Imagine going through life thinking that all is well concerning your relationship with God.
You feel the Spirit, you may have seen miracles, your knowledge of God has grown over the years, as has your understanding of scripture. Surely all is well, right? We would have been told if there was anything missing, right?
The scriptures speak of a baptism of fire, but what it is? Oh, it is probably just symbolic and if I had hands laid upon my head and was confirmed then that was the baptism of fire, right? They said “receive the Holy Ghost” so that’s all been done, right?
But what if this whole time, you have been living your life simply assuming that you have received this gift from God? Do you even know what it is?
Alma asked members of the church in his day:
I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?Alma 5:14
Someone becomes a member of the church when they are baptized. This was the pattern established by Alma’s own father Alma.
And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.Mosiah 18:17
But wait, are we sure these are members of the church? Yes, just look at the last verse:
I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church…Alma 5:62
Alma also includes any who are not members in his message as well because this is an invitation for all people, but he is definitely addressing church members here.
But why would Alma ask these baptized brethren of the church if they had been spiritually born of God?
Likewise, why would I today ask if members of the church who were baptized at eight if they have been spiritually born of God?
Because it is clearly possible to be a member of the church and not be spiritually born of God, something that is a distinct and unmistakable experience with God, that is described as a baptism of fire.
The Lord has said in our own day:
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost…D&C 39:5-6
Jesus taught the Nephites:
Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.3 Nephi 12:2
And Joseph Smith taught very clearly:
The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected. An individual must be born of water and the Spirit in order to get into the kingdom of God.Joseph Smith, TPJS at pg. 360
These three quotes explain something very plain and clear that can be expounded upon with an entire host of other verses to support the fact that without the baptism of fire there is no remission of sins and therefore no redemption.
That means your current state is as if you were never even baptized in the first place – think about it.
Or do you feel comfort at this time as you recall your own baptism of fire and feel again the power, the joy, and the knowledge from God that you are forgiven and reclaimed?
Or are you searching your mind to try to find something that must have happened that could maybe qualify as a baptism of fire; a strong spiritual experience maybe?
Do you feel a swiftness in your heart and trouble in your soul as you are unable to locate such a memory of an experience that doesn’t appear to have ever existed for you?
If, in all of your searching you come up short and realize that this has never been an experience that you have had, then yes, you have been operating in life with a gift that has sat unopened because you were never mentored on how to go and receive it.
I think this is a much bigger problem than we want to admit
This is something that has disturbed me for a long time and I have been very hesitant to really confront others about this directly.
I have a story to tell about my own redemption, but I have not yet figured out the best way to do it. It’s an incredible story and one that begins in a very dark place but ends in the brightest light.
Suffice it to say, on November 20, 2000, I had an encounter with God that resulted in my baptism of fire, one that the scriptures describe over and over again.
I was born of God, I experienced a mighty change of heart, and my disposition was forever altered.
Add to that all the things the scriptures talk about in this regard, I could go on and on but I actually experienced this, I knew what it was when it happened, and it changed my life.
I was overjoyed and having felt like a lost soul for so long, I was thrilled to come to realize that I had finally experienced what all of the other followers of Christ are promised in the scriptures.
I assumed that everyone at church had this same experience and I felt at long last one with the saints in this regard and was excited for the future.
But over the course of time, my interactions with other members started to trouble me. It didn’t seem like there were others who had experienced what I had; it was foreign to many. How could something so plain and clear in the scriptures not be a part of the lives of so many happy members bearing testimony and such; all seemed well in Zion.
What was happening? Was I judging people incorrectly? Who was I to question the faith and status of the salvation of other members? Was Satan deceiving me with some twisted form of pride?
Joseph Smith taught:
You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half – that is, baptism of the Holy Ghost.Joseph Smith, July 9, 1843, Nauvoo, IL; History of the Church 5:499
I’ve come to believe that a disturbingly large amount of members of the church, at least the ones that I have encountered, are going through life only half-baptized.
To put it another way, I can name on one hand every member of the church I have ever met who I know have received a baptism of fire. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more, I think that if there are others they may be unsure how to share their experience or may not have understood what it was.
It’s possible that they may be like those Lamanites who did experience this event but did not understand what exactly had happened to them. (3 Nephi 9:20) It has been the case in some anecdotal accounts I have heard where a person experienced a baptism of fire, and was told that their sins were forgiven, and had a mighty change of their heart and disposition only to learn much later that this powerful life-changing event was indeed the baptism of fire spoken of in the scriptures. They just didn’t know that it would be an encounter like that because they were never taught to expect or pursue it.
But shouldn’t we know? Wouldn’t we be the ones to know, especially with the multiple accounts in the Book of Mormon? Shouldn’t we discuss this and deliberately mentor others to receive the same instead of letting them stumble around in the dark?
Now, I am just one person going off of personal experience, scripture, and anecdotal evidence, but if anyone is reading this, honestly ask yourself the question that Alma the high priest asked the brethren (and sisters) of the church:
Have you been spiritually born of God?Alma 5:14
If so, when did this event occur in your life? What was it like? Were you immersed in fire and the pure love of Christ? Did this cause a mighty change in your heart and disposition? And most importantly, did God tell you that your sins have been forgiven?
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed. […] If it hasn’t happened to you—it should. Our Lord told Nicodemus that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) Of these words President Kimball said, “This is the simple total answer to the weightiest of all questions. … To gain eternal life there must be a rebirth, a transformation.” Besides the physical ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands, one must be spiritually born again to gain exaltation and eternal life.Born of God, General Conference October 1985
Did you get that? It is worth repeating: He said that BESIDES the physical ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands, ONE MUST BE SPIRITUALLY BORN AGAIN.
This is a separate divine encounter, a baptism of fire that is distinct from the physical ordinances that priests perform.
My own baptism of fire occurred 13 years after I received the ordinances of baptism by water and confirmation. The promises of the Lord do not have any expiration date, they come when we are ready.
Elder James E. Faust explained:
All of us need to be born spiritually, from 8 to 80—or even 90. When Sister Luise Wulff of the German Democratic Republic was baptized in 1989, she exclaimed, “There I was—ninety-four years old and born again!” Our first birth takes place when we are born into mortality. Our second birth begins when we are baptized by water by one holding the priesthood of God and is completed when we are confirmed, and “then cometh a remission of [our] sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.”Born Again, General Conference, April 2001
The first baptism is of water by a mortal man who represents the Lord, this points toward a second baptism by fire from God. Fire is associated with many things such as the Spirit and the glory and presence of God in particular.
To be immersed in water is an event, as is a birth. These are both events that happen at a place in a particular point in time. The baptism of fire by God is also an event that occurs.
When baptized by water, there is no mistaking that you were wet and under water. It happens all of a sudden; you are completely immersed in the substance of water in an obvious and unmistakable way.
How is it then that a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is more subtle than this and passes undetected in the lives of people. How can immersion in a BAPTISM OF FIRE be something you forget or do not realize happened?
One might say, “Ah ha, but what about 3 Nephi 9:20?” where it mentions Lamanites that “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.“
In response, consider an experience I had where I witnessed a man receive a baptism of fire right in front of me moments after his confirmation in one of the most miraculous turns of events I’ve ever seen.
It’s a bit of a long story so I’ll tell a condensed version.
This man had just been baptized a few days before and on the day of his confirmation he called and said that could not attend because his work kept him out super late and he was terribly exhausted. But since he lived right across the street from the church, he was dragged out of bed by an over-zealous elders quorum presidency.
Needless to say, he was extremely angry about this. I felt very embarrassed and disheartened that such an important event was seemingly ruined for this man. He was confirmed and came back and plopped down in the pew fuming with anger.
As the sacrament hymn began a change took place with this man; I witnessed the whole thing. It is a story I will have to tell elsewhere but he was completely overcome and went through a variety of gifts of the spirit one after the other and broke down in tears saying: “What is happening to me?”
I opened up the scriptures to the book of Acts and showed him where the apostles laid their hands on heads to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit. As he then understood, he wept again.
After sacrament the elders quorum presidency sheepishly came to apologize to this man for dragging him out of bed and that they should have respected his wishes. He replied, “No, you have no idea how glad I am that you brought me here today.” They had a puzzled look, but I knew.
I believe strongly that those Lamanites experienced a baptism of fire, they experienced it in all its glory, but they didn’t know what it was because it hadn’t been explained to them yet. I believe that at some point, it was likely explained and taught to them.
But I simply cannot believe that they were baptized with fire without any perception of a change or an encounter with God; I think such a thing is impossible.
Benson concluded his address saying:
When we awake and are born of God, a new day will break and Zion will be redeemed. May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.Ibid.
Alma again explained to the same crowd of baptized church members:
…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.Alma 5:49
This rebirth comes only through a baptism of fire and in no other way. (3 Nephi 12:1-2, 2 Nephi 31:13,14,17, 3 Nephi 11:35, Matt. 3:11, 2 Ne. 31:13; 3 Ne. 9:20; 11:35; 12:1; 19:13; D&C 19:31; 33:11; 39:6; Moses 5:9, Moses 6:59,65,66, John 1:33, John 3:5, 1 Pet. 1:3,23, Mosiah 4:3, Mosiah 5:7, Alma 13:12, Alma 36:24, Helaman 5:45, 3 Nephi 15:23, 3 Nephi 27:20, D&C 5:16, D&C 84:64, JS-H 1:73, Acts 10:47)
Here is where I think the problem begins and the opportunity lies
We, as a church, baptize our children at the age of eight. This is very young and these children are not very likely at all to have any concept of their immortal soul, the terror of hell, or the weight of sin, etc.
There are also many adults that are oblivious, even in the church, but at least they have the capacity to comprehend these things.
What I think happens is a tradition of baptizing a child, then pointing them to future ordinances and covenants (the covenant path) without ever mentoring them through the process of receiving the other half of their baptism.
Thus, we churn out unsaved member after unsaved member who progress along making covenants only to wake up one day married with children and become shaken in their faith by some criticism of a church institution or criticism of mortal fallible men.
They depart their religious community and worst of all, they part ways with their God altogether.
How can this be? How can this happen to someone who has supposedly been baptized, confirmed, made temple covenants, etc.?
Is this not the fulfillment of what Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount?
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you…Matthew 7:22-23
Listen to the words of Helaman to his sons:
And [Jesus] hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.Helaman 5:11-12
Jesus spoke of three things in his ministry to the Nephites that if we did, we would be built upon his rock.
He said that we are to be built upon the rock of his sayings (the sermon on the mount), his flesh and blood (the sacrament) and his doctrine:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. […] Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.3 Nephi 11:35,39
How it is that we came to the point where we never ask a child, a teen, or an adult if they have been spiritually born of God or baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit?
Why is this never asked? What exactly do we as a people think a baptism of fire is in the first place?
Why are people encouraged to progress onward with the false confidence that all is well only to leave them upon a foundation of sand and completely vulnerable to the devil’s mighty winds, hail, and storms?
What is to be done, is the answer to just not baptize children at 8 years old?
Well, here’s where it becomes a bit of a paradox, it seems that we must do this because we were commanded by the Lord to do so:
And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands. And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.D&C 68:25-28
I have spoken to some who think that we should not baptize 8 year olds and wait until they are in a state where they can comprehend what they are doing and make the necessary sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit.
I understand that and I see the logic in it. But how do you reconcile what the Lord has commanded in his word, so let’s take a closer look at what he says.
He says that the parents who have children in Zion are obligated to teach them to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
He doesn’t necessarily imply that this will all be understood by these children immediately or that they will have the capacity to receive a baptism of fire at this time or shortly after, but that it is the parents responsibility to teach them to understand the doctrine.
It takes time to teach doctrine and especially to understand it. This could likely take years as the child ages and begins to understand line upon line, but that’s what we’ve been commanded to do.
We don’t know his age, but Enos who was also likely baptized by his father, Jacob, had to come to a realization of his own need for redemption and seek it out.
Fortunately, he had wise parents and grandparents to mentor and instruct him so that he knew where to turn when he was ready.
Enos’ father Jacob kept the sacred teachings of their people upon plates of metal that would endure from generation to generation and he wrote:
And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.Jacob 1:4
Enos’ grandfather Nephi wrote:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.2 Nephi 25:26
We can now see how Enos found his way and I think thay we should do the same ourselves for our own posterity. It is the main reason why I created this blog in the first place – for my posterity to know what I know.
Returning to Doctrine and Covenants section 68, we read in verse 28 that we should also teach these children to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord just as Enos’ father Jacob did for him.
I have baptized all of my children at 8 years of age according to the law of the Lord, but I have also taught them that their baptism of water is incomplete without the baptism of fire.
Year after year as they age, I open up to them the scriptures and teach them whatever they are mature enough to receive.
It is my responsibility, as well as the responsibility of all who are parents in Zion to mentor our children unto their own baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit.
If we have not done so ourselves, then let’s start with us first.
In Alma chapter 13, the great high priest Alma lays out the doctrine of the priesthood and explains that a priest must come and enter into the rest of God themselves so that they can then bring others.
If we do not do this, we are as blind guides. Jesus taught, “if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matt. 15:14)
If indeed what I’m saying here is true, then this is all a completely solvable problem.
We need only consider our ways, examine ourselves in the light of the scriptures, and if we have already entered in at the gate, continue forth down the path to partake of the fruit of the tree of life and be filled with the love of God and his forgiveness and redemption through a baptism of fire.
It doesn’t matter if you were baptized yesterday or 60 years ago; the promises of God are there if we reach for them.
If you find yourself in a place where Alma’s question, “Have you been spiritually born of God?” stirs something within you that you wish to pursue, then read the entirety of his sermon in Alma chapter 5 and examine yourself in light of the 50 questions he asks.
That sermon is designed to reach into the depths one’s soul to discover any obstacles that stand between you and God. As we empty ourselves of this clutter, we will have room for God to fill us with his Spirit and fire.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with the words of the prophet Mormon and after, the final words of his son Moroni:
O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God. […]
Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words.Mormon 9:27-28
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.
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.Moroni 10:32-33
Agreed that this is an under-emphasized principle affected by paradoxes; including, as it were, taking one’s spiritual temperature: How do we really know where we stand?
Likening to baptism of fire Elder Bednar’s likening of revelation to light switches and sunrises, typical are subtle, imperceptible sunrise “Lamanite” “and they knew it not” baptism of fire events, and atypical are stark, perceptible “Enos” events.
It sounds like your experience and the brother in your anecdote were “Enos” baptisms of fire.
So, is receiving an “Enos” baptism of fire fundamentally different from, even superior to, a “Lamanite” baptism of fire, as one might infer from this discussion? Regardless, and regardless of any known or unknown baptisms of fire one has received, until we receive a sure knowledge that we are saved (D&C 131:5–6), and after, all is not done. We must continually press forward. And progression on the path should include baptisms of fire, whether discernible or not.
I’m only speaking from personal experience and what I believe the scriptures are saying. The vast majority of scripture speaks about a baptism of fire that results in one being born of God. I cannot imagine how anyone can suggest that this would be an imperceptible event.
Despite the dozens of scriptures that demonstrate the baptism of fire as an event so impactful that it permanently and instantly changes hearts, I think it is unwise to turn to a single verse that is vague and doesn’t elaborate on what is meant by “they knew it not” and read into it an alternate baptism of fire experience that is not supported by scripture anywhere else.
As I have explained in the article, I have seen a man be baptized by fire and not know what was happening to him. He experienced quite literally and profoundly a mighty change of heart and described multiple spiritual gifts that he could not understand but I was familiar with.
I think the wording in that verse about the Lamanites would be quite different if it meant what people were trying to read into it. If they were truly baptized with fire in a way that was imperceptible, the verse might read something like, “they were baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, but were unaware.”
But this is not the case, the specific words are, “they KNEW IT NOT.” To me this implies something similar to what I experienced with this man; they knew not what was happening to them because they didn’t have the theological foundation of knowledge to have a context for their experience.
Can we receive revelation without knowing it? Perhaps, we might miss a prompting because of noise and distraction.
But can you experience something that is described as FIRE and the pure love of God pouring into your soul to the degree that a MIGHTY change of heart is always the result and not be aware? No, I think that is ridiculous.
These Lamanties obviously had a mighty change of heart, they buried their weapons of war and repented. Did their attitudes just instantly change for no perceptible reason? No, we have agency and when we experience the pure love of Christ flowing into us and the fire and presence of God, we change our hearts, we see and understand anew, and we know why we are choosing a better way.
Yes, it is possible that a person who is merely a babe in their understanding of the ways of God can experience this and not understand what specifically has happened to them, and know not what it was. But there is no way these Lamanites made such a dramatic change without a divine manifestation of power and fire.
This was not atypical in Joseph Smith’s day. People came out of the water manifesting spiritual gifts including Joseph and Oliver. God is a God of miracles and is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change, but we do.
I think that this is only “atypical” because we have very few in the church today who have experienced this themselves and so they do not mentor others, it’s the blind leading the blind.
But like I said, this is a completely solvable problem. We can turn to God, no matter where we are at in our journey and prepare ourselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through a baptism of fire as was promised by Jesus numerous times.
Remission of sins only comes through a baptism of fire, therefore if there has been no baptism of fire, you do not have a remission of sins.
Yes, people do experience spiritual things that prompt them to be faithful, but do they last? A baptism of fire produces a complete change of disposition, a MIGHTY change, one that puts them on a rock and makes falling impossible. That is what God has promised, so why should we pretend that a strong warm fuzzy feeling is a substitute for what the scriptures describe for us?
Even Laman and Lemuel saw an angel, and saw miracles, and felt the power of God, but none of this changed their hearts permanently. It’s the same with us, we can say Lord, Lord, we did miracles, felt the spirit, went to the temple, saw miracles, but did HE ever KNOW US? Were we born of HIM?
Can one be born of God in a way that is so subtle and imperceptible that they never notice it? How does that product a mighty change of heart? How does that result in a remission of sins and a baptism of fire?
This is why I think this is a major problem. I think a vast majority of people use this as a copout to draw near to God with their lips only and imagine a God that is nothing every but a barely imperceptible influence in their lives. The scriptures get wrested to pretend to an acceptable state with God to justify having to come down into the depths of humility and experience that wrestle with God and exercise mighty faith to where the signs God promised begin to follow.
Or is all simply well in Zion? Why are we losing so many who discard their faith as they would a Netflix membership? Why do I hear cookie cutter testimonies of the Savior with no life in them? Why do I hear members say to newly baptized 8 year olds that they wish they could trade places with them and be as clean as they are that day? Why do we baptize people and NEVER talk to them about the baptism of fire and what to expect?
I’ve wrestled with this for a long time wondering if I’m the one with the problem, or if I’m the one not seeing clearly. I’m not proposing that I am seeing crystal clear, but over time as I’ve talked to many and have observed carefully and compared myself and others by the standard of the word of God, I see a picture emerging that I find extremely troubling.
My current understanding of the baptism of fire is that it is distinct from a mighty change of heart, that one may accompany the other or each may be experienced on separate events. The power with which the Holy Ghost sanctifies can not only be mighty and instant but also subtle, including incremental.
That is what is often said today and that leads people to a different set of expectations. Often, people don’t expect much and are left wondering.
But God is a God of miracles, signs, and wonders. He is more that just forever being a still small voice. A “baptism of a still small voice” is what people often expect today, but the scriptures call it a “baptism of FIRE and the Holy Ghost.” People who experience it are never the same.
But I used to understand as you did and didn’t give it much thought until I was troubled by what the scriptures were saying in relation to my experiences. Even though God saved my physical life, I experienced revelations, the presence of the Father and his comfort to my heart, saw a room filled with fire and the presence of the Spirit and stop the mouths of multiple people including myself, saw healings, was healed, etc.
I didn’t know if I was clean before God and I wasn’t. I had sins in my heart still. I held people captive in my mind because I had no forgiveness or mercy in my heart for them.
When I let go of it all, when I became less, and released my pride and selfishness and came empty to God, it was only then that I was filled.
The baptism of fire and the mighty change of heart, in my experience, were indeed two separate things. One was an act of God, a baptism by Christ and the other was my response to the event, my heart changed as I was shaken to my core.
And yes, over time, the Spirit has continue to teach me and guide my life. Yes, I am still a sinner but I am perfect in Christ and am not troubled by sin. I simply always turn back to him and he’s there to receive me once more. I still have so much to learn and have so much room to grow but I am built upon the rock of Christ and I have no fear of anything removing me from it.
This is what I teach my children and what I try to explain to others. This is consistent with the message of the scriptures and I find a lot of what we say about it as members lacking because of the simple fact that hardly anyone is mentored to that point in their spiritual journey. They are baptized at eight and pointed toward many other very good and worthy things but at the unfortunate expense of their own literal salvation.
This is why many members have an internal struggle if you ask them if they have been “born again.” They’ll say some quote they heard somewhere but they won’t go to an experience.
But again, this is not an unsolvable problem. It doesn’t matter if you were baptized 8 or 80 years ago. God’s promises have no expiration date. Echoing Pres. Benson I say as well, “if it hasn’t happened to you – it should.” There is no reason to fear or feel embarrassed or disadvantaged. We can all simply pursue Christ, leave behind our sins and pride, and he’ll baptize and fill us just as he promised.
Everyone’s experiences vary. Each of us has been allotted differently. We are blessed according to our faith, repentance, forgiveness, sacrifice, and so forth.
I’ve always been surrounded by people who have had remarkable experiences and who have spiritual gifts. A friend of mine has had experiences like yours and beyond. Sharing such things can be unwise in our often unsupportive culture.
Upon sharing a sacred experience, how many have been met with unbelief, scoffs, and worse?
I hear you, but I think the core promise of Christ’s doctrine should be experienced by every member of the church. The Lectures on Faith teach that salvation is the effect of faith.
But there is no salvation without a remission of sins and there is no remission of sins without the baptism of fire.
Signs follow those that believe and if there are no signs, that is concerning, and I think we try to justify the weakness because it is easy versus strengthening faith which requires real sacrifice and walking in the narrow way.
If we can’t even have the faith to experience a baptism of fire, we are in a very concerning place as a people.
I also think that there are legitimate times when not to share something sacred. However, I think it can be an excuse used by the faithless to hide their own lack of experience with God.
I think we should share far more, especially among ourselves. To testify that Christ’s promises are sure and they can be achieved so we can mentor others so they aren’t left in the dark.
I was baptized at the age of 8, was ordained a deacon (and possibly a teacher?) but was not active or believing from around the age of 11 onward. I was a Nihilistic-Atheist from around 13 until the age of 23 when I learned that God existed. The experience was very powerful and changed my entire life. I had to learn everything from scratch. I worked with the missionaries to learn about the core doctrines, and I read the Book of Mormon to learn about God’s moral law. I was privileged to serve a mission and left shortly before my 26th birthday. I am 36 now. It’s been quite a ride.
I do not have fond memories of my mission. After my mission I regarded myself as less-active for a number of years and didn’t really start seeking Christ until around 3 years ago. Something I’ve realized is that after my conversion, and during my mission, and beyond, I never had a testimony of Christ. I know there is a God, but knowing God exists and knowing that Christ is God and can heal and redeem me are two different things. I’ve never found myself particularly attached to the Church. I view the Church as a tool I can use to help me grow closer to God, and until I have a testimony of Christ, I don’t really feel the need to gain a testimony of the Priesthood (as an example, because it’s so closely connected with the Church).
In any event, reading your thoughts about the baptism of fire has me thinking in a few different directions. Was the experience I had that brought me out of hell a baptism of fire? I would say that that is a good description of what occurred. Have I felt God tell me that all of my sins are forgiven and that I’ve been given a new heart through Christ? No, I don’t feel that way. When I left behind my past life it was through my stength and will power with the motivation to have a holy experience again. I haven’t successfully connected Christ with that event. On the one hand, I am on a rock, and I won’t ever fall off of it. It’s not a rock of the Church, but it is a rock of never giving up on my quest to become close to God. But on the other hand, I get wrapped up in Telestial sins, my commitment to Christ and desire to do His will are low, and I’m very selfish. It would probably be accurate to say that I love Mammon more than God and serve the adversary more often than not.
I have a desire to believe in Christ. And I’m trying to get to know Him. I don’t know if my initial conversion experience was the baptism of fire and I just need to remedy ‘knowing it not’ or if I haven’t experienced it yet. Repentance is a thing I have a difficult time understanding because I don’t feel like God has ever changed my heart.
Hi JV, thanks for sharing your story, I can relate to you at various parts of your path. I have been working up figuring out how to share my whole story because I think it could be helpful to others, it just has some very hard to talk about parts that I haven’t figured out how to approach.
But anyway, I had to reconstruct my whole paradigm of things when I was around 17-18 years old and pretty much start from scratch myself. I too had a very powerful experience that literally saved my life otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.
What followed that was a season of light and straight up miracles and events that I would not have believed if I didn’t experience them myself.
But like you, I also realized that knowing God exists and that Christ can heal or is my Savior were two different things. It was clear from the scriptures that people who reached out for redemption knew from God that their sins were forgiven and that they were redeemed. This knowledge or experience produced what they described as a mighty change of heart.
I realized I was missing something, but I had no idea how to get it. I wondered if I was just looking beyond the mark and should just be content with what I had, but I couldn’t do that. The scriptures must be telling the truth, so I pursued as best as I could.
I sought to confess before God any and all sins past or present. I forgave people that I had held captive under stupid grudges, and I just sought to walk the path and pray to God for guidance. I focused on Christ and tried to draw near to him in any way I could. Then, one day, completely out of nowhere I experienced what I recognized to be a baptism of fire because it matched what I read about in scripture.
The experience for me came all at once and took me completely by surprise. What happened is hard to describe in parts. It was like a conduit/pillar/tornado? of watery fire as odd as that sounds. I was reclined in bed at the time, just moments after finishing my evening prayers and climbing in to bed. It was crushing in its power and I was completely overpowered. It hit me in the chest and filled my entire soul and immediately I recognized it as the literal pure love of Christ.
I don’t understand to this day HOW it is a POWER like that but as I experienced it, I knew exactly how God felt about me and I was overwhelmed by it, you just cannot in any degree even comprehend how powerful God’s love for us individually is.
This was a complex experience because at the same time God is pouring into me light, love, knowledge, and information, the skeptical side of my brain is fighting it. Justifying the experience as potential chemicals in the brain manifesting a religious experience…then a powerful surge as if my thoughts were known and being contradicted with evidence. Again, my mind raced for an explanation and a third surge more powerful than anything I had before experienced completely washed away any doubt and I simply accepted what was happening.
Not in words, but in understanding somehow I was told something to the effect, as best I can describe, “You are reclaimed, and nothing can ever take you from me.” So many things became clear at the same time. I understood that I was clean in God’s eyes and the feeling of his love was so incredibly powerful that I was never the same afterwards. Immediately my next thought was, “Oh my God, this is how you feel about EVERY person!” I just couldn’t comprehend it but it was true.
Eventually, everything closed and I was left there alone again. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what had just happened but now THAT was a part of reality that I had to reconcile. I had no desire to do anything to offend a love like that and I wanted nothing more than for anyone to know and experience what I just did.
At the time, I figured that this is what every church member experienced and I was just finally arriving to enjoy the same things. Over the years I began to realize that hardly anyone had experienced anything like that.
I’ve struggled for many years to try and understand why. I have come to conclude that what I experienced was never intended to be unique. This is the promise of the gospel of Christ to any that seek him.
I feel where you are, I was there. You are asking the right questions and you’re feeling the right things. Just keep going with boldness.
Repentance is a very easy thing to understand. It’s simply a change of mind at the end of the day. We don’t repent by fighting sin and overcoming it through sheer will. We repent by turning to God and allowing his mind to become ours and see the sin for what it is. When we do, our mind changes and we abhor the thing.
It’s just like how as toddlers we were find with eating old hard gum under a table and now we shudder at the thought of it; our minds changed.
Here’s more on this topic if you’d like to dig a little bit deeper down this line of thought: https://oneclimbs.com/2021/03/28/repentance-the-renewal-of-the-mind/
Some seem to think that a baptism of fire is a subtle process that stretches over time, that it isn’t an event, it just slowly and indiscernibly “happens.” I disagree, and I would say that the scriptures do as well. The mighty change of heart comes BECAUSE OF the baptism of fire, that’s the catalyst because I don’t see how you can be filled with the power and love of God as I was and not have a radical change in the deepest recesses of your heart and soul.
For more on this, consider what this man, Paul Washer has to say, he has an incredible analogy about a logging truck that is dead on accurate. I’d like anyone considering that a baptism of fire is a subtle indiscernible thing consider his words: https://youtu.be/uuabITeO4l8?t=1892
You’re asking the right questions, my friend. Dig into the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, study those conversion stories, especially Enos, Alma the younger, and the entirety of Alma chapter 5. You will find what you are looking for and you’ll have no doubt when you find it.
I really enjoyed this post. To be short and concise, I had a baptism of fire experience when I was 17. It was at the Orlando Temple open house. The best way to describe would be to point to Lorenzo Snow’s experience that he recounted shortly after his baptism, where several days went by and he wasn’t sure if he was born again. I’m sure you’ve probably read that experience.
At any rate, that was quite a while ago now. But the memory of that experience is vivid. It was borderline overwhelming. And like you, I’ve noted the fact that many folks I know have never experienced something that powerful.
Very cool, Michael, thanks for sharing. For the sake of others who may be reading your comment and wondering, I’ll include Lorenzo Snow’s experience here below:
“I was baptized by Elder John Boynton, then one of the Twelve Apostles, June, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio. Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints, which I proved, by comparison, to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With sanguine expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority; and, having thus yielded obedience to these ordinances, I was in constant expectation of the fulfillment of the promise of the reception of the Holy Ghost.
The manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism, as I had expected, but, although the time was deferred, when I did receive it, its realization was more perfect, tangible and miraculous than even my strongest hopes had led me to anticipate.
Some two or three weeks after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work—that I had not realized the fulfillment of the promise, “he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine,” and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house, and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of the day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forego my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.
I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge, as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically, that the “Babe of Bethlehem” is truly the Son of God; also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in the Apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized, I think I may safely say in an infinite degree.
I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of the blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element which filled and surrounded me began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God, beyond the power of expression, I felt—I knew that He had conferred on me what only an omnipotent being can confer—that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow. That night, as I retired to rest, the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet remembrance of those glorious experiences, from that time to the present, bring them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence.” (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p.8-9)