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.”
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.” Springing forth as a result of contrition of soul, baptism has been very appropriately called the first fruits of repentance.
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.” 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.
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?” 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. 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.”
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.” So did Alma teach the people of Gideon, as already quoted. 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.” 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.” Mormon adds his own testimony, as commissioned of Christ, exhorting the people to forsake their sins and be baptized for remission thereof. 1 2 3 4 5
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.