Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baptism Means Taking the Name of Christ

                    Baptism is one of the first steps we take to come to Christ and most often comes after we gain faith in Jesus Christ and repent of our sins.  Baptism is a covenant that we make with Christ.  When we understand the symbolism of baptism, we are more capable of understanding the eternal nature of the covenants and blessings that come because of baptism.  Through continued obedience and the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can overcome spiritual death and return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.  When we are baptized, we take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and promise to remember Him in all that we do.

                    Modern-day scriptures clearly identify the purposes of baptism. Some of those scriptures follow:

"Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, according to the holy commandment, for the remission of sins" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:13).  The purpose given is to have our sins "erased" or taken from us.

"But … thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying:  After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:14).  The purpose given is to show our willingness to keep all of Heavenly Father's commandments.

"No one can be received into the church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the years of accountability before God, and is capable of repentance" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:71).  In other revelations, the Lord explained that the "years of accountability" is eight years of age.  Children are not baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until they are old enough to know the difference between good and evil.  All children who die before the age of eight years are automatically taken back into the presence of God.

"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; ….
"And now … I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father:  Ye shall have eternal life" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:17-20).  The purpose given is to get on the path and begin the journey to eternal life."

"And whoso doeth this shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:14).  The purpose given is to be ready and worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In light of the above scriptures, I think it is fair to ask this question:   Why did Jesus - who did not sin - need baptism?  We are very fortunate because Nephi, an ancient American prophet, answered this question very clearly.

"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" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:6-9).  The reason given is that even Jesus Christ needed to be baptized in order to show obedience to Heavenly Father.  In doing so, Jesus set an example of what all of us must do in order to enter the kingdom of God.

A symbol is an object or action that represents something else.  In Romans 6:3, the Apostle Paul spoke of baptism as a symbol:  "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"

What did Paul mean when he said that we are "baptized into [Christ's] death"?  The word baptism comes from a Greek word that means to dip or immerse (Bible Dictionary, 'Baptism," 618).  The act of immersion - being momentarily buried under water - represents the death and burial of a person's sinfulness.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to repent of our sins and to be forgiven.

The Apostle Paul continued his explanation:  "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 6:4-5).

This scripture brings another very fair question:  How is baptism "in the likeness of [Christ's] resurrection"? The act of coming out from under the water represents a birth into a new life, just as the resurrected Jesus Christ rose from the tomb.  A newly baptized person is free of sin and possesses a new opportunity to grow closer to God.

Jesus Christ discussed baptism with a man named Nicodemus in John 3:3-5 and told him:  "…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
"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."

When Nicodemus asked how a person could be born of water, Jesus Christ explained that a person is "born of water" when he/she is baptized by immersion.  Christ also explained that a person is "born of the Spirit" when he/she receives the Holy Ghost after their baptism.

A newly baptized and converted man testified:  "I came from a broken home.  We had no religion, and I was not taught any particular moral values.  My life was meaningless, empty, and full of conflict.  I committed many sins.  Then the gospel came into my life.  I accepted the Savior wholeheartedly.  I began to believe in Him and to turn away from my former ways.  I was baptized, and I received the marvelous gift of the Holy Ghost.  Brothers and Sisters, for years and years I felt as if I were `dead' inside and now for the first time in life, I feel `alive'" (in My Errand from the Lord [Melchizedek Priesthood study guide, 1976], 161).

In April 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith received instructions through revelation about organizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This revelation also gave instructions for the people who wanted to be baptized as members of the Church.

"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" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37). 

This verse contains the baptismal covenant, an agreement between the Lord and the person being baptized.  With this covenant, we promise to obey God's commandments, and He promises to bless us according to our obedience.  People covenant to
1) humble himself/herself before God, 2) repent of their sins, 3) be willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ,
4) be willing to serve the Lord, 5) show by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ.

                    What does it mean to take upon ourselves the name of Christ?  A basic answer is that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ when we follow His example.  Alma, an prophet in the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ taught his people how they could take upon themselves the name of Christ.  Alma was converted through the teachings of Abinadi and then proceeded to teach the gospel to others.  In order to help the people prepare to be baptized, he reviewed the duties they would be expected to do as members of the Church.

                    "And it came to pass that he said unto them:  Behold, here are the waters of Mormon … and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
                    "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life -
                    "Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"  (See Mosiah 18:8-10.)

               According to Alma, in order to "come into the fold of God, and … be called his people", we must 1) "bear one another's burdens", 2) "mourn with those that mourn", 3) "comfort those that stand in need of comfort", and 4) "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places".

                    We "bear one another's burdens" when we help them during their trials and adversities.  We "mourn with those that mourn" when we share their grief - death of loved ones, miscarriages, loss of job, etc.  We stand as witnesses of God when we 1) defend the name of Deity and do not allow it to be taken in vain, 2) are willing to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, 3) sustain and support priesthood and auxiliary leaders, and 4) choose the right thing to do whether or not we are being watched.

                    Alma listed promises along with the requirements; by observing the requirements of membership we can:  1) "be redeemed of God", 2) "be numbered with those of the first resurrection, 3) "have eternal life", and 4) receive "his Spirit more abundantly upon you". 

                    The baptismal covenant is so important that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to renew it each week by partaking of the sacrament.  Baptism is more than just being immersed in the water.  The covenants we make and the blessings we can receive are eternal.  I testify that keeping our baptismal covenants brings joy in this life and hope for eternal life.





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