If you don’t know this already, I am driven to question many aspects of my religious life  that I had heretofore regarded as a basic assumptions. Much of my search over the last few years has been driven by a need to re-affirm and re-validate my spiritual worldview in strict accordance with the scriptures. It has not always been easy. Many times I have had to stop my reading and study to make sure I was not making a incorrect assumption or simply accepting the definition of a word or phrase based on how it presented in the lessons of the church. Such is the case with baptism by immersion.

Baptism is an essential aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is used to mark the entry into modern day membership of the LDS Church. During my life, I have attended many baptisms, converts and children, men and women. I had the privilege several years ago of conducting the baptism of the man who now stands as bishop of the local ward in which we reside.

As with many of the meetings of the church, the baptismal ceremony has been become a standard issue with a talk about baptism followed by the administration of the ordinance. Many of the baptismal talks I have heard clearly make the point that the person accepting baptism is now free from sin; that the water had washed away the sins of the candidate as they came forth from the water. In the priesthood manual, we are taught that:

When we come out of the water we are washed clean of sin. With our past sins washed away, we receive greater spiritual power to change our lives and become more like Heavenly Father. (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B)

It presents a striking visage, we enter the ceremony laden with the sins that accompany our mortal frame, we exit clean and pure. Water baptism is promoted as the means to receive a remission of our sins.

The fourth Article of Faith states:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The passage clearly states that baptism by immersion, as conducted by a legitimate priesthood holder, is sufficient to receive a remission of sins, to be cleansed of sin, to be sanctified. Or does it? Is baptism by water necessary and sufficient to receive a remission of sins? Do we truly emerge from the baptism font sinless?

I would suggest otherwise.

First, let’s look at what I consider the scriptural definition of baptism. The first reference comes from Mormon, chapter 7, verse 10:

And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment.

To be truly baptized, one must receive both the baptism of water and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. I would also suggest that both these baptisms are by immersion. We are immersed in water and, in a similar manner, are immersed in spirit.

Joseph Smith concurred with this concept when he stated:

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 (History of the Church, 5:499).

After Christ selected the twelve disciples from among the Nephites, He gave this admonition to the people:

… 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… 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. (3 Nephi 12:1-2)

While the twelve disciples were given the power and authority to baptize by water, the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost was conducted by the Lord. It was this second baptism, in conjunction with the baptism by water, that is the source of a remission of our sins. Without the second baptism, the first is without consequence relative to our sanctification. The same is true in our lives today. The scriptures give us clarity on the twofold nature of baptism. Here is how Nephi expresses this dual nature:

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.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

It is not until we have received this second baptism of fire that we are on the strait and narrow path to eternal life. As I have expanded on this topic in an earlier post – The Strait and Narrow Path, indeed, as we read in this scripture, baptism by water and by fire and the Holy Ghost is the gate. It is the entry point for our journey back to our Father in Heaven. It is the beginning our trek, not the culmination of a long life of obedience and service.

This idea is reinforced in the description of the process of gaining membership in the church as found in Moroni, chapter 6:

AND now I speak concerning baptism.  Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

It is not until after one is baptized by water AND sanctified by the Holy Ghost that the person is ‘numbered among the people of the church of Christ.’ This sanctification is achieved by the through the granting of the remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. We are cleansed by the spirit in preparation for membership in His church.

Is this sanctification a prerequisite for membership in the LDS church?  Contrary to scripture, we have assigned a remission of sins solely to the baptism of water. We have also redefined the second aspect of baptism. It is now a confirmation and an admonition to ‘receive the Holy Ghost.’ While the current procedure may be sufficient for membership in the corporate church, it may not be sufficient for membership in the body of Christ.

Section 20, verse 37, of the Doctrine and Covenants also describes the process for baptism:

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.

It is interesting to note that the criteria defined here is closely aligned with the passage from Moroni, chapter 6. In each case, one must be imbued with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, witness that they have repented of their sins. They must take upon them the name of Christ and determine to serve Him to the end. In a slight deviation, this latest scripture required that the candidate ‘manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins.’ In the earlier quote from Moroni, we find that the candidate must be sanctified by the Holy Ghost prior to entry into the church. How many members would be on the rolls of the church if this criterion of sanctification were strictly enforced? What is required to truly manifest by our works that we have received a remission of our sins? Perhaps our entry into the corporate church is different than the entry into the spiritual church.

I would suggest that one seriously consider what we have morphed the baptismal event into relative to entry into the church. Succinctly stated, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins has two parts, water and spirit. One must receive of both of these baptisms to truly receive a remission of sins. One must demonstrate by their works that they have received a remission of their sins.

In the October 2000 General Conference, Elder Bruce D. Porter presented this story:

Several years ago, while I was serving as a bishop, a sister came to me for a temple recommend interview. She was an adult convert to the Church who had been a faithful member since her baptism more than a decade earlier. She qualified for the temple recommend, but I sensed she was somewhat dispirited. When I asked what was troubling her, she said, “Bishop, is there any way a person can be baptized again?” Surprised, I asked her why she thought a second baptism would ever be needed. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, “I just wish I could somehow feel as clean and pure as the day I was baptized.”

I am sure many Latter-day Saints have had similar feelings. Even when we are temple worthy, the accumulated daily weight of our weaknesses and shortcomings can become a burden to our souls, weighing us down with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. It is difficult sometimes to feel spiritually refreshed, pure, and acceptable before God. As I spoke with this sister, I felt great sympathy for her dilemma. There was no doubt in my mind that she was a good-hearted, worthy Latter-day Saint whose place in the Lord’s kingdom would be assured if she continued on the course that had begun with her baptism. But I wondered if she appreciated the power of Christ’s Atonement, the magnitude of His mercy, and His readiness to forgive her of daily transgressions as she made her way through life.

“You do not need to be baptized a second time to be as pure as when you were first baptized,” I said. “You can renew your covenant of baptism each week when you partake of the sacrament. As you live that covenant, exercise faith in Christ, and repent of your daily transgressions, the Holy Ghost will bless you with the assurance that your sins are forgiven. It will cleanse your soul of guilt and bring peace to your heart. In this way, you can feel as pure and clean as the day you were baptized.”

What must one do to retain a remission of their sins? This is the heart of the question that was posed to then Bishop Porter by one who seriously sought to remain clean. Is the partaking of the sacrament sufficient for this? As I read the sacrament prayer in Moroni, chapter 4, the only item that is sanctified through the administration of this ordinance is the bread. As such the sacrament contains no explicit re-application of the sanctification by the spirit received upon entry into the church. But what must one do to retain a remission of their sins?

When the people of King Benjamin received a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, he gave them this guidance in Mosiah 4:11-12:

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.

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.

King Benjamin’s instruction relative to retaining a remission of our sins emphases the need to remain humble. He tells us the we need to pray and remain faithful. I would incourage all to continue reading in this fourth chapter of Mosiah. It contains what I would consider guidance relative to how one should act while retaining a remission of sins.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and profound. We are invited to ‘come unto Him’ and receive a remission of our sins. We are told that this is the entry point of the path to the kingdom of God.

So the sacrament prayer is to remind us of the activities in our lives that are necessary to retain a remission of sins. It does not give us any explicit renewal of our entry onto the strait and narrow path.

In summary, baptism is made up of two components. water and spirit. Both are needed to legitimately gain entry to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. The sacrament prayer is a reminder of the state of mind and activity that must be present to retain a remission of our sins.

What think ye?

9 Responses to “Washing Away Our Sins”

  • The thing I find most interesting about Elder Porter’s comment is that we do not “need” to be re-baptized. Is anyone familiar with the doctrine of re-baptism? I have read that historically re-baptism for a renewal of your covenants was quite common. Every pioneer was tithed and re-baptized when entering the Salt Lake Valley, every person who entered a United order was Re-Baptized when the entered the order, Couples were even re-Baptized before their sealing, and other temple ordinances. for example Jospeh Smith was baptized multiple times and at least two are in every church history: first by Oliver Cowdery in the Susquehanna River in May of 1829, and again on April 6th 1830, and Brigham young even said there was ” a revelation, that the saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose.” (Brigham Young, JD 18:241) He was baptized many times. the entire church was even encouraged to be re-baptized during his presidency.
    This all brings up an interesting point to me that the best way to renew our covenants of baptism is to be re-baptized, even if we don’t “need to” according to Elder Porter, why wouldn’t we “want to”?
    Secondly, so many of us were baptized when eight years old. Such a baptism is certainly appropriate, but is not really for the remission of sins, because children before the age of accountability do not really ahve any sins anyway. (Moroni 8) So why not rededicate ourselves to God by being re-baptized for the remission of sins? Think of the example of the savior: Did you ever stop and think why Jesus was being Baptized at age 30? how was it possible that he, who was in the temple at only 12 could have overlooked this ordinance for so long? How could his earthly parents who were so faithful have forgotten to baptize him? The simple answer is of course they didn’t! He was being Re-Baptized, not Baptized for the very first time. John was out in the wilderness preaching about a baptism for the remission of Sins to those who had already observed the law of baptism from their childhood. In essence you could call him “John the Re-Baptist.” As such what do you think of being re-baptized as adults for the renewal of our covenants and the remission of sins? This may be outside our current policies, but it is squarely within the scriptural and historical context of obedience to the law of baptism.

    • Spektator:

      Brother Benjamin,
      You make a good point about rebaptism. I noted that in the reformation era under Brigham Young, all were encouraged to be rebaptized which stood as a recommitment to the cause. It is sad that this aspect of the restoration has been set aside.

      Outside the ‘rebaptism’ of Christ, I can’t find a lot of support for it specifically in the scriptures explicitly. I believe that Alma and those that followed him were rebaptised in the waters of Mormon. Was that a recommitment to the strict words that Alma gave or a recognition that the old order under King Noah was corrupt?

      • It could be either or both in the case of the people at the waters of Mormon, but it is worth remembering that for many of them this was definitely a re-baptism. Alma was already a priest, and certainly had already been baptized. It is also likely, though not explicitly mentioned that each place where the church was reorganized, or the people recommitted that they were re-baptized. e.g. King Benjamin’s address, Alma the elder when they reached Zarahemla, Alma ch. 5 when the church was “regulated”, when Christ appeared the people were baptized, doubtless for many this was a re-baptism. etc.
        The thing I wonder about is why not be rebaptized when we desire to? why not recommit to the Lord? I don’t think the church regulations will allow this, but such a prohibition seems unscriptural.

      • EvenTheLeastSaint:

        ‘Spek, Please don’t site Brigham Young to support doctrine. He drives me nuts

        I’m pretty sure B.Y. just made things up whenever he wanted to.

        Blood Atonement – it wasn’t just shedding someone’s blood to atone for murder – it was shedding someone’s blood whenever Brigham thought it needed to be done to save a soul. For instance, in one sermon he said that he would put a javelin through the heart of everyone of his wive’s to save them from going to hell, if they were unfaithful. There were other things he thought shedding your blood was needed to save you from hell, like rebelling against the Lord’s anointed. Maybe they’ll bring that one back!

        Blacks and the Priesthood – The Church has had spokesman out their assuring the press that this was an uninspired doctrine. Do you believe, as do the FUNdamentalists that this is more evidence that the Church is in apostasy? I don’t. I think the modern Church got one right.

        Brigham’s version of polygamy – There’s too much here to even get into, but if you want an eye opening experience, go to: http://restorationbookstore.org/jsfp-index.htm and read the online book “Joseph Smith fought polygamy”. There is enough there to make any honest Mormon rethink his/her view of Joseph Smith’s stand on polygamy and where the doctrine originated. You might not accept every thing the authors conclude but you will certainly gain some insight into the art of creative history (the Church’s version).

      • The problem as I see it is that if you do not accept Brigham Young, at it appears you do not, then what use would you have for the church? It traces its legitimacy and authority and many of its doctrines directly through him. If he was the weak link, then nothing that came after could possibly be legitimate. Also the Price’s book about polygamy is based on the dubious historical revisionism of the reorganized church. All of their allegations against the church are nothing more than a repetition of arguments made by the reorganites to discredit the entire church. And why bring up blood atonement rhetoric? Brigham never put a javelin through anyone. The whole point of such hell-fire and brimstone preaching was to impress the audience with the idea that the truth is more important than anything, even life itself, not to encourage actual violence. On the race issue maybe the church got it right, but even if they did I still find it suspect that they did not go about it in the way the Lord commanded. For example prophets are supposed to receive revelation, if the church had been wrong about the priesthood being linked to lineage from the beginning, wouldn’t a new section of the D&C with a full explanation from the Lord have been nice? but where is the revelation? We only have a press release that their “prayers had been answered” but was there a revelation? and if so why is it not published? Lastly why did you capitalize like this: “FUNdamentalists” are fundamentalists more FUN than your average member or something?

        The topic of the discussion here was baptism anyway, not all this other stuff. do you have an opinion or insight about baptism?

      • EvenTheLeastSaint:

        Brother Benjamin: The problem as I see it is that if you do not accept Brigham Young, at it appears you do not, then what use would you have for the church?

        EvenTheLeastSaint: Even though the church has been polluted, it is still the Holy Church of God:

        38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? …

        Bro Ben: It traces its legitimacy and authority and many of its doctrines directly through him [Brigham young]. If he was the weak link, then nothing that came after could possibly be legitimate.

        LeastSt: This assertion is apparently not so, but I trust very little new doctrine, or changes in doctrine, or dropping of doctrine after the death of the Prophet (Joseph Smith).

        Bro Ben: Also the Price’s book about polygamy is based on the dubious historical revisionism of the reorganized church.

        LeastSt: But documented facts stand on there own. There are many instances where they show conclusively that records have been changed, added to, or taken away from, in the authorized LDS history, to support BY’s version of Polygamy. There may be speculation by the authors in places but that can be disregarded if you wish. What I am interested in is the amount of documentation that they’ve introduced in defending their position.

        Bro Ben: And why bring up blood atonement rhetoric?

        LeastSt: To reinforce my initial claim that Bro Brigham had a tendency to invent doctrine.

        Bro Ben: On the race issue maybe the church got it right, but even if they did I still find it suspect that they did not go about it in the way the Lord commanded… where is the revelation?

        LeastSt: No revelation was needed because there was no revelation to be over turned. The D&C doesn’t contain a revelation denying priesthood to blacks to begin with.

        Bro Ben: Lastly why did you capitalize like this: “FUNdamentalists” are fundamentalists more FUN than your average member or something?

        LeastSt: No, less fun. I meant the opposite. That’s supposed be sarcasm. The reason I say less fun is because they are still saddled with living and defending all of BY’s indefensible doctrine, much of which the main body of the church has rejected without owning up to it.

        Bro Ben: The topic of the discussion here was baptism anyway, not all this other stuff. do you have an opinion or insight about baptism?

        LeastSt: That’s a good point. Spectator probably should remove my previous rant and this one also. I thought that I owed you the courtesy of this reply though. I won’t comment any further on this topic. Except that I believe the loss within the church of the doctrine of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost can be attributed to B.Y. and his emphasis on the earthly “kingdom” and salvation through the works of man.

      • Spektator:

        I am certainly open to your comments. Brigham Young had many flaws but he did make a valient attempt to implement Zion as he understood it.

        I would not want to remove your ‘rants’ as I believe they contribute to the conversation. Your call…


  • JR:

    I just found this website today.
    I have previously studied this topic (BFHG) very extensively because when I received it (at 21 yrs old, which was >40 yrs ago) I had no idea what had happened to me (much like the Lamanites who recvd the BFHG and knew it not).
    It was not until I began reading Denver Snuffer’s books and blog, and interacting with other members who were searching for the Lord that I began to realize what had happened to me all those years before. I certainly never learned it from anything I heard in church!
    Now to the point…I have felt for a long time that baptism and partaking of the Sacrament DO NOT remove our sins as we are constantly told in church. To me this has long been another of the very questionable teachings we recv in church from well-meaning but misleading leaders and authorities. The Spirit has testified to me repeatedly that simply being baptized or taking a piece of bread does NOT remove our sins.
    It should be OBVIOUS that ONLY THE SAVIOR can remove our sins and HE is the one who gives us the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost.
    Thank you for this post because it resonates with what I have learned for myself from the Spirit and from my study on this particular topic.
    Reading the Sacramental prayers carefully fails to show me anywhere where it says that this ordinance remits our sins, rather it is a promise that IF we always remember HIM we will always have HIS Spirit to be with us.
    As with so many things in the church today, doctrine has been changed to accomodate our desire to find an easier route back to the Father. We are receivig the “Gospel light” version of the Doctrine of Chirst these days.
    NO WONDER the Book of Mormon condemns us and warns us to repent!
    Thank you.

    • Spektator:

      Thank you for your comments. As I see it, the scriptures clearly lay out how we receive a remission of our sins and also how we retain a remission of our sins. Is there a lot of difference between how our current church ‘bestows’ forgiveness for sins and the process of ritual installed the Catholic church for forgiveness?

      To me, the scriptures point to the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as a key element of the ‘fulness’ of the gospel. It is a clear that rejection of this critical component of the gospel is exactly what was described in the 16th chapter of 3rd Nephi.

      I might have a few other posts that you would like to read.


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