The Authority to Baptize

    The Church of Jesus Christ Restored

    Introduction

    “I have lived to see my father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ!” Joseph Smith exclaimed as his father came out of the waters of baptism the day the Church was organized, April 6, 1830.1

    A year earlier, May 15, 1829, while Joseph translated passages of the Book of Mormon about the necessity of baptism, he and Oliver Cowdery had asked the Lord who had authority2 to baptize in His name. “The voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us,” Oliver later wrote, and a heavenly messenger, John the Baptist, “came down clothed with glory.”3 He conferred upon the two men the Aaronic Priesthood,4 which holds the priesthood keys5 “of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion6 for the remission of sins.”7

    John the Baptist directed the two men to baptize each other, and they soon also baptized others converted to the restored gospel. Through priesthood ordination they authorized others to perform baptism by immersion. From that small beginning, many millions of people worldwide have been baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Quotes

    Joseph Smith Quotes

    “[Baptism] is a sign and a commandment which God has set for man to enter into His kingdom. Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man, to prepare him for, and give him a title to, a celestial glory” (History of the Church, 4:554).

    “In the former ages of the world, before the Savior came in the flesh, ‘the saints’ were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to come, because there never was any other name whereby men could be saved; and after he came in the flesh and was crucified, then the saints were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that they might be buried in baptism like him, and be raised in glory like him, that as there was but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and father of us all [see Ephesians 4:5-6], even so there was but one door to the mansions of bliss” (“Baptism,” Times and Seasons, Sept. 1, 1842, 905; spelling modernized).

    Witnesses

    Oliver Cowdery, Witness to the Book of Mormon

    “The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, . . . condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance” (Joseph Smith—History 1:71, footnote).

    Lucy Mack Smith, Mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith

    “Joseph stood on the shore when his father came out of the water and as he took him by the hand,” remembered Lucy Mack Smith, “he cried out Oh! my God I have lived to see my father baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ! and covered his face in his father’s bosom and wept aloud for joy as did Joseph of old when he beheld his father coming up into the land of Egypt” (Lucy Mack Smith, “The History of Lucy Smith,” c. 1845, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; some punctuation modernized).

    Questions

    Why is baptism necessary?

    The Savior taught that all must be baptized to enter the kingdom of heaven. He established the pattern when He submitted to baptism Himself at the hands of John the Baptist (see Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 16:16; John 3:5).

    Why must baptism be administered by one holding the proper authority?

    The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that “all the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 274).

    Who can be baptized?

    By revelation, we learn that baptism may be administered only to those who have reached the age of eight, which is the age of accountability (see Moroni 8:9–15; Doctrine and Covenants 20:71–74). A candidate for baptism must demonstrate humility, desire, contrition, and a determination to serve the Lord (see Mosiah 18:8–10; Doctrine and Covenants 20:37).

    Readings

    Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org

    Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods”—in “Establishing the Foundations of the Church,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 11–14

    The Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 28–29

    The Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods Were Restored”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11

    Keys of the Kingdom Were Bestowed”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11

    Restoration of the Priesthood and Baptism”—in “Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the Priesthood,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 55–56