Monday, May 11, 2009

Born of the Water, and of the Spirit

Elder David E. Bednar said,

"Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “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). We were baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in the Spirit of the Lord, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17)."

David A. Bednar, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign, May 2006, 28–31


Looney said...

I have a little puzzle for you:

When I was teaching baptism to the children, I emphasized that the act was primarily between the person receiving baptism and God, as a public act, expressing outwardly what was happening inwardly. In this sense, the person conducting the baptism is merely a facilitator. This is part of my Baptist theological upbringing.

One reason I emphasize this is that it is fairly well known that there are people serving as pastors who aren't Christians. What should a person do if he was baptized, but the person who baptized him later confesses that he never was a Christian?

We try to come up with a consistent handling of scripture, and the only awkward fit is the 1 Cor. 15:29 passage. Thus, I have assumed (per the usual Baptist teaching) that this referred to those who had been baptized, but now had passed away, as this would be a possible interpretation with a simple typo in the text. The consistent handling also precludes infant Baptism, which the Presbyterians believe is effective even though it doesn't involve a choice of the person receiving the Baptism. I always taught both Presbyterian and Baptist teachings, even though I adhere to Baptist. The main thing I wanted was to insure that the children would be aware of the other beliefs.

Anyway, what is the role / relevancy of the person performing the baptism compared to the person being baptized?

Delirious said...

Well, this is a puzzle that fits for us, but I'm not sure if I can explain it well for you. :) I am not sure if I am understanding your questions correctly, but even if I am, it takes a little bit of explaining to answer it.

First of all, I think your explanation to the children of the meaning of baptism was very good. The outward ordinance is symbolic of an inward covenant made with God. It is symbolic of the cleansing of our sins, and the spiritual act of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ.

Let me first address the issue of baptism for the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:29, Paul doesn't deny that it is valid practice, but simply uses the practice as an argument for why there is a resurrection. He is speaking to a group of people who denied the resurrection. Baptism of the dead was a common practice in olden times.

We believe that the ordinance of baptism is essential for entrance in to the kingdom of God.

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:5

Would it be fair if someone who was never given the opportunity to be baptized, were denied entrance in to the kingdom of God? And what about those who never heard of Jesus Christ, or those referred to as the "heathen nations"? Baptism for the dead allows us the opportunity to vicariously do this work for them. In the temple, we act as proxy in their place, then they, in the spirit world, have the choice of whether or not to accept it. They are still the ones making the spiritual covenant between them and God, but we are acting proxy since they presently don't have a body to do so themselves.

Your second point is one that I have tried to address in several posts, but I fear I haven't done the topic justice. This is a question about who has the authority to baptize. Does someone, who isn't even Christian, have the authority to baptize another? If not, how does a person get the authority? Does the authority come from the Pastor of the church? And if it does, from where does he get his authority?

Jesus knew the importance of being baptized. Even though He was perfect, He still was baptized to obey the Father's commandment, and to "fulfill all righteousness". Let me add that account here:

13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
matt. 3:13-17

Why did Jesus go to John? Because John was of the tribe of Levi, he had the Priesthood authority to baptize. Jesus didn't go to one of his friends, or his parents....he went to the person who had the Priesthood authority to perform the ordinance. We believe that this is still the pattern today. Although the ordinance is between the person and God, still God requires that the person performing it hold the proper authority. And the person holding that authority, must be found worthy and called of God as was Aaron.

Joseph Smith had this question about authority and baptism. He had been translating the Book of Mormon and read about the importance of baptism. He wondered about baptism for himself. He and his assistant, Oliver Cowdery, went to the woods to pray to ask this question. In answer to their prayers, John the Baptist came and bestowed the Aaronic Priesthood, the authority to baptize, upon them and commanded them to baptize each other.

Later, Peter, James, and John also visited them and conferred the higher, Melchizedek priesthood upon them so that they would have the authority to perform other ordinances. This is the crux of our belief, that the Priesthood authority that existed in the early church needed to be restored to the earth in these days, and it was.

Looney said...

I guess the reason for the puzzle to me is that I don't believe that the dead can repent, which means that a Baptism for the dead can't change anything.

What do you make of a Baptism if the priest later recants his faith and claims he never was a Christian?

Delirious said...

It's a good question about whether or not the dead can repent. In 1 Peter 3:18-20 we read,

18 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:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 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.

Why would Christ preach to the spirits in spirit prison if there was no hope for them to repent? If their fate is already sealed, why preach more to them? We believe that they do have the opportunity to repent up until the time of the judgement.

This is the only way that is fair. If they could not repent, then we would assume that all who died without the Gospel are lost. Is it fair to those people that just because they lived in a time or place when the Gospel of Jesus Christ wasn't available, that they should lose their eternal salvation? How could God be just if He didn't allow them an opportunity to be baptized and repent?

1 Peter 4:6
6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Further, we believe that the faithful saints who die, also go on to help preach the gospel in the spirit world. There is much work to do there.
With regards to your second question, we believe that any baptism that is performed by the proper authority is valid. If that person later denounces the faith, it has no bearing upon the baptism they previously peformed.

Delirious said...

It just so happens that my seminary lesson for tomorrow is about baptism for the dead. I found these two quotes that I thought were very good.

Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:
"Jesus explained that he is God of both the living and the dead, and that, in fact, even the dead are alive unto him. (See Luke 20:38.)
"However, he has but one gospel; and since both living and dead are alike unto him, both living and dead must be saved by the same gospel principles. The Lord is no respecter of persons" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 20; or Ensign, May 1976, 15).

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught:
"In the case of the dead there must be vicarious work if they are to be judged according to men in the flesh, and in order to accomplish this they must be identified; hence the great genealogical program of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not established to satisfy the interests of a hobby, but to accomplish the eternal purposes of God" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 96; or Ensign, May 1977, 65).