John 1:11-12 — the power to become the children of God — LeGrand Baker

Power is priesthood: and all priesthood power must be given in the proper manner and by one holding the proper authority. In this instance, the scriptures assure us that the only person who has that authority is the Savior himself. John testified,

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

The Prophet’s Inspired Version reads more explicitly:

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; only to them who believe on his name.

The Savior taught the same thing when he introduced himself to the Nephites.

15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
16 I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
17 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled (3 Nephi 9:15-17).

The Savior explained it further in the colophon of Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

7 For verily I say unto you that I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the light and the life of the world—a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
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 45:7-8).

As there is always a new name with a new priesthood covenant, the word “name” here may be understood that way. In which case it might be read as, “only to them who believe on my covenant gave I power to obtain eternal life.”

We see the same sort of bestowal of power in the Savior’s Sermon at the Temple in 3 Nephi. Where Matthew reads, “Ye are the salt of the earth” and “Ye are the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-15),” in the Book of Mormon it is a conferral of the Savior’s of power.

13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth ….
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people (3 Nephi 12:13-14).

In the coronation ceremony at the conclusion of the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, the king was anointed and given the authority to reign on earth as a representative of Jehovah who is in fact King of Israel. The anointing was a dual ordinance where the king was adopted as the legitimate son of Jehovah and anointed king. The adoption was necessary. Otherwise, if the king presumed to sit upon the throne in the Temple, he would be a usurper rather than a legal heir.

Psalm 2 was sung during that part of the coronation ceremony. It is sung in part by the congregation, and in part by the king himself. The king says,

7. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2:7). {1}

This anointing represented a new birth, and the new royal covenant name was “son.” That is, the adopted son who could become the rightful heir of Jehovah.

Like the rest of the temple drama, the coronation was a participatory ceremony. Not only was the king adopted at that time, but symbolically, each man in the congregation was also adopted as a son and anointed as a king— not as a political ruler but as a sacral (priesthood) king.

This concept that one must be born again and adopted into the family of God in a fundamental teaching in the scriptures. The phrase itself is found only three times in the New Testament. Two are during the conversation between the Savior and Nickademous, and the third is in 1 Peter.

3 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.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.(John 3:3,7).

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 (1 Peter 1:22-23)

Alma defines the order of his priesthood as the authority to teach that principle. To the people in Zarahemla he declared, “the order after which I am called, … [is] to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again. (Alma 5:49).” To the people in Gideon he was even more explicit.

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14).

Alma understood the importance of his burden to teach the people that they must be born again, because he had learned it from the Savior.

23 And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:
24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25 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;
26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. (Mosiah 27:23-29).

There are two different but similar concepts taught in the scriptures, and they can best be understood as a sequence. The first is that we must become sons and daughters of Christ. The second is that he will enable us to become children of his Father. He said that very succinctly in the Beatitudes.

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called [new name] the children of God (3 Nephi 12:8-9).

The Savior had already taught the first part of that sequence to the brother of Jared.

10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
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 3:10 – 14)

John the Beloved also testified,

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Revelation 21:5-7).

As with the king and people in Psalm 2, King Benjamin concluded his Feast of Tabernacles drama with,

14 … I say unto you, that even so shall it be among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called.
15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen. (Mosiah 5:14-15)

He had already explained,

6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
7 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.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.
12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:6-13)

The first part of the sequence is to become adopted as a child of the Savior. The key to understanding the second part is found in his words to Orson Pratt.

1 My son Orson, hearken and hear and behold what I, the Lord God, shall say unto you, even Jesus Christ your Redeemer;
2 The light and the life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not;
3 Who so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God. Wherefore you are my son (D&C 34:1-4).

The sequence is explicit: because Orson is the Savior’s son, he might also become a son of Heavenly Father. Shortly thereafter, in a revelation addressed to Sidney Rigdon, the Savior explained how being his own son enabled one to also become an adopted son of his Father.

1 Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever.
2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one (D&C 35:1-2).

Paul explained how it is done in his letter to the Ephesians.

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 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself [the Father], according to the good pleasure of his [the Father’s] will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his [the Father] grace, wherein he [the Father] hath made us accepted in the beloved [the Savior].
7 In whom [the Savior] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:3-7). {2}

I understand it this way. We are spirit children of our Heavenly Father, but like the prodigal son, we lost the rights to that heritage when we left home and came to this world and experienced the sin and contradictions that are here. {3}

If we are to regain our heritage, also like the prodigal son, it must be through the generosity and authority of the faithful Son. As Paul explained, we must be adopted through Christ to the Father. Then, as adopted children of the Father, we may also be his legal heirs.

That promise is the conclusion of Mormon’s great priesthood sermon.

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 7:47-48).

John the Beloved explained more fully the relationships that Mormon described.

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.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
….
9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:1-3, 9-11).

Verse 9 is difficult to understand as it is written in the King James Bible, but in the Prophet’s Inspired Version not only is it easier to understand but it ties John’s words directly to other scriptures that mention the Holy Spirit of Promise.{4}

9. Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise (JST, 1 John 3:9)

That promise reaches into the eternities, and remains a defining characteristic of those in the Celestial kingdom. Section 76 affirms,

53 And who overcome by faith, 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 (D&C 76:50 – 70).

In his poem, A Vision, the Prophet Joseph explained that the relationship was not only binding for the people in our world, but also to the inhabitants of all the worlds “that careen in the heavens.” He wrote,

And now after all of the proofs made of him,
By witnesses truly, by whom he was known,
This is mine, last of all, that he lives; yea, he lives!
And sits at the right hand of God on his throne.

And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and only begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons
By the very same truths and the very same powers. {5}

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FOOTNOTES

{1} For a discussion of the king’s name in the coronation ceremony, see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Psalm 2, The Ancient Israelite Royal King-name,” first edition 499-517, second (paperback) edition,361-73.

{2} The relationship of the Savior’’s Atonemtent and his Father’’s grace is explained by Moroni.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33)

{3} If the Savior also experienced such a fall, his heritage was restored again during coronation ceremonies of his baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration when the Father himself declared “thou art my beloved Son.” (Mark 1:11, 1 Peter 1:17-18)

{4} The Holy Spirit of Promise is also mentioned in Ephesians 1:13, D&C 76:53, 88:3, 124:124, 132:7, 18-19, 26.

{5} A Vision by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843.

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