“A Second Birth,” Liahona, June 1998, 3
Our individual reaching toward a second birth, a reawakening, is followed by an eternal searching for that which is noble and good. Like Nicodemus, many will inquire, how can this second birth be? (See John 3:4.) The answer is still the same: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
The inquiring Thomas asked a meaningful question: “Lord, … how can we know the way?” The enduring response was “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:5–6).
To be spiritually born of God means that we must be able to answer affirmatively the query of Alma, “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14). To be born again means that we must exercise a faith that does not waver and is not easily distracted.
Many members, in drinking of the bitter cup that has come to them, wrongfully think that this cup passes by others. In his first words to the people of the Western continent, Jesus of Nazareth poignantly spoke of the bitter cup the Father had given Him (see 3 Ne. 11:11). Every soul has some bitterness to swallow. Parents having a child who loses his or her way come to know a sorrow that defies description. A woman whose husband is cruel or insensitive can have her heart broken every day. Members who do not marry may suffer sorrow and disappointment. Having drunk the bitter cup, however, there comes a time when one must accept the situation as it is and reach upward and outward. President Harold B. Lee said, “Do not let self-pity or despair beckon you from the course you know is right.” The Savior set the compass: we must be born again in spirit and heart.
Years ago Bonnie McKean Giauque won the National Wheelchair Decor Contest. This Salt Lake mother had been stricken with multiple sclerosis and had to care for her husband and five lovely daughters from a wheelchair. She decorated her wheelchair as Raggedy Ann so that children seeing her would have something to comment on besides her handicap. One fast day she confided that she and another friend, likewise handicapped, had decided, “Aren’t we lucky because we have wheelchairs?”
James Reston, New York Times political analyst, noted: “When G. K. Chesterton wrote his autobiography at the end of a remarkable life, he said that the most important lesson he had learned was to take things with gratitude instead of taking things for granted.” Mr. Reston also noted that no matter how pessimistic one’s view may be of all of our time-honored institutions, “even then and especially then, you can either quit or fall back on personal friendship and faithful personal love, or plain and honest dealings in your private lives.” In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius gives this advice to his son: “These friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel” (1.3.62–63).
As Thomas asked, how shall we know the way? (See John 14:15.) We shall discover it by looking beyond ourselves. A trusted friend states: “I need to be reminded of the dangers of turning inward, of grabbing too tightly to my own soul. In trying to preserve myself, I would squeeze all of the life out of myself.” There are grave dangers in considering too prominently our own desires and needs, which strangle the opportunity to be born anew. The case for a spiritual rebirth is unassailable. Paul the Apostle said to the Romans, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
This is not a passive life. The word of God constantly sets before us images of vigor and action and power, which under His benevolent guidance can be directed and controlled. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” Paul asked the Romans (Rom. 9:21). Elder Thomas E. McKay, an Assistant to the Twelve, said this of his brother President David O. McKay: “As children, we swam in the cold streams around Huntsville. David would be the first in the chilling water and shout to the rest of us standing fearfully on the bank, ‘Come on in, the water is fine.’” There comes a time when we must jump in the cold water no matter how foreboding.
For example, it is a mistake for women to think that life begins only upon marriage. A woman must have an identity and be useful and feel important and needed whether she is single or married. She must also feel that she has something to offer. Speaking through Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare said, “For myself alone I would not be ambitious in my wish, to wish myself much better; yet for you I would be trebled twenty times myself” (3.2.50–53).
In the message of the Divine Redeemer there is an offer of hope to all, of great power to parents and to any who may at times feel poor in spirit, downtrodden, or unloved. It is the transcending hope of a new birth. There is a great freedom for those who are born of the Spirit. They can be like the wind that “bloweth where it listeth,” and no man knoweth “whence it cometh, and whither it goeth” (John 3:8). Thus, being twice born, they can be free from the restricting shackles of self-pity, doubt, discouragement, and loneliness and be lifted up in lofty and noble pursuits. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).
The message of the Savior is the same now as it was by the well or in the cornfield or by the Sea of Galilee. It is the message that there can be a heavenly kingdom on earth even as in heaven and that those who take upon themselves His work shall be twice born, renewed in heart and in spirit. It is the message that they who drink of the water that the Master gives them “shall never thirst,” but that this water may be in them “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
They who take upon themselves the burdens of others shall find unspeakable joy. This great transcending happiness is available to all, even the most humble and forlorn. It is within the grasp of all. We reach the Creator through His children. Whoso gives a cup of water to the thirsting gives it to the Savior, and whoso receives that water receives the infinite Father, who sent Him.
This ministering to others must not always be to our own. I am reminded of a time when, as a young missionary, I was stricken with yellow jaundice, which was known to us as “missionaries’ disease.” I was so deathly sick, I was afraid I would not die. A good woman, not of our faith, nursed me back to health. I felt she literally saved my life. That surpassing service to me was unpurchased, for she accepted nothing in return. I am looking forward to seeing her in another world if I should be worthy to go where she is.
If performed in the right spirit, there is no higher worship than the unpurchased service to another soul, of whatever faith, belief, or social stratum. The Savior of the world said it simply: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
Perhaps one of our gifts can be as simple and effortless as the giving of a smile or a kind word. Simple but sublime communication from one who cares elevates the lonely soul so that the troubled can be lifted. I humbly pray that there may be a second birth for all of us, a reawakening to each of all the good we could do.
One who has had a second birth, a reawakening, begins an eternal search for that which is noble and good.
To be born again means we must exercise a faith in God that does not waver.
There is great freedom to those who are born of the Spirit—freedom from restricting shackles of self-pity, doubt, discouragement, and loneliness, freedom to be lifted to lofty pursuits of Christlike living.
Those who take upon themselves the Savior’s work shall be twice born, renewed in heart and in spirit.