For the week of February 11-17, Come Follow Me--For Individuals and Families invites us to reflect on our own conversion to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
An example during Christ’s ministry occurred when Nicodemus cautiously came to Jesus Christ in the dark of night because he did not understand the Savior’s counsel: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). Nicodemus asked, “How can these things be? (John 3:9).” Many do not fully understand what it means to be born again.
My wife was born in the covenant and raised in the Church; subsequently, she was baptized at age eight. Whether at the tender age of eight or sometime thereafter, we must all work to gain our independent testimony of Christ.
I joined the Church at age 26. Looking back, it was something of a miracle I found the restored gospel. Some would say it was an even greater miracle that I accepted it. Reflecting on my path to baptism, I know both the hand of the Lord and the Holy Ghost prepared me to accept an invitation to “come unto Christ” (Moroni 10:32) and to be spiritually “born again” (John 3:7).
My baptism was a big day—the culmination of several weeks of intense scripture study, discussion, and prayer. I accepted the invitation to keep God’s commandments and took action to live them. Of course, I quickly came to know that baptism and confirmation are not an end but a beginning. True conversion is a process. It is a “miracle of a lifetime” that “begins with the decision to follow Jesus Christ, to change and live a better life through Him” (Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, p. 26).
True conversion involves “a change in our very nature” (Topics, Conversion). It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire.
Elder Theodore M. Burton said, “Jesus explained that this new birth was symbolic in nature and thus different from one’s first birth. He explained that a person had to be born this second time both of water and of the Spirit. He was not referring to a spiritual experience only, but to an experience involving water also.”
“When Nicodemus still could not understand and questioned what the Savior meant, Jesus chided him and asked, ‘Art thou a master of Israel [that is, a teacher of the people], and knowest not these things?’ (John 3:10). Jesus was asking how Nicodemus could fail to recognize that he had been speaking of baptism. After all, the Israelites had been practicing baptism for centuries” (Theodore M. Burton “To Be Born Again,” Ensign, Sept. 1985).
Becoming Born Again
Elder David A. Bednar said, “We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority. But other essential steps in the process of being born again include total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel” (David A. Bednar, “Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign, May 2007).
Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy added, “Being ‘born again’ is another name for conversion. It is having ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ which the Savior described as the only offering He will accept (3 Nephi 9:19–20). Surely, none of us will be able to ‘see’ the kingdom of God until we have ‘experienced this mighty change in [our] hearts’ (Alma 5:14, italics added). (J. Devn Cornish “The Gate Called Baptism,” Ensign, Feb. 2015)
What happens when we are born again and truly converted? The Lord said: “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; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25–26, italics added).
We learn from King Benjamin, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7, italics added).
Alma asks, “Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? ...can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? (Alma 5:14,19, italics added).” Alma then reminds us that we can only be saved if we are “...cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him...who should come to redeem his people from their sins” (Alma 5:21, italics added)
Learning, Teaching and Becoming True Converts
During a zone conference in January 2019, President Stephen Keung of the Canada Calgary Mission, shared that he had been so busy working to achieve a “Miracle Month” for baptisms in December, that he forgot about setting New Year’s goals. In January, someone asked him if he had any New Year’s resolutions. He thoughtfully replied: “To love more and to baptize more converts.” He also shared that “Love is the great motivator of what we do. We should do everything with love.”
Those who are “born again” feel their Savior’s love and have great love for Him. True converts don’t merely love those who love them—they strive to love everyone including our “enemies” (Matthew 5:44). If we cannot demonstrate Christ-like love and respect for others, if we fail to show mercy and compassion and deal unjustly with our fellowmen, we are not fully converted. (See: That Process Called Conversion - Ensign - LDS.org)
Just two months earlier, Elder Wilford W. Andersen, of the Seventy, reminded the missionaries serving in the Canada Calgary Mission of the Savior’s response when asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (Matthew 22:36).” Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Elder Andersen then used these scriptures to explain how conversion works. He wrote the words “Mind,” “Heart” and “Soul” on a chalkboard—establishing three columns. He explained that with our mind, we obtain knowledge through facts, experiences, and our senses. Regarding the heart, he said we use it to access our feelings, desires, and the Holy Spirit. Discussing the soul, Elder Andersen said when our souls are filled with love for the Savior, we desire to act—putting into practice what we know to be true and what we feel is right. We enter the covenant path and strive to become like Jesus Christ.
Continuing in the Quiet Miracle of Conversion
Since being “born again” is clearly a process, what can we do to sustain positive change? As we love the Savior with all our soul, we strive to keep His commandments, repent, and align our will with His. We demonstrate our love and faith by living the gospel of Jesus Christ each day—by going about doing good. We must study, pray, and serve others. We may ask ourselves, “What is holding me back that I should give up?” and “What do I need to begin doing that I am not currently doing?” With a contrite heart and a broken spirit, we must continually forsake our sins and renew our covenants each Sabbath day. In short, we must “endure to the end” (2 Nephi 31:20).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign, Nov. 2007).
Joseph Smith reminded us that: 'Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances' (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 162). Similarly, President Russell M. Nelson has made “Keep on the covenant path” his clarion call (“Viewpoint: Stay on—or Return to--the Covenant Path,” Church News, Jan. 18, 2018). So, like Nicodemus, a righteous Jewish ruler and strict believer in maintaining the Law of Moses, we must recognize that through grace—the mercy of Jesus Christ and the Savior’s Infinite Atonement—every one of us can change, improve, and be born again.