James E. Faust on John 3:5

The Second Counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley is quoted in Latter-Day Commentary on the New Testament: The Four Gospels (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2002) by Ed J. Pinegar, K. Douglas Bassett, and Ted L. Earl.

In the blowing winds of the intermountain West, James Faust makes the interpretation on John 3:5 distinct and sharp for LDS.
California Dreamin'

BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT

All of us need to be born spiritually, from 8 to 80—or even 90. When Sister Luise Wulff of the German Democratic Republic was baptized in 1989, she exclaimed, “There I was—ninety-four years old and born again!” 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” (2 Ne. 31:17). . . .

Baptism by immersion in water is “the introductory ordinance of the gospel, and must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete” (Bible Dictionary, “Baptism”, p. 618). . . .

The full benefit of forgiveness of sin through the Savior’s Atonement begins with repentance and baptism and then expands upon receiving the Holy Ghost. (James E. Faust, Ensign, May 2001, 55)

So if I understand Faust correctly, any Christian that claims to be born again is deceived if he or she has not been baptized by the proper man who holds the LDS priesthood. Is this correct? To tie in with David’s last post on his blog, LDS Doctrine, let me pose this question: do LDS consider born-again Christians, truly born again? By the way, I really like how David has set up all his links.

A few more questions . . .

Do LDS today interpret “the kingdom of God” as the Celestial kingdom of heaven? McConkie (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, p. 141) and Ogden and Skinner (The Four Gospels, 2006, p. 118) think so. Therefore, is being “born of water and of the Spirit” all that is necessary to enter the celestial kingdom of heaven? And how does this mesh with a recent official Church publication, True to the Faith, quoted by Ogden and Skinner, “Conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior” (TFG, p. 119)?Firmly, McConkie writes about John 3:10, “Nicodemus should have known these truths about spiritual rebirth; he had the prophetic writings before him and was obligated, as a teacher in Israel, to read and understand them” (DNTC, p. 142). Ogden and Skinner echo the same conviction in softer terms, “Jesus responded with a mild rebuke: ‘Art thou a master [leader and teacher] of Israel, and knowest not these things?’ His answer suggests that these principles were known and taught in Old Testament times and Nicodemus should have been well acquainted with them” (TFG, p. 119).

Yet neither McConkie nor Ogden and Skinner bring forth the Old Testament texts about what is required before Jews can enter the kingdom of God. Where do you have “water” and “spirit” joined together as absolutely necessary for eschatological salvation? You can’t miss this like Nicodemus once did.

7 comments

  1. To answer your question- Is the kingdom of god the celestial kingdom? I believe that the kingdom of heaven is the Celestial kingdom. The LDS church’s publication- “Guide to the scriptures” seems to think so also, it reads-

    “The purpose of the Church is to prepare its members to live forever in the celestial kingdom or kingdom of heaven. However, the scriptures sometimes call the Church the kingdom of heaven, meaning that the Church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

    (Guide to the Scriptures | K Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven.:Entry)

    The implications are thus that there are only two places in the end- the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of Hell/devil. This is the whole driving matter as we see that according to the saving gospel, only he who is born again into the Celestial Kingdom is saved. Revelations also points out that the Kingdom of God is a city that will come down out of heaven and that it will have twelve gates for which we enter. Only those whose names are written in the book of life will be able to enter into the city( Celestial kingdom) while those rejected from entering will be the devil and his angels.

    One of the bothersome things is that we hear of deals with those who receive a fulness of forgiveness of sin through baptism. The way i understand it is that we either receive a full forgiveness or we receive “no” forgiveness. There is not some inbetween where man is only partially forgiven. We are either saved or we aren’t. In Alma chapter 11, it speaks that how can one be saved unless he inherit the kingdom of heaven. If one is saved- he is saved from the consequences of his sin. This means that he has received a remission of those sins. Remission of sins only comes through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel which include baptism. But then you see- that is where our doctrine wavers because we also teach another doctrine that man can be saved from the consequences of his sin even if he does not accept the gospel and it’s saving ordinances. We teach that they can inherit a place that is neither hell or the kingdom of heaven (CK). This is where I see a problematic issue with our interpretation of Christ’s gospel.

  2. Rob, you are the first to share with me the “problematic issue.” Thanks.
    Are you alone in this persuasion?

    Also, could you clarify again your distinction between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”? Do you see a separation between the two?

    Depending on what evangelical, classical dispensationalist you talk to, you might hear strong delineation between the two terms.

    For instance,
    Kingdom of God = future, physical, literal millennial reign of Christ on the earth
    Kingdom of heaven = the abode of God in celestial heaven

    But I believe in the spiritual now and future then aspects of God’s kingdom. It is difficult for me to draw a clear, separate line everytime I see the two phrases in the New Testament.

    Make sense?

    And Rob, it seems we both believe one must obey the gospel demands before entering the kingdom. But don’t your scriptures and my scriptures differ on what it means to obey the gospel for entrance. The issue is vital. It is a future of being in the eternal punishment side of His kingdom (forced to miserable bow because of heart unbelief) or an eternity of joy in submitting to the Christ in God’s kingdom. Remember hell is not the free reign of Satan. He is under the sovereign rule of the King.

  3. Todd,

    If you hang around long enough listening to my musings, you too will be convinced of the serious issues raised in our doctrine concerning salvation.

    The Kingdom of God is anywhere the church is set up. This can be in heaven and on earth. The kingdom of heaven is the eternal abode for the righteous. It is where God now dwells and will also be this earth after the millennium.

    I am not sure on what you mean by yours and mine scriptures? The Book of Mormon is identical to the New Testament in it’s teaching that one must believe and be baptized to be saved into the kingdom of heaven so I am not sure what uou mean.

  4. Here is an unusally relevant passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:

    Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

    Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

    And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
    (D&C 10:67-69)

  5. Mark,

    From that scripture passage it seems as if it is stating that if one repents and turns to him, he will secure him from satan while he who does not this is left open to satan and his buffetings.

    Interesting.

  6. That is part of my blog, eh eh! (“rosck of salvation”). Seriously, Christ is the rock. More specifically, the rock is the gospel of Jesus Christ which includes faith, repentance, baptism and endurence to the end. He who does this is built upon the rock of Christ and cannot be moved.

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