Mighty change of heart comes through spirit

"Have ye spiritually been born of God?" was the question Alma posed to the Nephites as recorded in the fifth chapter of Alma.

At some point in their lives, all sincere members of the Church have asked or must ask themselves the same question.What do ancient and contemporary prophets mean, exactly, when they speak of being spiritually born of God, being "born again" (John 3:3), or having "a mighty change" of heart (Mosiah 5:2)?

What does such an experience feel like? What is required to receive it and how long does it take to attain it?

Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and obviously a learned man, was puzzled when Jesus told him that being "born again" is required for entrance into the kingdom of God. Asked the meaning of the concept, Jesus explained, "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." (John 3:8.)

The Master's response suggests that one must experience this spiritual birth to truly comprehend it, that it cannot be perceived through common physical senses, but must come through the workings of the Spirit.

Perhaps some insight can be drawn from the response of the Nephites who heard the address of King Benjamin. It is noteworthy that these people were not new to the faith. From Alma 2, it is evident that they were believers who were familiar with the law of Moses and had been taught the commandments of God by just men appointed to be teachers among them. (See verses 3 and 4.)

Yet, on this occasion the words of Benjamin, they said, filled them with such certainty and resolve that they had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

"And we ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy all things.

"And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy." (Mosiah 5:2-4, italics added.)

President Marion G. Romney, then second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of such an inclination when he defined conversion in an October 1975 conference address.

"As used in the scriptures," he said, "converted generally implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and His teachings, but also a motivating faith in Him and in His gospel, a faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one's understanding of life's meaning and in one's allegiance to God – in interest, in thought and in conduct. While conversion may be accomplished in stages, one is not really converted in the full sense of the term unless and until he is at heart a new person. Born again is the scriptural term."

President Romney noted: "In one who is wholly converted, desire for things inimical to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died, and substituted therefor is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep His commandments. Paul told the Romans that such a one would walk in newness of life."

That such conversion, such a spiritual birth, is more often a process than an event was stated by the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve in a 1976 BYU devotional address:

"We are born again when we die as pertaining to unrighteousness and when we live as pertaining to the things of the Spirit. But that doesn't happen in an instant, suddenly. That . . . is a process. Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous that they get written up in the scriptures. As far as the generality of the members of the Church are concerned, we are born again by degrees, and we are born again to added light and added knowledge and added desires for righteousness as we keep the commandments." (In Devotional Speeches of the Year, 1976, p. 399; quoted in New Testament, Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, p. 6.)

Even after such conversion has been attained, indications are it can be lost when one neglects to foster it through continued faith, prayer, gospel study and obedience. In an April 1980 general conference talk, President Romney gave a reason for reading the Book of Mormon: "By doing so we will fill and refresh our minds with a constant flow of that water' which Jesus said would be in usa well of water springing up into everlasting life' (John 4:14). We must obtain a continuing supply of this water if we are to resist evil and retain the blessings of being born again."

On this page are stories of two Church members who shared their insights and experiences regarding conversion, having a mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God.