Gospel Principles 20: Baptism

My dear brothers, sisters, and friends, the responsibility of speaking to all of you is a matter of great concern to me. I pray for your understanding.

My baptism into this Church was one of the highlights of my life. I was eight years of age. My parents taught me and my brothers the significance of this great ordinance. My mother told me that after my baptism I would be held accountable for the things I did that were not right. I remember the day of my baptism very vividly. I was baptized in the baptismal font in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Those who were being baptized put on white coveralls and one by one were gently taken down the steps into the water. One of the children baptized that day was not totally immersed, and so the ordinance was repeated. This was necessary because, as the scriptures indicate, “baptism symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection, and can only be done by immersion.” 1 It also follows the pattern set by the Savior, who was baptized in the river Jordan, where there was much water. As Matthew records, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.” 2

Even though I was only eight years of age, the words of the baptismal prayer penetrated deeply into my soul. After repeating my name, Brother Irvin G. Derrick, who baptized me, said, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” 3

Since I was baptized, over 11 million people have been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a similar manner and by the same authority. They have been baptized in frozen lakes, the ocean, or ponds, some of which were dug for that purpose. One such pond has great historic significance. In 1840 Wilford Woodruff, then one of the Twelve Apostles, was serving a mission in England and felt impressed to go to a rural district near Ledbury. There he met John Benbow, who had a large farm and a small pond. John introduced him to a congregation of United Brethren who were eager to hear the gospel message. He later recorded in his journal that with no other help at hand on March 7, 1840, “I spent most of the … day in clearing out a pool of water and preparing it for baptizing, as I saw that many would receive that ordinance. I afterwards baptized six hundred persons in that pool of water.” 4

The Savior taught us that all men and women must be born again. Nicodemus, one of the rulers among the Jews, came surreptitiously to the Savior by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

“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.” 5

Nicodemus was bewildered and asked: “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”

Jesus explained that He was talking about being born spiritually. He said:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” 6

All of us need to be born spiritually, from 8 to 80—or even 90. When Sister Luise Wulff of the German Democratic Republic was baptized in 1989, she exclaimed, “There I was—ninety-four years old and born again!” 7 Our first birth takes place when we are born into mortality. Our second birth begins when we are baptized by water by one holding the priesthood of God and is completed when we are confirmed, and “then cometh a remission of [our] sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” 8
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