It’s a familiar sight around the world: A cake, glowing with candles (more and more of them until some of us decide a bonfire is ridiculous and drop back to one candle), wrapped presents tied with a bow, and loved ones singing Happy Birthday in the tune and language of our country. No matter how you feel about celebrating, most of us are glad to have another birthday instead of the alternative.
But we had another birth, long before our earthly one. Each of us was born to heavenly parents in the premortal world. Prophets and scriptures—including Biblical ones– have told us that we lived before, as spirit children of God. Joseph Smith said our intelligence “had no beginning, neither will it have an end.” But while our intelligences always existed, there was a moment when we were born as spirit children. As Joseph F. Smith said, “…man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents.”
We don’t know if that event was celebrated in any way similar to earthly festivities, but parents worldwide can agree that our gratitude for each child is beyond description, and makes us want to mark the happy occasion with some expression of delight and love. And knowing how much more God is able to love than we are, we undoubtedly felt immensely adored and appreciated, just for being.
Likewise, we will be welcomed home to those same loving arms when we once again pass through the veil. To those of us left behind, we call it a death, and remember with somber respect as the anniversary of a passing comes around each year. But on the other side, I imagine quite the opposite—very much like a birthday. I picture a grand reunion, hugs and laughter, unspeakable gladness to see loved ones again. I doubt they will call it your Deathday. Maybe they’ll celebrate it as some version of a birthday or a graduation. Perhaps they’ll call it a Homecoming. “Remember when John had his homecoming?” they might say, with exactly the same joy and elation as when a missionary returns from far away, here on earth. After all, we do go home again, not to some unfamiliar cloud dotted with harp-players.
But there’s a fourth grand event we almost never celebrate, yet it’s the birthday that sort of matters most. It’s the day we were born again, the day we were baptized, and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Elder James E. Faust says this “…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)
Because it is so sacred, we do not mark this occasion each year with balloons and streamers, but we should nevertheless offer heartfelt gratitude for the moment we entered that vital gate. The full process of being born again happens as we draw closer to Christ, and put off the natural man– something that doesn’t always happen in one day. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read of becoming a “new creature in Christ,” and in Mosiah 5:2 we read of people who experienced “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).
For some of us that might happen swiftly, on a day we could circle in our calendar. But for most, it’s a journey with striving and repentance as our daily companions. Nevertheless, there comes a moment when we know in our hearts that we are stamped “His” and will forever cling to him with all our might. We have turned entirely towards Eternal Life with our Savior, and we know that He knows it as well. Whether that day was long ago for you, or still lies ahead as you make your way, you can celebrate by acknowledging your baptism day as the moment when that ordinance made everything possible. Each of our birthdays is essential, each one another glorious step in our journey back to a Heavenly Father and Mother. And may your joy increase fourfold, as you realize the blessing each one of them is.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.