BOWbutton

This button is a resource to link those desiring baptism with those having authority to baptize. More information can be found here.

 

3 Nephi 11: 35

3 Nephi 11: 35:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Belief in Christ necessarily means belief in the Father. To believe Christ is to accept His message of the Father’s primacy and authority.
You see in these three members of the Godhead a full establishment of interconnected roles and responsibilities.

The Father ordains the plan. It is He who presides.

The Son implements the plan. It is He who makes the required sacrifice to save us.
The Holy Ghost activates the plan. It is the “fire” of the Holy Ghost which makes new, cleanses and perfects the man’s understanding.
These three are “one” and united. They provide mankind with the possibility for salvation and exaltation.

Christ “bears record of it from the Father.” This means that Christ is the Father’s messenger announcing the Father’s plan. What of the need for two witnesses? (Matt. 18: 16.) One of the criticisms of Christ’s message was the absence of additional witnesses. (John 8: 13-14.) Is Christ doing that same thing here with the Nephites? Does His announcement that He speaks for the Father constitute one, or two witnesses? The Father first bore witness of Christ (3 Nephi 11: 6-7.) Now Christ bears witness of Him.

The Father’s testimony always affirms the status of the Son as His Beloved, and of our need to “hear Him.” (See e.g., Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17; see also Matt. 3: 17.) The Father can, and does, acknowledge others as His. (Psalms 2: 7.) But, unlike the Son who has repeatedly visited this earth, walked upon it (Luke 24: 15-16), been handled by people (Luke 24: 36-39; 3 Nephi 11: 14-15), and eaten here (John 21: 13), the Father does not come into contact with this earth in its fallen state (Matt. 17: 5; JS-H 1: 17). The only time the Father had contact with this earth was before the Fall, in the Paradisiacal setting of Eden–which was a Temple at the time (Gen. 3: 8). Whenever there has been contact with the Father thereafter, He has been at a distance from this earth. (Moses 7: 24; 1 Nephi 1: 8; Alma 36: 22.)

There is a formality with the Father that does not exist with the Son. For example, the Son has eaten with mortal man while He was immortal, both before His ministry in the flesh (Exo. 24: 9-11) and after (Luke 24: 41-43). As our Redeemer, He is directly responsible for us and has contact with us to perform His redemptive service. The Father, on the other hand, is different in status, responsibility, glory and dominion. The Son can appear to mortal man without showing His glory or requiring any alteration of the mortal who beholds Him. (See, e.g., John 20: 15-17.) To behold the Father, to endure His presence, one must be transfigured. (Moses 1: 2.) Mortal man cannot behold the Father’s works while mortal, for if you comprehend them you cannot afterward remain mortal in the flesh. (Moses 1: 5.)

The primary means to learn of Christ for mortal man is the Holy Ghost. It is this means which brings all things to your remembrance (John 14: 26). Once the learning has culminated in preparation of the individual, then the Savior has a continuing ministry. (John 14: 21.) The Savior’s ministry is to bring the person redemption.

When this process is complete, then it is the responsibility of those who have been redeemed to cry repentance to their neighbors. (D&C 88: 74, 81.) Indeed, the desire to bring others to receive redemption becomes their primary concern. (Mosiah 28: 3.)

The process then produces those who bear testimony of the Son. If they are called of God, they will use scriptures to testify of Christ. This has always been the pattern ordained by God. (Jacob 7: 10-11.) They may understand the scriptures more clearly, because they have seen the same things as earlier prophets. (JS-H 1: 74.) But their testimonies will draw from the scriptures and the words of their brothers in Christ who went before as they testify of Him.

It is through such signs as these you know the Father and Son are one, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one, and the messengers sent by them will testify of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These three are the ones in whom faith must be focused for salvation. Though the heavens may include hosts of others, saving faith must be focused in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone. Whenever attention and worship moves from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the result is invariably apostasy and false beliefs. (1 Cor. 8: 5-6; Deut. 16, 17, 18 & 19; 2 Kings 17: 13-16.)

The doctrine of Christ is to be strictly followed. It alone delivers from destruction. All other paths lead to error, foolishness and the dark, where you will perish. (Deut. 8: 19.)

From following this process we obtain the necessary “fire and the Holy Ghost” which redeems, purges, purifies and changes us into a new creature in Christ.

I have said very little of my personal experiences because of how quickly people turn from following Christ to following men whenever attention is drawn to a man. Mankind is inclined toward idolatry. The church has become a great idol. I do not intend to supplant the Lord, nor to call attention to myself, nor to offer myself as an idol for others. I cannot save anyone. If not for Christ and His atonement, I would have only dread for my eternal state. The doctrine of Christ is what the Father ordained as the means for salvation. Anyone who interferes with the process, or offers another means for salvation, cannot deliver. (Mosiah 3: 17.) Whether it is an institution or an individual, no one other than Christ can save. Hence His title as Savior. For some reason mankind is so prone to error, so quick to leave the path, and so vulnerable to being deceived, that focus must remain on the Son, as empowered and sent by the Father, through the witness of the Holy Ghost, or we go astray. Joseph cautioned: “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.”  (TPJS p. 137.)

3 Nephi 11: 33-34:

 
“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.”
 
Imagine the importance attached to the ordinance of baptism! It is an absolute minimum requirement. Upon the proper performance of this ordinance, hangs the difference between being “saved” and “inheriting the kingdom of God” on the one hand, and being “damned” on the other.
 
[As a complete aside: A few posts back there was a comment about what a burden it would be for “the church” and “the priesthood” if people seek re-baptism to renew commitments. It was made as we approached Christ’s teachings on baptism. The comment was so immediate and so dark in tone and content it has caused me rethink the importance of this idea. Anytime an idea is confrontational and dark, I pause to consider why that is so. Here’s what now occurs to me. What a terrible burden it would be to depart this life without the ordinance of baptism properly performed, by proper authority, in the proper manner, with repentance preceding the event.  I would not want a dark and troubled soul to perform baptism for anyone, but a person filled with joy, hope and the Spirit, having a testimony in Christ like Nephi. These people would not find performing such an ordinance troubling.
If there is a hint of doubt held by any baptized member of the church, why would any right-thinking and charitable soul refuse them the right to be re-baptized? Now, I’ve suggested the Alma exception and how that might be accomplished in a time of reluctance and resistance to recommitment baptism.  But it occurs to me upon further reflection that since the church doesn’t recognize or record rebaptisms anyway, why would this concern the “heavy laden priesthood” which has no time for such things? Anyone holding authority, at any place where there is sufficient water to perform the rite, could accomplish it. Since the church doesn’t record it, there is no need of witnesses. It could be done in private, at any time, or any place with sufficient water. It could be done by any person holding the office of Priest. It would be good practice for future missionaries if they were given the opportunity. I think the idea is one which ought to be acted upon with regularity, in private and without troubling the busy and overburdened church and priesthood. A close family member could take care of it, and I suspect all involved will soon recognize heaven’s approval of the idea.]
Well, back to the subject at hand. Anciently the Jews practiced baptism in “living water.” That is, in a naturally renewing body of water, like a river, lake or ocean. Living water was part of the symbol. We have fonts, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I have always cherished my baptism in the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Well, believing in Christ precedes baptism. In fact, belief in Christ causes baptism. The one results in the other. Without faith in Him, there is no need for baptism. This then makes the first step belief in Christ, and baptism the second step.
 
I’ve heard of those who obtain a testimony of Christ in adulthood, but who were baptized many years earlier at age 8. If belief in Christ is supposed to precede baptism, but in fact follows it, does that recommend repeating the ordinance? Does Christ’s establishment of an order to these things, by the commandment of the Father, matter? If it matters, then why not try it? If tried and it “tastes good” then you have your answer. And if nothing changes, then you also have learned something, as well.
 
I was fortunate to be able to follow the proper sequence. I was 19 years old when I came to the church. I try to follow the proper sequence with my own children by teaching them before baptism and testifying of Christ to them in a way calculated to produce faith in Him. I would take no offense, however, if one of my children were to later want to be re-baptized as an affirmation of their continuing belief in Christ. I can’t see why anyone would take offense.
What does it mean to “inherit the kingdom of God?” Would that be important to secure while alive? This work cannot be done after death, you know. (D&C 138: 33.) However, if offered the opportunity now and a person declines it, they cannot afterwards receive it and inherit the “kingdom of God.” They inherit another kingdom. (D&C 76: 74.)
 
This is important enough a matter that I rather think the whole subject is worth careful consideration. Christ’s teachings have been carefully preserved at great effort and come to us by way of revelation and direct inspiration from God. From a prophet to another prophet in composition, and through a prophet in translation. It holds a power for salvation in the kingdom of God. It is worth prayerful consideration. The outcome is the difference between the “kingdom of God” on the one hand and “damnation” on the other.

3 Nephi 11: 31-32

3 Nephi 11: 31-32:

“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine. And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.”
When the Lord proclaims there is a “doctrine” belonging to Him, it is important to take note. As He begins His doctrinal statement, He first reminds us again of the unity between Himself, His Father and the Holy Ghost. This reminder of unity has followed the admonition to avoid contention and anger – things which prevent our becoming one with each other.
To understand His doctrine you must first know and understand that the doctrine originates with the Father. Christ has completely accepted and advocates the doctrine. Moreover He embodies it.

The Father’s doctrine is that “all men, everywhere, [must] repent and believe in [Christ].” This is what the whole of creation hangs on: the atonement of the Son. It is through the Son’s sacrifice that the Father’s plan became operational. Now, to return to the Father all must do so in reliance upon the merits of the Son. (John 3: 16.)

The Son preaches the doctrine of, and bears witness of the Father. The Father bears witness of the Son.  The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son.
When did the Father bear record of the Son?  Did you notice that? The FATHER bears record of the Son! I’m not talking about Matthew or Luke’s testimony that the Father bore record of the Son, because that is Matthew’s and Luke’s testimony. I’m not talking about Joseph Smith’s record of the Father’s testimony of the Son. I’m talking about the Father’s testimony. When did you hear the Father bear record of the Son?

The Father does bear record of the Son. But you must go through the Son to get to the Father. When you do, acting in faith according to the conditions established for your salvation, then you will receive the Father’s testimony or record of the Son for yourself. But implicit in this statement is the fact that access to the Father is possible by the means provided through the Son. That is a ratification of the fullness of the Gospel. It is an invitation to return to heaven and obtain from the Father a confirmation of your salvation.

The Father’s testimony is that our salvation comes through Christ. For us the Father has provided a Savior. If we repent, we can come back into the presence of God and enter into our salvation and exaltation. But it is through the means provided for us: A Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
We are commanded to:
1.  Repent.
2.  Believe in Christ.
To repent is to turn again to Him. To follow Him and leave behind your sinful ways. To abandon the world and worldliness and to choose to always remember Him, that you may have His spirit to be with you always.

To believe in Him is to accept, study, contemplate and ponder His teachings. It is not to just go along with a herd, but to rise up from your position and awaken from your slumber. It is to grow into knowledge about Him. Belief leads to faith and faith to knowledge. But the process is initiated by your belief (correct understanding) of His teachings.

The doctrine continues…

3 Nephi 11: 28-30

3 Nephi 11: 28-30:

“And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.  For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.  Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”
The Lord’s elaboration on “disputations” and “contentions” is important and consistent enough that all 3 verses should be considered together.
First, He clarifies that baptism must be done as He “commanded you.” Deviations are not permitted and should not be asked for, or entertained. That is the thing about ordinances. When given, they are to be kept in exactly the manner they come from Him. When we change them we risk breaking the covenant between Him and ourselves. (Isa. 24: 5.)
The Book of Mormon is silent about the “disputations” which existed among them over baptism. However, when Christ says there has “hitherto been” disputes, we know they existed. It becomes apparent from later passages that one practice which caused some of the argument was the issue of baptizing infants. There were likely others, as well. The Lord wants that to end. Perform the ordinances as He sets them out, and stop arguing about the manner.

The reason arguments arise is because men stop gathering light by righteous behavior. When they lose light they cease to understand the truth. They stray from the correct practice of the ordinance because they are unable to understand its importance. They see no reason to continue the ordinance in one form when another seems to work just as well. The result is a change to the ordinance. It is ever the same. By the time the change is made, the ones making it are unaware of any importance associated with the ordinance they change. They discard what they view is meaningless. It would require a good deal more light and truth for them to understand the importance of what was given them. But that light and truth has passed away from them because of their conduct.

Into the darkness the devil enters with arguments over the ordinances: Why do it that way? It really doesn’t mean anything. It is arcane and outdated. It doesn’t really matter as long as you still have faith in Christ. [That particular lie is very effective because it allows the person to presume they have faith, when in fact they haven’t the faith sufficient to obey Christ.] People will get more out of the changes if we make them. People will have greater peace of mind if we baptize their infants. We’ll save more souls, because by baptizing them when they’re infants we include everyone who would die before getting baptized. Our numbers will increase. We’ll look more successful by getting more followers by adding their numbers into the group. What we change isn’t important, anyway. If it were important, we would know that, and since it doesn’t seem important to us, it must, in fact, not be important. Those who rebel at change are not really faithful. This shows inspiration; it’s faith affirming. Change is proof that God is still leading us. …And other such arguments and persuasions from our adversary.

On the other hand, Christ is saying to keep the ordinances unchanged. And further, don’t even begin to dispute them. They are off limits for argument, dispute and discussion. When you open the opportunity to dispute over the ordinances, you are allowing the devil an opportunity to influence the discussion and change the ordinances.

Disputes lead to contention, contention leads to anger, and anger is the devil’s tool. So don’t start down that road. Accept and understand the ordinances. If you are perplexed by them, then let those who understand speak, exhort, expound and teach concerning them. As they do, you will come into the unity of faith and become one. Perplexity cannot exist when there is light and truth. Light and truth comes from understanding the ordinances, not changing them. So do not begin the process through dispute. The purpose of discussion is not to dispute, which leads to contention, which leads to anger.
When the Gospel and its ordinances turn into something angry and contentious, then the Spirit has fled, and souls are lost. It is the devil’s objective to prevent you from practicing the ordinances in the correct manner. But, more importantly, it is his objective to prevent you from becoming one. When he uses arguments over ordinances to cause disunity, he is playing with two tools at the same time. First, changing the ordinances brings about cursings, and second, encouraging contention and anger grieves the Spirit, and prevents the Saints from becoming one.

As a result, disputes or discussions over ordinances, which could lead to changing them, should not be entertained. As soon as the ordinances are open to dispute, reconsideration, alteration or to being changed, then you are opening the door to this whole process. It culminates in the souls of men being lost through apostasy. Once the ordinances are changed, the earth is cursed (Isa. 24: 5) and Israel is scattered rather than gathered (Jere. 31: 36).

The devil knows this, even if men do not. Men are urged to take steps they presume have little effect, all the while being lied to by the enemy of their souls.
When men arrive at the point they are angry in their hearts with one another, they are not united by love as they are intended to be. These are the end results of the two paths. One leading to love and joy (Hel. 5: 44), and the other to anger and wrath (D&C 76: 33).
Disputes over ordinances are caused by the devil. Ordinances that preserve symbolic truths and have the power to save are turned into tools for the devil by disputations. It is a complete victory when discussions about changing ordinances are allowed to take place. Even good men are taken in by such disputes.

3 Nephi 11: 27

3 Nephi 11: 27: 

“And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.”
The ordinance of baptism is to be done in the names of all three members of the Godhead. And, correspondingly, Christ wants us to understand the unity that exists between these three. They are “one” with each other.
The “oneness” of God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost was discussed by Christ in His teachings of the New Testament. The Intercessory Prayer recorded in John 17, includes His expansion on the idea. There Christ taught: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.  Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17: 20-24.)
This unity between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is a point of doctrine raised by Christ in this teaching. It is important for us to understand that the message we receive from the Holy Ghost will be the same as the message we would receive from Christ. It is also important for us to rely on and have faith in Christ and the Holy Ghost so that we may trust them to bring us to the Father.
It is also a model for us to follow. We are supposed to drop our fears and worries, shed our ambitions and desires, and come together in unity until we are “one.” The non-competitive, fully cooperative manner the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “one” is the model of Zion itself. Divisions and strifes are unthinkable between the members of the Godhead. In contrast, among us they are unavoidable.
The ideal is always the standard. We push toward perfection. The Father lives in absolutes. Therefore we strive for the absolute, all the while struggling with our relative and incremental improvement. We are in the process of being “added upon.” (Abr. 3: 26.) The Father, on the other hand, dwells where there is nothing but perfection. (D&C 1: 31.) So for us the Mediator and the Savior establish the bridge between where we are forbidden to enter in sin, and the borrowed cleanliness which momentarily lets us enter in.
We are to become “one” with Them. It is a distant goal, to be accomplished after being “added upon” for a long time. Joseph taught in the King Follett Discourse: “Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power… When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
To become “one” will be to reach the end of a long journey. We can have promises of that end. We can receive covenants that will bring us there. But our arrival will “be a great while after [we] have passed through the veil” for “it is not all to be comprehended in this world.” Moses was told that, also. (Moses 1: 5.) We may be initiated, but to enter in will be “a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
So the ideal of “one” with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost for us is distant, to be sought, to be kept before us, but not to be obtained until some time later. But to be “one” with each other is another matter. Being “one” is required of us for Zion to return. Zion is required for the Lord to dwell among us again. He is going to return to a Zion, no matter how few may be involved. He will come even if only two or three gather in His name. (Matt. 18: 20.) Zion may be small, but it will nonetheless be Zion before He can visit with her.

Comment Chaos

It has become apparent that this has changed in the last week from a teaching blog into a discussion blog.  As a result, comments are now disabled.  There won’t be any comments on this blog from now on.  Existing comments will not be taken down; but no new ones will be added.

As the next few verses are discussed, it will become apparent that adding or deleting from the doctrine of Christ is forbidden.  I cannot, in good conscience, violate the very doctrine I am expounding even as I expound upon it.

It is true that this blog has never vouched for the reliability or accuracy of comments made by others.  It is also true that I have freely allowed criticism against me to be published without any defense or challenge to the critics.  The decision has nothing to do with criticism of me.  It has to do with the fact that the overall content of this blog has become primarily comments and distantly the things I have been interested in explaining or teaching.  As the posts become dwarfed by the comments, the whole purpose of this blog is compromised.

3 Nephi 11: 26

3 Nephi 11: 26:

“And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.” 

 
The manner of baptism is clearly by immersion. To perform the ordinance, they must be put under the water and then “come forth again out of the water” to follow the instruction given by Christ.

The purpose of baptism is to follow Christ’s example. (John 10: 27, John 14: 15.) It symbolizes the death of the old man of sin, and the resurrection into a new life in Christ. (Romans 6: 4.) That symbol cannot be mirrored by sprinkling. It must involve immersion.

In immersion we are placed below the surface of the water, in the same way as the dead are buried below ground.

In immersion the breath of life is cut off while under the water, and restored anew when you “come forth again out of the water.”

In the case of the officiator, they are the one who immerses and then brings the recipient up out of the water. Performing this ordinance puts the officiator in the role of the Lord who holds the keys of death (Rev. 1: 18) and resurrection (2 Nephi 2: 8).

Those who are baptized, and those who officiate, enact, by symbol, some eternal truths regarding the plan of salvation. In the very moment the ordinance is performed there is a renewal in symbol of life, innocence, forgiveness and resurrection. The earth itself is blessed by such things as baptism and other ordinances. The earth itself is defiled when the ordinances are not kept exactly as prescribed. (Isa. 24: 5; Moses 7: 28.)

The earth knows that God ordained the ordinances of heaven and earth.  (Jeremiah 33: 25.) As regular and reliable as the movements of the sun and moon are, so too should the ordinances of the Lord be kept in their appointed ways. (Jeremiah 31: 35-36.)

The heavens and earth rejoice when the ordinances are kept. They symbolize eternal hope, man’s acceptance of God’s plan, and a presence of righteousness in a fallen world. Our own participation in ordinances are vital to our own renewal, and the renewal of all creation through redemption of each individual soul.

The baptism ordinance, like all those that follow after, is intended not merely to fulfill an initiation rite. It is intended to communicate light and truth into the mind of the individual who is performing and receiving the ordinance. It is meant to enlighten.

I have discussed previously the meaning of “come forth” used by Christ in restoring life to Lazarus (John 11: 43) and therefore won’t repeat it again here. It is no accident the Lord employs the same meaning here as there. We are rising from the tomb of sin which imprisons us into the new life awaiting us in Christ.

The Lord is more than brilliant. He is filled with light and truth. The closer you draw to Him, the more light and truth you begin to receive from Him.

3 Nephi 11: 24-25

“And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:  Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Christ prescribes the exact words to be used in the ordinance. However, the instruction we use today is slightly different in wording, but identical in meaning: Instead of: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ” we say instead: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.” (D&C 20: 73.) 

After giving these disciples “power to baptize” Christ’s instructions require them to say they have “authority” (in 3 Nephi) or today, hold a “commission” (in D&C 20). Is there a difference between “authority” to baptize and the “power” to baptize?
Why does the authorization come from Jesus Christ, but the ordinance get performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?” The power to do the ordinance comes from the Son, but the ordinance is in the name of each member of the Godhead. Why?
Though they are one, the names show they occupy different roles and hold different responsibilities. (As to following and being sanctified by different laws and receiving different kingdoms, see D&C 88: 21-26.) We are in the fallen world where the primary means God communicates with man is through the Holy Ghost. (D&C 14: 8.) When, however, a person rises up through the merits of Jesus Christ to receive Him as a minister, they are living in a Terrestrial law and inherit Terrestrial blessings. (D&C 76: 77.) When He has finished His preparations with the person, and can bring them to the Father, the person is brought to a point where the Father can accept and acknowledge them as a son. (See D&C 76: 54-59, 92.) They are then begotten of the Father. (Psalms 2: 7.) Through each of these steps, does baptism matter? Does one receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost without baptism? Do they come to Christ without baptism? Do they inherit what the Father has without baptism? Is baptism critical to the association with each member of the Godhead?

The point at which the person’s journey is completed, and they may enter into the rest of the Lord is when the Lord declares by His own voice that the man’s offering has been accepted and they are sealed up to eternal life. I’ve explained this on the blog as to Joseph Smith. I’ve explained it for Enos and others in Beloved Enos. The Gospel is the same now, as always before. Therefore, no matter how you will receive blessings of the Lord in the afterlife, it will be through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by the ordinances instituted for claiming blessings. These were established as law to govern man’s conduct here even before the world was. (D&C 130: 20-21.)

Note also the person cannot receive the ordinance without also having their name stated. Why do you suppose it is necessary to first call out the name of the person before they receive an ordinance? Why would the Lord’s instruction require a person to be “called” first? Though they are submitting to the ordinance voluntarily, why call their name?

Does it matter if the full legal name is used? We do that in the church, of course. But does it matter? If the Lord called Joseph by name at the time of the First Vision (and He did, see JSH 1: 17), what name do you suppose was called? Was it “Joseph Smith, Jr.”? Or was it “Joseph”? Or was it that name used by his most intimate friend at the time?

Whenever a name is given by an angel in an appearance to parents, the name is always the first name, or the name their friends would call them. (See, e.g., Luke 1: 13; Luke 1: 31.) Similarly, when the Lord calls a man’s name, He uses his first, given name. (See 1 Samuel 3: 4; Exodus 3: 4.) The Lord does not use formal names, but uses intimate names when addressing His servants.
We call the person to be baptized by name. Our practice is to use the full, legal name.

3 Nephi 11: 23

“Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.”

The candidate for baptism must first qualify themselves by “repent[ing] of his sins.” That’s an interesting pre-condition in the Lord’s instruction.  Until one has determined to abandon their sins, they are not fit for baptism. They first decide to lay things behind, move forward in following the Lord, determined to serve Him. This decision to make a change must come “through your words.” Meaning that before someone can repent, they must first learn the conditions for repentance and following the Lord.

This is much like the instructions given by revelation to this dispensation about how baptism is to be performed. We were told, “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.” (D&C 20: 37.) 
After having made the decision to be baptized with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessing before the church that you have repented of your sins (or be willing to change and follow Christ), determined to endure to the end, a person receives from the Spirit of Christ a witness that changes their behavior. Their works show they are penitent. At this point a person is ready for baptism. Until then, they are not ready and the ordinance is not appropriate.
Now the instructions in Section 20 are more complete than the abbreviated statement in Christ’s instructions to His Nephite disciples, but it is to the same effect. When this pattern is followed, people are converted and follow Christ. Their baptism matters and will change them. When these instructions are not followed, the ordinance is relatively meaningless and people drift off into inactivity. I believe today the numbers evidence that approximately 10% of those who are baptized are actually converted. The rest are just names and numbers used as membership statistics to be reported and proclaimed each April in a worldwide conference.
The Gospel of Christ is quite exact and it works whenever it is tried. It is tried today in about 10% of the cases of those who are baptized by our missionaries.
Perhaps the ordinance ought to be offered to more of our adults as they come to recognize that they may not have actually been prepared to receive the ordinance when given to them. No matter, there’s always the Alma exception. (That’s when in the course of baptizing someone else, you go ahead and take the covenant yourself. See Mosiah 18: 13-15.) Clearly Alma was baptizing Helam at the time, and added himself for good measure; he (Alma) feeling the need for the ordinance himself. He went ahead and was baptized again for good measure. This seems to be a precedent that would allow for others to do likewise – perhaps when performing a vicarious baptism for the dead. I leave the Alma exception for your own consideration, and will stop short of advocating such a thing. I just notice things and share what I notice.  I’m not trying to convince anyone to do anything.
In Christ’s instructions, and in Section 20, the heavy lifting of repentance precedes baptism. Then, after determining to change and follow Christ, leaving behind the foolish errors of the past, the person is fit to be baptized. At that point the baptism symbolizes the new life being undertaken. The presence of the Holy Ghost then ratifies the purging of the repentant, now baptized convert. But that comes next in Christ’s teaching.