Grace and Reconciliation

 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The doctrine of grace has changed my life. In the past year I have come to see it differently and the spirit has begun to teach this doctrine anew. It has changed my relationship to the Savior and has blessed me to see my life and weaknesses differently.

I would like to write out how I understand this new understanding mostly for my own benefit. I thought I would share it.  If you would like to correct me or add to it I would be most grateful.

After All We Can Do

A scripture on grace that almost any Latter-day Saint can quote on cue is 2 Nephi 25:23

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

This scripture is universally interpreted as after we put forward our best works, efforts, and strength; then we become qualified to receive the grace of the Lord. Grace is earned, so to speak, after we extend our best efforts.

We are a works-loving people. Work, and duty, and effort, and strain, and lists, and planners, and meetings. We put our shoulder to the wheel and push along. We all have work, so no one should shirk.

We are Deseret. We are the busy worker-bees of the kingdom. We have learned and reinforced through our cultural tradition that we cannot receive the grace of Christ until we are exhausted and worn out, having done all that we can do.

This Mormon ethic produces both blessings and cursings. The Lord does want an industrious and hardworking people. His people are obedient, sacrificing, and organized. But this strength can also become a weakness if we look beyond the mark. And, we should ever be mindful, that the mark is Christ.

Viewing our works and effort as the gate through which we access grace is a grave error. Our interpretation of the scripture has been viewed through a people who have perhaps, with the best of intentions, looked beyond the mark. With our obsession with our own works and the management of our own creature it is possible that we have looked beyond Christ, and believe in error that we only qualify for grace after all of the obedience and works we can muster. Here is the problem with this view.

We can never, ever, ever, produce enough works and effort that will give us confidence to receive the presence and grace of Christ. It cannot be done.

If we think that we can work ourselves into the Lord’s grace we will always be chasing the illusion of our own righteousness.

When we come to an understanding that even our righteousness is a gift bestowed upon us, that comes not by our own works but by his grace, our relationship to Christ will become radically redefined.

Then what does this scripture mean? It seems to be straightforward: “it is by grace we are saved, after all that we can do.”

What is the “doing” the scripture is referencing? Is it works and obedience and keeping the terms of the law? Is it fulfilling our duty and magnifying our calling? Or is it pointing to something altogether different?

The “all we can do” is referencing the admonition to be “reconciled to God.”

This connection is made more clearly in another 2 Nephi verse:

2 Nephi 10:24

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”

There is no mistaking the connection Nephi is making earlier in his record. He is inviting us to be reconciled to God, and after we are reconciled we receive of his saving grace.

 

Reconciliation

What does it mean to be reconciled to Christ? Is this just another term for effort, obedience, duty, and works?

It is not.

It is an entirely different way in which we approach our Savior and Father, one from which if we are successful, great works, obedience, powerful effort, and the true magnification of our callings flow. We will get to that in a moment.

The way that I understand reconciliation is to bring one’s self into alignment. It is to become at-one with. It is to share ones heart and spirit. It is to become sanctified.

In the accounting world, when an account is reconciled to a bank statement it means that there is no difference between the two. They match and are mirror images of each other. To be reconciled is to receive the same likeness. In the spiritual sense, it is to share the same will, desire, intent, and feeling. It is to have the same heart.

 Reconciliation Through A Softened And Yielding Heart

As a new missionary in Japan, I really hated my mission. I was homesick, cold, constantly tired, and couldn’t speak the language. It was a personal hell from which relief seemed an eternity away. I wanted to love my mission, but the truth of the matter was, I didn’t. I even prayed that I could get hit by a car so that I could return early “with honor”.

I learned a powerful lesson during these early months. In the morning I would get up early and kneel in prayer, but wouldn’t say anything except, “Heavenly Father, please help me to want to be here. Please help me to want what you want.”

If I was quiet long enough and waited in prayer, I found that the spirit would soften my heart and I would start to feel what the Lord desired. My desires were changed. I discovered that my problem was a hard heart. I was resisting the spirit of the Lord, which was his will.

Through prayer the sprit came to me and softened my heart and I started to be filled with his will. It wasn’t manufactured. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t something I had to talk myself into. It was divine change. I began to love my mission and the work we had to do each day. I wanted to be obedient and fulfill all of the commandments.

Nephi explained this process when he recorded:

1 Nephi 2:16

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”

What initiated Nephi’s powerful spiritual growth? It wasn’t his resume of good works. It wasn’t the Lord blessing him after all he could do. It was his submissiveness to the Lord, willingness to be softened and changed, and his desire to be sanctified. The Lord did the work of softening his heart so that he could be believing! Even belief was not a work that could be generated on his own. It was a blessing he received as he sought to be reconciled.

This process of yielding the spirit and receiving grace and the transforming power of Christ is replete throughout scripture.

Mosiah 3:19

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

There is no way to escape the natural man unless we first yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. After we yield to the spirit THEN we become a saint. After we yield to the spirit THEN we receive the characteristics of childlikeness, meekness, humility. Patience, full of love, and submissiveness. These are all byproducts of yielding. These are all gifts given to us when we reconcile ourselves to his will.

Consider another similar scripture that teaches more about the reconciliation process:

Helaman 3:35

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”

We cannot sanctify ourselves. That is a gift from our Father through his Holy Spirit. We can, however, approach him and seek to be soften, seek to be changed. We can submit our weaknesses, sins, false traditions, and our whole hearts. We do this through the process of fasting and praying. We can approach him and respond to the promptings of his spirit. We can make ourselves completely available to his spirit. We can offer a willingness to sacrifice in our hearts and lives all that is necessary to be reconciled and sanctified.

We can plead that our hearts are softened and that we can become full of belief. He does all of the work. He has all of the power. We just have to come to him and be willing to sacrifice all things to receive of this transforming power. We have to respond to the enticings of his spirit and allow it to transform us. We have to cease hardening our hearts against the spirit and allow him to soften and remake us.

What this means is that we must come to him in our weakness. We must come to him in our sin. We must come to him in our fallen nature. We must not be fooled that we must achieve a certain level of good works and obedience and prove our own righteousness before we can approach the throne of grace. We must come now. As we are. With all of our problems and our pathetic fallen natures. This is humility. This requires true faith.

Our “work” is to repent and become as a little child. Repentance and offering a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is the work we must accomplish in order to receive further light and truth. From that point, that mark, Christ, is able to make us “of Him,” and one with Him. From that point we can “grow in grace and in the knowledge of truth.” (D&C 50: 40-44.)

Sometimes we are content to hide behind our own unrighteousness. It is a convenient shield to not come to him wholeheartedly. We may deceive ourselves into thinking that since our obedience isn’t as it could be, and that since we haven’t yet done “all that we can do,” that we are excused from whole-hearted abandonment to the will of Christ. That we resist asking for and receiving those things we want most because we have convinced ourselves, in a very sophisticated type of pride, that we have yet to qualify.

We will never qualify by our own works. It is not great faith that produces the types of works that will bring us into the presence of Christ. It is a greater type of faith that is required: It is the type of faith that brings us into his presence while we are ever aware of our weakness and sins. The type of faith that we need is the faith in him, not us. That we can come unto him in our weakness and sins, and have the faith to be healed and transformed by him.

Mustering the faith in our self to enter into his presence is a fool’s errand. It cannot be done. In some ways it can be used as a purposeful excuse not to proceed in faith. I find myself doing this all the time.

 

The Prayer of the Brother of Jared

The account of the Brother of Jared at the veil teaches us this principle.

For the space of three hours the Lord chastised him for not calling upon his name. Surely, the Brother of Jared had been praying. What does the record then mean that he had ceased calling upon his name?

Gratefully, we are given the account of a prayer the Brother of Jared offers after this chastisement. He prays:

Ether 3:2

“O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.”

How did the Brother of Jared exercise faith to part the veil? He did so by coming to the Lord with full awareness of all of his sin, weakness, and in spite of his fallen nature. He came wholeheartedly, not with fear, having full faith that the Lord could heal, forgive, and transform him sufficiently to enter into his presence. He came to the Lord with the faith to be blessed according to his desires despite the knowledge of his possession of a fallen nature.

I believe that the Brother of Jared was being chastised for “not calling upon the name of the Lord, which is different from not praying. One can pray, and even pray with great intensity, and still not call upon the name of the Lord.

Calling upon the name of the Lord is engaging the Lord despite our weakness and fallen nature. It is coming unto him fully aware of our unworthiness. This requires great faith.

The same invitation is given to us.

Later, Moroni reveals:  “And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Ether 4:7.)

We must call upon the Lord knowing that because of the fall of our natures that we, too, do evil continually. We must call upon him even though we are unworthy before him.

As a great friend shared with me: “My unworthiness becomes my worthiness to receive a fullness of his grace.”

As we reconcile ourselves to the spirit and become softened, transformed, and a new creature in Christ our obedience takes upon a new nature. Our obedience, works, effort, and fulfillment of the law are wholly motivated by the love of Christ. We cease doing them to prove ourselves to the Lord, rather, we do them because we love him with all of our hearts. We begin to work and serve and obey with a renewed intensity that is a manifestation of his love and grace.

Moroni 10:32

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

Our perfection in not in ourselves. It is in Christ. If we deny ourselves those things that resist the spirit and presence of Christ, and then become reconciled to him by loving him with all that we have and are, then his grace becomes the sufficient power in our lives. His grace will perfect us, not our works.  When we receive of his grace, we can no longer deny his power.

Moroni 10:33

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”

 Conclusion

It is my opinion that the works we do in the fulfillment of the conditional statement that we are saved by grace after all that we can do are works that are inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. They are the works that flow from individuals that have fully reconciled themselves to the will of the Spirit, or are doing the things that the spirit inspires them to in the process of becoming sanctified and reconciled. The all we can do condition is fulfilled when we engage the Lord with all of our hearts, becoming reconciled to him in prayer, and becoming full of the will of the Lord through the process of yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. When we are fully reconciled and willing to do all things that he would ask of us, then his grace becomes an enabling power in our life, giving us the strength and power to overcome all darkness and to be endowed with salvational knowledge (D&C 50:35).

I love our Savior and am overwhelmed by his grace and mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All The Energy of a Broken Heart

Some thoughts this morning. Praying with all the energy of heart (Moroni 7:48) is the same thing as receiving and having a broken heart and contrite spirit. I think it is the same condition. The same state of being.

If my heart is broken it means my heart is completely and wholly open to God and my will no longer separates me from God.

This is the condition of praying with all the energy of heart. When we pray that way, all the energy, desire, love, and commitment of our hearts are given to the Father. We do not divert any energy of our heart to our own will, project, or self. Our heart is broken of any pride. It is completely at-one with the heart of God.

The broken heart and contrite spirit, as outlined before, is the key to overcoming this world and receiving the blessings of exaltation. The blessings include:

  1. Overcoming temptation and shutting the gates of hell against us (2 Nephi 4:32)
  2. Being baptized by fire and receiving the fullness of the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 9:20)
  3. The fullness of the atonement (2 Nephi 2:7)
  4. Rend the veil and receive a fullness of priesthood and revelation from the Father (Ether 4:15)

The blessings of Moroni 7:45 are of the same order. When we learn to pray with all the energy of hearts, or rather, pray with a broken heart and contrite spirit, we receive the following blessings:

  1. Become full of love
  2. Become the Sons and Daughters of God
  3. Shall have the same likeness of Christ
  4. Will be purified as Christ is purified

Is there a greater thing that we can seek than to have our hearts completely broken before the Lord? Is there anything greater that we could learn to do than pray with all the energy of heart?

This is the fruit of true faith and real repentance. It connects us with the powers of heaven. It infuses us with the unspeakable Gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Born Again Benchmark Questions

images

An ongoing question regarding the Baptism of Fire and being born again is that of process versus event. I prefer not to frame the doctrine in this manner. It is not so much a question of process versus event, but rather in what ways is it an event and in what ways is it a process?

First, in this blog post (we’ll address the process aspect in a separate blog), let’s address the aspect of the spiritual rebirth from the perspective that it is an event. That it is something that happens to you. You can put a date on it the same way that I know the date of my baptism of water, I can tell you the day that I experienced the complete cleansing of the Holy Ghost.

Now, because we rarely talk about the Baptism of Fire, mistaking it for the physical ordination of confirmation, we also aren’t very aware when we have great spiritual manifestations that we would associate it with a Baptism of Fire. Much like the Lamanites in Helaman 5 who were baptized by fire and knew it not. They, like us, were not familiar with the doctrine to fully understand what, doctrinally, was happening to us.

The Alma 5 Questions

As this central doctrine of the New and Everlasting Covenant distills upon our minds and hearts, and we try to come to a greater understanding of our spiritual possibilities, we can read Alma to learn what to expect when we are born again.

The questions Alma asks the saints in Zarahemla provides great insight into understanding both what we should both experience and what fruit we should experience as we receive a Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost, and how we should live the gospel on an ongoing basis.

The first principle Alma teaches is that a mighty change of heart is a function of your faith. And that faith is unto repentance.

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. (Alma 12:12-13)

In other words, if you have yet to experience the mighty change of heart, it is not because the change is a long, imperceptible process, as sanctification can be. It is because you have yet to receive the faith to repent sufficiently. If you feel like this is you, please do not despair. You probably have never been taught or invited to have this type of faith.

Also, as an individual, one must be prepared and ready. You must be seeking and desirous to have a broken heart and contrite spirit. One must be invited in the spirit to awake and arise. Perhaps you are now feeling this invitation for the first time.

The Born Again Benchmark Questions and Baptism of Fire Test.

Alma asks a series of questions that gives a benchmark to know if we have been born of the spirit. These are poignant. And serious. And I believe they must be taken on their face as a very real yardstick to determine if we have participated in the promises of the covenants in the way the Lord intends.

Alma asks:

  1. Have ye spiritually been born of God? (vs.14)

 

  1. Have ye received his image in your countenances? (vs. 14)

 

  1. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (vs.14)

 

  1. Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?(vs. 19)

 

  1. Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?(vs.19)

 

  1. If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (vs. 26)

 

  1. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?(vs. 27)

 

  1. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? (vs. 27)

 

  1. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? (vs. 28)

 

  1. Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? (vs. 29)

 

Are these questions you ask someone who believes conversion is a life long process? Are these they types of questions you ask a people who believe that becoming born again is a lifetime process of almost imperceptible change?

Alma then asks a question that reveals whether we understand if we’ve been born again because there is a faith and confidence of redemption associated with the experience. This faith and confidence is a fruit. This is why Alma asks the following question:

I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? (vs. 16)

Alma then asks questions that reveal that today is the day to receive the mighty change of heart. If we persist in a condition of not being fully born again we may find ourselves in the category that Alma now identifies:

Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? (Alma 5:17-18)

What are these commandments set at defiance? In context of his sermon, are they not to come to the Lord and be born again?

And if we aren’t in a state of being born again, or in a state of redemption, won’t it be us who find ourselves lying to the Lord with the false self-satisfaction that we have yet to experience the mighty change of heart and yet believe we are righteous?

Alma boldly declares:

There can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain. (vs. 21)

Is this a condition that one receives by just “doing his best everyday?” This is an altogether different doctrine. It is a declaration that one must be purified and cleansed from all sin today. And then we must learn to endure in that state of being.

For those that believe they can persist in not full and complete repentance, having not received a mighty change of heart, and being born again he has hard things to say and a clear warning to those of the church who profess believe and yet put off the day of their full and complete repentance:

O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice! (vs. 37)

These powerful words should bring all of us who have yet to repent and be born a gain to tremble with fear and trepidation. The warning is clear. And the warning is to those of the church.

Finally, Alma declares the words he was commanded speak and the invitation is, once again, unmistakable.

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. (vs. 49)

And it is by their fruit that we will know who has repented and been born again, and those that have not.

And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it. (vs. 52)

And so, is this not one of the most powerful chapters of all scripture to teach us not only the importance of being born again today, the type of fruit produced when one partakes of this spiritual condition, and the consequences of persisting in the false belief that we are still righteous even if we have yet to experience the mighty change of heart and have yet to bring forth fruit meet for repentance?

This entire chapter suggests something quite radical. Read straightforwardly and honestly, it can produce deep anxiety and fear that one has not yet experienced these things, and yet is regularly affirmed as an active and righteous member of the restored Church. Perhaps, we need to look at the principles of faith, and repentance in a fresh and different way. The Book of Mormon will help us do this. If you feel like despairing because Alma preaches hard things, take hope. The true principle of repentance will provide a clear path to experience this miraculous and mighty change of heart. We will discuss this in many subsequent posts.

It is my testimony that this doctrine is at the core of the New and Everlasting Covenant. And that the blessing, opportunity, and miracle of being born again is available to everyone today. We just have to learn how to repent.

 

 

 

 

Baptized by Fire and They Knew It Not?

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. (Moroni 9:20)

Converted Prisoners

The promises and fruits of becoming born again through the baptism of fire and reception of the Holy Ghost are great and powerful. The baptism by fire is a transformation of the whole being. It is to become purified and cleansed without spot. It is to become a Son or Daughter of God.

When we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ and are transformed in his nature and in his holiness. Our dispositions are fundamentally changed.

The experience of being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost is unmistakable. Here is a list of descriptions throughout scripture of this transformation and its fruit.

Become born again (John 3:3)

Mighty change in your heart (Alma 5:14)

Cleansed from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14)

Changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness (Mosiah 27:25)

Being Redeemed of God (Mosiah 27:25)

Become the Sons and Daughters of God (Mosiah 27:25)

You are blessed to enjoy the words of eternal life in this world (Moses 6:59)

Become sanctified from all sin (Moses 6:59)

You know God (1 John 4:7)

Overcome the world (1 John 5:4)

Receive the Lord’s image in your countenance (Alma 5:14)

Be filled with the Holy Ghost (Alma 36:24)

Have the wicked spirit rooted from our breast (Alma 22:15)

Receive great joy (Alma 22:15; Mosiah 4:3)

Garments are washed white, purified until they are cleansed from all sin (Alma 5:21)

Sufficiently humble (Alma 5:27)

Stripped of pride (Alma 5:28)

Stripped of envy (Alma 5:29)

Bring forth works meet for repentance (Alma 5:54)

Sing the song of redeeming love (Alma 5:9)

Illuminated by the light of the everlasting word (Alma 5:7)

Quickened in the inner man (Moses 6:65)

Receive a remission of sin (3 Nephi 12:1)

You have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2)

Willing to be obedient to everything the Lord commands (Mosiah 5:5)

Become spiritually begotten (Mosiah 5:7)

Will not have a mind to injure one another (Mosiah 4:13)

Filled with the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:48)

Filled with hope and perfect love (Moroni 8:26)

You cannot deny the power of God (Moroni 10:32)

You become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:33)

The promises of transformation in the spirit are so great it brought King Lamoni’s father to be willing to give up all that he possessed, even all of his kingdom to receive this transformation.

How then, is it possible, that a group of Lamanites were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost and knew it not?  Considering the description and power of the blessing of receiving the mighty change how could someone receive this great blessing and not even know it?

Perhaps there is a different reading of this scripture that could be considered.

Instead of reading it as they did not realize they had experienced a baptism of fire, a careful reading suggests another way of understanding this scripture.

What if they were very aware of being changed in the spirit and transformed – that they knew something powerful and life changing had happened to their being, but what they didn’t know was what to call it.

The Lamanites experienced the miraculous conversion of the spirit. What they didn’t understand, perhaps, is that this thing was the doctrine of Christ. It was the power of the Holy Ghost.

For example, about eight years ago, I went through a few months of experiencing burning, debilitating pain in the back of my right leg. It was so painful, that some days I would have to lay on the ground for a few hours so it would settle down. In fact, it was during this time that I met my wife. When she saw me for the first time she thought I walked with a limp.

Even though I felt this pain in my leg it wasn’t until I went to a doctor that I learned what to call it. It wasn’t until I met someone with knowledge about this condition that I could be taught what it was, what caused it, and ultimately how to fix it.

And so, I believe, it was with the Lamanites. They experienced powerful and life-changing transformation. It probably was later that they had to be taught the doctrine of what they experienced, and why exactly it happened. They had to be taught the doctrine to understand what they had already experienced.

 

Who Are These Lamanites?

So, this leads us to ask a critical question. Who are the Lamanites to which this scripture is referring?

In 3rd Nephi chapter 9 it is a record of the Savior’s words. The author of the chapter is Nephi, the son of Nephi. It was his father and uncle, Lehi that was present when 300 Lamanites in prison were baptized in a powerful and miraculous way. This account is found in Helaman chapter 5.

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 5:45).

It was this group of 300 Lamanites that were commanded not to doubt what had happened to them.  (Helaman 5:49)

It is clear to me that the reference to the Lamanites that were baptized by fire in 3 Nephi 9 would be the miracle that Nephi’s father and uncle had participated in by their faith. These Lamanites went on to convert the more part of the Lamanite nation. This would be an event that could be mentioned by Nephi and would be an unmistakable reference to one of the greatest miracles of their immediate generation.

This was such a great occurrence it was also mentioned in Ether chapter 12.

Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” (Ether 12:14)

This scripture also refers to that conversion experience specifically as a baptism of fire.

Is it possible that 3 Nephi is referencing another account of Lamanites being baptized by fire and not knowing something had happened to them? I suppose it is possible. But it is completely improbable. There is no other example in scripture to which this could possibly be referring. If it’s not the Lamanites in Helaman 5 then we should, at a minimum, withhold interpreting the verse given that we have no idea to who what kind of experience it is referring.

 

Conclusion

Personally, I am 100% comfortable connecting 3 Nephi 9:20 with the conversion of the Lamanites in Helaman 5. Because of this connection, there is no reason to teach that one could experience a baptism and also not be aware that something had happened. This possibility is not represented in the scriptures. They do not give us that option.

In fact, as demonstrated above, all accounts of the baptism of fire in the scriptures are powerful, miraculous, and unmistakable in the experience. They are for each Latter Day Saint. We should all receive the admonition to “Marvel not, that all mankind must be born again.”

I love the scriptures and the invitation to believe and receive of the miracle of redemption and transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vision of David O. McKay

I love this account from President McKay. The connection of being born again to having overcome the world is powerful.

“I then fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though it was far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe and a white headdress. Instantly  my attention seemed centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime–it was divine!

The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.

But who were they? As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words: “These Are They Who Have Overcome The World–Who Have Truly Been Born Again!”

[Cherished Experiences from the Writings of David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1955), pp. 59-60]

Being Present and Sanctified Today

This was made known to me by my good friend Therese Cooper.

Brigham Young:

Our work is a work of the present. The salvation we are seeking is for the present, and, sought correctly, it can be obtained, and be continually enjoyed….If we are saved, we are happy, we are filled with light, glory, intelligence, and we pursue a course to enjoy the blessings that The Lord has in store for us. If we continue to pursue that course, it produces just the thing we want, that is, to be saved at this present moment. And this will lay the foundation to be saved forever and ever, which will amount to an eternal salvation…..Some will inquire, “Do you suppose we shall finish the temple Brother Brigham?” I have had such questions put to me already. My answer is, I do not know and I do not care any more about it than I should if my body was dead and in the grave and my spirit in Paradise. I never have cared but for one thing, and that is, simply to know that I am now right before my Father in Heaven. If I am this moment, this day, doing the things God requires of my hands, and precisely where my Father in Heaven wanted me to be, I care no more about tomorrow than though it never would come.

– A Sermon by President B. Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 6, 1853, at the General Conference.

Becoming Born Again: Event of Process?

This week I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the principle of becoming born again. The question that I’ve struggled with is whether the experience is an event or a process.

The first thing to recognize is that, as far as I am aware, the scriptures never refer to becoming born again, experiencing the mighty change of heart, the baptism of fire, or becoming a Son and Daughter of Christ as a process. The scriptural pattern is always an event.

What confuses the issue is the process of sanctification and conflating it too closely with the baptism of fire. Although they are both principles of the same transformative process it is important to understand their purposes separately.

The baptism of fire is the cleansing and transformative experience of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost when one fully repents, commits to whole-hearted obedience, and is willing to sacrifice all for the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

The fruits of having one’s baptism of fire is that the natural man is neutralized by becoming a Son or Daughter of God. One loses their disposition to do evil. They feel a pure love for all people and a desire to bless the lives of all they encounter. They thirst and hunger after righteousness. They cannot wait to study the scriptures and they immerse themselves in them.

The person that is born again loves to pray and worship the Savior. They desire that all partake of the love and forgiveness of Christ. It becomes the primary motivation and desire of their lives. They lose a taste and desire of the things of the world.

The process of sanctification is the process that we engage in after we are born again. Since the fruits of being born again will always fade, one must be in the constant discipline of sanctifying themselves. This process of sanctification leads them to deeper and more fundamental experiences in the Spirit. It is the process of receiving revelation and the continuous purification of heart.

As we are invited to endure to the end, it is my feeling that that is an invitation to endure to the end in a state of redemption. In a state of grace.

It does not mean “white knuckling it” as an active member of the church. It is to learn to endure as a Son or Daughter of God.

Being born again is being in a state of grace. It is living in a state of redemption. The power, love, light, revelation, and knowledge of Christ flows through your being. It is to experience a fundamental change in your disposition. It is to become like Christ.