Sunday, February 7, 2016

Rebaptism and the Doctrine of Christ

3 Nephi 11:31-41
 31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
 32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
 33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
 35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
 36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
 37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
 38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
 39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
 40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
 41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
Let us pay particular attention to verse 37: you must repent, meaning, as I take it, of all your sins, and become as a little child, meaning, as I take it, uncritically believing of God's words at face value, and be baptized in his name, the manner of which is given in 3 Nephi 11:21-30, or you cannot receive the record of the Father, and will not therefore be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

And let us look at verse 38: you must repent, meaning, as I take it, of all your sins, and be baptized in his name, the manner of which is given in 3 Nephi 11:21-30, and become as a little child, meaning, as I take it, uncritically believing of God's words at face value, or else it is impossible for you to inherit the kingdom of God, which means, as I take it, to become a joint heir with Christ, which means, as I take it, being introduced to the Father and being acclaimed a Son of God.

That is the intended purpose of discipleship, and what I understand to be the fullness of the gospel.

It is possible to read these things as though verses 33, 37, and 38 were referring to a single baptism by water.  However, one might also perceive in verses 37 and 38 the intimations of a journey - a process of endowment, perhaps - from an initial repentance and baptism by water and corresponding baptism with fire and with the Holy Ghost, to a later second repentance and baptism by water followed by acclamation as a Son of God, due to the differing order of the elements involved.  It is impossible to rule out this "multiple baptisms" reading without adding to, or subtracting from, the doctrine of Christ as contained in the Book of Mormon, and declaring the result to be the doctrine of Christ.  For someone to add to, or subtract from, the doctrine of Christ and establish the result as the doctrine of Christ comes from evil and marks them that so do as not being built upon Christ's rock, which means, as I take it, they are not part of the church of Christ.

The Nephites appear to have practiced rebaptism, unless one believes their elders, priests, and teachers were chosen from outside of the church of Christ.
Moroni 6:1-4
 1 And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
 2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
 3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
 4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
Let us assume that the elders, priests, and teachers were, initially, numbered among the people of the church of Christ, having been baptized.  Let us further assume that there was an orderly progression of some kind from teacher to priest to elder - once they brought forth acceptable fruit showing their readiness, perhaps some kind of sign or token (think of the endowments).  They then came forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins, suggesting public confession thereof, and were baptized.  If those assumptions are correct, then that suggests elders were baptized at least four times, priests at least thrice, and teachers at least twice.

This presents a problem for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, I am given to understand, has undertaken to excommunicate people solely for being rebaptized, a service the Church itself no longer offers, though it apparently once did.