Reading from the Book of Mormon, let's take a closer look at the Nephite society just prior to Christ's ministry among the people. Let's observe the changes that occurred over a short period of time and the resulting outcomes. Take note of what was manifested, their social characteristics, values, beliefs, and common every day living. It is interesting to observe their levels of faith exercised and manifested by their works performed and spiritual assignments completed …. or not. Notice any ordinances performed and their significance and meaning. (See 3 Nephi 6,7)
- 28th year: Continual peace. Life seems stable and happy.
- 29th Year: Disputings, pride, boastings, exceedingly great riches, great persecutions, many merchants, lawyers, and officers, distinguished by ranks according to their riches and their chances for learning, some lifted up in pride, others were exceedingly humble, railing, persecution, all manner of afflictions, church began to be broken up. (3 Nephi 6:9-14)
- 30th Year: Church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith. Satan had great power to stir the people: iniquity, pride, seek power, authority, riches, vain things of the world, lost peace, state of awful wickedness, did willfully rebel against God (3 Nephi 6:14-18) Men inspired from heaven sent forth preaching, testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people. Many people angered exceedingly against the messengers of God, but chiefly the chief judges, high priests, and lawyers. God's messengers were accused, judged, and secretly put to death contrary to the laws of the land. Secret combinations of friends, kindreds, and almost all the lawyers and high priests did unite and covenant, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness and to deliver the guilty murderers from the grasp of justice. And they set at defiance the law and rights of their country. (3 Nephi 6:19-30) Murdered the chief judge. The people separated into tribes. The government and the regulations of the government were destroyed. Great contention reigned and few righteous men remained among them. Jacob, who became a king over this wicked band, was one of the chiefest who had given his voice against the prophets who testified of Jesus. Jacob and the wicked band did take flight out of the land (3 Nephi 7:1-13)
- 31st Year: They were divided into tribes, every man according to his family, kindred and friends. Not united as to their laws and their manner of government. Strict laws that one tribe should not trespass against another. Their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them. Nephi, having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, began to testify boldly repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority. The people were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily. And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people. And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus. And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed. (3 Nephi 7:14-21)
- 32nd and 33rd Years: Devils cast out, many healed of their sicknesses and their infirmities, wrought upon by the Spirit of God, miracles among the people. Nephi did cry unto the people and did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins. There were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water. Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins. Many were baptized unto repentance during the 33rd year. (3 Nephi 7:22-26)
- Take note that early during Nephi's ministry, few were converted unto the Lord, but toward the end of the “window of opportunity” many repented and were baptized with water, as a witness and testimony before God that they were willing to keep His commandments. The people, who were converted, recognized the true messenger as he delivered the Word of God. He called repentance and spoke regarding their wickedness and abominations, the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds. God's message also denounced their disputings, pride, exceedingly great riches, persecutions, afflictions, and being distinguished by ranks according to their riches and their chances for learning. Not only did they recognize and acknowledge their wickedness and errors, but they changed their ways, repented, faced God, and witnessed obedience by baptism.
Approximately two years later, Christ visited these same people, who had earlier accepted the Word of God delivered through a true messenger. These people had previously repented, faced God, and were baptized, but now the previous dispensation was closing and Christ was opening the new. For years, Nephi had been testifying boldly, preaching the doctrine of Christ, ministering, and baptizing. Yet, when Christ appeared and gave further instructions, the authoritative baptisms done earlier by Nephi and others were no longer sufficient, therefore, they were to be baptized again. Jesus Christ gave Nephi and others power to baptize in the new dispensation. The same individuals who had received baptism earlier were re-baptized anew, a sign of belief in Christ and faith in His teachings, instructions, and Word.
Here is the record of Christ's instructions and the words of Christ spoken to Nephi (the same man) : “And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth. And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him. And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. 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 ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. 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, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.” (3 Nephi 11:18-26.)
Whenever God sends a message, either by His own voice or by the voice of His servants, re-baptism is the precise way to accept the message and, therefore, is a continuing gospel principle to be practiced. The same individuals, who were authoritatively baptized at an earlier date, later received a message from God and were re-baptized to witness to the Father their willingness to accept the message and to obey His commandments. God's work can be seen through patterns.
Another example of this pattern of re-baptism is portrayed through the account of Alma in the courts of King Noah. After hearing God's call of repentance and a warning delivered through His servant Abinadi, Alma, a priest and leader in the religious hierarchy, believed the disturbing prophecy and the testimony of an unknown man, who did not possess church authority, religious credentials, or impressive social status but served as an unpopular messenger of God. Alma heard, received, gave heed to, and wrote the Word of God. His sins were made evident to him and his conscience was pierced with guilt and wickedness. Abinadi had exposed the iniquities and errors of King Noah, his kingdom, and his people. Alma recognized that his own priestly work, adorned with religious authority in the courts of King Noah, was not acceptable to God and would not work. Therefore, he spoke up, pled with the king hoping to save the life of Abinadi, was cast out from among them, witnessed the anger of king Noah, ran for his life, and “got out of Dodge”!
“Alma, who had fled from the servants of king Noah, repented of his sins and iniquities, and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi” (Mosiah 18:1)
Apparently, Alma had a change of heart and chose to repent and face God, instead of yielding to men and institutions, or succumbing to the attractive offers of the world, including power, authority, influence, prestige, fame, and money. He proceeded by teaching others the message of God, receiving Christ's authority to re-baptize, and then re-baptizing others in the waters of Mormon. (Mosiah 18)
Another example of the baptism / re-baptism pattern shows up in this interesting verse where the Lord is speaking to Mormon. “And it came to pass that the Lord did say unto me: Cry unto this people—Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized, and build up again my church, and ye shall be spared." (Mormon 3:2 bold, underline added)
Yet another and latter-day example is shown during the early years of the LDS church. Re-baptism was practiced in Mormonism during the time of Joseph Smith as a sign of repentance and acceptance. Re-baptism was further practiced during the leadership of Brigham Young.
This baptism / re-baptism pattern plays out again and again. Every time God sends a message to His people, either by His own voice or by the voice of His servants, re-baptism is manifested and practiced as a sound principle of the gospel. It is God's way for His people to accept His message of repentance. Re-baptism is the action used to manifest recognition of wickedness, error, iniquity, or any sin, of which an individual becomes aware. By accepting God's message and being re-baptized, a person is showing belief in the Word of God and exercising faith in the doctrine of Christ (3 Nephi 11:31-40; 2 Nephi 31:5-21, 32:1-6; D&C 10:67-68). They neither add to it nor take away from the doctrine of Christ. According to scriptural accounts, this pattern of baptism / re-baptism occurs time and time again. In each case, apostasy from God is apparent and His correction and a call of repentance is manifested. The ordinance of baptism / re-baptism is a sign of faith in Christ and the proper way to show acceptance of God's work and His current work and doings in each / this generation.
“Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.” (3 Nephi 30:2)
The Lord clearly states that baptism is necessary in order to be saved. One is not able to enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5, 3 Nephi 11:38) “Therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. (Alma 7:14)
The Book of Mormon, which contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9), informs us concerning baptism, clarifies what is required by the Lord, explains His commandments to be obeyed, and displays His example to be followed.
“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son." (2 Nephi 31:5-11)
“Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved;” (D&C 33:11-12)
Therefore, we should have no question about whether or not baptism is fundamentally essential and plays an indispensable part of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 39:6). Christ has repeatedly and unequivocally declared that an individual must repent and be baptized to inherit the kingdom of God.
Thinking or assuming “all is well in zion”, some may say, “I am saved. I have already been baptized by one with authority. No need to worry about me! You should actually go talk with the other guy.” But, what if the Lord sent a recent message? What if a servant of God speaks today? What if apostasy has occurred in a church that once had His authority to baptize? What if the religious organization, in which Christ has previously accepted the ordinance of baptism has lost connection with God and no longer has His support? What if God no longer vouches for the baptisms performed therein? What if the church is now considered by Christ to be in apostasy, under condemnation, can no longer claim to be His church, and has lost the authority to perform correct, legal, and authoritative baptisms? What would that mean to you?
Therefore, some key personal questions may arise: Have I been baptized unto the Lord according to His current instructions? Is there something going on here? What have I missed? Do I need to update my understanding with God? Today, as the Lord is preparing for His return, does my baptism currently count? Does my baptism sufficiently qualify with the Lord? Here and now in this moment in time, is my baptism sufficent for me to be spared? Or is it necessary that I become acquainted with His latest Word, receive it, repent, and be re-baptized? What is my spiritual state and how do I currently stand with God?
… to be continued