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Baptism by Immersion
Baptism by immersion is the term The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes casually called the Mormon Church) uses to describe baptism in which a person’s entire body is put under water and then brought back up. In fact, in the Mormon faith, unless every part of the body (including hair) goes under water the baptism is not valid, and must be done again.
In the LDS Bible Dictionary it states:
- Baptism is from a Greek word meaning to immerse. Baptism in water is the introductory ordinance of the gospel. Baptism has always been practiced whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth and has been taught by men holding the holy priesthood who could administer the ordinances.
The action of baptism contains symbolic meaning. It symbolizes “death, burial and resurrection, and can only be done by immersion (Bible Dictionary). From the Bible we know that John the Baptist and Philip baptized by immersion. In Matthew 3, Jesus goes to John the Baptist to be baptized, the baptism occurs in the River Jordan. If other methods of baptism were acceptable, they would not have taken the time to go to a large body of water. The same applies to Philip in Acts 8:37-39, when he baptizes the Eunuch.
When Christ went to John the Baptist and asked to be baptized, John protested, saying that he needed to be baptized by Christ. Christ answered, “Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him,”(Matthew 3:15). Essentially Christ explains that baptism is needed to receive salvation. For Latter-day Saints, baptism is the first step required to gain entry into heaven. Elder Robert D. Hales said this about the covenant of baptism:
- At baptism we make a covenant with our Heavenly Father that we are willing to come into His kingdom and keep His commandments from that time forward, even though we still live in the world. We are reminded from the Book of Mormon that our baptism is a covenant to “stand as witnesses of God [and His kingdom] 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” (Mosiah 18:9). When we understand our baptismal covenant and the gift of the Holy Ghost, it will change our lives and will establish our total allegiance to the kingdom of God. When temptations come our way, if we will listen, the Holy Ghost will remind us that we have promised to remember our Savior and obey the commandments of God (Robert D. Hales, “The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 6).
The LDS Bible Dictionary offers the following about the purpose of baptism,
- Baptism in water has several purposes. It is for the remission of sins, for membership in the Church, and for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom, it is also the doorway to personal sanctification when followed by the reception of the Holy Ghost.
This statement points out another essential part of baptism, which is receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. When Christ was baptized, a dove descended upon him. This dove represented the Holy Ghost and Christ’s acceptance of this gift.
The Bible is vague about baptism before Christ, but through modern day revelation and Joseph Smith’s translation of both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, members are taught that all the true prophets of Christ practiced baptism. In the Book of Moses we learn that Adam, the first prophet was baptized by an angel of God.
The age that is appropriate for baptism is another point where Latter-day Saints differ from other religions. The Bible does not give a specific age for baptism, but it is apparent that a person must be old enough to have an understanding of the ordinance, and be accountable for his decision. Modern day revelation sets the minimum age for baptism at eight years old. In the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 17:11 it reads, “And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.” This same idea is revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants.