Tag Archives: Baptism

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

is baptism necessary for salvationOn Christmas Day, 1977, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I don’t remember much from it being so long ago and only being 8 years old at the time, but I’ve always appreciated that my parents arranged for me to be baptized on Christmas in honor of the Savior’s birth.

As members of the church, we have several key beliefs that help us understand the importance of baptism.

Jesus was baptized as an example to us

When Jesus began his ministry, the first thing he did was sought out John the Baptist and asked him to baptize him (Matt. 3:13-17). At that event, while Jesus was in the water, the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the sign of a dove, while the Father spoke from heaven his witness of the importance of this event saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

In the Book of Mormon, an American prophet named Nephi explained the reason for Jesus’ baptism in these words (2 Nephi 31:4-7):

4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 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!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 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.

In other words, Christ was baptized, not because of a need to for Himself, but to fulfill a righteous commandment and to set an example for us.
Nicodemus was one of the ruling Jews, a Pharisee, and he came to Jesus by night asking some questions about the Savior’s teachings. Jesus told him he needed to be born again and this confused Nicodemus who asked how a person could enter the womb a second time. Jesus replied “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). These 2 events, being born of water, and of the Spirit, are baptism (by water) and the receipt of the Holy Ghost (of the Spirit).

At the end of Christ’s ministry, he also instructed his disciples to go into all the world preaching the gospel and “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). This doctrine can seem harsh until one understands the nature of what he means by damned (explained in another article “Do Mormons believe everyone else is going to hell?“)
The word baptism comes from a Greek word meaning to “make whelmed” or fully wet. Jesus was baptized by immersion to symbolize his death, burial (under the water), and resurrection (coming forth from the water) (Romans 6:4). When we are baptized we also signify that we are beginning the process of taking Jesus’ name upon us by doing the things he did.
Not everyone can baptize someone. They must receive their authority from God, not through a certificate of having attended divinity school. The Priesthood of God has been restored to the earth again, and authorized servants again have power to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost on people who desire to make covenants with God. (John 15:16)
There are some churches that teach that baptism isn’t necessary, and others who believe it so necessary that any who die, including babies that never received baptism, must be going to hell.

This article has addressed the necessity of baptism. In another article I have addressed the topic of people who die without baptism having the ordinance performed for them so they are not held back from their eternal progress. Now I want to briefly relate why infants do not need baptism.

Baptism is a covenant we make with God. It is an action where we promise God to live His commandments in exchange for His blessings such as the opportunity to return and live with Him again someday.

In the Book of Mormon, there was a period of time when some people were of the belief that little children who died without baptism were going to be cast off forever. The prophet Mormon corrected their thinking in this way.

Mormon 8:5-15

5 For, if I have learned the truth, there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.
6 And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.
7 For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:
8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach-repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.

So is baptism necessary for salvation? Yes it is, but little children, defined in the church as under the age of 8, are innocent before God and do not need that ordinance for God to save them. Those who die without baptism over the age of 8 also have provisions made by God to receive that required ordinance.


Related Articles:
What does the Book of Mormon teach about Jesus Christ?

Do Mormons Believe in Baptism?

Do Mormons Believe in Baptism?

Do Mormons believe in baptism?

Mormons take the commandment of baptism so seriously that we believe no one can inherit the kingdom of heaven without it. So what about all those people who died without being baptized?

Baptism is Essential

When Jesus came to John the Baptist, John shrank from baptizing Jesus saying that he was not worthy to do so but Jesus replied “Suffer it to be so now … to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). The Savior led by example and taught that baptism was an essential component of salvation. Here are just a couple verses indicating the weight put upon the ordinance of baptism by the Savior.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16)

“Except a man be born of water … he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)

Baptism by Immersion

Paul taught:

“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. (Romans 6:4)

In the LDS faith, we baptize by immersion, meaning, one is lowered completely under the water, symbolic of Christ’s death and burial, and then washed clean and brought forth out of the water symbolic of Christ’s resurrection. We are then clean and have a fresh start as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Baptism for the Dead

The LDS church differs from all other churches on this point. We literally believe baptism is a requirement for heaven just as Jesus taught. What then of the many billions of God’s children who died without baptism? Are they condemned to hell for all eternity? NO! A loving God has made provision for them.

Preaching the gospel to those who have died

Among those billions who never heard the gospel, we believe that when they die they go to a place we term “spirit prison.” Peter taught that Jesus initiated the work in this place after his death.

1 Peter 3:18-20

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Who got taught? Specifically mentioned here are the disobedient from the days of Noah who perished in the flood. In modern revelation we know that Jesus organized a missionary effort in the heavens such that the righteous could go and teach the gospel to all these souls throughout history who never heard the gospel message and accepted it. What is the purpose of this teaching? To bring these souls to the point of repentance to accept baptism when it is performed for them on earth.

Baptizing by proxy

The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that there was in fact a resurrection with varying degrees of glory of resurrected bodies (for more on this concept see this article entitled Do Mormons Believe Everyone else is going to Hell?). They were confused in some way as to the reality of the resurrection and so Paul used this logic to show them that resurrection was in fact a true principle. He said:

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29)

In other words, “look, we have this practice of baptizing each other for those that cannot be baptized for themselves BECAUSE we anticipate that they will be resurrected and want to inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus taught it as a commandment and never said it was fine for some to inherit the kingdom of heaven without it regardless of the fact that billions hadn’t been baptized.

The principle is the same principle by which Christ performs the atonement. As mortals, we are not perfect and we need the Savior to do something for us that we cannot do for ourselves. He is our “proxy,” or someone that stands in for us. Similarly, we are proxies for those who have died without having baptism. This is why the LDS church is so involved in genealogy. It’s not just a fun hobby, it’s to help our dead ancestors have the opportunity to accept the ordinance and move on to being judged by God on the basis of their life as if they had received baptism in this life.

Where are baptisms performed?

Salt Lake City templeBaptisms for the living can take place anywhere there is water. Typically, this is in a baptismal font in a chapel, but there have been baptisms performed in the ocean, pools, and anywhere convenient for it. However, baptisms for the dead only take place in baptismal fonts inside a temple dedicated for such a special purpose.

Who can baptize?

Anyone performing an ordinance of salvation such as baptism must hold the holy priesthood. This priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name on the earth. Young men receive this authority when they are 16 years old and ordained a priest in the Aaronic priesthood.

When is someone baptized?

In the LDS faith we do not believe in infant baptism but wait until a child is 8 years old at which point we believe they generally become accountable to God for their actions. People who are converting to the church after this age can be baptized when they have a testimony that this church is the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today.