Chapter 15: The Covenant of Baptism

Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, (2000), 42–43


Baptism symbolizes our birth into the kingdom of God. It is a pivotal event in our eternal progress. Just as we cannot have mortal life without physical birth, so we cannot enter the kingdom of God except by being born of the water and of the Spirit (see John 3:5). Thus it is very important to thoroughly understand the covenant of baptism.

Doctrinal Outline

Supporting Statements

  • A.

    Through baptism we enter into a covenant with the Lord.

    • “Every person baptized into this Church has made a covenant with the Lord to keep his commandments. We are to serve the Lord with all the heart, and all the mind, and all the strength that we have, and that too in the name of Jesus Christ. Everything that we do should be done in the name of Jesus Christ.

      “In the waters of baptism, we covenanted that we would keep these commandments; that we would serve the Lord; that we would keep this first and greatest of all commandments, and love the Lord our God; that we would keep the next great commandment, we would love our neighbor as ourselves; and with all the might that we have, with all the strength, with all our hearts, we would prove to him that we would ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’; that we would be obedient and humble, diligent in his service, willing to obey, to hearken to the counsels of those who preside over us and do all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:328).

  • B.

    Baptism is an eternal ordinance that has been practiced in all gospel dispensations.

    • “In the former ages of the world, before the Saviour 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, even so there was but one door to the mansions of bliss” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 266).

  • C.

    Baptism is an essential ordinance.

    • “Baptism is a sign to God, to angels, and to heaven that we do the will of God, and there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to Him to be saved, and enter into the Kingdom of God, except faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, and any other course is in vain; then you have the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Smith, Teachings, 198).

    • “The special purpose of baptism is to afford admission to the Church of Christ with remission of sins. What need of more words to prove the worth of this divinely appointed ordinance? What gift could be offered the human race greater than a sure means of obtaining forgiveness for transgression? Justice forbids the granting of universal and unconditional pardon for sins committed except through obedience to ordained law; but means simple and effective are provided whereby the penitent sinner may enter into a covenant with God, sealing that covenant with the sign that commands recognition in heaven, that he will submit himself to the laws of God; thus he places himself within the reach of Mercy, under whose protecting influence he may win eternal life” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 122).

  • D.

    The ordinance of baptism is acceptable to the Lord only when it is performed as He has prescribed.

    • “Baptism means immersion in water, and is to be administered by one having authority, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Baptism without divine authority is not valid. It is a symbol of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and must be done in the likeness thereof, by one commissioned of God, in the manner prescribed, otherwise it is illegal and will not be accepted by him, nor will it effect a remission of sins, the object for which it is designed, but whosoever hath faith, truly repents and is ‘buried with Christ in baptism,’ by one having divine authority, shall receive a remission of sins, and is entitled to the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 101).

    • “The word baptize is derived from the Greek verb ‘baptiso,’ and means to immerse or overwhelm” (Smith, Teachings, 262).

  • E.

    Baptism symbolizes eternal realities.

    • “Baptism cannot be by any other means than immersion of the entire body in water, for the following reasons:

      “1. It is in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of all others who have received the resurrection.

      “2. Baptism is also a birth and is performed in the similitude of the birth of a child into this world.

      “3. Baptism is not only a figure of the resurrection, but also is literally a transplanting or resurrection from one life to another—from the life of sin to … spiritual life” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:323–24).