Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ and Baptism (Part 3)

The necessity of baptism is throughout scripture.  Below is some of my current understanding of the topic I wanted to put in this blog which serves as a journal and place for me to write down important things.  Also a continuation of my study preparing for the lesson for Elder's Quorum.

3 Nephi 11:33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. 

Many LDS folks believe baptism is what makes you a member of the LDS church, or member of another church.  You may be confirmed a member of the LDS church but baptism isn't synonymous with LDS Church membership.  A person could be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and never belong to any earthly church organization.  That seems contrary to many an LDS tradition but it's a common occurrence in scripture.

When John the Baptist was baptizing, it was not into an earthly church organization. But the Holy Ghost fell upon Christ.  When Adam (like Adam and Eve) was baptized, it was not into an earthly church organization, but the Holy Ghost came upon him.  When Joseph Smith and Oliver were baptized it was prior to the LDS church's existence, the Holy Ghost came upon them. Baptism is a sign between the individual and God.  The Holy Ghost can come upon a repentant individual following baptism.  It's my understanding that The Holy Ghost can also be given via the laying on of hands. The LDS Church's ordinance of laying on of hands is combined with confirming the individual a member of the LDS Church which clouds the water(see next post).  But that is just one set of steps and one tradition had in the LDS Church, there are others.  Scripture show that there are in fact other acceptable possibilities for reception of the Holy Ghost.  But that's an aside.

Many LDS folks carry the belief that each time we partake of the sacrament we are actually renewing baptismal covenants.  Some then think of it as being "re-baptized" each Sunday.  It's an interesting idea.  The idea is taught directly from the pulpit.  For example L Tom Perry said in Conference 2006:
The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord.

The "of course" is a testament to how common this teaching is.  However Elder Neil Andersen of the 12 spoke on this during a 2016 training video:

“The title ‘renewing our baptismal covenants’ is not found in the scriptures. It is not inappropriate. Many of you [gesturing to audience of Seventies and Auxiliary leaders] have used it in talks. We [gesturing to other apostles sitting on the stand behind him] have used it in talks, but it is not something that is used in the scriptures. And it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament..." 

When he says many (including his motioning to the twelve) have used this phrase in talks, he wasn't joking.  The idea is so commonplace in Mormonism it's difficult to have a discussion about baptism separate from the idea that the sacrament renews it.  The frequency of the idea in circulation seems to be taken as self evident proof of it's truthfulness.  But is truth defined by how commonplace an idea is?  

What's interesting on this re-baptism topic is through the 19th century when you wanted to "renew your covenants" you would be baptized again.  It was extremely common, and for a time was even one of the temple recommend questions.  An early Temple Recommend question asked when the last time was that the person had been re-baptized.

A few examples of early teachings;

"I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time, I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time [~1841] came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends
." Brigham Young J.D. 18:241

Joseph Smith explaining this revelation:

"Baptisms for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font, those coming into the Church, and those re-baptized may be baptized in the river.” Joseph Smith, HC 4:586, April 7 1842

The practice of re-baptism lost popularity and stopped being practiced.  But the need for "renewal" remained, and the sacrament took over the function of renewal.  That method of renewal has become so culturally ingrained it's almost an act of rebellion to associate baptismal renewal with anything other than the sacrament.  Contemplating rebaptism to renew your baptism which seems to make total sense, oddly brings looks of sever disgust and disapproval from many members (and leaders).  Despite the original form of baptismal renewal in Joseph Smith's day which was to get re-baptized.

There are obvious logistical advantages to performing acts of renewal as we do now, vs going down into the water again.  Imagine the logistical nightmare if the LDS church allowed re-baptisms when it's members felt the desire?  Can you imagine?  What isn't a problem for personal Christianity or individual acts of obedience, does become a messy problem for a big corporation that has a variety of other interests, risks, and potential problems to consider and weigh.  I can think of very simple solutions, but they would not be tolerated by the current state of the handbook.  But... a topic for another day.         

So lets talk about the baptismal prayer for a minute.  There are multiple prayers in scripture.  Two in the BOM, and 1 in the D&C.  Even more depending on which version of D&C you are using.  

How important is the correct baptismal prayer wording?  As important as the correct authority?  Are those two things connected?  

What if all copies of the D&C printed since 1835 contained an altered baptismal prayer?  Would we have an obligation to locate the correct prayer?  And or be rebaptized with the correct prayer same as we would repeat the ordinance if someone altered the prayer during any other baptismal ordinance?  

For the next part I include an extremely well written segment from the blog "a returning". (link to full article)

If ensuring the correct words is truly important, then we should carefully review the relevant historical records. If we are doing what God commanded, then we will be validated. If we are not, we should be grateful for the correction.
June 1829 – “..rely upon the things which are written”
In June of 1829, as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery neared completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon, they contemplated the procedure for establishing God’s church. In response to a request for guidance on that topic, the Lord gave a revelation, now comprising D&C 18:
NOW behold, because of the thing which you have desired to know of me, I give unto you  these words:
2 Behold I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true:
3 Wherefore you know that they are true; and if  you know that they are true, behold I give unto you  a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my  rock.
4 Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and  my gospel, and my rock, the gates of hell shall not  prevail against you.
 As surely as God’s spirit had manifested to Oliver that the Book of Mormon was true, it could be relied upon as a guide for the building up of the latter-day Church. In fact, that was God’s purpose in preserving it as he did, ensuring that “in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock.” No necessary principle was omitted, and building on the principles in the text would ensure that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” those attempting to build the Church.
Oliver immediately set about composing a set of articles to guide the small group of believers, using the language in the unpublished manuscript of the Book of Mormon to outline the proper mode of worship. The document was entitled “Articles of the Church of Christ”, and can be read here: True to the Lord’s commandment to rely on the Book of Mormon, the instructions on the mode of baptism are identical to those found in 3 Nephi 11, including the words to be spoken:
And now behold these are the words which ye  shall say calling them by name saying Having authority given me of Jesus Christ  I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost Amen

April 1830: Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ

To create the final form of the Articles and Covenants of the Church that would serve the Church as a legally organized body, Joseph composed another document drawn less directly from the text of the Book of Mormon. Still, the procedure for baptism and sacrament was: “And the manner  of baptism & the manner of administering  the sacrament are to be done as is written  in the Book of Morman[sic].”  Misspelling aside, the Church’s founding document points us to the manner of baptism given in 3 Nephi 11:

23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall yebaptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
 24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
 25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.

As of the writing of that document, the words of the baptismal blessing still comply with the Lord’s instructions in 1829.

June 1832: Republication in the Evening and the Morning Star

Rather than point the reader to the Book of Mormon, this edition extracts the language for the baptismal blessing and sacrament prayers from 3 Nephi 11 and Moroni and includes them in the Articles and Covenants verbatim.

January 1835: Republication in the Evening and the Morning Star.

The baptismal blessing now reads “…having been commissioned of Jesus Christ…” The Joseph Smith Papers editors explain:
“The first issue of the reprinted newspaper, which appeared under the slightly modified title Evening and Morning Star, was published in January 1835. Though touted as a reprint that would correct typographical and other errors, Evening and Morning Star actually contained significant changes to the revelation texts. In the first issue, editor Oliver Cowdery explained the revisions he was making in the reprinted versions of the revelations:

“On the revelations we merely say, that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We have given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were entrusted with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church, and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct. If not in every word, at least in principle.”

Despite the implications of Cowdery’s statement, very few of the changes in the reprint represent a restoration back to the earliest text, though Cowdery consulted early manuscript sources when reprinting some of the revelations.”

It is significant that Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith, took responsibility for explaining the changes made. The committee for compiling and printing the Doctrine and Covenants had been commissioned the previous September. Between September and January, Joseph’s journal mentions several times his labor in preparing to instruct the School of the Prophets that winter, as well as many other items which made for a busy winter. He never mentions any time spent reviewing and revising the revelations, but repeatedly mentioned his preoccupation with the School of the Prophets and the Lectures on Faith, claiming they precluded his involvement in other affairs. Since major or minor revisions occur across the breadth of the body of revelations, a comprehensive review must have been undertaken by some members of the committee. We cannot say with certainty that Joseph was not involved, but the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the Lectures, rather than the revelations, were his focus.

August 1835: Doctrine and Covenants first published

The text altered by Oliver Cowdery earlier in the year was perpetuated here and in all future editions of the scriptures, and in official Church policy. It is now the wording used throughout the Church. It is not clear whether the altered wording was immediately adopted, or whether the Church continued for a time in following the Lord’s instruction to rely on the Book of Mormon.


The Church was given clear instructions from God, and initially followed them. There is no clear directive from God changing those instructions, so they remain in force. Does this information empower us? It is a well-worn (if not quite true) cliche that we are generally incapable of perfect obedience. We certainly don’t have Christ’s strength of spirit, ability to resist temptation, and grace. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it starts small. The Lord doesn’t lay the law of the celestial kingdom on us before we are capable of living it, any more than we sign our toddlers up for Iron Man Triathlons. The Lord laid out the first steps when he taught the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11:
Believe in Christ
Become as a little child
Be baptized according to Christ’s instructions
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

Those are the foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. They are the first law. They are like walking practice for a toddler. They empower us to obtain all other direction and higher laws which we might need (Moses 8:24). We can do them perfectly, with the correct words and in the correct order. When an opportunity to obey God perfectly arises, we should jump at the chance. Since we have God’s commandment to rely on the instructions in the Book of Mormon (D&C 18:1-4), and the instructions in the original Articles of the Church accepted by covenant on April 6, 1830 to follow the manner of baptism in the Book of Mormon, we have authority to act; for commandments from God always bestow the authorization to fulfill them (D&C 1:5-6).

When we say the wrong words in a baptism, we request that the ordinance be performed again. It is standard procedure. Not to please men, but because God has given specific instructions. We need no further permission. We need no audience. We simply need a priest with authority willing to baptize according to Christ’s instructions, a repentant soul, and a body of water.


The current LDS baptismal interview questions require you to confess [Living Church President] is a prophet as one of the requirements to get baptized. This is found in "Preach My Gospel" Link. You also have to attend church, live the Word of Wisdom and agree to pay them your tithing. Below is quote of the link above to Preach My Gospel. 

First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve:

• Make sufficient changes in their lives to qualify as commanded in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37.
• Develop faith in Christ.
• Repent of transgressions.
• Live the principles of moral worthiness.
• Live the Word of Wisdom.
• Commit to pay tithing.
• Receive all the missionary lessons [lessons 1–4 on the Teaching Record and associated commitments].
• Meet the bishop or branch president.
• Attend several sacrament meetings.
(“Statement on Missionary Work,” First Presidency letter, 11 Dec. 2002)

These baptismal criteria are different from what Christ gave as requirements as part of his doctrine to be baptized.  They are interesting additions.  In our day you can't receive the ordinance offered through the LDS church without doing these additional things. Children who's parents are gay are not allowed to come to Christ through baptism per policy until they meet more recently added criteria. These are understandable business practices that a large religion can easily justify, but do they align with scripture?  Are they supported by Christ's words?  How do they match up to Christ's direct warning not to add to or take away from his doctrine?

Baptism and or re-baptism in early days of the Church was not entrance to another church. It was an act of faith and renewal between oneself and the Lord to comply with his requirements.

Continued next post....


  1. I've though and prayed about this for a really long time but when you considered the logistics of what your saying, here's what it amounts to:
    In the 9 years between the 1835 publication of the D&C and Joseph Smith's death, he never corrected Oliver's change, even after Oliver left the church?

    Keeping in mind,during those 9 years, three Book of Mormons were published by the church, 1837, 1840, 1841 (granted that last one was British but the church still managed to get it published), along with countless newspaper publications. Through all this, they never caught or bothered to correct the verbiage to one of the most fundamental prayers.

    According to Royal Skousin, they made inserts for the 1830 Book of Mormons that you could stick in which served as an appendix. So they could have easily published an insert to correct that, thus not requiring you to purchase a new book, yet they didn't.

    The fact of the matter is that the prayer changed and we don't know why. I've searched all over the internet and haven't found any old documents from the time addressing it. Having said that, to assume that Joseph had no knowledge of this or did know and didn't bother to correct the record just doesn't add up to me.

  2. Very difficult, if not impossible to determine at this point how much knowledge Joseph had of the prayer change, nor why he may or may not have chosen to address it. Or if God tolerated the change for a period of time allowing the Church to maintain a "commission" to baptize. As the prayer in D&C 20 says: "having been commissioned"

    I do not believe tolerating the change continues. I think a new invitation has been given, and a new opportunity to more closely follow Christ and His doctrine is upon us. Using the exact words Christ said to use for baptism.