Monday, July 21, 2014

Mormon Monday: Being Born Again

When I was serving a mission in San Antonio, Texas, I ran into many Born-again Christians. They were always very nice to me, and I often had incredible conversations with them. From what I understand from talking to these strangers (and please correct me if I'm incorrect in anyway, because my intention is not to be insulting, but loving), Born-again Christians are generally people who didn't believe in God or Christ, but had a deeply spiritual experience where they felt the Lord's love for them and have now accepted Christ as their Savior. Most of them seem to believe that by accepting Christ at that moment, He saved them for all eternity.

That is a beautiful thought, and one that does contain truth.

However, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we believe that a one-time repentance of your sins is not sufficient.

As members of the LDS church, we believe that Christ is the literal son of God. We believe that He descended from heaven, took on a mortal form, lived a perfectly sinless life, suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, died on the cross, and three days later was resurrected.

We believe that through Christ, we can become cleansed of our sins and live with our Father in heaven. We believe that God has a specific plan for us, which we call the Plan of Salvation. (I spoke about that in more detail in a previous blog post.)

Like many other Christians, we do believe that we need to be "born again," but we view this phrase a little differently.

I wanted to discuss the 3rd Chapter of John for a moment. This chapter begins with a leader among the Jews approaching Christ to clarify a point of doctrine. The chapter states:
 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
This is a fair question, and it mirrors what many people say today when they are mocking those who believe that they can be born again. However, Christ addressed his question with love and answered simply:
 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
In our church, we have been taught that here Christ is referring to baptism. As we are symbolically immersed in the water, we bury our old selves behind and are born again as children of Christ. We take his name upon us and covenant with him that we will keep the commandments, take his name upon us, and always remember him. In return, those with the priesthood (the authority of God) are able to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, and as long as we are doing our best, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. In this sense we are literally born again in Christ.

 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
 14 ¶And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
 16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
 18 ¶He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
I love this section. It states that Christ came because God wanted to save his children, and as we accept and believe in him, we can be saved and have everlasting life.

We believe that after you are 'born again' through baptism, you also have to endure to the end. You have to continue to make and keep those covenants that you made through baptism and continue to progress to become more like Christ. Unclean things cannot enter heaven, and the closer we can become to our Heavenly Father in this life, the easier it will be to enter his presence.

We believe that we are saved by grace. We do our best, but without our Savior it will never be enough. However, with His aid, we can accomplish all things. We believe grace to be the enabling power of God. With grace, we become capable of reaching heaven and living with our Father again. Without grace, we are filthy from our mistakes and nothing we do can ever remove that filthiness.

I recently read an article by an ex-Christian who stated that they had put aside their 'childish beliefs' because they found inaccuracies in the bible. As a evangelical student studying the Bible at Yale, they found many inaccuracies and contradictions that destroyed their faith. I quote from the blog here:
We evangelicals, with our infallible view of scripture ripped from our hands, were left gasping for air. If you crumple and toss out a literal reading of the Bible, then what does it mean to talk about Jesus literally dying for your sins?
I can understand why many Christians would feel this way. As Latter-Day Saints, we believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.

We recognize that the Bible is an incredible work of scripture, but that over the centuries, things have been changed, sometimes by accident and sometimes maliciously. We believe that Christ was truly the Son of God, by our faith is not only sustained by the words of the Bible. We believe that God still lives today and we have living prophets and apostles. I know this to be true through my own experiences and because I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm the truth of it. I know that Christ did come and suffer for my sins and that baptism is essential for salvation. 

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