Baptism is the gate

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons we believe that baptism is the third principle and the first ordinance of the gospel that is essential in allowing us to live with God again. Thus, baptism is the gate to eternal life. Our fourth article of faith states, “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.”

 

Baptism in our church is performed by priesthood authority–the authority to act in the name of God. The words for the ordinance are found in the Doctrine & Covenants: “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” (Doctrine & Covenants 20:73). In an earlier post, What does a Mormon baptism look like?, I described the details of a Mormon baptism.

 

With baptism by immersion, the person being baptized is lowered all the way under the water. Immersion symbolizes being totally clean, being buried under the water and then lifted up to a new life, and resurrection. Before baptism, repentance must occur so that the person is ready to follow Christ. Then after the cleansing of baptism, the person has no more sins until he/she sins again which happens almost immediately as we learn and grow in this mortal world. Being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins means that we are forgiven for our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We then must continue to repent and be cleansed daily through the process of repentance.

 

Jesus Christ was baptized and He was perfect. He was baptized by John the Baptist to show us the way to return to our Heavenly Father and to be obedient. As we are baptized, we are showing Jesus and our Heavenly Father that we are committed to keeping the commandments. Baptism is an act of obedience that symbolizes and binds us on the path to return to our Father in Heaven.

 

The ordinance of baptism takes a couple of minutes but for every baptism I’ve witnessed, I’m filled with peace and joy and a sense that our Heavenly Father is pleased with the choice to follow Him.

Repentance is a process

Repentance is the second principle of the gospel and the second step in the Fourth Article of Faith for Mormons or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When we sin or commit an act which separates us from God, we must repent. From our early years in Primary–the children’s classes at church–we learn that repentance is a process with several steps. 1) Recognize what you’ve done wrong, 2) Confess. We must pray and confess our sins to God. Confession can also be telling the person you’ve wronged or speaking with the bishop about serious sins. 3) Make restitution. You must fix what you’ve wronged. If you stole something, you must return the item or pay for it. Many times you cannot fix exactly the mistake you’ve made. You must be prayerful and be guided by the Spirit to know how to make restitution for your sins. 4) Forsake. Do the sin no more.

 

There are many reasons to repent. You feel guilt or godly sorrow and don’t want to feel bad anymore. You want to be baptized and repentance is the step before baptism. Or you don’t want to cause Jesus Christ any more suffering. I love this scripture where Jesus explains His atonement:  “For behold, I, God have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent. But if they would repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparation unto the children of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19). I think the most important reason to repent is because you want to follow Christ and feel the influence of the Spirit directing your life. As we repent we are at peace and are teachable. Our desires are aligned with the Savior. Our goal is the same as His, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).

 

Repentance is a process. I’ve struggled with the last step in that process: doing the sin no more. Most of my sins are weaknesses or habits like losing my patience or being negative. Without confessing all my sins here, I have experienced the sweet joy of sincere repentance, the relief of confessing and forsaking and aligning my will with the Savior. But in the process of continued daily repentance and refinement, I have a lot of room for growth. I used to think that when we repent, we remember our sins no more. That is not true. I remember my sin, not with the deep pain and regret, but I remember. I think we remember so we won’t do it again. It’s Christ that remembers our sins no more. “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord, remember them no more” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42).

 

Repentance is change and growth. As we desire to become like Christ, we will want to forsake our sins. As we repent daily, we will become more like the Savior. We will be guided by the Spirit to make changes in our life, to be more patient, to speak kindly, to have our hearts changed and we will find joy in repentance.

First, Faith

The Fourth Article of Faith for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, “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.”

 

Before you can commit to a religion or a way of life, you have to have faith in what is taught and in the beliefs. Then you can change your life through repentance, be baptized to show your commitment, and receive the Holy Ghost which helps you to keep making good choices.

 

“Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true, and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation” (Bible Dictionary, pg. 669). We can say that we have faith that the sun will rise, but that kind of faith does not help us to follow Christ so we can live with Him again. We must have faith in Christ. We must hope that He is real even though we haven’t seen Him. We must hope that following His teachings will result in salvation. We must hope that He truly did atone for our sins and was resurrected so we can repent and be resurrected too. We often discuss in our church classes if seeing Jesus would increase our faith. If having knowledge with our eyes would help us to want to follow Him even more. I can’t answer that because it hasn’t happened to me. I do know that during Christ’s time on earth, many did see Him and still did not have faith that He was the Messiah.

 

Do I know that Jesus is real, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the fullness of the gospel, and that by following Christ I will be resurrected and return to live with Him someday? I have faith. I used to think that even if this was all a big hoax, at least the lifestyle inspired by Christ is a way I want to live. But at this point in my life, my faith in Jesus Christ is not just a belief and I know it’s not just a hoax. I have a knowledge in the same way that I know I love my children even though I can’t “see” love. I can see evidence of the love I have for them and their love for me. I can feel that love. In the same way, I see evidences of the reality of Christ. I see the results of living according to His example. I know the peace, comfort, and answers I receive through prayer. I know because of sacred personal experiences.

 

Faith is active. Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I work to keep His commandments and to study the scriptures daily. And because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I ask Him constantly to support me and make up the difference.

What Mormons believe about being saved

What a fitting time to discuss the Third Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” As discussed last week about the Second Article of Faith, because of the fall of Adam, we were able to come to earth and have a body, but we were separated from our Heavenly Father, physically and spiritually. The Atonement saves us or brings us back into God’s presence. The Atonement is “the great sacrifice [Jesus] made to pay for our sins and overcome death” (Gospel Principles, p. 59). Because of the Atonement we are all saved from physical death. We will all be resurrected. Our spirits and our bodies will be reunited. This is immortality. We will also all return to the presence of God to be judged. Our eternal status or ability to continue to live with God eternally is dependent on our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. In addition to the first principles of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, there are additional priesthood ordinances including those performed in temples.

 

While every being who has ever lived, who lives now, and who will yet live will experience the blessings of Christ’s Atonement, not all will have eternal life or be saved eternally. At times I feel like it’s unfair that not all people are saved or able to live with God eternally. I’m afraid that our church seems and is exclusive. What right do we have to say that only people who are baptized in our church and receive temple ordinances will live with God again? Well, it isn’t me as a member who declared the way to receive eternal life. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus was baptized by one with priesthood authority, John the Baptist. We must also be baptized by one with authority, a priesthood holder with the Aaronic Priesthood which was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. As far as ordinances and covenants made in holy temples, God makes covenants or promises with His people, those who want to follow Him and keep His commandments. We agree to keep the commandments and God agrees to give us blessings. If you are not someone who wants to keep those commandments, then you won’t want to make the sacred covenants and you won’t want to live in God’s presence. Because our Heavenly Father loves us, each person is allowed to choose and will be comfortable with their life after resurrection.

 

I do not understand the Atonement intellectually, but I have experienced the sweet workings of the Atonement in my life. When I’ve repented, when I’ve asked for a change of heart, when I’ve felt alone and misunderstood, when I’ve grieved. At each of these times, the Atonement worked to pay the price for my sins or to succor me in my need. The Atonement is for all of us. Jesus Christ lives. He suffered, died, and was resurrected. Because He lives we will live forever and if we choose, we will live with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father again.