Friday, October 8, 2010

Baptism: Our First Covenant

We learn from Jesus Christ in the Bible that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). Indeed, Jesus Christ Himself was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (see Matt 3:15; 2 Nephi 31:5).

But why baptism? Why the act and why is simply accepting the covenant in prayer or being born again by some other means in our own way not enough?

To answer these questions, we must begin with the foundational principle of faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Faith is active and requires action that leads to and involves repentance (see Mosiah 4:10). The prophet Alma taught that we must repent and be born again: “therefore come and be baptized into repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, . . . And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God . . . shall have eternal life, . . .” (see Alma 7:14-16).

Baptism serves as a witness to the Lord that we have entered into a covenant with Him to serve Him and keep His commandments and that we desire the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit in return (see Mosiah 18:8-10; Alma 7:14-15).

As the people of King Benjamin heard the words of the Lord through His living prophet (see Mosiah 2-5), they  experienced a mighty change of heart and were willing to enter into covenant with God to do His will and to be obedient to his commandments that they might have eternal life. King Benjamin then promised:

7  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

8  And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

9  And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. (Mosiah 5).

Baptism is the first saving ordinance after which we straightway receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and begin on the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:17-18). As we continue down that path repenting along the way, we become clean through the Atonement of Christ.

Yes, we must be born of water and of the spirit that we may enter into the kingdom of God. As we do so, we are blessed with His Spirit, we receive strength each week as we renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament, we receive the opportunity to make additional covenants with the Lord in His holy temples, and through His Atonement we come closer to obtaining the greatest gift God can bestow upon us: the gift of eternal life (see D&C 14:7).

I am grateful for the decision I made when I was eight years old to be baptized by my grandfather into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the gift of the Holy Ghost which I received by the laying on of hands by my father and other priesthood holders shortly thereafter. I am grateful for the infinite mercy of my Savior Jesus Christ that I may continually repent and renew my covenant with Him that I may constantly be edified by His Spirit and be guided through the trials and travails of this life. I know that He lives and that He loves us. I know that He desires for each of us to make this covenant with Him through baptism that we all may return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father for eternity.


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