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)
April 1830: Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ
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)
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....