What is it that changes a person spiritually? What must we do to receive a remission of our sins? What does it mean to be ‘born again?’ What happened to the people at the time of King Benjamin who experienced “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually?” (Mosiah 5:2)
I believe these are core questions concerning the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; something every person should strive to understand and seek out in their own lives. I have come to believe that this second baptism is a vital step for all who consider themselves belonging to the church of Christ. In D&C 33:11-12 we read:
“Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved;”
This passage speaks of the first fruits of the baptism of fire, the remission of sins. There are two key points here that one should consider.
First, baptism by water must be accompanied by the baptism of fire to receive a remission of sins. This idea is reinforced in 2 Nephi chapter 31, verse 17:
“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.”
Receiving a remission of our sins sanctifies us and prepares us to enter the kingdom of God. It is clear to me from this passage that baptism by water is necessary but NOT sufficient to receive a remission of our sins. We must seek this second baptism to complete the process.
Now consider the definition of the gospel found in D&C 39:6:
“And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”
The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost prepares us to become a conduit for the spiritual knowledge that God has offered us. If we adher to this gospel, we are promised that we can receive all things. I believe that the mysteries of God will be made available to all to seek them (see Alma 12:9-11). Does this knowledge come without effort? I say not. We read of the younger Alma’s conversion in Mosiah 27. Ten years later, Alma makes the following statement in Alma 5:46:
“…Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”
Even after the baptsm by fire and by the Holy Ghost, we are still required to strive earnestly for understanding and knowledge. Just as Alma, to seek the mysteries of God, we must continue to fast and pray mightily.
I would suggest that the baptism by fire cleanses us of our sins and sanctifies us. The baptism by the Holy Ghost opens a conduit to the knowledge of God. Together they constitute the second baptism. This is the core of the restored gospel.
Let me now bring this discussion to a personal level. I do not relate this experience to boast of my situation; I do it because I have been prompted now to share it outside my own family as a means of encouragement to others. I had just started my second year of college. Many things were weighing upon me. I was concerned financially as my father had passed away the previous year. I was struggling emotionally in a relationship that meant very much to me. I was, perhaps most of all, struggling spiritually. These heavy burdens weighed me down and brought more agony and despair than I thought I could bear. As I struggled through a sleepless night, I was drawn to get down on my knees and seek God. I had not prayed for a long time but I found myself pouring out my heart is earnest supplicaton, speaking to God of my pain and the heavy load that I had placed upon myself.
As I pled with Him for help, I had what has come to be the most important event of my life. As I knelt in fervent prayer, I heard a voice as clearly and distinctly as if the person were sitting next to me. It was only one sentence but it gave me a direction that I was to go. As I heard the voice, an incredible energy coursed through my entire body. My entire burden had been lifted and I felt as though my soul had been freed of all my past weight. I felt an overwhelming joy and peace that is beyond description. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my soul; and the light chased away every bit of darkness and despair. I carried this ‘lighter than air’ feeling for days after the event. I truly felt as if I were a new creature and set in place what I would need to do to follow the admonition I had received.
In retrospect, I didn’t completely understand what had happened to me. I naively knew that God had answered my prayer in a fashion well beyond my expectations but it was not until many years later, as another spiritual crisis came upon me, that I came to clearly understand what had happened to me; that I had been baptized by fire. I was brought to scriptures that I had read many times but never perceived the complete meaning. Through fasting and prayer, I have been able to gain small bits of knowledge and understanding. I have acquired a few grains of sand on the vast beach of God’s mysteries.
The scriptures are replete with the understanding that we must be ‘born again’ in order to enter the kingdom of God. The question that we must confront is one that, I believe, strikes to the very center of the gospel. Is my experience described above the norm or the exception? Can a baptism by fire be accomplished by a imperceptible changes over a long period of time? As Elder Christofferson stated in the April 2008 General Conference:
“For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event.”
In his address, Elder Christofferson cited the same scripture I did above from 2 Nephi, chapter 31 verse 17 regarding the remission of sins as a product of the baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost. I feel it is very important to consider the next verse. This is found in 2 Nephi 31:17-18 together:
“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.“
According to this scripture, repentence, baptism by water, and baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost represent the gate to the strait and narrow path. A gate is more representative of an event rather than a process. I believe this clearly implies that the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost is a necessary event. It is the gate to the strait and narrow path which we all should be on.
As further evidence, consider the following scripture from Moroni 6:4:
“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.”
I believe that the reference to the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost is the same as a remission of sins received through the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. As this scripture states, we must receive a remission of our sins, or be cleansed by the Holy Ghost, before we can gain entrance to the ‘church of Christ.’ Being cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost is an event that must occur before we truly have membership in His spiritual church.
The terms, born again, sanctified, cleansed, and baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost all mean the same thing and reference the same event. As Alma described following his experience (Mosiah 27:24-25):
“…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…”
We are to seek the same experience that Alma, Enos, the people of King Benjamin, and the 300 Lamanites enjoyed. We are to petition God that he may grant us entrance to the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life. We are to receive a remission of our sins through the baptism by fire and by the Holy Ghost that we may be numbered with the church of Christ.
What think ye?