Baptism is the formally appointed means and ordinance which God has provided so that man can signify his personal acceptance of all of the terms and conditions of the eternal gospel covenant.1
Mormons believe that the first saving ordinance of the gospel is baptism. In Article of Faith #4 it reads: "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". (Articles of Faith: thirteen statements that briefly summarize some of the basic principles and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
When one is baptized, it shows the willingness to follow Jesus Christ' example. Christ was baptized even though He was perfect. Christ knew that He could not ask man to be baptized unless He set the example Himself. He expressed to John the Baptist in Matthew 3:15 and in the Book of Mormon scripture 2 Nephi 31:4-11 the following: He needed to humble himself before Heavenly Father, he covenanted to be obedient and keep Heavenly Father's commandments, he had to be baptized to gain admission to the celestial kingdom and He set an example for all men to follow.
The proper way to baptize was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1829. It was made clear that, this ordinance of baptism must be performed by one having priesthood authority and that it must be done by immersion. "The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water."3
Immersion is symbolic of the death of a person's sinful life and the rebirth into a spiritual life, dedicated to the service of God and His children. 'It is also symbolic of death and resurrection'.4 Baptism is symbolic of a new birth, a new beginning.
Mormons believe that little children cannot sin and that Satan does not have the power to tempt them until they become accountable. In November 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith received the following revelation: 'And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old…'5 It is believed that anyone who claims that little children need baptism 'denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption'.6
It has been asked, 'How do you know if a child is ready at the age of eight?' God expects parents to teach their children the principles of the gospel so that they will be ready to take upon them the name of Christ, to serve Him and to keep his commandments. That doesn't mean that the child will never sin. He will and so will all of us. That is where daily repentance comes in and the partaking of the Sacrament every Sunday so that Mormons can renew their baptismal covenants.
Through the ordinance of baptism and confirmation, a new life is born. In John 3:5 it reads: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
God". A new life begins when one enters the baptismal covenant. Keeping the covenants made at baptism and striving each day to become more like the Savior puts a man on the path of righteousness.
1 "Mormon Doctrine", by Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, pg 70
3 "Book of Mormon", Doctrine and Covenants 20:73-74
4 "The Holy bible", Romans 6:3-6
5 "Book of Mormon", Doctrine and Covenants 68:27
6 "Book of Mormon",
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