LDS Articles of Faith, Part XIX
Article IV, Baptism
Our last blog showed that LDS leaders teach that “baptism is essential to salvation.” In his book, The Articles of Faith (A. of F.), LDS Apostle James Talmage said on p.128, “Baptism is required of all who have attained to the years of accountability; none are exempt.” But at least one was exempt according to LDS records! Joseph Smith, the founder and first Prophet of the LDS Church claimed he had a vision on January 21, 1836 in the Kirtland, OH temple. The first half of that vision is now LDS scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 137 (D. & C. 137); the last half of Smith’s vision is not scripture but is in the History of the Church, vol. II, pp. 380-381. In D. & C. 137:1, Smith said, “The heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God” (that is the highest LDS heaven). Verse 5 says, “I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept.” And verse 6 says, “And marveled how it was that he (Alvin) had obtained an inheritance in that (celestial) kingdom seeing that he…had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” This was before Joseph Smith introduced baptism for the dead, so Alvin was an exception to the LDS requirement of baptism in order to get into the celestial kingdom. Joseph Smith said he saw his father and mother in the celestial kingdom on January 21, 1836, but his father didn’t die until September 14, 1841 and his mother didn’t die until May 14 1856! Joseph didn’t say that he saw himself in the celestial kingdom, but he died before his mother died! The last half of Joseph’s vision (which isn’t LDS scripture) contains problematic content. It says LDS Apostle Wm. M’Lellin was preaching the LDS gospel and performing miracles, but he actually apostatized from the LDS Church! Smith also said he “saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth…in the celestial kingdom of God.” The Twelve Apostles Smith saw were ordained as LDS apostles in 1835. But within a year after Smith’s 1836 vision several of those LDS Apostles had apostatized from the LDS Church. So, LDS have dilemma: either LDS apostates inherit the celestial kingdom or Smith’s vision wasn’t from God! Why did only the first half of Smith’s vision become LDS scripture in D. & C. 137, while the last half did not become scripture?
In the A. of F. on pp. 129-130 Talmage said several Bible texts teach that baptism remits sin. He said in John 3:1-5 Jesus said one must be born again. And Nicodemus asked, “Can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus replied, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Talmage said, “It is practically indisputable that the watery birth here referred to as essential to entrance into the kingdom is baptism.” But Jesus was answering Nicodemus’ question about being born physically a second time, so He said one needs a physical birth AND a spiritual birth. The water Jesus mentioned is the birth water in which physical babies are born. Baptism is not mentioned anywhere in this context.
Talmage also quoted Mark 16:16 which says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.” That verse follows the command in v. 15 to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” So, the order is that the gospel must be preached; those who hear and believe the gospel that Jesus saves will then be baptized in obedience to His command. The Bible calls Jesus our “Savior” in Titus 3:6 and many other texts. Heb.7:25 says Jesus saves to the uttermost and I John 1:7 says His blood cleanses from all sin. That doesn’t leave any sin for baptism to cleanse! I Tim. 2:5 also says Jesus is the One and only mediator between God and man. Baptism is important to Christians and so is prayer, living a good life etc., but those things don’t save lost souls. Only Jesus can save! Christians believe we should be baptized for the right reason which is that it identifies us with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Col. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:3-4). The water of baptism symbolizes our death and burial to sin and rising to walk in newness of life. That is what Peter spoke about in I Pet. 3:21. The Gospel of Mark ends at Mark 16:8 in the earliest New Testament manuscripts. Everything after that is found only in later manuscripts which makes Mark 16:9-20 one of the few questionable texts in the Bible. But even if Mark 16:9-20 is accepted as inspired, it doesn’t say that salvation is given to believers through baptism.
Talmage quoted Acts 2:38 which says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This verse might look like it says baptism remits sin, but that would contradict numerous other verses like John 6:47, Acts 16:31 etc. But in Acts 2:38 the little word “for” is from the original Greek word “eis” which can be translated “because of” or “for.” If I say “I’m going to take an aspirin for my headache,” am I saying, “I’m going to take an aspirin in order to get a headache” or “because of the headache I have? That is the way “for” is used in Acts 2:38, so it means “because of” the remission of their sins. Notice that the “Holy Ghost” is given without the laying on of hands by “priesthood holders,” not like LDS teach. The Holy Ghost (Spirit) fell on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and on the Gentiles in Acts 10:44 without “authorized hands being laid on their heads” as LDS say it must be done!
Talmage said on p. 130 of the A. of F., “Christ’s humble compliance with the will of His Father, by submitting to baptism even though He stood sinless, declares to the world in language more forceful than words that none are exempt from this requirement, and that baptism indeed is a requisite for salvation” (For Jesus?) If Jesus was sinless, as Talmage said, WHY did He need salvation and what “sin” did baptism remit from Jesus? The 3rd LDS Article of Faith says, “Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said on p. 260 of The Promised Messiah that “Christ only was sinless.” That is Biblical truth. But on p. 456 he said, “Christ came into the world to work out His own salvation with fear and trembling before the Father…Christ wrought His atonement, first for Himself and His own salvation, then for all of those who believe on His name.” The Bible does NOT say that Jesus came to earth to “work out His own salvation” or to make atonement first for Himself as McConkie claimed. Before the birth of Christ the angel told Joseph in Matt. 1:21 “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” I Cor. 15:3 says, “Christ died for OUR sins” It does not say Christ died for His sin and our sin! I John 3:5 says “He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin.” So the LDS teaching about Christ mentioned in this paragraph is unbiblical and false! On p. 131 of the A. of F. Talmage said while Peter was speaking in Acts 10:44-48 the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard him and they spoke in tongues and glorified God and then they were baptized. But that is the wrong order for LDS according to their 3rd Article of Faith where baptism is before laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost!
We will continue our discussion of Baptism next time.