The gospel of Jesus Christ includes certain principles and ordinances that require obedience. A principle is a teaching or belief; an ordinance is a ceremony or rite. The first two principles of the gospel are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance; baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is followed by confirmation into the Lord’s church.
Matthew recorded in his testimony of Jesus Christ the following instruction: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
There are several very important reasons why we must be baptized: (1) We must be baptized for the remission of our sins. (2) We must be baptized to become members of the Church of Jesus Christ. (3) We must be baptized before we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (4) We must be baptized to show obedience. (5) We must be baptized to enter the celestial kingdom.
There is only one acceptable mode of baptism for God. Jesus Christ told the Prophet Joseph Smith that a person must be baptized by one hold the proper priesthood authority to perform baptism. The Lord said that the person and the priesthood bearer “shall go down into the water…. Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:73-74).
According to the apostle Paul, immersion is necessary. He taught that being immersed in water and coming out again is symbolic of death and resurrection. When we are baptized, our sinful life ends and our new life begins. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5). Baptism by immersion by a priesthood bearer having proper authority is the only true and acceptable way to be baptized.
Every person who has reached the age of accountability (8 years old) and is capable of being responsible for his own actions must be baptized. The Savior considered little children to be worthy of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14). An ancient American prophet by the name of Mormon said that it is a mockery before God to baptize little children for they are not capable of sinning and do not need baptism. Baptism is not necessary for people who are mentally incapable of knowing right from wrong (see Moroni 8:9-22). Everyone else must be baptized. We must receive the ordinance of baptism and keep the covenant we make in order to return to live with Heavenly Father again.
Baptism brings a new way of life – or a rebirth. Jesus Christ stated that one must be born again or cannot enter the kingdom of God. He also said that we must be baptized by water and the spirit to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:3-5).
Father Adam understood this principle for he was told, “Inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten” (Moses 6:59). Baptism blesses us with a new start in life.