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Baptism in the Book of Mormon

By Mormon.org

Baptism is a sacred, religious act that signifies a person’s dedication to following Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, explains that baptism is required for eternal salvation. Even Jesus Christ was baptized, setting the example of obedience to God. Baptism is an ordinance, or religious rite, that must be done by immersion, which represents the washing away of sins, and performed by someone with the proper priesthood authority.

Why should you be baptized?

Baptism is first and foremost a commandment of God. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob made this clear when he taught about God’s plan to help everyone return to His presence: “He commandeth all . . . that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:23). Baptism is a necessary ordinance for salvation, but it also brings many immediate blessings.

You receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

The third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, bears witness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. You might recognize the power of the Holy Ghost as a feeling of peace or of closeness to God. The power of the Holy Ghost is different from the gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is offered only to those who are baptized: “He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:12). With the gift of the Holy Ghost received after baptism, you can have the constant protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life. 

You demonstrate your commitment to follow God

Baptism is both a physical and a spiritual sign of your faith in God. By going under the water and coming back out again, you demonstrate your willingness to follow Jesus Christ’s example and also show your desire for a newness of life—a rebirth. At baptism you promise to keep God’s commandments and to live His gospel. In the Book of Mormon, Alma a high priest over the Church, explained that being baptized means you are “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God” (Mosiah 18:8–9). 

You receive a remission of sins

Baptism cleanses you of the sins you have committed up to that point in your life. The Book of Mormon teaches that people who are baptized stand “as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 7:25). Even with the purifying power of baptism, God knows that you will make mistakes, that you will sin. Through the Atonement, Jesus has made it possible for you to be cleansed of your sins each time you take His sacrament. This miraculous blessing is available to all who have been baptized by the proper priesthood authority.

Who should be baptized?

Is baptism for everyone? Is it necessary? Do young children need to be baptized? The Book of Mormon provides the answers to these questions. 

Jesus’s baptism set the example for us

Even though Jesus was without sin, He was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi explained what that means: “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” (2 Nephi 31:7). By being baptized, Jesus showed obedience to His Father in Heaven, just as all of God’s children can. 

Jesus’s followers should be baptized

God “commandeth all . . . that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, . . . or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:23). Baptism is necessary, but it is not to be done without careful thought or to be taken lightly. The prophet Nephi pointed out that Christ’s example “showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them” (2 Nephi 31:9). Jesus set the example not only for baptism but also for how to live. 

Young children do not need baptism

Baptism is necessary for salvation, but the prophet Mormon taught that young children, being innocent, do not need this ordinance. Baptism is essential for those who are accountable for their sins, those who understand their wrongdoing, and those who can repent. “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” (Moroni 8:8). 

How should you be baptized?

Although baptism has been understood and performed differently by various churches, the Book of Mormon teachings on baptism correlate with the Bible’s description of baptism. The ordinance must be performed by immersion and with proper priesthood authority.

Baptism must be by immersion

The Book of Mormon describes how Alma was baptized and how he later baptized hundreds of others. They “were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit” (Mosiah 18:14). Jesus emphasized the importance of immersion when He authorized Nephi and others to baptize: “Ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. . . . And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water” (3 Nephi 11:23, 26). Immersion symbolizes the complete removal or washing away of sins by the living water, Jesus Christ (see John 4:10).

Baptism must be performed by priesthood authority

Just as a traffic ticket can be given only by officials who have the proper authority, so too must baptism be administered by those who hold the priesthood, or power of God. Baptisms in the Book of Mormon were performed by priests like Alma, who had received authority from God to baptize. When Jesus Christ visited the Nephites after His Resurrection, He specifically commissioned leaders for this purpose of baptizing: “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize” (3 Nephi 11:21–22). 

Will you be baptized? As you learn about the doctrine of baptism and why it is necessary, you may feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost telling you that baptism is right for you. A desire to be baptized shows your faith in the Lord and your determination to serve Him and other people. Start the process by talking to missionaries. Schedule a visit with them today.

This article shares just a little of what the Book of Mormon teaches about baptism. For a more complete study, there’s no better source than the scriptures themselves. Request a free Book of Mormon or Bible