Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Prophet Joseph Smith on Baptism and Being Born Again

The Kingdom of God

 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.    
 (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.328)

Man Must be Born Again

Nicodemus 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. This strong and positive answer of Jesus, as to water baptism, settles the question: If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever: it is no wonder He is so positive in the great declaration: He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believes not shall be damned! There was no other name given under heaven, nor no other ordinance admitted, whereby men could be saved: No wonder the Apostle said, being "buried with him in baptism," ye shall rise from the dead! No wonder Paul had to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins: No wonder the angel told good old Cornelius that he must send for Peter to learn how to be saved: Peter could baptize, and angels could not, so long as there were legal officers in the flesh holding the keys of the kingdom, or the authority of the priesthood. There is one evidence still further on this point, and that is that Jesus himself when he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, did not inform him how he could be saved. He had set in the church first Apostles, and secondly prophets, for the work of the ministry, perfecting of the saints, etc.; and as the grand rule of heaven was that nothing should ever be done on earth without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets, agreeably to Amos 3:7, so Paul could not learn so much from the Lord relative to his duty in the common salvation of man, as he could from one of Christ's ambassadors called with the same heavenly calling of the Lord, and endowed with the same power from on high-so that what they loosed on earth, should be loosed in heaven; and what they bound on earth should be bound in heaven: He, the Lord being a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, and the anointed Son of God, from before the foundation of the world, and they the begotten sons of Jesus though the gospel, to teach all nations-and lo I am with you always to the end of the world-that is-by the other comforter which the world cannot receive-for ye are the witnesses-having the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy.

(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.264)

Necessity of Repentance

From what has already been introduced as testimony to prove that no man can be saved without baptism, it will be seen and acknowledged that if there was sin among men, repentance was as necessary at one time or age of the world as another-and that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. If, then, Abel was a righteous man he had to become so by keeping the commandments; if Enoch was righteous enough to come into the presence of God, and walk with him, he must have become so by keeping his commandments, and so of every righteous person, whether it was Noah, a preacher of righteousness; Abraham, the father of the faithful; Jacob, the prevailer with God; Moses, the man who wrote of Christ, and brought forth the law by commandment, as a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ, or whether it was Jesus Christ himself, who had no need of repentance, having no sin, according to his solemn declaration to John:-now let me be baptized: for no man can enter the kingdom without obeying this ordinance: for thus it becometh us to fulfil ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS. Surely, then, if it became John and Jesus Christ, the Savior, to fulfil all righteousness to be baptized-so surely, then, it will become every other person that seeks the kingdom of heaven to go and do likewise; for he is the door, and if any person climbs up any other way, the same is a thief and a robber!

(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.265)

Baptism Required in All Ages

In the former ages of the world, before the Savior came in the flesh, "the saints" were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to come, because there never was any other name whereby men could be saved; and after he came in the flesh and was crucified, then the saints were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that they might be buried in baptism like him, and be raised in glory like him, that as there was but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and father of us all, even so there was but one door to the mansions of bliss. Amen. (Sept. 1, 1842.)

(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.266)

Below is some excellent dialogue and points made on being born again from the LDS Institute Student Manual "The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles:" 

Well worth the read especially for Gospel Doctrine Teachers.

Being Born To "See" The Kingdom of God Is A Step In Being Born To "Enter" The Kingdom

The following hypothetical interview should aid you in understanding what happened to the Samaritan woman and what must happen to you if you would enter the celestial kingdom of God.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that a man must be “born again.” In this world our first birth is when we enter the world as infants. But the word again in Jesus’ phrase implies another, or second birth, doesn’t it?

Yes, there is another, or second birth.
“The first birth takes place when spirits pass from their pre-existent first estate into mortality; the second birth or birth ‘into the kingdom of heaven’ takes place when mortal men are born again and become alive to the things of the Spirit and of righteousness. The elements of water, blood, and Spirit are present in both births. ( Moses 6:59–60 .)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

In John 3:3 , Jesus said, “Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and in John 3:5 , Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is one thing to see the kingdom, and it is a different thing entirely to enter the kingdom. Does this mean that the second birth, or spiritual rebirth, has two parts?

Yes, this second birth or spiritual rebirth has two general parts. In order to understand what it means to see the kingdom of God, it is necessary to perceive what the Holy Ghost will do for a man before that man is baptized into the Church, The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

“There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.” ( Teachings, p. 199.)

When a nonmember sees the kingdom of God, it means that the power of the Holy Ghost is poured out upon him to teach him that the Church is true. He then has a testimony. He knows.

“The Lord will reveal the truth once; then when this testimony has been given, the person should accept the truth and receive the gospel by baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . . Cornelius received a manifestation in strict conformity to the instruction given by Moroni, and had he turned away there would have been no further light or direction for him. The Spirit of the Lord will not argue with men, nor abide in them, except they yield obedience to the Lord’s commandments. (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:29.)

At the time a person sees the kingdom, he does not necessarily receive a remission of his sins. The Holy Ghost has merely taught him what he must do to receive a remission of sins. Of this the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“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.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 328.)

Does a person always see the kingdom before baptism?

No, this experience may occur in the life of a baptized member of the Church as well. Sometimes people are members of the Church even for many years before they “see” or gain a testimony that the Church is true.

It seems clear that seeing involves witness and testimony and conviction about the truthfulness of the Church. But what has to occur so that a person has the true change of heart so that he can enter the kingdom of God?

“Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of the man of sin; and the coming forth out of the water, the resurrection to a newness of spiritual life. After baptism, hands are laid upon the head of the baptized believer, and he is blessed to receive the Holy Ghost. Thus does the one baptized receive the promise or gift of the Holy Ghost or the privilege of being brought back into the presence of one of the Godhead, by obedience to whom and through his faithfulness one so blessed might receive the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in his daily walks and talks, even as Adam walked and talked in the Garden of Eden with God, his Heavenly Father. To receive such guidance and such direction from the Holy Ghost is to be spiritually reborn.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1947, p. 64.)

Does a person always receive this spiritual rebirth at the time of baptism?

“Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. Thus Alma addressed himself to his ‘brethren of the church,’ and pointedly asked them if they had ‘spiritually been born of God,’ received the Lord’s image in their countenances, and had the ‘mighty change’ in their hearts which always attends the birth of the Spirit. ( Alma 5:14–31 .)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)

What blessings are available to someone who is born again?

“Those members of the Church who have actually been born again are in a blessed and favored state. They have attained their position, not merely by joining the Church, but through faith ( 1 John 5:1 ), righteousness ( 1 John 2:29 ), love ( 1 John 4:7 ), and overcoming the world. ( 1 John 5:4 .) ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise.’ ( Inspired Version, 1 John 3:9 .) (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 101.)


David’s father was president of the stake. David had never been to the stake president’s office; but last evening at dinner he had raised some questions about spiritual rebirth, and his father had invited him to come to the stake president’s office to discuss the matter. As he settled into a chair, David noticed a picture on his father’s desk. It was a picture of the stake presidency; there was his father, smiling and dignified. David was early for the appointment; and as he waited, the thought occurred to him that if ever anyone knew anything about spiritual rebirth, it must be his father.

David’s father had worked in the mines most of his adult life. Nothing had ever really mattered to him beyond food and sleep. Seldom had he been much of a father until the day the missionaries knocked at their door. After weeks of questions, some patience on the part of the missionaries, and many prayers by David’s mother (who herself had immediately accepted the gospel taught by the missionaries), David’s father had joined the Church. The rest of the family joined within weeks after their father led the way.

David hadn’t noticed it at first, but gradually his father had changed. There had been nothing spectacular—no visions, no outward manifestations—but just gradual change. First they had begun to attend church. Later David’s father had announced at the dinner table that they would never eat another meal in their home without having a blessing on the food. That had been twelve years ago. Then they had commenced holding a regular home evening. David still remembered the family journey to the Los Angeles Temple, where they had been sealed together as a family for time and eternity. Later, when David and his brothers had spoken harshly about one of the leaders of their ward, he remembered his father’s justified anger and instant rebuke, for although David’s father had controlled his temper, he made it very clear to his sons that they must never say such things about any of the Church officers again. While his father’s change had occurred quietly and gradually, it was nevertheless a powerful change. David had often wondered to himself what possibly could have taken a hard-headed man like his father and literally turned him around. And now that he was on the proper course, it seemed that his dedication and zeal in the cause of the Master increased every day.

David’s father had been called to serve in the ward MIA and later in the stake. Then just two years later he had been called as a counselor in the stake presidency. David noticed that his father was gone from home a great deal, but the time he did manage to spend at home with his wife and four sons was quality time. As a contrast to twelve years ago, their home was now truly a house of love, prayer, and order. David had listened to his father’s testimony in conferences and as he had shared it with his sons and with others who had been in their home. During one home evening, he had told his sons: “I am not the father you used to have; I have been changed. And I want you to know that for whatever else I may say or do, I know that Jesus lives and is my Redeemer, because I have tasted of his goodness and I know of his love for me.” David knew his father well enough to know that he testified of the reality of Jesus and of the truth of the gospel from the depths of his soul. And now his father was president of the stake.

As David sat there waiting, he suddenly realized that he lived in the very shadow of a man who had been born again! Hastily he scribbled a note to his father and then left. The note read: “Dad, I won’t need to talk to you after all. I have the answers to my question. See you at dinner. David.”

Why do you think David’s father was one who had been born again?

Was his father’s spiritual rebirth a sudden thing? Were sensational manifestations involved?

Elder Harold B. Lee said, “Knowing how this birth takes place is as impossible to explain as to explain where the wind comes from or where it goes.” (“Born of the Spirit,” Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, BYU, 26 June 1962; compare John 3:7, 8 .)

Sometimes people get the idea that to be born of the Spirit, they have to experience something sudden and spectacular. From your reading about David’s father, do you think this is always necessary?

Consider the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith about the manifestations of the Spirit:

“We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of the 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 prophecy [sic]? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?’ evidently shewing that all did not possess these several gifts; but that one received one gift and another received another gift—all did not prophecy [sic]; 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 in the case with us also in our administrations, while more frequently there is no manifestation at all that is visible to the surrounding multitude.” ( Times and Seasons 3:823–24 [15 June 1842]. Emphasis added.)

1 comment:

Brian Allen said...

As the Gospel Doctrine teacher here in Nauvoo, this was very helpful. Thank you President Norman!