Mar 17, 2018
7 min read
 

“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.”

“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.” [1] That’s what President Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the changing of the human heart and being born of God. 

I would argue that if this has not happened in your life, then it should rise immediately to the top of your priority list. You may shrug this off thinking that you have been born of God, but have you? You may shrug this off because deep down you know you have not been but admitting it may make you feel foolish.

Maybe you have been an active member of the LDS church all of your life and you thought you had your bases covered because you’ve participated in all of the ordinances of the gospel. You take your covenant seriously and honestly seek to align your will with God’s.

“…behold, I ask of you, my brethren [and sisters] of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” [2]

I don’t ask this question to draw out doubts but to increase faith. I’ve observed my fellow saints for years and I have met many that have been born of God and many more who have not. I see people struggle with faith crisis and all manner of difficulties in this world that would be eased or erased if they had been born of God and known of his love and power.

The Lectures on Faith teach clearly that unless members of God’s church “…have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; … for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be.” [3]

If you have not yet been born of God, then your sins have not been forgiven and you have no salvation; that’s not my opinion.

This is because you have not yet exercised faith sufficient to lay hold upon salvation through the atonement of Christ. Only one can forgive your sins and if you have no idea if they are forgiven, then they aren’t. God isn’t a trickster and would never hide such an important fact from us. One who is born of God knows that their sins are forgiven–trust me, it isn’t a point you’d miss.

“…without correct ideas of his character, the minds of men could not have sufficient power with God to the exercise of faith necessary to the enjoyment of eternal life” [4]

God does not reserve salvation for scholars and intellectuals. You don’t need to be an expert or master scriptorian. Many times these things puff people up to a pride that prevents them from becoming born of God. That said, we have to have a correct understanding of aspects of his character and attributes in order to be able to exercise the necessary faith. To a Latter-day Saint, this knowledge is overwhelmingly accessible; the entire Book of Mormon is full of it and the Lectures on Faith spell out the principles extremely clearly. Faith is the key but you have to seek the keyhole.

Let’s look at the story of Enos as an example.

“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.” (Enos 1:2)

A remission of sins, a baptism of fire, being born again or born of God, these things are all related. One who has experienced this may use these phrases to describe their experience. In my experience, the wrestle is not with God but with oneself. It involves specifically targeting and removing obstacles that stand between you and God. Walking that strait and narrow way, through the mists of darkness and the fiery darts of the adversary.

“…the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. 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.” (vs.3-4)

There is so much in this verse and I’m grateful that Enos was so descriptive. The words sunk deep into his heart because it was soft and not hardened anymore. He allowed those words to sink deep down until they could take root in good soil. His soul hungered because he had emptied it and like an empty stomach, it desires to be full and take nourishment. He knelt and poured out his soul to God and was tenaciously persistent. He did not let anything else distract him from his goal. It was this desire that allowed his voice to ‘reach’ the heavens. Nothing amplifies a prayer like real desire.

“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.” (vs.5-6)

This single sentence is rather plain to the casual reader, but to one who has experienced it, this is what being born of God involves. God forgives and blesses you and much information is conveyed that cannot be put into words.

“And I said: Lord, how is it done?” (vs.7)

Even in the midst of this glorious moment, questions and skepticism can still exist. I stay skepticism because unlike Enos I was skeptical, I questioned what was happening even as it was happening. My father baptized me with water three times because my toe kept coming up. Similarly, God had to baptize me three times with fire because my skepticism kept popping up. Needless to say, I got the message, I accepted it and I received the gift.

“And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.” (vs.8)

Again, note that it was the faith of Enos that brought this about. This gift is always before us with outstretched arms and we must reach out to receive it. If we have not, then push aside all excuses, humble yourself, cast aside your sins, forgive everyone no matter what they have done to you or others, you have to, you must, this is not optional. Transfer the judgment you are holding on to over to the master judge and free yourself.

“Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.” (vs.9)

I think this verse is one of the great passages that testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon. This really does happen. When you are born of God, you know that your sins are forgiven, you know God’s love for you personally, you know your infinite worth to him and his powerful desire to get you back into his presence. Your very next thought is, “My, God, this is how you feel about all of us!” You can’t look at anyone else the same way after this. So you pray for them, you desire their happiness and lose any desire to see the wicked destroyed.

Being born of God is not the end, it is just the beginning. Just like being born in mortality we have much growing to do. We have to learn to crawl, walk, and run, we learn skills, perfect talents, and unlock the mysteries of the universe. In the same way, one who is born of God has a need to grow in God, to learn of God, and to progress to their ultimate potential. This is salvation and exaltation.

Too often I think we get so focused on exaltation that we forget about salvation and simply assume that we have it because of our ordinances. No, not if God has never been involved. Not if the heavens have never opened to you. Not if you have never had faith sufficient to actually have God personally forgive you of your sins; this is the promise. The path is right there in front of us. I hope that any who read this can evaluate themselves in the light of Christ and I hope that if you have not yet been born of God or tasted the fruit of his love and forgiveness that you may pursue it will all faith and enter into his rest. It’s true.

References

  1. Ezra Taft Benson, Born of God, 1985 General Conference
  2. Alma 5:14
  3. Lecture 6:4,12
  4. Lecture 4:1

3 Comments

  1. The morning after I was received back into full fellowship, I awoke (wide awake), still lying in bed. Everything in the room faded from view and I found myself standing in a wilderness. In front of me was a single file brick path and a rail to hold on to. On either side of the path was a drop off, bottomless and black. I looked up from this to see the brick path went across this wide ravine and on the other side on a narrow cliff edge was THE Good Shepherd, THE Holy One of Israel, staff in hand, bidding me to come to where He was. I KNEW I had been truly forgiven and born again and was shown that the path is so narrow and treacherous it’s one foot literally in front of the other. I also was given to know that if I kept my eyes on Jesus I could cross the path without losing my footing in the least. I didn’t even need to look down, just keep my eyes on Him and not take them off for a second. This experience is branded on my soul and I will never forget it as long as I live. I love Him so MUCH! If we don’t think we matter to Him…..we DO! We truly are His Sheep and are numbered to Him. HalleluYAH! I testify HE LIVES and LOVES US!

  2. Richard J. Nobbe III

    I would also argue that changing one’s heart is not just a one time occurrence, but something that the Lord wants and expects us to do repeatedly. Just like you mentioned, “Being born of God is not the end, it is just the beginning. Just like being born in mortality we have much growing to do.”

    Elder Bednar expressed this idea as the “change of heart” being an ongoing process in his talk about cucumbers and pickles, “The spiritual rebirth…..typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

    A cucumber only becomes a pickle through steady, sustained, and complete immersion in salt brine. Significantly, salt is the key ingredient in the recipe. Salt frequently is used in the scriptures as a symbol both of a covenant and of a covenant people. And just as salt is essential in transforming a cucumber into a pickle, so covenants are central to our spiritual rebirth.

    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.

    “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

    And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.”

    • Yes, and this is what I meant by, “Being born of God is not the end, it is just the beginning. Just like being born in mortality we have much growing to do.”

      You’re right, changing one’s heart and becoming converted is not a one time thing. However, I am talking about becoming born of God which is an event. It is part of the whole conversion process but this experience is something that actually happens. Note that scriptures never refer to this as a gradual process. It is almost always accompanied with a mighty change because you cannot have that experience with God and be the same afterwards.

      I would argue that anything less is simply enjoying the warmth from light and truth. Birth is a dramatic event, you go from darkness to light, from water to air, and being born again is also a dramatic event. Otherwise, God would have called it something else.

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