Believing in Christ and faithfully following His example is the essence of . . . to honor His words “come follow me.”
To follow our Savior, it is vital to understand the manner by which He was baptized, for our eternal salvation depends upon correct application of this single doctrine. The Savior said these sobering words about baptism:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
“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. . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3: 3, 5).
The baptism of fire will be an important topic for another day. In the mean time, understood within the broader context of Christ’s example and His explicit words in the gospel of Mark, it is abundantly clear that being “born of water” refers to the saving ordinance of baptism.
Because our salvation hinges upon being baptized, it is of paramount importance that we do it right–following the same manner and method by which Jesus was baptized.
Given Christ’s foreknowledge of events, thousands of years before they occurred (and will yet occur), it is safe to say that the symbolism surrounding baptism has been thoughtfully contemplated by our omniscient Lord.
First, the etymology (historical origin and meaning) of the word “baptism” suggests immersion. But beyond the logical implication of a word, Christ’s own baptism by immersion clearly shows the way:
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matt. 3: 13-15).
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3: 16-17).
Without full immersion, the intended symbolism set by the Savior is not accomplished. The Apostle Peter taught that one purpose for baptism was for “remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38)–the symbolism of complete cleansing by total immersion under water is orderly, significant, and necessary. Further, the Apostle Paul provides this parallel for the meaning of being baptized:
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6: 3-5).
Clearly some methods of baptism fall short of the symbolism of being “buried with him”–symbolism expressly intended by the Savior. Because their practices were not in alignment with Bible teachings, this was the primary reason why Martin Luther protested against certain Christian churches of his day.
Baptism is necessary to the salvation of humanity; the order of this ordinance has been set by the Savior; thus it must be patterned after His example in two essential ways:
1) Baptism must be done by immersion under water.
2) Baptism must be performed by one with authority.
Paul taught that “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5: 4). This means that those who perform the ordinance of baptism must be commissioned by the Savior; they must be ordained by the tangible touch of Christ Himself or by someone who has previously received priesthood power from Christ, or by someone who has received authority from a chain of ordinations originating in Christ.
Mormons believe the Bible in a way that is comprehensive and all inclusive–leaving no detail of doctrine unaccounted.
The way of Heaven is orderly! So also must the earthly ordinance of baptism be performed in order; it must follow the method and manner that the Savior established. No mortal man can assume priesthood power to baptize, except that man is called of God and ordained by tangible touch of the Master–either directly or vicariously.