If I wrote about every Book of Mormon verse about Jesus Christ, we’d be doing this series for decades, so I am skipping over a lot of great chapters to move us forward a little. We’re still in 2 Nephi, which is filled to the brim with information about Jesus Christ, but now we’re near the end. You can read 2 Nephi 31 free online in the Book of Mormon without even having to register.
Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet, finished his long sermon on Jesus Christ by discussing Jesus’ baptism. Remember that this sermon occurred about 559–545 B.C., so Jesus has not been born yet. However, Nephi has seen visions that taught him about the life of Jesus Christ.
Why Was Jesus Baptized?
Nephi reminded his people that he had taught of a prophet who would baptize Jesus Christ. This, of course, was John the Baptist. He addressed the issue of why Jesus Christ needed to be baptized at all. Baptism is most often referred to as a way to wash away our sins after we repent, so we can be born again and start over in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ was perfect and had no sins.
Nephi explained that Jesus, although not needing repentance, was baptized to fulfill all righteousness:
Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, 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.
Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
And again, it 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.
And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son (2 Nephi 31:7-11).
Jesus set the example for us by being baptized. Nephi asked his listeners if they could really think baptism was optional when even Jesus Christ was baptized. Clearly, it is not. Baptism has a number of spiritual purposes. One is to wash away our sins. Another is to obey God’s commands. Another is to make our first covenant with God.
A covenant is a two-way promise between God and man. God sets the terms and we must fulfill our part in order to receive His part. When we are baptized, we promise to take on ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments. In return, God promises to forgive us when we repent and to let us live with Him forever.
Why Do We Have to Obey the Commandments?
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, obedience to the commandments has to be done for the right reasons:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 31:13).
Being baptized allows you to begin working to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, also known as the baptism of fire. The Holy Ghost testifies to us of truth, keeps us safe, and guides us along the path back to God.
For many, it is an easy thing to commit to accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior and to be baptized. Those are one-time events. The harder part is to press forward and endure to the end. It’s not enough to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and then to go on living as you did before you made that change. Baptism is the beginning, not the end.
“Coming unto Christ is not a single event with a fixed point of beginning or ending; rather, it is a process that develops and deepens during a lifetime. As an initial step in the process, we certainly must obtain knowledge and learn about Jesus and His life, teachings, and ministry. But truly coming unto Him also requires consistent obedience and striving to become like Jesus in our thoughts, motives, communications, and actions. As we ‘press forward’ (2 Ne. 31:20) on the pathway of discipleship, we can draw near unto the Savior with the expectation that He will draw near unto us; we can seek Him diligently with the hope that we shall find Him; we can ask with confidence that we shall receive; and we can knock anticipating that the door shall be opened unto us (see D&C 88:63)” (“Because We Have Them before Our Eyes,” New Era, Apr. 2006, 2).
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.