What does it mean to be born again?

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“What does it mean to be born again?” New Era, Aug. 1971, 36

“What does it mean to be born again?”

Answer/President Bruce R. McConkie

To be born again is essential to salvation!

Those who are born again are candidates for the celestial kingdom. Those who are not born again can neither see nor enter the kingdom of heaven. (John 3:1–13.) It is thus tremendously important for us to know—

1. What is meant by being born again; and

2. How one may attain this select and blessed state.

There are two births—the temporal and the spiritual. One is a birth into mortality, the other an awakening to that high spiritual state which puts a person on the path leading to the kingdom of heaven. Of these births the Lord says:

“… Inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten”—Why this second birth? The Lord’s answer—“that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59.)

That is, mortal man, having been cast out of the presence of God—being subject to sin, must put off the natural man and become a saint. (Mosiah 3:19.) He must crucify the “old man” of sin and come forth “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:1–10) and become a “new” creature of the Holy Ghost (Mosiah 27:24–30). He must become alive to the things of righteousness and return to the presence of God in the sense that he enjoys the companionship of the Holy Spirit.

In our temporal birth we are born to mortal parents and belong to an earthly family. In our spiritual birth we are adopted into a new family, the family of Christ. We take upon ourselves his name and he becomes our Father.

Those who join the Church and live the gospel “have power to become” the sons of Jesus Christ. (D&C 39:1–6.) King Benjamin said to the faithful saints in his day: “… ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; … your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7.)

For most members of the Church this spiritual rebirth takes place gradually; it is a process. They become alive to one spiritual reality after another as they keep the commandments and seek to sanctify their souls. No one is perfect, and there are all degrees of personal righteousness and spiritual enlightenment among the Saints.

Members of the Church are thus born again degree by degree, and the tests for measuring one’s spiritual status are in the fifth chapter of Alma. To his “brethren of the Church” Alma asks such questions as:

“Have ye spiritually been born of God?”

“Have ye received his image in your countenances?”

“Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”

“Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?” (See Alma 5:14, 16.)

So important is it that we members of the Church have our attention centered on being born again that the Lord has provided us an opportunity to partake of the sacrament often and thereby covenant anew to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and to live as becometh sons and daughters in his household.