Monday, July 20, 2009


Latter-Day Saints believe that baptism is a covenant between man and God. It is the way a person becomes a member of Christ's church. Baptism is necessary for remission of sins and for entry into the celestial kingdom. To be baptized, a person must have faith in Christ and repent of their sins and be at least 8 years of age. When we are baptized, we promise to serve God and keep his commandments and He promises that His Spirit will always be with us. To complete the baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred on the new member. The gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. 2 Ne 31:17 We believe that baptism must be performed by immersion by someone who has authority from God to act in His name. Baptism by immersion teaches us through its symbolism: 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. Rom. 6:4 Most men in the LDS Church have the authority to baptize. I was baptized by my father and my older children have been baptized by theirs. An LDS baptism is a very reverent and beautiful spiritual experience. I am always pleased when my children choose to follow Christ's example and to be baptized as He was.

Though baptism is necessary for salvation, baptism alone does not guarantee salvation. Nephi explains to those who enter into the covenant of baptism, "ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. " 2 Ne. 31:19-21

Some question why we believe that baptism is necessary, citing Christ's promise of paradise to the thief on the cross. When the thief died, he went, as the spirits of all men do, to the Spirit World to await his resurrection. After His death, Christ went to the spirit world and there declared His victory over death and organized the preaching of His gospel to the spirits in Hell. After this work was done, Christ was resurrected; only then did he ascend to Heaven and to His Father.

Jesus Christ was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness". He had no sins, yet it was still important for him to be baptized, not only to set an example for us to follow, but because it is a commandment that all must be baptized. To remain sinless, Christ complied with every commandment He was given by His Father. Christ was baptized by immersion by John the Baptist, who had the necessary priesthood authority to perform this ordinance. After Christ was baptized, the Holy Ghost came in the promised sign of the dove and the voice of Chris's Father was heard from Heaven declaring, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt 3:17

Baptism for the Dead

One of the most exciting doctrines in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that, though baptism is required for everyone who is capable of sin, those who did not have the opportunity for baptism are not lost. In the temple, a person can receive the ordinance of baptism in behalf of a specific person who has passed on. The person for whom the baptism is performed has the opportunity in the spirit world of accepting or rejecting this saving ordinance. Paul cited this practice in the early church as a defense for the reality of the resurrection, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (I know that there are other interpretations of this scripture, but I believe this is what it means) I am grateful that God has provided a way for every willing individual to comply with His law of baptism and to receive the ordinances that He has declared are necessary for us.

Little Children

Around 400 A.D. some of Christ's followers were disputing whether little children needed baptism. The prophet Mormon gave this response in a letter written to his son: Wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in [Christ], that it hath no power over them...little children need no repentance, neither baptism...But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell...awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.... Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Moroni 8:8-20 I think that this understanding of Christ's atonement is one of the most beautiful doctrines taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I am grateful for the opportunity that we have been given to come to Christ and to be baptized and cleansed of our sins. I know that God loves each of His children and has provided a way for all to partake of his goodness.

For repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law. And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. Moroni 8:24-26


In the LDS Church, repentance is generally a private experience. Every day as we pray we have the opportunity to seek God's forgiveness for our shortcomings and ask for the Lord's help in overcoming our weaknesses. We also seek to make restitution as far as it is in our power. Only very serious sins, such as sexual misconduct, require counsel with a priesthood leader to assist in the repentance process.

I am curious how other faiths view repentance. In your view, how does a person properly repent? I have had the impression from some recent reading that some may view it as a one-time event. I know that some believe that confession is necessary. Must every little thing be confessed, and to whom?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Faith and Obedience

The God of heaven, who created this earth and placed his children upon it, gave unto them a law whereby they might be exalted and saved in a kingdom of glory. For ... all things are governed by law throughout the whole universe. Whatever law anyone keeps, he is preserved by that law, and he receives whatever reward that law guarantees unto him D&C 130:20–21. It is the will of God that all his children should obey the highest law, that they may receive the highest glory that is ordained for all immortal beings. But God has given all his children an agency, to choose what law they will keep. No man will receive a celestial glory unless he abides a celestial law. Wilford Woodruff

God does not disregard his own laws and justice requires that a debt be paid for laws that are broken. Because as mortals we are incapable of the perfection that God's law requires and without His mercy, all mankind would be lost. By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Rom 3:20, 23 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. 2 Ne. 2:5 Paul continues, however, with the good news which is that we are, "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom 3:24 The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. Behold, [the Holy Messiah] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered...and they that believe in him shall be saved. 2 Ne. 2:2,7,9 Alma explains that, "mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them [who shall believe on his name] in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." Alma 34:16 Paul goes on to explain in verse 31 that faith does not make the law void, but establishes it. Christ does not abolish the law. He upholds God's law and provides a way that we, through submitting ourselves to him, may be justified before the law. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. 6:23

We do not truly have faith if we defy God's laws. Nor does obedience to God's laws bring his promised blessings if we act without faith. Without faith, works are dead, for nothing we do can save us; without obedience, faith is also dead, for we cannot be justified before a law that we have not tried to live. James explains very clearly that, "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24The two are inextricably tied together. To try to separate them is, I feel, to deny the power of Christ to justify us before the law. It would seem, in effect, to destroy God's law and make his commandments void; or to destroy Christ's mercy and leave us helpless before the demands of divine justice.

The teachings and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the ages have been designed to keep people focused on Christ and the salvation He offers. This was as true in the time of Adam, as in the time of Moses, as true in the days of Abraham as it was in the days of Christ, and as true in times past as it is today. The doctrines and ordinances that God has established are designed to bring people to Christ. This central purpose has never changed; the essential principles of faith, repentance, baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost have been common to every era in which there has been someone on earth who is authorized to teach the gospel.

The Israelites were given a law of carnal commandments and performances in addition to the basic requirements of the gospel to help keep their attention focused on Christ. Before Christ's coming, his followers in ancient America observed the law of Moses and understood its purpose:

And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were ... slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them... to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him. But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. And now... they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God. Mosiah 13:29-32 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. Alma 34:14,15 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Ne. 25:25-26 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. Mosiah 3:13,17 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. 2 Ne. 2:8

When Christ fulfilled purposes of the law of Moses, He put an end to the performances associated with that particular law. The fundamental laws of His gospel did not change. Faith in Jesus Christ, sincere repentance of our sins, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are the constant, basic requirements for entry into the kingdom of God. They have been taught by the prophets of God in every era. They set us on the course to eternal life. God promises the blessings of eternity to all who faithfully serve him. We cannot do it alone. Whatever our capacities, whatever our inadequacies, Christ has the power to make us equal to the task that he has set before us. Each of God's commandments is given for our benefit and blessing. It doesn't matter what we can or cannot do, what matters is that we have faith in Christ and trust Him enough to try.

Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; My joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Alma 26:11,12

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why God lets hard things happen

Many people have wondered how God can allow so much evil and sorrow to exist in the world. Terrible things happen, even to very good people. If God is loving and all-powerful, some wonder, why does he not stop those determined to do evil from causing so much pain and destruction to innocent men, women, and children? Why does he not heal every disease and stay every storm? Because of the Latter-Day Saint view on the purpose of life, we have a unique perspective on why God permits this kind of suffering. Whether a challenge is sent by God or whether it is merely permitted by Him as the result of laws that He has established, there is a purpose in the trials that we must go through, and He has not left us to navigate the difficulties of life alone. As we learn through our trials to trust in God, we come to understand that He loves us and is faithful to us, even if He does not immediately relieve our suffering. If we trust in God, He will turn everything we experience to our benefit. "All things work together for good to them that love God." Rom. 8:28

If we could see things as God does, we would know that, compared to eternity, our time on this earth is very short. We lived with God before we came to this earth and will return to him after our experience here is finished. The brief time of this life is given to us for our benefit and the things which we experience here are necessary for our growth. "If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective." Kimball "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” Whitney

Before we came to this earth, we lived in Heaven with God. There was a great war fought in Heaven over the agency of man: "Satan...came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost...wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice." Moses 4:1-4 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad...the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. 2 Ne. 2:11,16 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; D&C 36:39

Lucifer intended to force all men to do the will of the Father. God knew that we could not develop if we were not free to choose and if we never faced a trial of our faith. Christ's desire was to carry out the plan of His Father, not in forcing compliance to God's laws, but in providing a way for men to overcome, through his grace, the ill effects of the misuse of that great gift of free agency.

God respects our right to choose our own course. In the premortal world He taught us his ways, then sent us to earth where we would be free to choose whether we would follow Him. In order that we would be truly free, we were born into this earth without a recollection of our previous experiences, but the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. Moroni 7:16 The Light of Christ is an influence which encourages people to do good and to seek for God. It prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. All things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Moroni 7:12-13

God set into motion the laws that govern our universe and gave to man his agency. He does not break his own laws or force the mind of man. Men who wish to do evil are not prevented, for doing so would destroy their agency. God encourages all men to do good but does not compel them. No one could choose good if he were not also free to choose evil; he would not be truly free if his evil intentions were continually thwarted to protect the innocent. That God does not protect us from all sorrow, does not mean that He doesn't care. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities...that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:12 He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows Isaiah 53:4 God offers solace to those who are injured, and the blessings of eternity to those who will turn to Him. God cares deeply about us and truly grieves at our sorrows. He understands our suffering perfectly. He has lived in mortality and has taken upon himself the pains of every man. He has the power to heal every grieving heart.

Though God knows that we must pass through trials to learn the things that we came to earth to learn and He allows us to experience the growth that comes from hardship, He often protects us from harm and sorrow. If we focus only on the trials of life, we neglect to notice the miracles that happen. Every day people are healed from disease and are preserved from harm. Every day people change for the better, disasters are quietly averted, and broken hearts are mended. God's miracles are all around us, it is up to us whether we choose to see them. I recall, as a child, enjoying a pleasant walk with my sister in another neighborhood, when a truck passed by and parked a short distance ahead of us. I had a very powerful feeling that I must not pass that truck. When I altered my course and turned into the driveway of a nearby home, the truck drove away. I believe that the Holy Ghost protected my sister and me that day. I have had other similar experiences that have convinced me of the concern that God feels for us. I know that the Lord actively assists us in avoiding both big and little sorrows in our lives if we turn to Him. This is one of the ways that He teaches us faith. I know when God does not intervene, that there is a reason for it and that He will give me the strength and support that I need to overcome.

"The entire message of the New Testament breathes a spirit of awakening to the human soul. Shadows of despair are dispelled by rays of hope, sorrow yields to joy, and the feeling of being lost in the crowd of life vanishes with the certain knowledge that our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us. The Savior provided assurance of this truth when He taught that even a sparrow shall not fall to the ground unnoticed by our Father. He then concluded the beautiful thought by saying, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Monson

If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring...and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way... Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. D&C 122:5-9