Baptism: Procedures

Now for the final post (I think) in this series on baptism. Having reviewed the doctrine behind baptism, let’s focus on the mechanics. What is the proper procedure for baptism, confirmation and the gift of the Holy Ghost?

D&C 20
37 And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of 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.
68 The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.
69 And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.

Contrast how things were commanded to be done in 1830 with how things are done today. (Color coded for your convenience!)

Preach My Gospel, Chapter 12
The district leader or zone leader who conducts the interview should: Hold the interview in a comfortable, private place…Ask the baptismal interview questions. Use follow-up questions to get a feeling for the strength of the person’s testimony and the sincerity of the person’s repentance.

Church Handbook of Instruction 20.3.9
A person becomes a member of the Church only after the ordinances of baptism and confirmation are both completed and properly recorded…The bishop ensures that it is performed soon after baptism…Converts are confirmed in any sacrament meeting in the ward where they live, preferably on the Sunday following their baptism.

Rather than using the presence of a godly walk and conversation before the membership to determine if someone is prepared for confirmation, the modern Church uses a young,  visiting missionary who may have never met the candidate before the private interview, who then asks questions to get a feeling for the sincerity of the candidate’s repentance. Rather than ensuring a sufficient time between baptism and confirmation for the candidate to learn and implement the gospel in their lives and manifest that by their works, the confirmation is scheduled as quickly as possible after the baptism. And unlike the scriptural commandment to receive people into the church after baptism (because there should be a significant amount of time between baptism and confirmation), the modern Church only accepts people into the Church after confirmation.

When it is time for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the scriptures give us procedures for that too.

Moroni 7:2
Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.

Now it’s possible that this was a one-time requirement: that only the first time they ever perform a confirmation do they need to call upon the Father in mighty prayer to receive the power, and after that they have the power for the rest of their lives. I don’t think that’s how it works, but the text is ambiguous. Regardless, the Father is involved in the gift of the Holy Ghost:

3 Nephi 28:11
And the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of me.

Acts 2:33
33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

John 14:26
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

Notice these other instances in the D&C:

D&C 14:8
And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.

D&C 18:8
18 Ask the Father in my name in faith, believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.

Notice a similar pattern with ordinations:

Moroni 3:1
The manner which the disciples, who were called the elders of the church, ordained priests and teachers—After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them,

Even Jesus himself prayed unto the Father to give his apostles the Holy Ghost:

John 14:16
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

In the modern Church, there is no reference to the Father at all.

Church Handbook of Instruction 20.3.10
The person who performs the ordinance:

  1. States the person’s full name.
  2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  3. Confirms the person a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  4. Uses the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” …
  5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.
  6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we don’t need to call upon the Father in these days because he has “given his power unto men.” (2 Nephi 28:5)

We as a church have strayed quite far from what is written. Our current beliefs and practices about the purpose of baptism, how and when one receives a remission of sins, and even the basic procedures used to administer baptism and confirmation contradict the written word of God. Even if we somehow left Nauvoo with God still accepting our baptisms, can our baptisms be acceptable to God now when we have transfigured the holy word of God into policies and teachings that are almost exactly the opposite of what is written in scripture?

 

 

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Baptism: Baptism for the Dead

In discussing the concept of baptism for the dead, it will be important to set aside what you think you know about baptism for the dead. We will read what is actually written in the scriptures and analyze the language carefully.

D&C 128:12
Herein is glory and honor, and immortality and eternal life—The ordinance of baptism by water, to be immersed therein in order to answer to the likeness of the dead, that one principle might accord with the other; to be immersed in the water and come forth out of the water is in the likeness of the resurrection of the dead in coming forth out of their graves; hence, this ordinance was instituted to form a relationship with the ordinance of baptism for the dead, being in likeness of the dead.

Notice what the part in red says. Baptism by water was instituted to form a relationship with the ordinance of baptism for the dead. The LDS Church teaches the opposite, that baptism for the dead was instituted so that those who did not receive baptism by water during life could receive baptism by water by proxy when dead. Yet the scriptures indicate the otherwise.

Notice that verse 12 specifically mentions the resurrection of the dead. Maybe this is being too nit-picky, but it says being immersed in the water and coming forth out of the water is in the likeness of the dead coming out of the grave. The focus is not on going into the grave but on coming out of it.

Let’s read on:

D&C 128:13
Consequently, the baptismal font was instituted as a similitude of the grave, and was commanded to be in a place underneath where the living are wont to assemble, to show forth the living and the dead, and that all things may have their likeness, and that they may accord one with another—that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly, as Paul hath declared, 1 Corinthians 15:46, 47, and 48:
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

The earthly baptism conforms to the heavenly baptism. Or baptism for the living conforms to baptisms for the dead. Notice that baptism for the dead, that which is heavenly, does not conform to baptism for the living, that which is earthly. This is the opposite of what is taught and practiced today, where baptism for the dead conforms to baptism for the living.

Jesus, in the middle of his ministry, said this about his suffering, death, and resurrection:

Luke 12:50
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!

This obviously wasn’t his baptism by water. That was performed by John at the beginning of his ministry. Nor was it his baptism by fire, that happened at the same time with the Spirit descending and the voice of God from heaven. What is this baptism that Jesus is referring to? He’s talking about his death and resurrection, but using the term baptism.

What if the true baptism for the dead is part of the resurrection process? D&C 128:12 tells us “to be immersed in the water and come forth out of the water is in the likeness of the resurrection of the dead in coming forth out of their graves.” Baptism by water is linked the the resurrection of the dead. “hence, this ordinance was instituted to form a relationship with the ordinance of baptism for the dead“. Baptism is linked to both the resurrection of the dead and baptism for the dead. Baptism for the dead and the resurrection of the dead are probably far more linked that we are taught.

Why dead non-believers don’t need baptism

For us to accept this radical idea, we need to jettison most of what we have been taught about baptism for the dead. We’ve been taught that everyone other than little children needs to be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved. But that isn’t what the scriptures teach. Here we learn that God grades on a curve:

Luke 12:46-48
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Here we learn just how much of a curve there is:

D&C 45:54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.

The heathen nations that knew no law have part in the first resurrection! Why is that if they have never been baptized?

Look at the relationship between Mormon’s teachings and Paul’s:

Romans 2:12
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Moroni 8:22-23
For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.

The elephant in the room: today’s baptisms for the dead

So if baptism for the dead isn’t for the remission of sins of those who have died without the gospel, what is happening in the basements of all the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints temples?

The first thing to note is how baptisms for the dead were introduced in the 1840s. Joseph first mentioned the concept of baptism for the dead in a funeral sermon on August 15, 1840. Within a few weeks, baptisms were being performed in the Mississippi river. In 1841 over 6,000 baptisms for the dead were performed. Yet there was no revelation from God revealing this ordinance, nor any commandment from God requiring (or authorizing) it to be performed. Was Joseph speaking presumptuously (Deuteronomy 18:20)?

For many of you, this next part won’t be new information. The Lord granted a period of time for the Saints to build the temple. If they didn’t complete it in time, they would be rejected as a church. Notice how strongly the Lord ties this deadline to baptism and baptism for the dead.

D&C 124:31-33
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;

What really becomes problematic is verse 40:

And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;

The ordinances can only be revealed within the house that needed to be built. That house was never truly completed, but was dedicated several months after the Saints abandoned Nauvoo in 1846, almost 18 months after the death of Joseph Smith. It was impossible for the Lord to reveal his ordinances therein – one because the temple was never truly finished, and two, because everyone had left!

Think I’m being nitpicky about the ordinances having to be revealed inside the house of the Lord? Two verses earlier the Lord says he did the same thing with Moses:

38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.

The pattern is not to reveal the ordinances and then build a house to perform those ordinances. The house must be built first, and then the ordinances revealed. The Saints in Nauvoo didn’t do that. God cannot lie. If he says the ordinances must be revealed in a house built to his name, they can’t be revealed elsewhere. Not even in a red brick store.

Read Section 124 carefully. At no point does the Lord say the current baptisms for the dead were acceptable. He states the circumstances in which they cannot be acceptable: if not done in a font in his house (v. 30) or if done after the appointed time (v. 32-33, 35). We could argue that if after the appointed time they are not acceptable, it means that before the appointed time they are acceptable. That’s possible, but not guaranteed.

Consider this parallel: “If you don’t get your drivers license after you turn 16, your driving is unacceptable to the government.” Does that imply that driving without a license before you are 16 is acceptable to the government? No. It states the first time you can acceptably drive, and the conditions you need to meet to do so. To tell a 12 year-old that she can drive all she wants without a license before she turns 16 would be folly.

Did God authorize baptisms for the dead before the temple was completed? On October 3, 1841, Joseph stood up at the end of a church conference and said: “There shall be no more baptisms for the dead, until the ordinance can be attended to in the Lord’s House; and the Church shall not hold another General Conference, until they can meet in said house. For thus saith the Lord!” (HC 4:426).

Interestingly, on November 8, 1841 they dedicated a baptismal font in the basement of the years-away-from-being-finished Nauvoo temple and then resumed baptisms. In HC 4:446, we read “the font was enclosed by a temporary frame building…this font was built for the baptisms for the dead until the Temple shall be finished, when a more durable one will supply its place.” There is no revelation saying that a temporary font in an unfinished temple is acceptable. They knew both that the temple needed to be finished, and that a better font needed to be built, yet they went ahead and started baptizing for the dead.

How do we know they didn’t finish the temple in time and God didn’t reveal the ordinance of baptism for the dead therein?

D&C 124:45
And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.

The Saints were moved out of Nauvoo before the temple was complete. If God cannot lie, then the only reason they were moved out of their place was because they didn’t do what was commanded. And if they didn’t build the temple in the allotted time, God declared that he not only would not reveal his ordinances, but he would also reject them as a church.

D&C 124:46
But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.

What are some of the things Mormon said about people who believed that little children and those without the law need to be baptized? That they “denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ…But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.”

When looking at the modern church, Mormon said:

Mormon 8:35, 38
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing…, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? 

Is it just a coincidence that Mormon 8 and D&C 124 both use the term pollute to describe the church?

Conclusion

What is the real ordinance of baptism for the dead? We don’t know. God didn’t get a chance to reveal it to the Saints in Nauvoo. It appears it has something to do with the resurrection of the dead, not the remission of sins. We need to wait until our season of chastisement is over and God deems that we are ready to receive it before we know the details. Until then, we need to believe what he says, that we were rejected as a church, and that our baptisms both for the living and for the dead are not acceptable unto him. It’s a harsh message, but those are the words of God.

Baptism: Two Scriptural Types

There are two places in scripture that link baptism to previous events or rituals. Even though you can probably go your entire life attending Gospel Doctrine and never hear of these links, that doesn’t diminish their value. Let’s take a look.

Noah’s Flood

Peter taught that there was a link between baptism and Noah’s flood.

1 Peter 3:18-21
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Peter doesn’t go with the obvious immersion link (the earth was immersed so we must be immersed too). It’s a bit difficult to decipher in the King James version, so here’s a modern translation:

Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now that you’ve read the modern version, you can go back and the King James version now makes more sense. Peter teaches that baptism by water doesn’t save us by a removal of dirt, but as a pledge or commitment to God. Was Noah saved because he was a master shipbuilder, or because he had enough faith to do what God asked?

Hebrews 11:7
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Looking at the voyage of the Brother of Jared, we can see how Noah and his family were saved:

Ether 6:7
And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

Ether 2:24
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth. And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?

Just as Noah prepared the ark out of faith, we enter the waters of baptism out of faith. Building the ark didn’t save Noah in and of itself, but the ark was part of God’s process to save Noah. Noah had to continue to call on God for deliverance from the waves of the flood. Ultimately it was God that saved Noah (and the Brother of Jared), because the ark by itself wasn’t capable of delivering them.

Baptism itself doesn’t save us, it’s our heartfelt and faithful decision to join God’s winning team that saves us. Just a God delivered the righteous from the wicked in Noah’s time, the resurrection of Jesus will save us from the wicked in eternity. Peter is teaching the same witness doctrine that we’ve covered in previous posts – baptism by water is a witness that we are joining God’s team.

The next post will cover more on the link to the resurrection of Christ.

Circumcision

You’re probably asking yourself, how can baptism be linked to circumcision?

Colossians 2:11-14
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Paul teaches that baptism is the circumcision of Christ. Think about the parallels. Circumcision was required to become part of Israel, baptism is required to be part of Christ’s church. Plenty of people who were circumcised in the flesh failed to follow God. There was no promise that getting circumcised guaranteed salvation, or even forgiveness of sins. Which is why God wanted circumcised hearts.

Deuteronomy 30:6
6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Notice here that the Lord circumcises the heart. Man may circumcise the flesh, but God circumcises the heart. Just like with baptism: man can baptize by water, but only God can baptize by fire. God never promised eternal life for being circumcised in the flesh, but he does promise it for being circumcised in the heart. Notice how this verse links uncircumcised hearts to resisting the Holy Ghost.

Acts 7:51
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

If a circumcised heart is the equivalent to baptism by the Holy Ghost, it makes sense to describe the uncircumcised in heart as resisting the Holy Ghost.

2 Nephi 9:33
Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.

If the uncircumcised of heart will be smitten by a knowledge of their iniquities, the circumcised of heart will not be smitten, because they have been forgiven of their iniquities. Just as circumcision in the flesh did not promise a remission of sins, neither does baptism by water. But circumcision in the heart does bring forgiveness of sins, just as baptism by fire does.

With these two concepts reinforcing what we’ve already covered, we now have a foundation to cover Baptism for the Dead in the next post.

 

Baptism: Remission of Sins

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 5:499)

Let the weight of that bold phrase sink in. Baptism by water is good for nothing without the baptism by fire (or the Holy Ghost). Nothing! That might strike some as a heretical teaching if you’ve been taught that our sins are washed away immediately when we are baptized. A remission of sins has to be good for something, right? But Joseph Smith says otherwise.

One challenge we have is how the word baptism is used. Sometimes baptism is only referring to baptism by water. Other times, it  refers to both the baptism by water and the baptism by fire combined. Here are two examples where baptism is used by itself, but then further explanation shows it is referring to both halves combined:

D&C 33:11
Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 12:1
Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

When Christ says “if ye shall believe in me and be baptized,” we need to determine whether he is only referring to baptism by water or both halves – water and fire. (Spoiler alert – he means both)

D&C 39:6
And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

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

John the Baptism suggested his baptism was incomplete and required the second half:

Matthew 3:11
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire

The key point to take away is that when we see a statement like “repent and be baptized”, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to think this only means baptism by water. It refers to both baptisms, because baptism by water without baptism by fire is good for nothing. That leads to the core topic for this post – the remission of sins. If you’ve been taught that remission of sins comes at the time of baptism by water, prepare to have your precepts challenged.

Remission of Sins

2 Nephi 31:13
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

Here Nephi teaches the two baptisms, water and fire. He then goes on to teach:

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. 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.

According to Nephi, the remission of sins comes by fire and the Holy Ghost, not by water!  The Doctrine and Covenants also says the remission of sins comes by baptism by water and fire.

D&C 19
31 And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

The resurrected Christ gets more specific:

3 Nephi 12
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.

The remission of sins comes with the visitation of fire and the Holy Ghost. Not before. In fact, many of the scriptures lump the remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit together, like two sides of the same coin. Talking about one is implicitly talking about the other.

D&C 55
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant William, yea, even the Lord of the whole earth, thou art called and chosen; and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;

Analyzing this, if you are baptized without an eye single to his glory, you shall not have a remission of sins. Just getting wet doesn’t remit your sins. You must do it with an eye single to his glory so you can receive the Holy Spirit and receive a remission of your sins. The remission of sins is linked to the reception of the Holy Spirit.

D&C 53
3 Take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word, and the reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;

Notice in the last verse that baptism by water isn’t even mentioned! It’s all about reception of the Holy Spirit. Christ himself linked remission of sins to the Holy Ghost:

3 Nephi 20
2 Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.

A remission of sins is what happens when you are filled with the Holy Ghost, not when you are baptized by water. There are several verses that use the phrase “baptized by water for the remission of sins”. Those would seem to contradict all these other scriptures.

D&C 84
64 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.

If we read this verse literally, then we must say that baptism by water not only grants the remission of sins, but also grants the Holy Ghost. We instinctively know it isn’t saying you receive the Holy Ghost when you get wet. We need to apply that same interpretation to the remission of sins part of the phrase also. Here are a few more verses:

D&C 84
74 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.

D&C 13:1
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

Baptism by water is for, or opens the door to, reception of the Holy Ghost, which causes the remission of sins. Even though the scriptures say “baptism for the remission of sins”, nowhere do scriptures say that remission happens as a result of the baptism by water. Baptism by water leads to the baptism by fire and remission of sins. Baptism by water can unlock the door that leads to baptism by fire and the consequent remission of sins.

Baptism of Repentance

The baptism by water is the baptism of repentance, not of forgiveness.

Mark 1:4
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

D&C 107
20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

Acts 13:24
When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Acts 19:4
John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Referring back to the previous post, baptism is a witness that we have chosen to repent and obey God’s commandments. Baptism by water is our effort. We choose when it happens, where it happens, and by whom it happens.

We have several verses that link repentance with remission of sins.

Luke 24:47
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

3 Nephi 7
16 Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds—went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

23 Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins.

D&C 55:2
And then thou shalt be ordained by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., to be an elder unto this church, to preach repentance and remission of sins by way of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

D&C 19:31
And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

Baptism by water is how we witness our willingness to repent, and baptism by fire is how God witnesses that he has accepted that repentance.

One more aspect to consider. Priests in the Aaronic priesthood have authority to baptize. But they also are restricted to only outward ordinances.

D&C 107:10, 13-14
High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate … in administering spiritual things
The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, … and has power in administering outward ordinances.

Administering a public witness to follow Christ is an outward ordinance. A remission of sins, however, is not an outward ordinance. That is something internal and deeply spiritual. According to D&C 107, an Aaronic priesthood holder cannot administer spiritual things. If baptism by water caused an immediate remission of sins, that would be a spiritual ordinance that could not be done by a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. In fact, that is something so special that Christ reserves for himself exclusively.

D&C 33
15 And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them.

3 Nephi 12:1
1 …Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

3 Nephi 9:20
…whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost

Nephi goes even further, declaring that the Lord will use no servants at the gate. While we know man administers the baptism by water, the gate that separates the true followers from the rest is baptism by fire. We might be able to fool our fellow man, but we can’t fool God.

2 Nephi 31:17
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.

2 Nephi 9:41
The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

Another reason why Christ reserves this to himself is because of how the remission of sins is made available.

JST Matthew 26
24 For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins.

D&C 21:9
Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.

Moroni 10
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.

D&C 27
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

Matthew 26:28
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The baptism by fire is Christ’s response. He chooses when and where, and it is always by him. Christ dispenses the remission of sins, not a human priesthood holder, because Christ paid the price and Christ knows our hearts. He knows if we truly believe on his name, hearken to his voice, and have truly repented of our sins. Even though mortal men can put their hands on a person’s head and confirm them a member, Christ still bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost according to his will.

Remission of sins apart from baptism

Baptism by water is the repentance part. Baptism by fire is the remission of sins part. Let’s take a look at the references to remission of sins completely detached from baptism. King Benjamin gives a discourse that spans several chapters. I’ll just highlight a few verses:

Mosiah 4
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

Nowhere in his discourse does he mention baptism! All this remitting of sins comes from the Spirit of the Lord coming upon them, not from a watery ordinance. In fact, the first use of the words baptize and baptism don’t happen in the book of Mosiah until Chapter 18 — years after king Benjamin’s discourse!

Joseph Smith received a remission of his sins before Moroni had even visited him, years before the visit of John the Baptist!

D&C 20:5-6
After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;

Cornelius and his household received the Holy Ghost before baptism. In fact, it was seeing them receive the Holy Ghost that finally convinced Peter to baptize them and any other Gentiles:

Acts 10:44-48
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Enos had a different experience, receiving his remission of sins much later in life:

Enos 1:2
2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

Presumably Enos was baptized much earlier in life (his father had taught him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord) but he did not receive a remission of his sins until much later.

We have other scriptures that indicate a remission of sins is the result of repentance, not an ordinance. It’s likely that all these people had already been baptized by water at some point in their life, yet the teaching is that repentance, not an ordinance, leads to a remission of sins.

Alma 12
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

Helaman 13
13 And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.

Alma 38
8 And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul.

Now for the really sobering part. Look at the order of events that we are under commandment in the latter days to obey:

D&C 20:37
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of 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.

This is an intriguing commandment. This states that not only do we need to repent of all our sins before baptism, but we need to manifest by our works that we have received enough of the Spirit of Christ to receive a remission of our sins BEFORE baptism! I suspect very few people in the modern church have achieved that level of repentance at the time of their baptism. I didn’t. This wasn’t just something new that Joseph foisted on the church, even the Nephites had this same criteria.

3 Nephi 7:25
Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this 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.

The Nephites were being baptized with water as a witness that they had ALREADY received a remission of their sins!

Conclusion

That was a lot of scriptural references to simply say: baptism by water does not in an of itself deliver a remission of sins. That concept is part of our culture, with beautiful metaphors about washing away our sins and coming out of the water clean. We can even take one or two scriptures out of context to reinforce that concept. But when looking at the totality of the scriptures we have covered here, we need to be more circumspect. If we obey the commandment in D&C 20:37 and delay baptism by water until the point we are qualified to receive the baptism by fire, we can receive a remission of sins at baptism because both baptisms happen at the same time. But the baptism of water does not cleanse our sins, it’s the baptism by fire. Because ultimately, it’s Christ and his blood that washes us clean:

JST Revelation 1:6
And unto him who loved us, be glory; who washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.

Baptism: Covenant or Witness?

Someone recently asked me what I was planning to write about in the near future. I honestly didn’t know. I tend to jump from one topic to another. There is no master plan. But sometimes I will have multiple people bring up the same topic within a short period of time, and the Spirit will say, “Voilà!” That’s how I “chose” to write about baptism now.

Many of the things we’ve been taught about baptism from Primary onward aren’t supported by scripture. In fact, many of them conflict with the scriptures. This series will go through several aspects of baptism and see what the scriptures say. The first aspect we’ll cover is whether baptism is a covenant.

At Church it’s common to talk about our baptismal covenants. Where do the scriptures talk about baptism as a covenant? Nowhere. The scriptures instead talk about baptism being a witness of a covenant that we have already entered into. Let’s see:

Mosiah 18:10
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Here Alma is clear that being baptized (hasn’t yet happened) is a witness that they have (already) entered into a covenant with him. Do you think I’m wresting the verb tenses? Let’s see what happens a few chapters later.

Mosiah 21:31-35
Yea, they did mourn for their departure, for they knew not whither they had fled. Now they would have gladly joined with them, for they themselves had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant…Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord. Now they were desirous to become even as Alma and his brethren, who had fled into the wilderness. They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter.

This group had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandment, yet had not been baptized. Ammon wouldn’t perform the ordinance for them. They had to wait until a servant could perform their baptisms. But they looked forward to that future baptism as a chance to witness and testify that they were willing to serve God. They had no expectation of entering into a covenant at baptism, they had already done that.

With that perspective in mind, read this verse in a new light:

Alma 7
15 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.

Again, the baptism is not the covenant to keep his commandments, it is the witness of that covenant. This pattern repeats through the scriptures:

D&C 20:37
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of 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.

2 Nephi 31:13-14
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, …thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying, After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

3 Nephi 7
25 Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this 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.

The first erroneous teaching we need to get out of our heads is that baptism is a covenant. The scriptures are consistent in declaring baptism by water to be a witness of a covenant previously entered into. That begs the next question.

What is the covenant?

The scriptures aren’t as specific on the details of this covenant. It appears to be a simple but sincere decision to turn to Christ. Let’s revisit the relevant parts of the scriptures we’ve already covered.

Mosiah 18:10
… ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Mosiah 21:31-35
they themselves had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. …king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments…They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts.

Alma 7:15
enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments.

D&C 20:37
and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

2 Nephi 31:13-14
ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, …and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandment.

The scriptures do not give instructions on how to enter into this covenant. Limhi and his people entered into their covenant without an authorized servant present to administer baptism, so it appears this is a covenant we can enter into without baptism. Whether we can enter into ourselves, without an authorized officiator, is unclear. Perhaps it is as simple as a personal declaration to accept Christ and commit to obey his commandments. It is troublesome that we don’t have more detail and that these details aren’t being taught. What impact might this have on the baptism we have already received?

Interestingly, the scriptures are unambiguous that we do need someone with authority to administer the witness of this covenant.

Alma 4
4 And they began to establish the church more fully; yea, and many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the church of God; yea, they were baptized by the hand of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father Alma.

Mosiah 21:33
And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant.

3 Nephi 12: 1
And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

D&C 68:8
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.

D&C 20:73
The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Conclusion

From all these scriptures we can conclude that baptism is not a covenant. It is an ordinance that must be administered by authorized servants to witness that a person has already entered into a covenant to serve God. While some will lump the covenant and the witness together, the scriptures don’t do that. And in the case of Limhi and his people, months or years passed between them making the covenant and when they could finally witness that covenant through baptism by proper authority.

In the next post, we’ll cover remission of sins.