“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.