Alma 36:5 — LeGrand Baker ‘Born of God’
5 Now, behold, I say unto you, if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things; but God has, by the mouth of his holy angel, made these things known unto me, not of any worthiness of myself;
This is an attempt to expand Alma’s statement in 36: 5 that says, “if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things.” We Latter-day Saints tend to overlook the importance of the concept of being “born of God,” or “born again.” The words have been taken over by the Protestants, so we don’t use them. Yet, the concept is one of the most important in the plan of salvation. The attachment is mostly a series of scriptures with very little commentary from me. The sequence of the scriptures tells a most extraordinary story. If you have time to read it carefully, I think it will be of some value to you.
To be “born of God” is about ordinances and covenants—some performed by humans in this world, some not. In both cases its meaning is very different from the Protestant use of the phrase “born again.”
The phrase, “born again” Is found in only two places in the New Testament. the first is in the Nicodemus story (John 3:3-7) which is usually understood to be talking about baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The other is 1 Peter 1:21-23, which is in the context of faith, hope, and charity. Peter wrote:
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
This concept seems to be more in line with what Alma said than the usual interpretation of John 3.
For Paul, the idea of sonship had a legal connotation. That is, we are adopted and are therefore legal heirs. He wrote:
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:14-17).
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote that the adoption he spoke of was part of our foreordination “before the foundation of the world.” Therefore it was a part of the covenant we made that would enable us to return to our Father after we have completed what we came to this world to do. He wrote:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 [the Father] Having predestinated [foreordained] us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).
The Savior explained that principle to the brother of Jared:
11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:11-14).
That adoption, to be a child of Jehovah, was the crowning ceremony of the ancient Israelite temple service. At the king was anointed, he spoke these words:
7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalms 2:7).
The king’s anointing was a two-part ceremony. He was anointed king and adopted as son. In this case “son” of God is the royal new name (For a discussion of Psalm 2 and the new name see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, 499-516.)
The Savior explained this principle even further. In the Beatitudes he said:
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [new covenant name] the children of God (3 Nephi 12:9).
John, the Beloved Apostle, taught the early Saints that same principle. He wrote:
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2).
In that same letter John tied adopted sonship to charity, as they are each necessary to the other:
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.(1 John 4:7-9)
That same doctrine was taught by Mormon in his great sermon. While most of the Beatitudes are short synopsis of sections of Isaiah or the Psalms, verse 9, which concludes with “they shall be called the children of God” seems not to be. However, we can find a complete discussion of its meaning in Moroni 7.
25 Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ.
26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you. …
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.(Moroni 7:25-26, 46-48.)
The conclusion of all this is that becoming—actually becoming—a child of God is a gift from the Father through his Only Begotten Son. But like all gifts, it is one for which we must be fully worthy. The Savior explained:
8 I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not; but unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles, and to become the sons of God; and even unto them that believed on my name gave I power to obtain eternal life (D&C 45:8).
The Lord himself put the capstone on this principle when he described those who will inherit the Celestial Kingdom. I have italicized some of the words that are very important.
50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith [pistis], and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
63 These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people.
64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.
66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.
67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.
68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.
69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.
70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical (D&C 76:50-70).
So, when Alma declared, “ if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things,” he was telling us more than he used words to say.