President Faust explains the importance of the first ordinance of the gospel.
The Savior taught us that all men and women must be 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.
Some years ago Albert Peters told of the experience he and his companion had of a man being born again. One day they went to the hut of Atiati in the village of Sasina in Samoa. There they found an unshaven, misshapen man lying on a bed. He wanted to hear their message. They presented the first discussion, bore witness to him, and then left. As they walked away, they discussed Atiati’s condition; he had had polio 22 years before that had left him without the use of his arms or legs, so how could he ever be baptized, being so completely disabled?
When they visited their new friend the next day, he was bright and clean-shaven; even his bedding had been changed. “Today,” he said, “I begin to live again, because yesterday my prayers were answered. … I have waited for more than 20 years for someone to come and tell me that they have the true gospel of Christ.”
For several weeks the two missionaries taught this sincere, intelligent man. He asked them to fast with him so that he would have the strength to go down into the water and be baptized. The nearest baptismal font was eight miles (13 km) away. So they carried him to their car and drove him to the chapel. Then Elder Peters and his companion picked up Atiati and carried him to the font. Atiati said, “Please, put me down. 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 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.” (See “One Trembling Step at a Time,” Ensign, June 1994, 56–58.) I believe we can say that Atiati was truly born again!
Like Atiati, when we are baptized, we are spiritually born of God and are entitled to receive His image in our countenances. As Nephi said, baptism is the gate, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17). The baptismal gate opens the way for additional covenants and blessings.