The 4th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as written by Joseph Smith, reads:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:
First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
Third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
Fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The third part of the 4th Article of Faith concerns the ordinance of baptism.
Baptism is the ordinance that symbolizes a washing away of our old life and our past sins and a rebirth into the Church of Jesus Christ or a rebirth as a new creature, dead to sin and alive to Christ.
The word ordinance comes from the Latin ordinant, present participle of ordinare, meaning ‘to put in order’. An ordinance can be defined as ‘an authoritative decree or direction’. It can also be defined as ‘a prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony’. It is also defined as ‘a law’.
Baptism is an ordinance which is a ceremony prescribed by God as an orderly way to officially bring people into the Church of Christ or ‘body of Christ’. The use of water also denotes a cleansing. The complete immersion in the water done by baptism by immersion also brings to mind the watery realm of the womb, signifying a rebirth. It can also be seen as a watery grave in which the participant rises up out of as in rising from death to life.
Baptism is also a sign of a covenant made between the participant and God. According to LDS.org, “Those who are baptized enter into a covenant with God to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, keep his commandments, and serve him to the end.” The baptismal covenant is explained in the Book of Mormon when the priest, Alma, established the true Church among believers and baptized them.
He asked them, as recorded in the book of Mosiah, Chapter 18:
- …Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
This is the covenant still entered into by members of the LDS Church when baptized. Baptism does not occur until a child has reached eight years of age, that being considered the age of accountability. Before then, children are redeemed by the Lord and have no need of baptism since they are little children with little understanding.
This covenant is renewed each Sabbath day when members partake of the Sacrament. In the Sacrament members gather and partake of bread and water in remembrance of the body of Christ that was broken on the cross and his blood, which was shed for us. The weekly Sacrament is a time to remember Christ and renew our covenant made at baptism. In this way we can continually apply the Atonement of Christ in our lives and rededicate ourselves each week to Christ. This puts a power in people’s lives by having the Spirit with them to guide them as they work each day to live according to the commandments of God.
The sacrament prayers are found in the Doctrine and Covenants 20:77-79.
They are as follows:
77 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
78 The manner of administering the wine (or water)—he shall take the cup also, and say:
79 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine(or water) to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
So, during the Sacrament, members have a chance to be reminded of the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and witness again to God that they would always remember him throughout the week and keep his commandments, and, if they do this they will have his Spirit to be with them, the Spirit also known by the name, the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost will be further discussed in the next post with the last principle found in the 4th Article of Faith.