Savior’s teaching to Nicodemus (John 3:1-12). The mortal birth is the pattern for the spiritual rebirth:
- Conception is planting of the seed in the womb, cells combine, the fetus begins to develop
- The fetus matures, nourished by its mother, is submersed in water and darkness until it is brought forth at maturity out of the water
- At birth the newborn infant breathes on its own and is capable of sustaining life outside its former existence in the dark
- The baby is washed and cleansed from the blood of the birth process
- The baby is generally rubbed with oil to protect its skin
- The baby is wrapped in a warm blanket, sterile and white linens
- A name for the infant is selected by which it is known during its mortal sojourn in mortality
- Over time this new creation matures, passes through adolescence and acquires the complete powers of reproduction and procreation. Ultimately it becomes like its parents – an independent soul with offspring of its own
Sowing the Word
The spiritual rebirth begins with the planting of the Word in the heart (likened by Alma to a seed in Alma 32). That sowing of the Word actually began in God’s presence in the spirit world even before we came to Earth. All who come into this mortal world have come with a portion of the light of Christ:
“. . . I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into to the world.” (D&C 93:2).
Men either embrace that endowment of light when they hear the gospel in mortality, or they cast it out through their indifference and unbelief. If nurtured, it brings to pass a change of heart. The carnal is given away in exchange for the spiritual and they see the kingdom of God for the first time as that change occurs. This was the case with Nicodemus:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3, emphasis mine).
We have an example of a modern-day Nicodemus in James Covell (spelling based on his family records), a Baptist minister for forty years. He “saw” the kingdom of God, told Joseph Smith he would obey any instruction the Lord gave to him (see D&C 39), then he cast the seed out after it had been sown:
Behold, verily I say unto you, that the heart of my servant James Covill was right before me, for he covenanted with me that he would obey my word. And he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word. Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good. Amen. (D&C 40).
How many there are like Nicodemus and James Covell! How many there are who recoil with fear and the cares of this world! They are initially able to “see” the kingdom of God. They hear the words of eternal life and receive a witness of the truth. But Joseph Smith taught it is one thing to “see” the kingdom of God, and another thing to “enter”:
It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein. (TPJS, 328).
Born of the Water
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5, emphasis mine).
We all know those who have come to see the truths of the gospel, but for reasons best known to them have not subscribed to the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands. No matter how sincere the faith some have in Jesus Christ, no matter how complete their repentance, salvation is still incomplete without the ordinances necessary to “enter” the Kingdom.
Being born of the water is comparable to coming out of the water of the womb at birth. Physical birth signals the transition from the spirit world to the physical world, and the body becomes the veil of forgetfulness of our earlier existence. The body can be subdued and conditioned, however, to accepting and obeying the will of our spirits. Brigham Young said: "If we live our holy religion and let the spirit reign, it will not become dull and stupid, but as the body approaches dissolution the spirit takes a firmer hold on that enduring substance behind the veil, drawing from the depths of that eternal fountain of light, sparkling gems of intelligence, which surround the frail and sinking tabernacle with the halo of immortal wisdom." (Preston Nibley, Brigham Young: The Man and His Work, 379). He said that when he was my age: 61. I hope it's coming true for me.
We “die” at birth as to being in the Spirit continually. The seeds of our spiritual death are sown like the seeds of our mortal death at birth. The rebirth by water is the sign symbolizing the coming forth from the darkness of sin into the newness of life in the Spirit.
We baptize children at age eight. Prior to arriving at the age of accountability their sins are already remitted in Christ’s atonement. (See Moroni 8). It should be obvious that the spiritual benefits of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost are therefore future blessings to be obtained through our faithfulness and our repentance. Since little children are already saved and inherit eternal life (see D&C 130:10), the realization of the spiritual benefits of the gospel cannot even begin to accrue until after age eight. The benefits are available to
All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church. (D&C 20:37).
Entrance into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the waters of baptism is only the first step leading toward entrance into the “church of the Firstborn.” (See D&C 76:94).
When we are born we are covered with blood, the “blood and sins of this generation.” Through the waters of baptism we are symbolically washed clean in the blood of the Savior, who shed His blood for our sins. His suffering makes possible our access to the strait and narrow path.
Born of the Spirit
Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, subjecting ourselves through obedience and sacrifice to its promptings and influence, makes possible the birth of the Spirit. The “baptism of fire” is likened throughout the scriptures to being born of the Spirit. There is only one guide who knows the way back to Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost is that guide.
This acceptance of the proffered gift is the equivalent of taking our first breath as an infant. It is awakening out of our deep sleep of sin and darkness, independent of those who have sought to teach us and nurture us in the gospel. It is arriving at a point when we can take our first breath of the Spirit for ourselves. We are still very much a “babe in Christ,” as Paul spoke of us at this point in our development, but we have crucified the old man of sin, laid him to rest in the watery grave, and have not commenced our journey home. It is on the altar of sacrifice thereafter that we make our daily offering of our tendency to do evil.
The end result of our growth is attaining “. . . unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . .” so we “. . . may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, 15).
We enter the path leading toward eternal life through the gate of baptism. As we move along that path additional ordinances are administered to our bodies. We go to the temple for the purpose of receiving an “endowment,” an even greater gift of light than we have previously been given. The ministrations we receive there are not unlike those we received at birth. We are washed, anointed with oil, clothed in white, and given a new name.
In course of time as we develop the principles we are taught in the temple, we are “sealed” to an eternal companion, we raise our own family in light and truth, and when thoroughly proven in all things we receive the fullness of all that the Father hath that can be given. Joseph Smith described it this way:
After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. (TPJS, 150).
Summarizing, let us say this about the futility of supposing we can hold aloft any other light than the simple gospel torch. We can only save ourselves and others by being born of the Word, comprising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance, which together bring about a change of heart enabling men to “see” the kingdom of God.
Then we are born of the water in baptism, which together with faith and repentance constitute the “preparatory gospel” administered by the Aaronic Priesthood in preparation for the “fulness of the gospel” which is the reception of the Holy Ghost administered by the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds “. . . keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church” and permits us to “enter” the kingdom of God,
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D&C 107:18-19).