THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
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.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
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 3:1-5)
I remember very little about my water baptism when I was eight years old. The ward we recently moved into, at the time, was located in a small farming and ranching community with members scattered across a wide area. In my recollection, the ward had a monthly baptismal ceremony for all the BIC, born in the covenant, candidates to be presented for the ordinance. There was a preparation class for all the seven-year-olds in which I recall my teacher warning me that I needed to know all the Articles of Faith because I had to have an interview with the bishop. He would ask me to recite an Article of Faith at random, so I needed to be prepared. I apparently passed the interview.
My father was not active when I was growing up, so the duty of performing the ordinance fell to someone I did not know since we did not have any family in the area. I don’t have any specific recollection of the event other than being embarrassed getting dressed in the locker room following the ordinance.
The next day, I was confirmed a member of the church. Again, I remember little of the event other than I had many ‘heavy’ hands placed on my head. The duty of voice for the confirmation fell to a stranger.
I surmise that my baptism would have meant much more to me had I been a ‘real’ convert. Someone who had to make a serious choice on the matter, rather than simply reaching some specific age. The event, my being born of water, followed by my confirmation was sufficient to classify me as a member in full fellowship.
My baptism of the Spirit is a different matter. I have, in a past post, recited my recollection of the event. In that post, I told of the circumstances that led to the event. I talked of the marvelous feeling and ‘cleansing’ I received when I was nineteen years old.
It still stands today as the most significant event of my six decades in mortality. As I reflected on this event in light of the recent activity on this blog on the topic, my mind went back to that time and a portion of that same peace returned. At the time, I did not understand what had happened to me. I transitioned, in a matter of seconds, from being enveloped in despair and gloom, carrying a heavy burden to an incredible feeling of joy, peace, and lightness.
In my case, I had never been instructed as to the meaning of the second birth. I simply assumed that I had received an incredible answer to a prayer. My life, however, had changed. I had not been contemplating a mission before the event. Several days after the experience, I returned home to my ward and asked to begin the process to serve a mission. After a couple weeks, I no longer felt I was walking on air and the peace and joy subsided, but I was changed. I was a different person. I just didn’t know why.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:20)
It was not until many years later that I came to understand what had happened to me. This scripture from Third Nephi, spoke to me, There were others who were similarly blessed with this baptism and did not understand what had happened. They had to be instructed as to what had happened to them. In my case, the scriptures were the medium. This learning didn’t happen until many years later.
As I write this today, there are fundamental nuggets of knowledge that my experience instilled in my world view. The first was an unshakable knowledge of the existence of a Supreme Being. What happened to me that night, so many years ago, could not have been generated by my distressed mind. I knew that what I experienced had come from God. I had, and have to this day, no doubt in His existence. The spiritual world had invaded my physical world and left an indelible mark on my soul. I could no more disregard my experience as I could deny my own existence.
I also came away from my experience with a new perspective on the character of this spiritual world. I had never before, nor since, experienced such an overwhelming infusion of love and acceptance. So much of our physical world demonstrates conditional love. I will love you if you do these things. The church presents a similar message. You are not acceptable unless you do the checklist.
My takeaway, however, was just the opposite. I felt, through the experience, and many days after, an unconditional love beyond anything in this material world. While I have fallen short, at times, I have never lost that feeling. As my miserable self was accepted through that event, so does God accept us for who we are. We are the ones who wish to distance ourselves from Him.
I also learned that we can hear a spiritual voice, just as we can hear a physical voice. Since that time, I have had the incredible experience of ‘hearing’ the voice of the spirit direct me on several other occasions. Again, I don’t know how my physical mind could have manufactured this.
So, why do I bring these things to this blog? It is not to boast or attempt to set myself apart. I do this, as prompted by the Spirit, to give others hope in things spiritual. I wish I had someone, when I was truly seeking, help me understand what is available from God and where one can go for guidance in the scriptures.
This second birth is offered to all who come with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit’ to Christ. It can be for anyone, as it was for myself, the pinnacle of a life experience.
What think ye?