Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Mormon baptism is by immersion for the remission of sins, and can only be performed by a member of their priesthood. Two more priesthood holders witness the ceremony. If any part of the candidate’s body has not been completely immersed, the baptism will need to be redone. Then afterwards, a member of their Melchezedek priesthood lays hands on the one who has been baptized, to impart the gift of the Holy Ghost.
But according to the Bible it happens the other way around:
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:44-48, KJV)
The reality is that the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit — both terms are translated from the same Greek word) does not adhere to rules laid down by men. The new birth, i.e. the receiving of the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost, can happen at any time and in any place that the recipient comes to faith in Christ (c/f Romans 10:13, 1 Peter 1:23) . The Lord Jesus put it like this:
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, KJV)
Those undergoing Mormon baptism need to have repented and confessed faith in Christ. However the Christ in whom Mormons believe differs radically from the Christ of the Bible. He had the same origin as we did, was our biological brother in a prior existence and only attained fullness of godhood after his incarnation, death and resurrection (c/f The Mormon Jesus).
LDS Church membership is by baptism.
Mormon children are baptized at the age of accountability, which is eight. I clearly remember being told after my baptism as a child, that all my past sins had been washed away but that I would be responsible to God for every sin I committed from that time on. That was scary. Each time I slipped up and did something wrong I became more and more convinced that God would never accept me. But many years later I discovered that it wasn’t that way at all.
Under the New Covenant when we trust in Christ we are forgiven all our sins. (All means all, not just those in the past.) As John the baptist said in John 1:19 (KJV), “ … Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And Christ has indeed taken away the sin of those who trust in Him. He cancelled out the ordinances that were against us, nailed them to His cross and then died as our substitute in our place, so that we could go free.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together
with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out
the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which
was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it
to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13, 14, KJV)
“But this man [Christ] after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12, KJV)
When the Bible mentions forgiveness of sins committed in the past, it is talking about of the sins of believers from the previous dispensation, i.e. the Old Covenant , who had already passed away prior to Christ’s crucifixion (which ratified the New Covenant of forgiveness of sins):
“And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (c/f Hebrews 9:15, KJV)
The Apostle Peter describes the receiving of the Holy
Spirit/Holy Ghost as a spiritual baptism, quite apart from
water baptism or laying on of hands (c/f The New Birth, Biblical and LDS
Viewpoints). He explains that that whilst he was
preaching the gospel to a group of gentiles who were
gathered in the home of Cornelius the centurion, they
believed on Christ and were baptized with the Holy Ghost:
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they [the church headquarters at Jerusalem] heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:15-18, KJV)
Paul explains that we we become members of the body of Christ (the universal, invisible church) through the baptism of the Spirit:
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;
and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1
Corinthians 12:13, KJV)
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5, KJV)
The Bible also teaches that God will give us the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost (same Greek term) in answer to our prayers:
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13, KJV.)
Furthermore, the Lord Jesus gives the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit to those who come to Him in faith, apart from water baptism or laying on of hands:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39, KJV)
Languages, customs, and terms of speech change over the years, and we need to take this in account so that we can interpret the Bible correctly. The word baptize is a transliteration of a Greek term that has many diverse meanings. We will discuss a few of them.
In Matthew 3:11 John, who baptized Old Covenant Jews for repentance, mentions that Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
“I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11, 12, KJV)
The above verses say that the chaff (the waste, or useless part of the crop) will be burned with unquenchable fire. So it is not referring to true believers in Christ. And in the Bible fire represents judgment (c/f Isaiah 5:24), which is also a type of baptism.
We can get the full meaning of Matthew 3:11 and 12 above from Matthew 13:24-30, which is a parable about to a man sowing seed (the gospel), amongst which tares grew. Tares are a poisonous plant known as darnel, that closely resembles wheat. The tares represent hypocrites (false believers), who are separated from the genuine believers and burned up when the harvest is gathered.
Christ spoke about a baptism unto death that He was about to undergo on the cross:
“But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50, KJV)
1 Corinthians 10:2 talks about how the Israelites were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. But this did not involved their being immersed in water, because as Moses held up his staff the waters of the Red Sea parted. Then they walked across to the other side on dry land.
“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21, 22, KJV
The pillar of cloud was used by God to show the Israelites that He was with Moses every step of the way on their journey to the promised land.
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.” (Exodus 13:21, KJV)
Baptism unto Moses in the cloud and the sea had nothing to do with water. Rather, these experiences convinced them that Moses was God’s choice as their leader and that they should submit to his authority and leadership.
In his excellent Bible study on baptism, the late Nick Kalivoda mentions many other types of baptism used in every day speech — too many to deal with here. Suffice it to say that Josephus, the Jewish historian, spoke of a governor named Gedaliah who was was baptized by drunkenness into insensibility.
Then too, after the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, Josephus said that bands of robbers had baptized the city. But he wasn’t talking about Jerusalem being submerged in water, as it occupies one of the high points in Israel. Rather, the robbers plundered the city until it reached the stage when the remaining defenders were left utterly ruined and done for. (When he was talking about Jerusalem being baptized, he was using it as a collective noun that included its inhabitants and all that was in it.)
Israel lived under the Old Covenant of law, sometimes referred to as the Mosaic Covenant (c/f Exodus 24:3, 7, 8). They had to earn their blessings by obedience to the law. The New Covenant of forgiveness of sins by grace apart from works, was ratified by the shed blood of Christ. And it only became effective after His death, burial and resurrection (see the article The LDS Version of the Atonement). So during His lifetime Jesus (who was an Israelite), lived under the Law.
Although He did not need to repent, Christ submitted to John’s baptism in order to fulfill the requirements of those who lived under the Old Covenant. The same thing applied when it came to circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. The Israelites were descendents of Abraham. So they also fell under the Abrahamic covenant and were required to be circumcised. Circumcision was an outward ritual that represented the inward reality of the cutting off of the fleshly sin from their hearts. And although Christ was sinless, because he fell under the Abrahamic covenant, He too was circumcised.
The LDS maintains that Mormons alone have God’s authority to baptize and administer the gospel (c/f The LDS’s Claim to Authority). But nowhere does the Bible tell us that we need authority from God to do what Christ has instructed us to do, which is to make disciples, teach them to observe whatsoever He had commanded, and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (c/f Matthew 28:18-20).
Mormon teachings are not biblical. They had their origin in the mind of Joseph Smith. As Robert Millet, the well known Mormon apologist and former Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, puts it:
“… the Bible is not the source of our doctrine or our authority, nor is much to be gained through trying to “prove” the truthfulness of the restored gospel from the Bible.” (Getting at the Truth: Responding to Difficult Questions about LDS Beliefs, Kindle version, by Robert L. Millet.)
Smith taught his followers that their authority to baptize comes through their priesthood. Their official teaching manual for 2010, Gospel Principles, states in chapter 13 that “Our Heavenly Father shares his priesthood power with worthy male members of the [LDS] Church” (c/f The LDS Priesthood is Unbiblical).
His teachings brought God (and Christ) down to man’s level (c/f Mormon Gods, Past and Present.). In so doing he detracted from their glory and elevated man, to the extent of teaching that Mormon men can also be exalted to godhood.
“God and man are of the same race, differing only in their degree of advancement.” (Mormon Apostle, Dr. John Widtsoe [1872-1952], Gospel Through the Ages,; Milton R. Hunter, page 107)
Here is the chorus of a Mormon hymn of praise to Joseph Smith, entitled Praise to the Man:
“Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven,
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain,
Mingling with Gods he can plan for his brethren,
Death cannot conquer that hero again.”
Because they are taught that their priesthood empowers Mormon men to perform ceremonies that are vital for salvation and eternal progression, the LDS conducts proxy temple ceremonies for the non-Mormon dead, including baptism by immersion (c/f Mormon Temple Work for the Dead). They claim that in the afterlife their deceased church members evangelize non-Mormons who have passed on, and should they want to become Mormons, if they have been baptized by proxy in an earthly Mormon temple, they will be able to progress eternally.
But nowhere does the Bible tell us that we will have a second chance after we die. Rather, it says:
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews9:27, KJV)
In obedience to Christ’s command, the Christian church baptizes those who have come to faith in Him. But there is no saving power in baptism. Believers are not baptized in order to be saved, but because they are saved. Their baptism is a public testimony of their relationship to Christ, their faith in Him and what He has done for them as their Saviour, sin bearer and substitute.
In order to free us from the condemnation of our sins, Christ took the guilt for our sins upon Himself. He became our sin bearer, our substitute. He represented us. So when He was nailed to the cross, it was the same as if we were nailed to the cross: We were “in Him” on the cross when He paid the penalty for our sins, and we were also “in Him” when He died, was buried and then arose from the grave. And once a person has died, he is no longer subject to the demands of the law. They have been paid in full.
As Paul explains in Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12-13, baptism symbolically re-enacts Christ’s death and resurrection. When the believer goes under the waters of baptism it symbolizes his death and burial “in Christ.” And when he rises up out of the water it symbolizes his resurrection to new life “in Him.”
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