In my last post, I highlighted the idea that the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is a core component of the gospel of Jesus Christ as prescribed by the latter day scriptures (D&C 33:11-12 and D&C 39:6). In my reading of the scriptures, one of the core messages of the Book of Mormon is the opportunity to receive a remission of our sins through the marvelous power delivered through the baptism of water followed by the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
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. (2 Nephi 31:17-18).
It is through a remission of our sins that we are sanctified (truly become saints) in preparation for entering the presence of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ as He defined during His visit to the Nephites described why this is a necessity:
And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:19-20)
There are several examples provided in the book including the experiences of the people of King Benjamin, Alma the younger, Enos, and the 300 Lamanites in the Book of Helaman. Each of these depictions of ‘being born again’ have, within this group, unique characteristics. Here is how I would characterize them.
We are not given a significant amount of information about this man. We know that he characterized his quest for a remission of his sins as a ‘wrestle [he] had before God.’ We understand that he allowed the words which he received from his father sink deep into his heart. He went out to hunt and used the solitude to seek a remission of his sins.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. (Enos 1:4-6)
People of King Benjamin
As he neared death, King Benjamin asked his son to send out a proclamation to the people to assemble themselves at the temple. He spoke words that were made known to him by an angel concerning Jesus Christ, who was to come.
…I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)
He spoke of the need to put ‘off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord [sees] fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.’ (Mosiah 3:19)
When he had finished speaking the words that were given to him by the angel, he looked around to see that those who had listened to him had fallen to the earth and had begun to petition the Lord:
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4:2-3)
Alma the Younger
The son of the high priest Alma was not aligned with his father’s desires. He and the sons of Mosiah were going about seeking to ‘destroy the church of God’ that had been established by his father. The party ended abruptly, though, when an angel, prompted by the prayers of his father and others, appeared to them. Alma spent the next three days within himself as his father and others prayed for his safe return (Mosiah 27:22). Alma describes his experience:
And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul. (Alma 38:8)
The 300 Lamanites
The two sons of Helaman, Nephi and Lehi, were having great success preaching among the Lamanites, having baptized eight thousand in the land of Zarahemla. When they then took their efforts into the land of Nephi, they were imprisoned and held many days without food. When the Lamanites came to put them to death, ‘Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire’ and their captors feared to touch them.
Those Lamanites and dissenting Nephites, who had come to slay these righteous men were then told that what they had seen was from God. They were overshadowed by a cloud of darkness and heard a voice telling them to repent .They were able to see that Nephi and Lehi were conversing with heavenly beings. Aminadab, a dissenting Nephite was able to help these men understand what was transpiring.
And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?
Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.
And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?
And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.
And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.
And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.(Helaman 5:38-45)
Continuing the dialog
So we have two individuals and two groups who were blessed the ‘born again’ experience, one righteous and one wicked person and group. I had often wondered why we were given the variety of experiences described here. I believe that the message is found in the common elements of these stories. In each case those involved had to exhibit faith in Jesus Christ and, in each case, had to cry out to the Lord. The message that I derive is that, no matter where we are on the spectrum of goodness or badness, we can reach out to the Lord, in humility, and He will hear our cry.
Some of us may be honest seekers of truth and joy, as was Enos, and find a remission of our sins at the end of a long and fervent prayer. Others may be more like Alma the younger, who must endure a period of anguish and pain which tempers the soul and opens the heart to the Lord. It can happen to an individual or to a group. It can happen no matter where you find yourself relative to God. It CAN happen…and it will as we humble ourselves and seek the Lord.
In D&C, section 10 the Lord defines an interesting doctrine:
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 10:67-69)
This simple statement speaks very loud to me. The Lord’s church is fashioned from those who come unto him. It is by approaching Him in prayer that the remission of our sins is enjoined. It is the atonement of the Lord which offers the cleansing baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, which is the gate to the strait and narrow path. (2 Nephi 31:17-18)
Just as Jesus Christ did during His visit to the Nephites, he will administer this second baptism. Here are the words He spoke on that occasion:
Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. (3 Nephi 12:1)
In order to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, we must petition the Lord for this event. It now makes more sense to me when I read from Moroni, chapter 6 regarding the steps necessary to belong to His church:
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. (Moroni 6:4)
It was not until after they had been cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost that they who brought forth fruit were numbered with the people of the church. It is not until we come unto Christ that we are considered His Church.
There is no prescribed allegiance to the doctrines of men, there is not prerequisite of donation or position, there is no hedging up the way those who wish to maintain the purity of the church, to come unto the Lord. It is between you, individually and collectively, to seek Him in mighty prayer, to come unto Him and to receive of Him the sanctification promised those who repent and show forth faith. Who, again, are those who are called saints? Those who have been cleansed by the fire and by the Holy Ghost and are numbered with the people of Christ, who have come unto Christ, who have passed through the gate onto the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
It is the work of God to bring to pass the eternal life of mankind. He has established the way. It is simple yet difficult to prepare ourselves to place our footsteps on that path.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
In summary, the scriptures teach that the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost is the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. Eternal life, which is the work and glory of God, is found through knowing God. We have been offered the way, if we will but seek Him. He will know us through the administration of the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
THEN shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (Matthew 25:1-12)
I know you not – the relationship is two way, we must know the Lord and the Lord must know us.
What think ye?