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What is Baptism?

Why is baptism important? If you believe in Jesus, do you need to be baptized? What if you were christened as a baby?

Baptism is a sacred ceremony, or ordinance, through which a person promises to follow Jesus Christ. The baptismal ordinance symbolizes the washing away of sins and is necessary to become a member of Christ’s Church. Although many Christian religions consider baptism essential, beliefs differ about how and when one should be baptized. Learn why baptism by immersion is an important, consciously made covenant that, along with the sacrament (Communion), allows an ongoing remission of sins.

What is baptism?

Baptism is a covenant

Baptism is much more than just a tradition or ritual; it is a solemn promise between you and God. It works like a contract: you promise to do certain things and He promises to give you certain blessings if you do them. When you are baptized, you agree to take Jesus’s name upon you (to be called a Christian), to live as a witness of Christ, and to serve Him and keep His commandments. In return, God promises to forgive your sins, give you the companionship of the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you, and grant you eternal life. (See Mosiah 18:8–10.)

Baptism is a symbol of being born again and is performed by immersion

The word baptism comes from a Greek word meaning to “dip” or “immerse.” The scriptures recount baptisms by immersion, including the example of Jesus, who, “when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). This immersion is beautifully symbolic, not only of the washing away of sins, but of death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism signifies the end of your old way of life and birth to a life committed to Christian values (see Romans 6:3–6). 

Baptism is an act that cleanses us so we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

Although baptism is itself a significant event, this ordinance is not fully complete without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). Jesus taught that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The gift of the Holy Ghost is given to you after your baptism so you can receive God’s help and guidance in keeping the promises you made to Him when you were baptized.

Do you need to be baptized?

Baptism is a commandment

 Even though Jesus Christ lived a sinless, perfect life, He was baptized “to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) and to show “that he would be obedient unto [the Father] in keeping his commandments” (2 Nephi 31:7). Baptism is necessary to receive eternal life, so Jesus charged His Apostles to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). The Apostle Peter also made it clear that baptism is a commandment for all people: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). 

Baptism is a blessing

When you are baptized, you have a chance to start a new life—one dedicated to following Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven, and you can rededicate yourself to making choices that lead to happiness. After you are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, He will help, comfort, and guide you in your efforts.

Are you ready to be baptized?

Baptism requires repentance

Before you are baptized, you show your desire to keep God’s commandments by repenting of poor choices and things you have done wrong. This may require confessing your sins before you are baptized (as a group of people seeking baptism did in Jesus’s time; see Matthew 3:6) or making up for mistakes where you can. This willingness to give up sin and keep the commandments goes hand in hand with baptism. “I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, . . . or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (3 Nephi 11:38).

Baptism is a conscious commitment to Jesus Christ

Baptism is a personal choice made by “those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:10). You must be able to follow commandments and consciously choose to follow Jesus Christ. This is why children do not need to be baptized until they can be accountable for their own decisions. Once children can understand right from wrong, being baptized helps them practice God’s teachings, repent, and learn to recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they face growing challenges in life. If you were christened (baptized) as a baby, you should be baptized now of your own choice and make a conscious promise with God to follow Him.

Baptism requires proper authority

As a prophet of God, John the Baptist had the proper priesthood authority to perform Jesus’s baptism. Many Jewish people recognized John’s authority to baptize, and people came from “all the region round about Jordan” to be baptized by him (see Matthew 3:5–6). Although Jesus lived a long way from where John was, He went to John specifically to be baptized because of this authority. Likewise, baptisms today must be performed by one holding God’s priesthood.

Why is God's priesthood authority found in the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? Read about the Restoration of Christ's Church.

What if you sin after being baptized?

The sacrament renews baptismal covenants

Even though you promise at baptism to keep the commandments, will you still sin? Of course, because you’re not perfect. So God provided another ordinance to help you to repent and become as clean as when you were baptized.

When you participate in the sacrament ordinance (Communion), you eat and drink blessed bread and water (some Christian churches use wine or grape juice), which represent the body and blood of Jesus. These symbols help you remember Christ as you promise again to take Jesus’s name upon you, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. With the sacrament, God also renews His promise to forgive your sins and grant you the companionship of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is part of God’s plan

God knows you will make mistakes. God loves you and wants you to return to Him. Baptism is an essential part of His plan to make that happen. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14), explained Jesus. Baptism is that gate that leads you toward God and eternal life with the people you love (see 2 Nephi 31:17–18).

Ask more questions about baptism. Chat now.

Read more about baptism in the scriptures. Request a free Bible or Book of Mormon.

Learn more about Christ’s Church and why baptism is the first step to becoming part of it. Schedule a visit with the missionaries.