Chapter 18: Spiritual Rebirth: True Conversion

“Chapter 18: Spiritual Rebirth: True Conversion,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 49–50

“18: Conversion,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 49–50

Chapter 18

Spiritual Rebirth: True Conversion


Sometimes we learn best by seeing the contrast between white and black, good and evil, sour and sweet. Alma the Younger appeared first in the Book of Mormon as a wicked and an idolatrous man going among the Church members attempting to destroy the work of his father. During Alma’s rebellion, an angel appeared to him and chastised him, bearing witness of God’s purposes. Alma was so impressed by the visitation that for a time he was unable to move or speak. Finally, he stood upon his feet and declared, “I have … been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit” (Mosiah 27:24).

An experience such as the one that so transformed the life of Alma is essential to our own development within the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our experience may not, and probably will not, take the same form as Alma’s, but its results can be the same. We will be able to declare with Alma that we are “redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity” and that our “soul is pained no more” (Mosiah 27:29).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. All accountable persons must be born again of water and of the Spirit.

    1. To receive salvation in the celestial kingdom, all members of the Church must be born again and receive the baptism of fire (see Mosiah 27:24–29; John 3:3–8; Alma 7:14).

    2. To be born again is to be quickened by the Spirit and receive a change of heart (see Moses 6:65–66; Mosiah 5:2, 5–7).

    3. Our rebirth begins at baptism and is completed when we receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost and are cleansed from sin (see 3 Nephi 12:1–2; Alma 36:24; Mormon 7:10).

    4. Being born again is a continual process (see Alma 5:14–31; 1 Peter 2:2).

  2. Justification is being forgiven by the Lord and set upon the path of righteousness.

    1. Being born again justifies us before the Lord and puts us on the road to sanctification (see D&C 20:29–31; Moses 6:60; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

    2. Justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ and through individual righteousness (see JST, Romans 4:16; Romans 5:1, 9; Isaiah 53:11).

    3. All covenants pertaining to our exaltation must be entered into in righteousness and be justified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (see D&C 132:7; 76:53).

  3. Sanctification is a state of saintliness and purity.

    1. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ are commanded to become sanctified (see D&C 43:9, 11, 16; 88:68; 133:4; 39:18).

    2. To be sanctified is to become holy and without sin (see Moroni 10:32–33).

    3. Those who obtain eternal life in the presence of God must be sanctified (see 3 Nephi 27:19–20; D&C 76:20–21; 88:2, 116).

    4. Sanctification is attainable because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but only if we obey His commandments (see D&C 76:40–42; 43:9; 88:21; 133:62).

    5. Sanctification comes by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Alma 13:12; 3 Nephi 27:20; 1 Peter 1:2).

    6. Those who are sanctified can fall (see D&C 20:34).

Supporting Statements

  1. All accountable persons must be born again of water and of the Spirit.

    • “The Son of God came into the world to redeem it from the fall. But except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This eternal truth settles the question of all men’s religion. A man may be saved, after the judgment, in the terrestrial kingdom, or in the telestial kingdom, but he can never see the celestial kingdom of God, without being born of water and the Spirit” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 12).

    • “Alma was trying to arouse his hearers at Zarahemla to a realization that their being able to look up ‘to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands’ would depend upon their experiencing the mighty change wrought in men’s hearts by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

      “Reminding them that his father had accepted the words of Abinadi and that ‘according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. …

      “‘And [that he had] preached the word unto [their] fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts,’ he continued,

      “‘And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? …

      “‘Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?’ (Alma 5:12–14).

      “It was against this background that he put the question: ‘Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?’ (Alma 5:19).

      “This ‘mighty change’ wrought by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost should and does, if the proselyte is prepared to receive it, occur when he is baptized by immersion for the remission of sins and receives the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost—the two required ordinances for being ‘born of water and of the spirit.’” (Marion G. Romney, Look to God and Live, 269–70).

    • “The first birth takes place when spirits pass from their pre-existent first estate into mortality; the second birth or birth ‘into the kingdom of heaven’ takes place when mortal men are born again and become alive to the things of the Spirit and of righteousness. The elements of water, blood, and Spirit are present in both births. (Moses 6:59–60.) The second birth begins when men are baptized in water by a legal administrator; it is completed when they actually receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost, becoming new creatures by the cleansing power of that member of the Godhead” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 101).

    Christ and the rich young man
  2. Justification is being forgiven by the Lord and set upon the path of righteousness.

    • “What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13–14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.) An act that is justified by the Spirit is one that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or in other words, ratified and approved by the Holy Ghost” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 408).

    • “Justification is a judicial act, whereby God declares that the sinner who repents and by faith accepts the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and who is baptized according to the Word of God, is acquitted and received into His Kingdom” (Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 104).

    • “To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world: for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion, strengthening our faith by adding every good quality that adorns the children of the blessed Jesus, we can pray in the season of prayer; we can love our neighbor as ourselves, and be faithful in tribulation, knowing that the reward of such is greater in the kingdom of heaven. What a consolation! What a joy! Let me live the life of the righteous, and let my reward be like his!” (Smith, Teachings, 76).

  3. Sanctification is a state of saintliness and purity.

    • “To be sanctified is to become clean, pure, and spotless; to be free from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit. Sanctification is a state of saintliness, a state attained only by conformity to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 675).

    • “When the will, passions, and feelings of a person are perfectly submissive to God and His requirements, that person is sanctified. It is for my will to be swallowed up in the will of God, that will lead me into all good, and crown me ultimately with immortality and eternal lives” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 2:123).

    • “I will put my own definition to the term sanctification, and say it consists in overcoming every sin and bringing all into subjection to the law of Christ. God has placed in us a pure spirit; when this reigns predominant, without let or hindrance, and triumphs over the flesh and rules and governs and controls as the Lord controls the heavens and the earth, this I call the blessing of sanctification” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 10:173).