“Book of Mormon Principles: Spiritually Born of God,” Ensign, Apr. 2004, 49
On a cold winter day several years ago, I visited one of the branches in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. It was fast Sunday, and we warmed ourselves in the glow of the testimonies borne in the poorly heated, rented space where we were meeting.
I especially recall the testimony of one sister whose inspired face I can still see in my mind. She was a single mother. She and her one-year-old child lived in the dormitory of the factory where she worked. Economic conditions were not good. Her wages were low and paid irregularly. Despair and then eventual hope in God brought her to the gospel.
Not long after her baptism, she was preparing food for herself and her child when a young woman who lived in the same building said: “I know things are difficult for you. Like me, you are a single mother, earning low wages, with no place of your own to live. There is little hope of a good future for yourself and your child. Like me, you have a gray, dull life. Like me, you fear for your child and the uncertainty of tomorrow. But why are you always smiling and your eyes always shining? Why does joy light up your face?”
The questions made this sister stop and think about the changes that had occurred since her baptism. As she gained faith in Jesus Christ, the fear that had corroded her life had disappeared. The path back to the Father that opened before her had permitted her to have hope, which had led her to baptism and developed within her a certainty of a tranquil and happy future for her small family. By receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, she had received a firm testimony. The false values of the world gradually gave way to the higher values of the gospel, and these higher values became a firm foundation for both thought and deed. She realized that it was precisely these changes that had given her a new outlook on the world. Long-awaited joy and peace had come into her life.
I frequently recall that simple, humble testimony, full of the Spirit and the joy of the truth. It causes me to think that having repented and entered into the waters of baptism, we sometimes forget we have started on the path established for us by our Heavenly Father’s plan and made possible by the Savior’s great sacrifice. This choice is the starting point, not only for us, but for our future generations. Thus begin the rebirth and change of our existence in this life, opening the way to eternal life.
The Lord instructed Alma that all mankind “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).
Sensing the Lord’s Spirit and feeling the powerful changes in our hearts—so much so that we no longer do evil but rather strive toward the godly—permit us to understand what it means to be born again, to be spiritually born of God. The deeper our understanding of this principle, the more carefully will we heed Alma’s warning: “Unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off” (Mosiah 27:27).
It is important for each person to recognize the danger of falling under the influence of carnal lusts, desires, appetites, and feelings more than under the influence of the Holy Ghost, because “if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him” (D&C 3:4).
Like so many in this world, we often ponder the meaning of our lives, our destinies, our futures, and our children’s futures. We seek answers to the questions that trouble us. How we rejoice when we learn of the Lord’s plan for us! We can be spiritually born again when we take upon us His name, are obedient to His commandments, and heed the power and influence of the Holy Ghost (see Mosiah 5:7).
Surprisingly, while pursuing the things of life, we sometimes artificially complicate the loving simplicity of His gospel. That is why He commands us to be like children in the openness, sincerity, and simplicity of their perception of the world. The Lord tells us, “Fear not, little children, for you are mine” (D&C 50:41). The Savior calls upon us to believe in the light of the gospel that we might be children of light (see John 12:36). Mormon teaches that “if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ” (Moro. 7:19). Becoming like a child will bring rest into our lives and peace to our hearts.
At a recent sacrament meeting, a man came into the chapel and sat down near the entrance. His clothes were untidy; his face was unshaven. He appeared somewhat uncomfortable, and I guessed this was his first visit to our branch. He seemed more interested in the furniture around him than in the meeting. This disappointed me because the talks that day were especially uplifting. When he left before the meeting was over, I followed him out. After a short greeting, I simply asked, “What made you leave?”
After a moment, he replied: “I am a very poor man, and the conditions of my life cause me a lot of suffering. I am looking for sympathy and compassion, and when I heard that good people attend your church, I decided to stop by. But I can see that your church is for the rich, and I probably will not find what I am looking for among those people.”
I was very surprised by his answer. The people in our branch are far from rich, and some of them have struggled with need and poverty for a long time. “What made you think that?” I asked him.
At first, his answer discouraged me. “They are so neatly dressed; they are quiet, and their children smile all of the time. Poor people cannot look so happy and content in this joyless life.” Then I invited him to visit us again and promised that if he would investigate the restored gospel, he would find what he was looking for.
Subsequently, as I reflected on our branch, I realized that the man was right. We truly are not poor people because we do not feel that we are. And although need sometimes knocks at our door, we are at peace. We truly are rich because of our faith in Jesus Christ, our knowledge, our families, and our Church. The Lord has blessed us with the eternal riches of a spiritual rebirth and the promise of a future with Him: “Mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give” (D&C 67:2).