Chapter 6 Baptism

ARTICLE 4 -- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: * * * third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; * * *

Nature of Baptism -- In the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, water baptism ranks as the third principle and the first essential ordinance of the Gospel. Baptism is the gateway leading into the fold of Christ, the portal to the Church, the established rite of naturalization in the kingdom of God. The candidate for admission into the Church, having obtained and professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and having sincerely repented of his sins, is properly required to give evidence of this spiritual sanctification by some outward ordinance, prescribed by authority as the sign or symbol of his new profession. The initiatory ordinance is baptism by water, to be followed by the higher baptism of the Holy Spirit; and, as a result of this act of obedience, remission of sins is granted.

Simple indeed are the means thus ordained for admission into the fold; they are within the reach of the poorest and weakest, as also of the rich and powerful. What symbol more expressive of a cleansing from sin could be given than that of baptism in water? Baptism is made a sign of the covenant entered into between the repentant sinner and his God, that thereafter he will seek to observe the divine commands. Concerning this fact, Alma the prophet thus admonished and instructed the people of Gideon: "Yea, I say unto you, come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism." FN

The humbled sinner, convicted of his transgression through faith and repentance, will hail most joyfully any means of cleansing himself from pollution, now so repulsive in his eyes. All such will cry out as did the stricken multitude at Pentecost, "What shall we do?" Unto such comes the answering voice of the Spirit, through the medium of scripture or by the mouths of the Lord's appointed servants: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." FN Springing forth as a result of contrition of soul, baptism has been very appropriately called the first fruits of repentance. FN

The Establishment of Baptism dates from the time of the earliest history of the race. When the Lord manifested Himself to Adam after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, He promised the patriarch of the race: "If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you. * * * And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water. And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man." FN Enoch preached the doctrine of repentance and baptism, and baptized the penitent believers; and as many as accepted these teachings and submitted to the requirements of the Gospel became Sanctified in the sight of God.

The Special Purpose of Baptism is to afford admission to the Church of Christ with remission of sins. What need of more words to prove the worth of this divinely appointed ordinance? What gift could be offered the human race greater than a sure means of obtaining forgiveness for transgression? Justice forbids the granting of universal and unconditional pardon for sins committed except through obedience to ordained law; but means simple and effective are provided whereby the penitent sinner may enter into a covenant with God, sealing that covenant with the sign that commands recognition in heaven, that he will submit himself to the laws of God; thus he places himself within the reach of Mercy, under whose protecting influence he may win eternal life.

Biblical Proofs that baptism is designed as a means of securing to man a remission of his sins are abundant. John the Baptist was the special preacher of this doctrine, and the authorized administrator of the ordinance, in the days immediately preceding the Savior's ministry in the flesh; and the voice of this priest of the desert stirred Jerusalem and reverberated through all Judaea, proclaiming remission of sins as the fruits of acceptable baptism. FN

Saul of Tarsus, a zealous persecutor of the followers of Christ, while journeying to Damascus intent on a further exercise of his ill-directed zeal, received a special manifestation of the power of God and was converted with signs and wonders. He heard and answered the voice of Christ, and thus became a special witness of his Lord. Yet even this unusual demonstration of divine favor was insufficient. Blinded through the glory that had been manifested unto him, humbled and earnest, awakening to the convicting fact that he had been persecuting his Redeemer, he exclaimed in anguish of soul: "What shall I do, Lord?" FN He was directed to go to Damascus, there to learn more of the Lord's will concerning him. Gladly he received the Lord's messenger, devout Ananias, who ministered unto him so that he regained his sight, and then taught him baptism as a means of obtaining forgiveness.

Saul, known now as Paul, thereafter a preacher of righteousness and an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, taught to others the same great saving principle, that by baptism in water comes regeneration from sin. FN In forceful language and attended with special evidences of divine power, Peter declared the same doctrine to the penitent multitude. Overcome with grief at the recital of what they had done to the Son of God, they cried out: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Promptly came the answer, with apostolic authority, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." FN

Book of Mormon Prophets gave the same testimony to the western fold of Christ. To this effect were the words of Nephi, son of Lehi, addressed to his brethren: "For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost." FN So did Alma teach the people of Gideon, as already quoted. FN Nephi, grandson of Helaman, immediately preceding Christ's advent upon earth went forth amongst his people, baptizing unto repentance; and from his ministry followed "a great remission of sins." FN Nephi ordained assistants in the ministry, "that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins." FN Mormon adds his own testimony, as commissioned of Christ, exhorting the people to forsake their sins and be baptized for remission thereof. FN

Latter-day Revelation, concerning baptism and its object, shows that the same importance is ascribed by the Lord to the ordinance today as in earlier times. That there may be no question as to the application of this doctrine to the Church in the present dispensation, the principle has been restated, the law has been reenacted for our guidance. The elders of the Church are commissioned to preach the remission of sins as obtainable through the means of authorized baptism. FN

Fit Candidates for Baptism -- The prime object of baptism being admission to the Church with remission of sins, and this coming only through faith in God and true repentance before Him, it naturally follows that baptism can in justice be required of those only who are capable of exercising faith and of working repentance. FN In a revelation on Church government given through Joseph the Prophet, April, 1830, the Lord specifically states the conditions under which persons may be received into the Church through baptism: "All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church." FN

These conditions exclude all who have not arrived at the age of discretion and accountability; and by direct commandment the Lord has forbidden the Church to receive any who have not attained to such age. FN By revelation the Lord had designated eight years as the age at which children may be properly baptized into the Church; and parents are required to prepare their children for the ordinances of the Church by teaching them the doctrines of faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Failure in this requirement is accounted by the Lord as a sin resting upon the heads of the parents. FN

Infant Baptism -- The Latter-day Saints are opposed to the practise of infant baptism, which indeed they believe to be a sacrilege. No one having faith in the word of God can look upon the child as culpably wicked; such an innocent being needs no initiation into the fold, for he has never strayed therefrom; he needs no remission of sins for he has committed no sin; and should he die before he has become contaminated by the sins of earth he will be received without baptism into the paradise of God. Yet there are many professedly Christian teachers who aver that as all children are born into a wicked world they are themselves wicked, and must be cleansed in the waters of baptism to be made acceptable to God. Such doctrine is heinous. The child to whom the Savior pointed as an example of emulation for those even who had received the holy apostleship, FN the Lord's selected type of the kingdom of heaven, the favored spirits whose angels stand forever in the presence of the Father, faithfully reporting all that may be done unto their charges FN -- are such souls to be rejected and cast into torment because their earthly guardians failed to have them baptized? To teach such false doctrine is sin.

The History of Infant Baptism is instructive as throwing light upon the origin of this erratic practise. It is certain that the baptism of infants, or pedobaptism (Greek Paidos, child, and baptismos, baptism) as it is styled in theological lore, was not taught by the Savior, nor by His apostles. Some point to the incident of Christ blessing children, and rebuking those who would forbid the little ones coming unto Him, FN as an evidence in favor of infant baptism; but as has been wisely and tersely remarked: "From the action of Christ's blessing infants, to infer they are to be baptized, proves nothing so much as that there is a want of better argument; for the conclusion would with more probability be derived thus: Christ blessed infants, and so dismissed them, but baptized them not; therefore infants are not to be baptized." FN

There is no authentic record of infant baptism having been practised during the first two centuries after Christ, and the custom probably did not become general before the fifth century; from the time last named until the Reformation, however, it was accepted by the dominant church organization -- the Roman Catholic. But even during that dark age many theological disputants raised their voices against this unholy rite. FN In the early part of the sixteenth century, a sect rose into prominence in Germany, under the name of Anabaptists (Greek ana, again, and baptizo, baptize) distinguished for its opposition to the practise of infant baptism, and deriving its name from the requirement made of all its members who had been baptized in infancy that they be baptized again. The Baptists in general maintain a unity of belief in opposing the baptism of irresponsible children, but are not to be regarded as otherwise identical with the Anabaptist denomination.

Some pedobaptists have attempted to prove an analogy between baptism and circumcision, but without scriptural warrant. Circumcision was made the mark of a covenant between God and Abraham, FN a symbol regarded by the posterity of Abraham as indicative of their freedom from the idolatry of the times, and of God's acceptance of them; and nowhere is circumcision made a means for remission of sins. That rite was applicable to males only; baptism is administered to both sexes. Circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day after birth, even though such should fall on the Sabbath. FN In the third century a council of bishops was held under the presidency of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, at which it was gravely determined that to postpone baptism until the eighth day after birth was hazardous and consequently not to be allowed.

Infant Baptism is Forbidden in the Book of Mormon, from which fact we infer that disputation upon this subject had arisen among the Nephites. Mormon, having received special revelation from the Lord concerning the matter, wrote an epistle thereon to his son Moroni, in which he denounces the practise of infant baptism, and declares that any one who supposes that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity, denying the mercies of Christ, and setting at naught His atonement and the power of His redemption. FN

Baptism Essential to Salvation -- Demonstrations concerning the object of baptism apply with equal force to the proposition that baptism is necessary for salvation; for, inasmuch as remission of sins constitutes a special purpose of baptism, and as no soul can be saved in the kingdom of God with unforgiven sins, it is plain that baptism is essential to salvation. Salvation is promised to man on condition of his obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel; and, as the scriptures conclusively prove, baptism is one of the most important of such requirements. Baptism, being commanded of God, must be essential to the purpose for which it is instituted, for God deals not with unnecessary forms. Baptism is required of all who have attained to years of accountability; none are exempt.

Even Christ, standing as a man without sin in the midst of a sinful world, was baptized, "to fulfil all righteousness," FN such being the purpose as declared by the Savior to the hesitating priest, who, zealous as he was for his great mission, yet demurred when asked to baptize one whom he considered sinless. Centuries before the great event, Nephi, prophesying among the people on the western continent, foretold the baptism of the Savior and explained how righteousness would be thereby fulfilled: FN "And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O, then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized?"

The words of the Savior, spoken while He ministered in the flesh, declare baptism to be essential to salvation. A certain ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus, came to Christ by night and made a profession of confidence in the ministry of Jesus, whom he designated as "a teacher come from God." Seeing his faith, Jesus taught unto him one of the chief laws of heaven, saying: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." A question by Nicodemus called forth the additional declaration: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." FN It is practically indisputable that the watery birth here referred to as essential to entrance into the kingdom is baptism. We learn further concerning Christ's attitude toward baptism that He required the ordinance of those who professed to become His disciples. FN When appearing to the eleven apostles in His resurrected state, giving them His farewell blessing and final commission, He commanded them: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" FN and, concerning the results of baptism, He declared unto them, that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." FN

Plain as seems the spirit of these instructions and promises there are nevertheless many who, while professing to teach the doctrine of the Redeemer, evade the meaning of His precepts, and assume that because He said "he that believeth not shall be damned," instead of -- he that is not baptized shall be damned -- baptism is after all not an essential but a mere convenience or simple propriety in the plan of salvation. It is a mockery of faith to profess belief in Christ while refusing to abide by His commandments. To believe the word of God and do it not is to increase our culpability; such a course but adds hypocrisy to other sin. Surely the full penalty provided for wilful unbelief will fall to the lot of the professed believer who refuses to yield obedience to the very principles in which he boasts of having faith. Moreover, what can be said of the sincerity of one who refuses to obey the divine commands except penalties be specified for disobedience? Can such a one's repentance be sincere, when he is submissive only through fear of punishment? However, in stating this principle for the government of the saints in the present dispensation, the Lord's words are more specific: "And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned." FN

The same doctrine concerning the necessity of baptism was preached by the disciples of Christ, particularly those who were immediately associated with Him in the ministry. John the Baptist testified that he had been appointed to baptize with water; FN and concerning those who accepted John's teachings the Savior affirmed that they, even though they were publicans, justified God, while the Pharisees and lawyers who refused to be baptized "rejected the counsel of God against themselves" FN thereby, as we must conclude, forfeiting their claim to salvation. As already pointed out, Peter, the chief of the apostles, had but one answer to give to the eager multitude seeking to know the essentials of salvation, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you." FN

Christ's humble compliance with the will of His Father, by submitting to baptism even though He stood sinless, declares to the world in language more forceful than words that none are exempt from this requirement, and that baptism indeed is a requisite for salvation. So, no evidence of divine favor, no bestowal of heavenly gifts, excuses man from obedience to this and other laws and ordinances of the Gospel. Saul of Tarsus, though permitted to hear the voice of the Redeemer, could only enter the Church of Christ through the portals of baptism by water and by the Holy Ghost. FN Afterward he preached baptism, declaring that by that ordinance may "we put on Christ," becoming the children of God. Cornelius, the centurion, was acknowledged of God through prayers and alms, and an angel came instructing him to send for Peter who would tell him what to do. The apostle, having been specially prepared by the Lord for this mission, entered the house of the penitent Gentile, though to do such was to violate the customs of the Jews, and taught him and his family concerning Christ Jesus. Even while Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon his hearers, so that they testified by the gift of tongues and greatly glorified God. FN Yet the bestowal of such great gifts in no degree exempted them from compliance with the law of baptism; and Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Christ's ministers on the western continent were not less pronounced in promulgating the doctrine of baptism. Lehi FN and his son Nephi, FN each testified of the baptism of the Savior which was to follow, and of the absolute necessity of baptism by water and by the Holy Ghost on the part of all seekers after salvation. Nephi forcefully compared repentance and baptism by water and the Spirit to the gate leading into the fold of Christ. FN Alma preached baptism as indispensable to salvation, calling upon the people to witness unto the Lord, by their observance of this principle, that they covenanted to keep His commandments. The second Alma, son of the former, proclaimed baptism as a means of salvation and consecrated ministers to baptize. FN

During the last century preceding the birth of Christ, the work of God among the Lamanites was begun by the preaching of faith, repentance, and baptism. We find Ammon declaring this doctrine to King Lamoni and his people. FN Helaman preached baptism; FN and in the time of his ministry, less than half a century before Christ was born, we read that tens of thousands united themselves with the Church by baptism. So also preached Helaman's sons, FN and his grandson Nephi. FN These baptisms were administered in the name of the Messiah who was to come; but when He came to His western flock He directed that they should be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and He conferred upon twelve men authority to officiate in the ordinance, FN promising salvation unto all who would comply with His law, and unto such only.

Evidence is abundant that the Savior regarded the baptized state as an essential condition of membership in His Church; thus, when instituting the sacrament of bread and wine among the Nephites He instructed His disciples to administer it unto those only who had been properly baptized. FN Further, we are informed that those who were baptized as Jesus had directed, were called the Church of Christ. FN True to the Savior's promise, the Holy Ghost came to those who were baptized by His ordained authority, thus adding to water-baptism the higher baptism of the Holy Ghost; FN and many of them received specific manifestations of divine approval, seeing and hearing unspeakable things, not lawful to be written. The faith of the people showed itself in good works, FN by prayers and fasting, FN in acknowledgment of which Christ reappeared, this time manifesting Himself to the disciples whom He had called to the ministry. Unto them he reiterated the former promises regarding all who were baptized of Him; and to this He added, that, provided they endured to the end they should be held guiltless in the day of judgment. FN On that occasion He repeated the commandment through obedience to which salvation is promised: "Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day." FN

Nearly four centuries later was heard the same proclamation from Mormon. FN Then Moroni, his son, the solitary survivor of a once mighty people, while mourning the destruction of his kindred leaves what at the time he supposed would be his farewell testimony to the truth of this doctrine; FN but being spared, contrary to his expectations, he reverts again to the sacred theme, realizing the incalculable worth of the doctrine unto any and all who would read his pages; and in what might be regarded as his last words, he testifies to baptism by water and of the Spirit as the means of salvation. FN

This fundamental principle, proclaimed of old, remains unaltered today; it is truth and changes not. The elders of the latter-day Church have been commissioned in almost the same words as were used in the authorization of the apostles of old: "Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." FN And again, hear the word of the Lord through Joseph the Prophet unto the elders of the Church: "Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost." But, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father's kingdom where my Father and I am." FN In obedience to these commands, the elders of this Church have continued to proclaim the Gospel among the nations, preaching faith, repentance, and baptism by water and of the Holy Ghost as essential to salvation.

We have examined the doctrines concerning baptism current among the Jews, the Nephites, and the Church of Jesus Christ in this age, and have found the principles taught to be ever the same. Indeed, we have gone farther back, even to the earliest history of the human race, and have learned that baptism was announced as a saving principle by which Adam was promised forgiveness and salvation. No one has reason to hope for salvation except by complying with the law of God, of which baptism is an essential part.


Baptism for Remission of Sins

John the Baptist baptized and preached baptism of repentance for remission of sins -- Mark 1:4; see also Luke 3:3 and compare 1:76, 77.

Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins -- Acts 2:38; see also 22:16; D&C 33:11.

The gate by which to enter is repentance and baptism, and then cometh remission of sins -- 2 Nephi 31:17.

Be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins -- Alma 7:14.

Baptizing unto repentance, in the which there was a great remission of sins -- 3 Nephi 1:23.

Christ taught the Nephites that through baptism they should receive remission -- 3 Nephi 12:2; see also 30:2.

Priesthood of Aaron holds authority to baptize by immersion for remission of sins -- D&C 13:1.

Declare repentance and remission of sins by baptism -- D&C 19:31; also 55:2. Be baptized for a remission of your sins -- D&C 33:11.

Gospel of repentance and of baptism, and remission of sins -- D&C 84:27.

Baptism Essential to Salvation

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God -- John 3:5.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved -- Mark 16:16; 3 Nephi 11:33; D&C 112:29.

Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God, not being baptized of John -- Luke 7:30.

By one Spirit are we baptized into one body -- 1 Cor. 12:13.

As many as have been baptized unto Christ have put on Christ -- Gal. 3:27. The like figure whereunto baptism doth save us -- 1 Peter 3:21.

One Lord, one faith, one baptism -- Eph. 4:5.

All men must be baptized or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God -- 2 Nephi 9:23.

Be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved -- Ether 4:18; also Moroni 7:34; 3 Nephi 21:6.

See that ye are not baptized unworthily -- Mormon 9:29.

As many as repent, are baptized, and endure shall be saved -- D&C 18:22.

Adam was taught that baptism is essential -- Moses 6:52. Baptism of Adam -- verses 64-68.

Jesus Christ was Baptized

To fulfil all righteousness -- Matt. 3:15. Thus it is shown that baptism is required of all men; see also Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21.

If the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized, how much more need have we -- 2 Nephi 31:5.

Preparedness for Baptism -- From foregoing citations it is shown that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and effective repentance are prerequisites to baptism. Knowledge is therefore necessary, and instruction is required.

Christ commanded the apostles to teach all nations, then to baptize them, and then to teach them further -- Matt. 28:19, 20.

Those who gladly received Peter's instructions were baptized -- Acts 2:41.

Those who believed Philip's teachings concerning the kingdom of God were baptized -- Acts 8:12.

Peter instructed Cornelius and his household, before they were baptized -- Acts 10:25-48.

Paul instructed the keeper of the prison and his household prior to their baptism -- Acts 16:29-33.

John the Baptist required evidence of repentance before baptism -- Luke 3:7-14.

Summary of requisite conditions -- Moroni 6:1-4.

Little children, incapable of understanding or of repenting, are not to be baptized -- Moroni, chap. 8.

Parents to teach their children, and thus prepare them for baptism when eight years old -- D&C 68:25.

No one to be received into the Church who is unaccountable and incapable of repentance -- D&C 20:71; see also verse 37.