When Jesus was ready to begin his ministry, he went to where his cousin John was baptizing people. He requested his own baptism. John at first hesitated, knowing Jesus had no sin and also knowing who Jesus really was. John felt Jesus should baptize him, not the other way around. Jesus insisted, though. Baptism was a commandment and even Jesus had to obey the commandments.
Later in His ministry, Jesus would tell Nicodemus:
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:10)
And so Jesus was baptized by immersion in the Jordon River. Immersion means to go completely under the water, and in baptism it is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In this series, we’re looking at the reasons people first start looking into Mormonism. By the time they are ready to be baptized they have deeper reasons, including a testimony, but initially, they normally begin searching for a church to join because their lives are lacking something they feel a church might be able to provide. In this article, we’re discussing how Mormon beliefs about family appeal to many searchers. The Mormon family has a unique focus.
“In the Church, our belief in the overriding importance of families is rooted in restored doctrine. We know of the sanctity of families in both directions of our eternal existence. We know that before this life we lived with our Heavenly Father as part of His family, and we know that family relationships can endure beyond death.
If we live and act upon this knowledge, we will attract the world to us. Parents who place a high priority on their families will gravitate to the Church because it offers the family structure, values, doctrine, and eternal perspective that they seek and cannot find elsewhere.” (M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest,” October 1, 2005).
A new report from the Council of Churches states that while most church membership numbers are declining, Mormon membership is growing. Mormons are the fourth largest religion in the United States and the church with the highest growth among the top ten this year and second among all churches reporting numbers.
Mormonism isn’t an easy church to join. You have to participate in a series of “discussions” about the church first and complete assignments designed to help you learn what you’re signing up for and to help you find out if the Mormon Church is true. To this end, you are required to pray and ask God to tell you, since God is the one source you can always trust when you want the truth. You are then asked to commit to living specific Gospel principles and to live a moral lifestyle.
Then, if that’s not enough, you’ll probably get put to work. The Mormon religion is a lay church, so we don’t have paid ministers, organists, or other workers. This means everyone pitches in to help with one or two tasks. For instance, I assist a toddler with a disability in the toddler nursery each week.
Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, spoke at Chapman College School of Law in California recently. His topic was religious freedom and his speech was a plea for people of all faiths to unite in protecting the freedom of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution. He explained that this did not require a unifying of doctrine or any need to agree on doctrine. It is entirely about protecting the collective rights of all people of faith to practice that faith, whatever it is. “What unites us in religion is far more important than what divides us in the capacity to speak up for religious freedom.”
Because many of the earliest European settlers in this country came to escape England’s official state religion, the founding fathers wanted to make sure the government here would never choose one religion over another. This is the reason for the wording in the Constitution, which does not mention separation of church and state, but instead focuses on prohibiting the establishment of an official religion or prohibiting the practice of religion.
The history of religious freedom is long and fascinating, but it can particularly helpful to look at how that freedom came to be in our Bill of Rights. As Elder Oaks noted in his speech, it is the very first freedom promised and therefore was clearly considered the most important.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave an address on freedom of religion at the Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011. In this address, Elder Oaks said that all organized religions need to band together to protect the religious freedom guaranteed in the United States by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Many people don’t realize that the goal of the first amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion is meant to keep the U.S. government from forcing a state religion upon the people (as had been done in Europe, causing many to seek religious freedom in America). The founding fathers meant to give religion an honored, protected, and necessary place in American society. John Adams said,
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS,THE WORKS OF JOHN ADAMS,SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,228–29; Books for Libraries Press, 1969).
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