A new year always brings the idea of new year’s resolutions. I have been making new year’s resolutions for many years, but they do not usually last very long. Some of my resolutions include eating better, exercising more, reading the scriptures more, and the list goes on.
New year images also include a new born baby. One of the many news stories for the new year is the first baby born on the first day of the year. We have hope when we see a new born baby; hope for the future of the child. A new born child is fresh and clean, and his parents are there to protect and teach the child everything she will need to know to succeed.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all start over like a new born child? Not that I want to repeat growing up or experience my rebellious teenage years; but how would it be if we could forget all our troubles and mistakes and start over? We can, through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused and asked if a man could enter his mother’s womb again? Jesus then explained that he was talking of a spiritual rebirth. President James E. Faust explained:
“Our first birth takes place when we are born into mortality. Our second birth begins when we are baptized by water by one holding the priesthood of God and is completed when we are confirmed, and then cometh a remission of [our] sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” (Born Again).
President Faust tells of a man that had polio for 22 years and was bed ridden. The missionaries taught him the Gospel and he wanted to be baptized. The man asked the missionaries to fast with him so he would have the strength to be baptized. On the day of his baptism the missionaries carried him to the car and to a bench in the chapel. When it came time for him to be baptized he said:
“Elder Peters and his companion picked up Atiati and carried him to the font. As they did so, Atiati said, “Please, put me down.” They hesitated, and he said again, “Put me down.”
As they stood in some confusion, Atiati smiled and exclaimed: “This is the most important event in my life. I know without a doubt in my mind that this is the only way to eternal salvation. I will not be carried to my salvation!” So they lowered Atiati to the ground. After a huge effort, he managed to pull himself up. The man who had lain 20 years without moving was now standing. Slowly, one shaky step at a time, Atiati went down the steps and into the water, where the astonished missionary took him by the hand and baptized him. He then asked to be carried from the font to the chapel, where he was confirmed a member of the Church.
Atiati continued to progress so that he gained the ability to walk only by a cane. He told Elder Peters that he knew that he would be able to walk on the morning of his baptism. He said, “Since faith can move a stubborn mountain, I had no doubt in my mind that it would mend these limbs of mine.”9 I believe we can say that Atiati was truly born again!” (Born Again).
In the Book of Mormon, we read of King Benjamin’s address to his people before he died. His message was so powerful that the people cried with one voice:
“we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:2-7)
The prophet Alma described how he repented of his sins and was born again:
“said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, 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 27:24-26)
The process of spiritual rebirth is not easy, and it does not happen in an instant. It is a process of making the choice to follow the Savior’s example, of keeping the commandments and doing God’s will. Our rebirth may begin because of a spiritual experience as it did with King Benjamin’s people and with Alma, but if we do not have a change of heart and have no “disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” the process will not be complete, and we will not be perfected.
When King Benjamin’s people said that they had no more disposition to do evil, did it mean that they never sinned again? No, that is not possible. We are all imperfect beings and make mistakes. They meant that they would try to keep the commandments and live as God wanted them to live. As it was with them, so we must not expect to live perfect lives. When we sin or make a mistake, we must rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to wipe away our sins. We must pray daily for forgiveness and continue with our resolve to avoid evil and do good continually.
Years later, Alma asked the people that had been born again after hearing King Benjamin’s address: “if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
This is a question we must ask ourselves each day. As we kneel in prayer at the beginning of the day, we should ask The Father to help us to “have no disposition to do evil, but to do good continually”. Then as we close the day we should reflect on our resolve and ask ourselves if we can “feel so now” – if our rebirth process is still on track. If we have failed in any way, we need to repent and rely on the grace of Jesus Christ to help us do better the next day.
As we begin a new year, my hope and prayer is that we will all strive for a new birth in Jesus Christ. I testify that if we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent of our sins everyday that his grace will be sufficient to raise us up, cleansed from all our sins and we will qualify to live with him along with our family.
Your comments and questions are always welcome.