“We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost.”

Article of Faith #4

Re-Baptism

Baptism, that act that most of us are at least cursorily familiar with, is one of the seminal acts we are allowed to perform here on earth.  In the LDS faith members are baptized at 8 years of age, an age which is viewed as an age of “accountability,” or the age at which humans become accountable to God for their actions.  Note the wording in that previous sentence because it is important – we are accountable to God for our actions, especially those actions dealing with our spiritual salvation.  We are not in any sense accountable to man for these same actions.

I sat in on the youth program yesterday in church, invited by a good friend who was presenting the lesson.  Prior to his lesson I was mourning the prayers which had been audibilized throughout the day on how thankful everyone was for our freedom, and for our soldiers who were fighting to defend freedom throughout the world and how great and blessed we are to live in a land of freedom that is so admirably “defended” by troops throughout the worldWhat they view as freedom, I view as oppressionWhat they view as freedom, I view as idolatry. What they view as a “blessed nation,” I view as a cursed nation which will soon (and already is) being visited with numerous scourges as a result of both her and her citizen’s idolatrous ways.

The lesson was on moral agency and our ability to choose while in the flesh.  It was a good lesson, and a topic which generally produces thoughts and insights into life.  In this discussion, the teacher made an astute comment about how we come to this earth as a way to prove to ourselves what we want to believe and follow in this life.  We don’t come here prove ourselves to God (He is God, after all, and can see the beginning from the end), we don’t come here to prove ourselves to our friends, relatives, acquaintances or any other person (including church authorities).  The only reason we come here is to prove ourselves to ourselves.

With that in mind, I had made it a point to print off and read a 20-someodd page write-up on the topic of re-baptism and its history throughout the years as a way to pass the time at church.  I read it here and there during my lapses into boredom during sacrament meeting and elsewhere.  This write-up comes from Ogden Kraut and what I admire most about it, in hindsight, is the legwork that this man must have gone to in order to research the topic.  I’m not sure when it was first written, but I do know it was completed long before the advent of the internet and the ability to research the Journal of Discourses or other diaries online, at the touch of the button.  The legwork and research that would have gone into this write-up is beyond my abilities and I thank both the author and his son (Kevin Kraut) for making this information available on the internet for others to read at their leisure.

And so it is with that in mind that I broach this subject, at least initially.  My first introduction with the topic of re-baptism occurred sometime last year (2009) in some discussions I had with another good friend, which likely occurred shortly after a post on re-baptism (go here for that discussion) or at least that’s where I think this information initially came from.  Though I have read the scriptures which discuss this information on more than one occasion, I have evidently done so without the requisite understanding or insight I needed to grasp what it was that I was reading.  I was, and still largely am, the epitome of ignorance in this and may other regards.  Much of what I write will be a re-hash of Kraut’s beautiful work, but written from my viewpoint and opinion.  The benefit I see in these write-ups is that (a) I gain a better understanding of the idea through the mental give and take and (b) it may, peradventure, reach the screen of some other wanderer on this journey for truth who may need and yearn for the information.  Such was my case several months back.  I guess this is a form of “pay it forward,” if you will.

Scriptural Examples

The best place to start, with any discussion, is in the scriptures.  This topic of re-baptism is discussed in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament and through the annals of Church History up until the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Only then did this idea and doctrine become entirely lost to later generations and that because of, in my opinion, a misinterpretation of one statement.

In the Book of Mormon we read of elders, priests and teachers being baptized.  Though the scripture doesn’t explicitly state that these people were re-baptized, one is left to interpret the scripture as an example of re-baptism.  Else, how could these people already be “elders, priests, and teachers”?  Likewise, Alma, upon leaving his perch in the chief seats of King Noah’s court, was re-baptized along with 200+ others.  Additionally, there are examples in 3 Nephi which evidence such a practice.

In the New Testament, the book of Revelations contains an account of the saints at Ephesus.  The saints at Ephesus were known for their diligence at keeping the word pure, at being able to recognize false teachers and apostles from miles away.  In chapter 2 of Revelations, we read of these saints being reprimanded for leaving their first love (Christ) because of their diligence and attention to the law.  They were so preoccupied with pointing out falsities, that they lost their love of Christ.  In so doing, they were called to repentance and admonished to “repent, and do the first works… .”  What are the first works, if not faith, repentance and baptism, as shown in the 4th Article of Faith?

Doctrine of the Restoration

The examples of re-baptism in the early annals of church history are nearly limitless.  It would be impossible, to lay them all out in this short write-up.  As such, I will focus on only a few.  Returning to the New Testament, there is an account in the Millenial Star of some of the early saints using Revelations 2 to advocate the practice of re-baptism.  Martin Harris, once upon a time, was taught the doctrine and upon hearing it, stated that it was “new doctrine” to him.  The full account reads:

“Brother Harris was taught the necessity of being re-baptized. He said that was new doctrine to him. Revelations 2nd Chapter was explained, that those who had lost their first love and had fallen into evils and snares, were called on to “repent and do their first works,” and that re-baptism was a part of the gospel. He claimed that he had not been cut off from the Church, but said if that was required of him it would be manifest to him by the Spirit. Soon after his arrival in Utah he applied for baptism, saying that the Spirit had made known to him that it was his duty to renew his covenant before the Lord.” (Life of Martin Harris, Millenial Star 44:87)

In May 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by John the Baptist.  Joseph Smith wrote that the following happened during that visit:

…he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I abaptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.* (JS-H 1:70-71)

Later, in 1830, the church was officially organized and those first members were baptized.  Among these people (nine in all) was Joseph Smith.  The Desert News states:

…Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Deseret News, March 30, 1935, page 6.)

Funny, don’t you think, that in spite of already having been baptized at the request/commandment of John the Baptist, Joseph goes ahead and gets baptized a 2nd time in less than a year without much statement or fanfare.  He had been baptized at the request of John the Baptist – the same who was described in Luke as “there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” – of all people.  And there he was, getting re-baptized 11 months later.  It just happened.  And yet, as a speaker in church mentioned that the practice of getting re-baptized “twice” was just something that happen.  As history overwhelmingly presents, this was a practice that is much more than something that just happened “twice,” or was restricted to fringe groups.  It was as mainstream as the young men or women program is today in the LDS church.

Indeed, with the example of Joseph Smith getting rebaptized from the get-go, so began a history of re-baptism that lasted for nearly 70 years.  During these 70 years, rebaptisms were completed as a way to renew covenants, to heal the sick, to initiate the “Reformation” of 1856-57, to enter into the United Order, to get married, to accept church leadership positions (i.e. bishops, stake presidents, apostles, etc.), to obtain a remission of sins and several other ways.  Indeed, the reasons for re-baptism were many and certainly not limited.  That is until 1897.

Curtailment by Default

By the late 1890s, no doubt re-baptism was a “mainstream” doctrine and practice among most of the church.  As our “mainstream” beliefs and practices evidence, these beliefs and practices can and do lack the “power” they once had.  People take advantage of the practice, forget its intended meaning and over time the practice loses it’s meaning in the “mainstream.”  Today, this can be seen in many ways.  Then, there is no better example than the doctrine of re-baptism.

For some reason that I have not yet been able to hammer down, the church leadership began to debate the efficacy of the practice and the continued “approval” from the hierarchy.  In 1897, during the October general conference, George Q. Cannon stated, “We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped.”  Why such a decision was reached is unknown to me.  Nevertheless, because of a feeling (“have felt”), the hierarchy ends the practice of a sublime doctrine.  Perhaps the intention was not to curtail the practice entirely, as evidenced by the wording, “so much re-baptism ought to be stopped,” but rather to slow the practice and re-focus on the meaning of the doctrine.  Temple records of 1896 allegedly show “thousands of rebaptisms for renewal of covenants and for health reasons.” Whatever the reason for slowing the process, the effect was one of a total curtailment.  And here we stand, some 110 years later, with little to no knowledge or understanding of the subject.  It is amazing how so much insight can be lost in the span of less than 4 generations.

Mystery and History

Much as resurrection was a mystery to Alma, rebaptism (and, no doubt, many other “lost” doctrines) is a mystery to us in the year 2010.  With that very brief history in mind, I want to go back and share some of the more “precious” insights into this doctrine, as shared by early church members.

Though the following statements have been rewritten in history – which is eerily similar to George Orwell’s statements in his book, 1984, on the re-writing of history to reflect the view you want others to have – Brigham Young once shared an interesting insight into rebaptism:

“In the first place, if you were re-baptized for the remission of sins, peradventure you may receive again the Spirit of the Gospel in its glory, light and beauty; but if your hearts are so engrossed in the things of this world, that you do not know whether you want to be re-baptized or not, you had better shut yourselves up in some canyon or closet, to repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord, until you get His spirit.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:324)

And, later:

“I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home, Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time, came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 18:241)

It’s amusing, if not saddening, to note the contrast in language between what Young stated and what Cannon professed in the 1897 general conference.  Whereas Cannon and the first presidency “felt” that so much re-baptism should be stopped, Young claimed “revelation” that members of the church “could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose.”  A revelation versus a feeling?  Tough choice.  Perhaps it’s mere differences in lexicon and they mean the same thing, or, perhaps, one group of people were too caught up in curtailing a practice which was being abused by some.  No matter the result, the main question is how does this affect me, or you, or us, today?

In a day that desperately needs another Reformation, no doubt much more than the change that was needed during the Reformation of 1856-57 (a mere 25 years after 1830), this practice and doctrine of re-baptism is one way to bring about the needed change.  Indeed, with this thought in mind, perhaps it is best to again turn to Brigham Young’s words on the subject:

“I have heard some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the Elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good Elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 2:8-9, emphasis added.)

Think long and hard on that statement.  There is light and truth contained therein.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I was reminded of a conversation I had with another friend on this subject.  In it, this friend was discussing the “false doctrine” that states how when we partake of the sacrament we’re “renewing” our baptismal covenants.  Turns out this is false.  We don’t renew our baptismal covenants when we partake of the Sacrament.

In reality, what we’re doing in partaking of the Sacrament is its own covenant separate and apart from baptism.  To further study this idea, research the covenants the people make in both Mosiah 18 and Alma 7.  In those examples, the act of re-baptism is a witness on behalf the person getting re-baptized that they’re making a covenant.  The baptism itself isn’t the covenant, but a simple witness of a separate covenant.  This simply means that instead of placating yourself by professing to change and follow a new course in life (words/intentions only), in this instance you also do an act, a physical act which demonstrates in deed those words you’re intending to live by. With the act, the words are not empty (as so many of our words tend to be).  The baptismal (and re-baptismal) covenants we make, therefore, are to (a) keep the commandments and (b) serve God.  The covenant occurs when we turn around and repent.  We then prove our willingness to actually give more than lip service by walking down in the water and re-entering the waters of baptism.

It is June 1st, 2010.  The weather is generally warm across America and in many other places.  Read Kraut’s work on this topic, and take advantage of the good weather to seek a remission of sins and utilize the beautiful simplicities of the gospel that are in front of us.

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Comments
  1. Justin says:

    The doctrine of re-baptism is more akin to the Jewish mikveh immersions. The mikveh was used by both men and women to regain ritual purity after various events: e.g. after seminal discharge, after menstral discharge, for priests being consecrated, after contact with a corpse or grave, or after eating meat from an animal that died naturally.

    A Jewish man would be immersed before his wedding, before he circumcised his son — even every week or every day in certain tradtitions.

    Perhaps this idea is more akin to what our baptism ritual is suppossed to be?

    BTW, I got most of the mikveh information from wikipedia if you want to read further.

  2. Rooch says:

    Justin,

    Thanks for sharing that. Here’s the link to the wikipedia entry on mikveh, for those interested.

    Do you know if mikveh’s are done individually, without the need of another person? It seems, from my reading on rebaptism, that there was always a 2nd person present to perform the rebaptism. The mikveh, it appears, it something you can do individually and by yourself. The women – at least according to the wikipedia entry – had a witness to ensure that all their hair and such became submersed, but for men that might not be needed.

    Jeremiah 17:13 contains the use of this term, miqveh, but it’s translated into English as “hope.” The Hebrew word does, according to Strong’s, refer to “collection, collected mass.” Interestingly, this same word – miqveh – is used in Exodus 7:19 where Moses and Aaron were turning all the Egyptian water sources to blood. In that usage, the term miqveh is translated as “pool” – “and upon all their pools of water.” That would suggest that this practice, or something akin to this practice, was also held among the Egyptians. Likewise, in the account of the creation, when the waters were gathered together, the original term used was miqveh.

    The other scripture noted in the mikveh entry is Jeremiah 14:22. Our scriptures, unfortunately, do not contain the same wording and, indeed, are missing some phraseology.

    Elsewhere, the word is mostly retranslated as “hope,” and perhaps with good reason as the act of a miqveh or rebaptism brings about hope of a remission of sins, among many other things.

    The wikipedia entry suggests Jeremiah 14:22 reads as follows: “Are there any of the worthless idols of the nations, that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, Hashem our G-d, and do we not [nikvah] for you? For you have made all these things.”

    The LDS version suggests Jeremiah 14:22 reads as follows: “Are there any among the avanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give bshowers? art not thou he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast cmade all these things.”

    A slight variation.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Fascinating information.

  3. Justin says:

    From what I’ve read about contemporary mikvehs, there is an attendant there to witness that your entire head is submerged. But for the most part, it seems that the ritual is more of a personal washing — not so much an ordinance that another administers to you.

  4. Mdesignsfor6 says:

    I love the idea of re-baptism – something I’ve thought a lot about over the last year. One thing you mentioned in your post that intrigued me was that we are not actually renewing covenants when we take the sacrament. I’ve heard that claim before, and didn’t think much about it then. But today, I really wanted to learn more about it and I can’t find any information about why or how it is claimed that partaking of the sacrament is a renewal of those baptismal covenants. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that we started hearing about this renewal of covenants in just the last 10 years or so. Anyway, it sounds like you’ve looked into this subject and I would love to hear more about what you’ve found!

  5. Okay, I’ll add my two cents.

    Else, how could these people already be “elders, priests, and teachers”?

    You don’t need baptism prior to receiving the priesthood.

    Previously baptized Alma was starting a new church, so was previously baptized Joseph. Jesus was starting a new church/dispensation among the Nephites.

    What are the first works, if not faith, repentance and baptism, as shown in the 4th Article of Faith?

    I never heard of baptism being called a work. Work is something someone does. Or, using the plural, works are things people do. No one does baptism. People are baptized, though, meaning that they allow someone to do something to them (to baptize them). Is that a “work”? Doesn’t sound like one to me. Other examples: “I’m going to work today. I’m going to allow someone to paint my fence.” Or, “I’m going to do some work today, I’m going to allow someone to wash my body.” Does that sound like work to you? The 4th Aof speaks of principles and ordinances, not works.

    Also, even if the first four principles are considered works (which I don’t consider them), I don’t see the wisdom in suggesting people continually do these works. Faith, yes, I see the wisdom in continually exercising faith, but continually repenting? That seems contrary to the gospel.

    Re: Martin Harris, if the Spirit told him to re-new his covenant, then he should listen to the Spirit and renew his covenant. Does that command of the Spirit to him apply to other people? Of course, not. And does “re-newing his covenants” indicate re-baptism. Of course, not. The covenant is still in force until you remove yourself from it or are removed from it. But being re-baptized does re-affirm (re-witness) the covenant.

    Re: Joseph Smith being re-baptized, well, it was the establishment of a new church, as stated above. Was Joseph re-baptized a third time? Not that I know of.

    People have the freedom of re-witnesses or re-affirming covenants, hence the practice of the early saints. Was each and every re-baptism recorded on the records of the church, or only the first baptism? If it was only the first one, doesn’t that indicate that the ones that followed were but re-affirmations of an already existing covenant that had already been legally (in the eyes of God) witnessed (by baptism)?

    The decision reached by the First Presidency and Twelve in 1897 appears to me to be wisdom manifested. It sounds like members were misunderstanding the nature of the ordinance and were reducing it to a Catholic rite of forgiveness of sin, such as saying 10 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys to obtain forgiveness. That they nipped the practice in the bud is a generally a good thing, though the prohibition against re-baptizing (re-witnessing) seemed to go too far in the extreme, curtailing one’s free agency and use of priesthood.

    Re: Brigham Young, he or any man can claim as much personal revelation as he wants, and for him it is revelation, personal revelation, that applies to Brigham Young. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with re-baptism, unless it is being used as it appears the saints started using it. So, Young’s revelation which he received at that time, which talked of the saints right, is consistent with what I know about the gospel. Nevertheless, the First Presidency and Twelve, who had a feeling later on about the practice, also is consistent with what i know about the gospel. Everything the Spirit reveals to people is based upon the conditions among men and is expedient. What was expedient during Young’s time does not appear to have been expedient in 1897.

    Based upon what I know of the current idolatrous membership of today, I would say that the re-introduction of re-baptism would have detrimental effects upon the membership, taking them one step closer to Roman Catholic idolatry.

    In conclusion, I was reminded of a conversation I had with another friend on this subject. In it, this friend was discussing the “false doctrine” that states how when we partake of the sacrament we’re “renewing” our baptismal covenants. Turns out this is false. We don’t renew our baptismal covenants when we partake of the Sacrament.

    I’ve had this view for years. Did your friend come up with it on his own, or did he get it from someone else (me, perhaps?)

    Baptism is merely a witness that we have entered into a covenant with God to serve Him and obey His commandments. It is not the covenant in and of itself. That is why Limhi and people had already entered into the “baptismal covenant” without yet being baptized. (See Mosiah 21: 31-33.) The witness is the formalization of the covenant, just as going to a notary public formalizes or affirms the existence of documents because there is a witness (of the notary). Covenants are a personal thing between the man or woman and God. The witness is a public thing that affirms the personal thing that has ocurred.

    Re: the sacrament, that, too, is but a witness. Not a witness that we are doing something, but that we are willing to do something. As we all fall short, if we were to witness that we are doing something which we don’t do, the sacrament would condemn us all to hell. We partake of the sacrament not because of our baptism, but because the Savior has commanded all baptized members to partake of it, as it keeps us in continual remembrance of the Savior’s atonement. The sacrament is not a covenant, but is a fulfilling of the covenant (not a promise, mind you) we made with God (witnessed by baptism) to obey His Son’s commands.

  6. Justin says:

    Couple of thoughts I’d like to bounce off:

    (1) I agree that you don’t need baptism prior to receiving the priesthood, though I tend to think that this is more the exception than the rule, at least from the history I’ve been able to read and study.

    (2) Membership into a church comes – decidedly – after baptism. Just as priesthood can be given outside the bounds of church and baptism, so too baptism can and does happen outside the bounds of any “church.” Christ was not, to my knowledge, baptized to enter the rolls or registry of some church, but rather to “fulfill all righteousness.” John the Baptist did not baptize, at least to my knowledge, in order to fill the ranks of some church, but rather “unto repentance.” The baptism is its own act, separate, distinct and apart from membership in some earthly organization.

    (3) Re: the definition of “works.” Perhaps, as you say, “works” can be defined to mean other things. People are baptized, but what is the baptism? Is it merely an “ordinance” in terms of definitions, or does it too make up part of the “good works” bandied about in scripture? I’m not saying that it is part of that definition, but I am saying it’s anything but applying our modern day definition of the term “work” to an ancient practice and calling it good. We (today) are great at applying “terms” to what were considered realities to ancient saints and cultures. Now, we go to “church,” we get “baptized,” we “work,” etc., thinking that somehow the “doing” of something replaces the reality experienced by others anciently. Church was a reality to ancient civilizations. Church wasn’t a building, or a program, or a system, or an hierarchy, yet that’s the definition we throw on Alma, Paul, John and countless others. For someone aligned with anarchical ways, I’m mildly surprised at some of the things you’ve said recently (not just here, but elsewhere), including on the “establishment of a church” (as if the scriptural definition (i.e. D&C 10, Mosiah 26 and elsewhere) of a church makes it imperative that we establish a brick and mortar church that so many LDS (and others) cling to with their all) and thereby adhere to the hierarchical structure thereby imposed. Perhaps I’m ultimately wrong in my interpretations of several scriptures – picking and choosing what I want to believe – but D&C 10 and Mosiah 26 (among others) suggest to me a church that has no bounds and is, by necessity, a relationship driven experience as described in Jeremiah 31 rather than the program and hierarchical driven experience we witness today.

    (4) Re: Joseph Smith. I’m not aware of other examples of his baptisms, but he certainly re-baptized Emma Smith several times for health reasons (5 October 1842 – twice – and 1 November 1842), including several times on the same day. There are several examples, though, of Joseph either approving of, or outright performing, rebaptisms. One such occurrence happened on 28 February 1843, when one “Jacob Scott” stated in his journal, “nearly All the Church have been Baptized again, for the Remission of Sins, since they joined the Church, I have also, by the hands of Br. Joseph …” (letter to Mary Scott Warnock, emphasis added.) And, to me at least, it’s instructive that not only did Joseph participate in these practices, but we do not read of Joseph condemning this practice while yet alive, and the evidence suggests the practice was happening regularly well before his death. For example, on 8 November 1841, Joseph dedicated the baptismal font of the Nauvoo Temple and stated, as recorded in William Clayton’s journal:

    “Brother Samuel Rolfe being present, and being seriously afflicted with a felon on one hand president Joseph instructed him to wash in the font, and told him he would be healed, although the doctors had told him it would not be well before spring, and advised him to have it cut. … After this time baptism was continued in the font, and many realized great blessings both spiritually and bodily.”

    In a letter by one Daniel Tyler, he states the following, which also claims that “works” does include baptism:

    “About the time the doctrine of rebaptism for members in the Church was first revealed in Nauvoo, Joseph, the great seer and revelator to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made some remarks on the subject. On one occasion he read, among other scriptures, Hebrews, 6th chapter, 1st and 2nd verses, as follows: `Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement.’ (Hebrews 6:1-2) The Prophet said the first verse should read: “Therefore, not leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, etc.” This explanation not only made the entire subject of the two verses clear but reconciled them with other scriptures. Notwithstanding Paul is made to say “leaving,” etc., the inference is clear that if the foundation of repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands should be re-laid they would have to perform those works over again, as every careful reader of the text must see. This also corroborates [John’s teachings in the book of Revelation 2]: “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works.” All latter-day Saints know that the first works after repentance are baptism and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. Here we find a presiding elder of a branch or ward of the Church commanded to perform these works over again, under pain of removal if he failed to obey the divine behest. Many more passages might be quoted to the same effect, but these are sufficient for my purpose. Joseph’s translation not only reconciles the text with itself, but also with other scriptures, as already shown, and as was explained by the Prophet.”

    Likewise, Joseph also re-baptized several of his plural wives (Emily and Eliza Partridge, Eliza R. Snow, etc) in 1843. Quinn notes, in one of his articles published by BYU Studies on rebaptism during the Nauvoo time period, that “as with nearly every public and private practice of Nauvoo during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, rebaptism was institutionalized by Brigham Young … .” Quinn also claims that the ending of the practice of re-baptism in the early 1900s was due to its supplementary nature, stating:

    “the administration of Joseph F. Smith [decided] that since rebaptism ordinances had always been supplementary to such principles and ordinances as individual repentance, partaking of the Sacrament, and priesthood blessings of the sick, it would be wise to discontinue a practice that might tend to diminish the importance of the primary principles and ordinances upon which rebaptism is predicated.”

    (5) Re: 1897. I cannot say I agree with this argument that there was “wisdom” in the curtailment. Just because some people abuse or misunderstand an ordinance (or a principle or anything for that matter) doesn’t automatically necessitate that there’s “wisdom” in “leaders” curtailing, limiting or forbidding the ordinance from others who do understand it. As history shows us, when leaders speak, the thinking is over. When the thinking stops, gospel insights and truths are lost in less than a single generation. Baptism, priesthood and many other “ordinances” and “principles” all existed before there was an “established” church, and will continue to exist long after this church dwindles and becomes a legal figment – oh, wait, that happened long ago too (now it’s just a mere Trademark™). I just don’t see the rationale to this sort of argument. So, some people take advantage of something and lose sight of the real reasons for that something…that somehow means there’s wisdom in precluding all from even hoping of receiving or doing or being given that something? Where do the scriptures tell me that my salvation, knowledge and growth are to be guided, molded and shaped by what others can or cannot handle? Or, rather, is the wisdom to be found in allowing each to decide for him or herself what course to pursue?

    (6) Re: Brigham Young. See the above discussion on Joseph Smith.

    (7) As an interesting research topic, I would be interested to find out the correlative effects of the ending of rebaptism and the rebranding of the sacrament. Baptisms for the renewal of covenants and for health reasons were practiced abundantly in the mid-to-late 1800s, many of these occurring in the temple. Prior to the turn of the century, from what I’ve been able to glean on the subject, both the taking of the sacrament and church attendance wasn’t nearly as regimented or expected as it is today. By the same token, prior to the turn of the century, rebaptism were fairly commonplace for a number of reasons. Only after the turn of the century did the reversal occur (i.e. rebaptisms dropped precipitously while church attendance and sacrament meeting attendance became required). See the above discussion on Joseph Smith for more info on this specific item.

    (8) Lastly, perhaps I’ve overlooked a brilliant example of rebaptism in Naaman from 2 Kings 5. Told to go and wash seven times “in Jordan,” perhaps there we have an example of both a symbolic and literal re-baptism occurring before our eyes. From the information we can read on rebaptism for health reasons (as practiced in Nauvoo), this could easily be seen (at least in my eyes) to be none other than a rebaptism for health reasons. The Hebrew form of the word “wash” in this verse (2 Kings 5:10) is rachats, which means to “to wash oneself, to bathe” and, at least metaphorically, means the washing away of the “defilement of sin adhering to men” and/or “to declare oneself innocent.” It seems, at a minimum, correlative with rebaptism.

  7. (3) You asked, “Is it [baptism] merely an “ordinance” in terms of definitions, or does it too make up part of the “good works” bandied about in scripture?”

    Whenever I think of scriptural good works, Moroni’s definition found in Moro. 10: 2 comes to mind, namely that it is working by the power and gifts of God. Baptism in and of itself, even with the valid priesthoods we now have, is not a good work. Only if the gifts and power of God attend to it does it become a “good work.” Joseph and Oliver’s initial baptism is a good example. They came out of the water and started prophesying. Obviously, that baptism was a good work. But for a lot of people, baptism is merely an ordinance of salvation, the necesary public witness of a covenant they say that they have entered into with God.

    Concerning the establishment of a church:

    The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jun., who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first elder of this church; and to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand; and this according to the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory, both now and forever. Amen. (D&C 20: 1-4)

    Notice that it states, “it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God”. Now why do you think that the Lord would command that His church (His group of penitent believers under covenant) be regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of the country? Why not just remain an irregular and disorganized band of unestablished believers? Why the necessity to have it conform to the laws of the time?

    My understanding is that the kingdom of God is not supposed to look like the Nephite church, nor like the primitive church, nor like the ancient church, nor even like the church during the time of Joseph Smith. We are not to pattern everything after them. This latter-day kingdom is to be the culmination of everything that has gone on before, as well as new things never revealed, which are in heaven now. We are not just to worship individually, but also as a companionship, as a family, as a tribe, as a neighborhood, as a branch or ward (congregation or ecclesia), as a stake, as a city, etc. God embraces the one and the all. The principle is not “this or that,” but “both, plus more.”

    (4) I am not against re-baptism, or even re-confirmation. Re-making a witness and laying on hands and telling people to receive the Holy Ghost are things that can become “good works” as long as the gifts and power of God are manifested. If, however, people start going through these motions, without the attendant manifestations, or, if they are relying upon them to gain forgiveness without the required penitence, or some other very valid reason, the practice itself turns into a form of idolatry. It’s kind of like giving out a seer stone to everyone. Sure, some will use it to interpret language and learn things from God, but many, many others will start bowing down to the stone and worshipping it. These re-baptism and re-confirmation practices are not intrinsicaly wrong, and that they were restored is a good thing, but also, due to expediency, that the practice has been discontinued, is probably a good thing, also. The church has lasted this long. These practices (and other discontinued practices) may have caused the church to be destroyed by God long ago, frustrating His divine purposes. Obviously, at some point it will be mostly destroyed, with a remnant left over, according to the prophecies. But had the leaders kept their mouths shut and just let the people do what they wanted, in their unjustified, unsanctified, unpurified state, abounding with all the restored doctrines, they might have already self-destructed. Expediency is the name of the game. Wisdom means that there is a time and a place for everything under heaven. Good things at the wrong time and place give bad results.

    Of course these practices will return again, along with other practices we don’t, yet, know of, but right now, based upon what I know of the church, the introduction of the practices of re-baptism and re-confirmation would, in my estimation, quickly turn this church into the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, it’s going in that direction, anyway…

    (5) The Anarchist in me says, “Let the chips fall where they fall.” But the Spirit in me says, “The gospel is about saving souls, not condemning them to hell.” It’s a fine line, allowing some certain privileges and not others. You might end up with a revolt, that way. It’s much easier to just give a general, “Okay the many have ruined it for the few. This practice must be discontinued.” Sure, the few might feel cheated, but if they don’t otherwise sin, do they lose their reward? Not at all. This is where the patience of the saints comes in. Again, the Lord is all about saving as many of His children as He possibly can. If that means limiting their mortal religion experience to expedient laws, so be it. In the end the winners get everything anyway.

    In a day that desperately needs another Reformation, no doubt much more than the change that was needed during the Reformation of 1856-57 (a mere 25 years after 1830), this practice and doctrine of re-baptism is one way to bring about the needed change.

    I think in the current church environment, if anyone attempted to re-baptize, without permission from the bishop, they would be disciplined. If such discipline led to excommunication, this would be a bad thing. What we need now are people on the inside, who can effect change, not people on the outside, whose voices are no longer listened to.

  8. Justin says:

    “It’s much easier to just give a general, “Okay the many have ruined it for the few. This practice must be discontinued.”

    To me, this logic only subtracts and never adds. Another example: Members don’t understand the penalties associated with the covenants in the endowment — let’s take them out. But now that they’re out, they can never be put back in without heavy logistic concerns.

    What of a policy that only lends to removal — and never addition?

  9. Branden says:

    Here’s a question I’d like to throw out to whoever wants to answer it, and it relates to Justin’s comment:

    If a group of people, with a leadership at its head, slowly dwindle down the list of acceptable practices, at what point does one have to go outside the group and keep alive the practices individually or within his family? We know this has happened with the LDS church, where many practices have been done away with for more acceptable (from the public’s point of view) practices.

    For example, here’s a brief list of things which were once perfectly acceptable, approved and/or recommended at one point in time in LDS history, but which now, if done, would get someone either in trouble or worse, or are either disavowed or repudiated as beliefs:

    (1) Word of wisdom (beer, alcohol, the holy herb, etc)
    (2) Rebaptism
    (3) Altars in the home
    (4) Prayer circles outside the temple
    (5) Using the “True Order of Prayer” outside the temple or by yourself
    (6) Unwritten sermons
    (7) Paying tithes and offerings outside the accepted “norm”
    (8) Wearing the original garments
    (9) Administering the Sacrament in your own home without the approval of your file leader
    (10) Polygamy
    (11) Patriarchal Blessings
    (12) Believing the Adam-God doctrine
    (13) Forsaking Babylon entirely
    (14) Believing Jesus was a polygamist
    (15) Claiming to have received a revelation or prophesying to anyone but yourself
    (16) Physically gathering with other Saints
    (17) Spotty church attendance
    (18) Not using church manuals
    (19) Seeking after mysteries
    (20) Consecration
    (21) Temple covenants
    (22) Priesthood ordinations
    (23) etc…

    I’m not saying these represent me in any way, these are just some observations off the top of my head. And, no doubt, on and on and on that list could grow. The point I’d like to make is this: if we continue to accept that man can limit and forbid us from doing something or many somethings, then are we leaving place for God to tell us what to do or inspire us to do something “outside the norms of accepted behavior”? If God once instituted the fullness of the gospel in this “last” dispensation, and the truths of that fullness are removed by man, does God expect us to not seek after that fullness, and limit our own growth because they greater public can’t handle it? Does God even want us to seek after that fullness? Is it enough to “know” the truthfulness of certain things, but not partake or act on the truthfulness of those things? Do we need approval from our file leaders to do anything/everything? In the example of rebaptism, do we need to approach our file leader and ask him for approval to be rebaptized? Or, can something like that be between God, myself and some other “like minded” brother? Does it even need to be made public? I guess the ultimate question, then, becomes: does God expect me to do things which are true, and especially if inspired of/by Him, even though the majority frowns upon it and forbids it? As usual, I have far more questions than answers…

    I agree that good can be done working from the inside out, but perhaps the keyhole through which individuals must pass (while still on the inside) includes partaking of many of the “truths” of the gospel, though restricted by the larger public, while still working on the inside.

    Christ, and many of His prophets throughout scripture, have noted that there were/are many things which are/were too sacred to share, or were unlawful to share with us, the reader. Perhaps these sorts of things are best done in private, just as Alma preached the gospel in private after being chased away by Noah and his minions, “that it might not come to the knowledge of the King.” Perhaps its best to do these things in the eyes of the Lord only, giving full allegiance to Him and Him alone, no matter the consequences that man may impose. Are we, in sum, any different than King Noah, building watchtowers and sending out spies because we’ve lost the gift of discernment to know what is/isn’t going on around us?

    Where the gift of discernment, revelation and prophecy are largely missing in our LDS culture, I doubt anyone would catch on to anyone doing these things outside a snitch or something else. So long as members keep up appearances, the dead bones remain buried in some closet and outside of view. LDS, myself included, are great at judging and analyzing someone based on what they do or do not wear. You show up to church in a suit, white shirt and tie, and mostly you’ll be viewed as “OK.” Show up in slacks and a polo shirt and without a tie, and suddenly you get on someones radar and get those comments about so and so being “worried” about you. And, if someone did have the gift of discernment, or revelation, or prophecy, then they wouldn’t at all be worried about you or I or anyone doing anything on that list above, so long as they were being done and completed with mindfulness and with whatever purpose the Lord had inspired or revealed to you.

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

    Have you ever wondered why Christ called the scribes and Pharisees “blind” so many times? Was it because they lacked the gift of discernment, being so concerned with keeping up outward appearances, that they could no longer tell when someone was in need of spiritual help? Instead of focusing on true needs and concerns, they – like us, focused on the outward appearances, thinking that you could judge a book by its cover.

    I guess, at the end of the day, I don’t find anything wrong with people practicing these things in secret, away from the purview of “leadership,” especially in our era of witch hunts. I, personally, would have no issue discussing any of the things on the list above were I to be brought in and questioned on them. I don’t believe or agree with all of them, but I’m acquainted with them and see reason in the minority’s arguments, and, truth be told, I do believe in some/most of them myself. Truth, taught on its timetable, is what will bring the most good. There are those willing to listen to “agents (of truth) on the inside” if they could only find them.

    Perhaps the answer lies in this discussion about obeying God, and not fearing man.

  10. Cupholder says:

    Personally, I don’t think you can ever really go back without admitting you were wrong in the first place, which would/could raise some serious doubts in the membership. And, for a people committed to image, that sort of image could never be shown or portrayed. Once you take out or reduce the elements of the gospel (like the endowment ceremony), you can’t really go back and re-institute those changes. It poses too much of a problem for the hierarchy and “allegiance.”

    Snuffer discussed this in his post on “Infallibility’s One-Way Street.” His concluding paragraph stated it this way:

    “Now I’ve used the endowment to illustrate the point, but the same principle works across the board with any bedrock policy, ordinance or teaching which has been deliberately discarded or adopted in place of something else by the church. Once it has been set into place by the correlation process, it is put into concrete and cannot be moved without demolition. Therefore, if we have made any mistake, discarded anything we should have retained, or neglected or opposed any teaching which the Lord wanted us to keep, He will use demolition to prepare us to receive it back again. We can only subtract. Fortunately for us, a caring God can (and will) add upon us still. ‘Gotta break some concrete first, of course. But He cares enough to do that. (Psalms 94: 14.) He’s determined that we are to be added upon. (Abraham 3: 26.) Even when we prefer subtraction to addition.”

  11. Justin says:

    I think a person is fully justified in doing many of those practices on your list in private. The church provides a great leeway with private practice — essentially a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

    I believe that if you, and anyone else who is participating [for example in the case of polygamy], are practicing with full agency — then you are okay in your alternate view/practice.

    “Where the gift of discernment, revelation and prophecy are largely missing in our LDS culture, I doubt anyone would catch on to anyone doing these things outside a snitch or something else. So long as members keep up appearances…in a suit, white shirt and tie, and mostly you’ll be viewed as “OK.” Show up in slacks and a polo shirt and without a tie, and suddenly you get on someones radar and get those comments about so and so being “worried” about you.
    I try to keep under the radar with this strategy. Although I have grown my beard out, I still wear a tie — although I occasionally do a colored dress shirt instead of white. I think the best way to avoid “witch hunts” is to keep one’s mouth shut about unorthodox beliefs or practices.

  12. The priesthood ban comes to mind. (Some) blacks were extended the priesthood (addition), then all blacks were banned from the priesthood (removal/subtraction) and then, after a long period, all blacks were extended the priesthood (addition/restoration). Obviously the general trend appears to be subtraction, which historically is how the Lord treats a people who become increasingly more spiritually dense, so as not to condemn and destroy them, but we’ve got a modern example of restoration and the voice of the people went in favor of the measure without a hitch.

    The Lord’s subtractions are always additions in the sense that the subtractions add life (extend the life) of his disobedient children, so as to fulfill His eternal purposes.

  13. To me, it all comes down to a few principles:

    1st, the law of expediency;
    2nd, whether the keys (both sets) are with the church; and
    3rd, what the Spirit is telling me.

    I, personally, have no problem with that list of 22 items. Should i find someone doing some of these currently prohibited things, I would turn a blind eye. To each his own. And if I was called in as a witness in a trial concerning these things, I’d most likely just keep my mouth shut, too. No one can condemn anyone without witnesses.

    Being in a “leadership” position of judgment, it would depend upon what the Spirit said to me. If there were witnesses testifying of these things, with no laws being broken, I’d probably still choose to not judge the person. However, if the Spirit said to me to judge according to the modern practices and prohibitions, then I would follow what the Spirit said, as that would be the law of expediency in action.

    Now, as for me, personally, engaging in practices that go against what the current teachings are, and which are sanctioned by the keys of the church (and of the priesthood), I wouldn’t do that. Brother James’ talk on the keys that never rust, or its chiasmic version, although I don’t agree with everything he said, does teach a correct principle, namely, that one should sustain the keys (of both the church and the priesthood). As both sets of keys are still in this church, the path is to follow is pretty clear. Obviously, at some point the keys will be removed and then the path won’t be so clear.

    Finally, the Spirit, of course, can give different instructions to any person. So, if the Spirit says, “Get out of Dodge,” well, then you get out of Dodge. But for me, personally, the Spirit called me into this church years ago, told me it was the only true church and since then I haven’t received a single revelation calling me out of it. Perhaps one day I will, but I haven’t received one, yet. So, my standing orders still apply.

    In fact, the only thing the Spirit tells me is to invite everyone into the church, everyone, even in its current condition, so I can’t recommend to anyone to do anything that would bring a judgment upon them and get them kicked out. I would suggest to anyone I witnessed performing any of the items on that list to stop doing them, but I would allow them the freedom to do them without snitching on them and without being a witness, unless the action was what I considered a bona fide unrepentant sin, which if left alone would add to bringing the whole church under condemnation, remaining unjustified. In that case, I would do as the scriptures direct.

  14. If I may expand upon this topic with a thought that just now popped into my head:

    Consider the break-up of the church into wicked churches. Now consider that these churches are really, really wicked. Would you say that it would be wisdom to re-introduce to these wicked churches the practices that were among the church in Joseph’s day? Do you think that the re-introduction of such practices, among a wicked people, would have the effect of making them righteous or making them even more wicked?

    Consider also that Nephite churches that became wicked (4 Ne. 1) began “administering that which was sacred to him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.” Without the First Presidency and Twelve telling them no, what could stop the wicked churches from bringing back all the earlier practices? Would this not incense the Lord? If He had previously forbidden these practices through the law of expediency because of their low spiritual state (unworthiness) and now, these wicked members are 100 times more wicked but bringing back the practices without the word of the Lord, for they are not spiritually ready for them, would this not accelerate their demise?

    Now, I’m not saying this will occur, but what is to stop them committing spiritual suicide if there is no more central authority? So, the re-introduction of earlier practices may have a varied result, depending upon who is doing the re-introduction.

  15. Chris says:

    I’m much more sympathetic to Nibley’s view than what you portray as addition/subtraction/re-addition, and find this topic interesting, but it’s outside the context of this post, so I’ll simply leave those links and let those who want to read it follow up on it.

    So, unfortunately, I can’t say that the so-called revelation in 1978 was actually a revelation any more than it was an expediency issue that arose out of some governmental office (as some allege). To state that all of those decisions and statements (from the mid-1850s through the bulk of the 1900s) on that issue were divinely inspired by the Lord is more than a bit presumptuous, IMO. Though, true, the 1978 movement represented a re-addition of sorts, in most corners of the church it is rarely known that there ever was an addition to start with. Most (i.e. >95%) seem to think that the 1978 movement was only an addition and that there never existed a subtraction to begin with. Unless one does a fair amount of digging, those original ordinations will remain hidden in obscurity. Just as I have concerns about Young’s linkage to the Cochranites and Cochranite doctrines, I have concerns that his statements about blacks and the priesthood reflected more cultural “truth” than they did anything doctrinal.

    In fact, some of the work over at the Chronicle Project have even shed light on some of these statements in scripture, which closely support Nibley’s statements on the issue (linked above).

  16. Cam says:

    Even if you’re only a member of a trademark/corporation and no recognizable church? 🙂

    I think the spirit is the only way to go. What you state as the “law of expediency” is really nothing more than the Spirit anyway. If the Spirit tells you to do this or that, then do it. It’s really as simple (and muddied) as that.

    The issue I have with your statement on judging so or so in a “leadership” scenario is humanity’s penchant to be guilted into obedience by faulty teachings. Whether it’s members who are shamed into believing the WoW prohibits everything not named Coke or Pepsi, or some other issue, quite often the guilt and shame someone feels (or would project on someone in church court case) is the shame that is dictated by doctrines that are taught as commandments of men, and not anything remotely resembling a gospel truth. I want nothing to do with that twisted scenario of judgment.

    Besides, Daymon’s response(in the above link) on this matter is instructive and, though it’s his view, I think there’s some wisdom therein.

  17. Rock says:

    This is certainly an interesting train of thought.

    My response would be: were the churches wrong in administering it, or were the people wrong in accepting the practices?

    I guess my perspective is just a bit different. Whereas you seem to be coming at this discussion with a focus from the top down (i.e. church level first, individual last), I tend to affiliate more with the bottom up approach (i.e. individual is of primary concern, church is of secondary or tertiary – if that – concern). Just as there were people doing things they shouldn’t do with practices/ordinances for which they weren’t ready, there are other examples of people who were doing what they should be doing and practices/ordinances that they were prepared to receive even though the greater public wasn’t. I honestly think that what those churches are (or will) be doing in the not-too-distant future is of little concern to me. The Lord may call me to preach repentance to such groups (if I’m even in such a place to preach it), but His only concern (IMO) with me and what I’m doing, and not my focus on others misgivings or missteps.

    If they decide to commit spiritual suicide, so be it. That is their decision and so long as they do it with their eyes wide open, does their inability to act on their moral agency have anything to do with me? Clearly not. The Lord will work with me as an individual, not as part of some large group that may or may not be able to handle any truth whatsoever. It actually reminds me of the Lord’s discussion in Genesis 18 with Abraham.

    Likewise, I’m not certain that following what the “First Presidency and Twelve [tell]” me or them to do is of salvatory importance. Even with those leaders in place we’ve seen a quickening of wickedness, so removing the object of affection for the sycophants would likely make things worse, but that simply will not affect my ability to worship my Lord, will it? I’m unaware of any edict (and admit to untimely ignorance) that suggests that when people screw up, I must screw up with them, that when people lose truths, I must lose truths with them, that when people fall short of looking for salvation, that I must equally fall short. I actually believe the evidence is overwhelmingly to the opposite. That being said, I recognize the nuances of the issue and see your concern. I just think the concern is something that I, as an individual, do not need to worry about. In the past, it clearly would have been an issue, but my current station in life suggests that Christ wants to work with me as an individual, in a relationship, and that same agency given to me also extends to everyone, regardless of their intellect or ability to think, including those who will massively overstep what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Ordinances, for the most part, are individual ordinances. Are you suggesting that individuals should be keep from ordinances because the larger group is apostate?

    And, truth be told, if there’s anything that we should be doing, it’s that we should stop shouldn’ting on each other.

  18. “Even if you’re only a member of a trademark/corporation and no recognizable church?”

    Lol. None of us are “members” of the LDS corporation, except the ones named on that corporate sole charter. We are members of a church, which is a body of people. The church began by commandment of God with the first baptism, however, the church was established according to the laws of the land later on, in 1830, also by commandment of God.

    “I think the spirit is the only way to go. What you state as the “law of expediency” is really nothing more than the Spirit anyway. If the Spirit tells you to do this or that, then do it. It’s really as simple (and muddied) as that.”

    I agree with you that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of expediency, but there is also individual agency involved, which can also manifest expediency. Priesthood servants do not need or even get revelation or inspiration on everything while serving the people. Often they are left to their own agency to figure out what is and what is not expedient.

    Concerning judging, those who are placed in judgment positions are to judge as the scriptures direct (D&C 64: 12-14). The problems appear only when people (witnesses and judges, as well as the people in general) go beyond the scriptures.

    “[W]ere the churches wrong in administering it, or were the people wrong in accepting the practices?”

    There is no difference between churches and people. A church is a group of people. We do, of course, have the modern connotation of a church being a building, or a corporate institution, etc., but scripturally, it’s just people.

    Wrongness is determined by expediency.

    “I guess my perspective is just a bit different. Whereas you seem to be coming at this discussion with a focus from the top down (i.e. church level first, individual last), I tend to affiliate more with the bottom up approach (i.e. individual is of primary concern, church is of secondary or tertiary – if that – concern).”

    My understanding of the gospel is that there is an individual component – individual worship – but there is also a group component – group worship. The Lord embraces the one and the all at the same time. He wants us worshipping as individuals, but He also wants us worshipping as a group. If too much focus is given to the individual, half of the gospel (group worship) must be lopped off. The two components are not hierarchical, top down or bottom up, but are on an equal footing. The group is not above the individual and the individual is not above the group. Certain aspects of the gospel can only be obtained by the individual, or on an individual level, while other aspects can only be obtained by the group, or on a group level. Both components are important and affect their counterparts. What the group does or does not do affects the individual’s agency (positively or negatively), while an individual exercising his or her agency can also affect the group in both positive and negative ways.

    This is why we find the Lord’s prophets so obsessed with the group or giving group commandments and promises, such as: “If ye (plural) keep my commandments, ye (plural) shall prosper in the land.” To you and me or anyone else concerned strictly with the individual, namely ourselves, it might have been wiser to just leave Laman and Lemuel in Jerusalem. If they wanted to commit spiritual suicide and return to Jerusalem, let them. That’s their prerogative. They have their agency and can do what they want. Surely, as an anarchist, completely detached from what I know of the gospel laws, that would have been my perspective. Yet, we find Nephi and Lehi time and again striving to keep the group together as long as possible, until the got to the promised land.

    The Lord is concerned with the individual, but also with the group, and He expects us to be likewise concerned with the individual and group. We are to be like Him. As long as possessives remain attached, “my people,” “my church,” “my house,” the group is still under the covenant and must be treated and respected as His covenant people. Whereas the group is the covenant people of the Lord, His covenant children, I, as part of that covenant, now have a covenantal relationship to the group, too. The group becomes a possessive of mine: “my brothers,” “my sisters.” This is according to the principle of charity and is necessary for my own salvation. So what the group does and what my reaction is to the group affects my own salvation.

    Priesthood servants are under charge to regulate the church, which consists of both the individual and the group. Such regulations may not work. The people may still get more and more wicked, but were they not to perform their regulations, according to the law of expediency, they would be condemned before God, as well as the people. So, the anarchist in me undrstands where you are coming from, but the priest in me sees differently. Live and let live or die, says the anarchist. Try to instruct and save, says the priest.

    And now for your final question: “Are you suggesting that individuals should be keep from ordinances because the larger group is apostate?”

    I am suggesting that where there have been duly authorized priesthood regulations among the people of God, and the people have given their common consent to those regulations, the keys of the church and of the priesthood are fully operative and it would be detrimental to one’s spiritual welfare to go against such regulations, as that would be going against the law of expediency and the consent of the governed. If the regulations are that ordinances are not to be performed, ordinances are not to be performed.

    Regardless of the state of apostasy among the church (and there has always been a greater or lesser degree of apostasy among them), as long as the Lord still uses the possessive “my,” which means He still considers them His covenant people, it would be wise to respect the voice of that people.

  19. Aron says:

    LDSA + Others:

    Steve (at least I think it’s the same Steve) posted this over on LDSA’s blog article on “Tribal Worship,” and I thought it might be applicable to this discussion on re-baptism. Originally, my thinking (at the time of this article) revolved around having re-baptism as a “church” ordinance. As the tribal worship article discusses, as well as the following comment, perhaps it might be better to look at re-baptism as a tribal/family event, outside the periphery (and authority) of the church ™.

    Nevertheless, here is the comment (by Snuffer):

    [As a complete aside: A few posts back there was a comment about what a burden it would be for “the church” and “the priesthood” if people seek re-baptism to renew commitments. It was made as we approached Christ’s teachings on baptism. The comment was so immediate and so dark in tone and content it has caused me rethink the importance of this idea. Anytime an idea is confrontational and dark, I pause to consider why that is so. Here’s what now occurs to me. What a terrible burden it would be to depart this life without the ordinance of baptism properly performed, by proper authority, in the proper manner, with repentance preceding the event. I would not want a dark and troubled soul to perform baptism for anyone, but a person filled with joy, hope and the Spirit, having a testimony in Christ like Nephi. These people would not find performing such an ordinance troubling.

    If there is a hint of doubt held by any baptized member of the church, why would any right-thinking and charitable soul refuse them the right to be re-baptized? Now, I’ve suggested the Alma exception and how that might be accomplished in a time of reluctance and resistance to recommitment baptism. But it occurs to me upon further reflection that since the church doesn’t recognize or record rebaptisms anyway, why would this concern the “heavy laden priesthood” which has no time for such things? Anyone holding authority, at any place where there is sufficient water to perform the rite, could accomplish it. Since the church doesn’t record it, there is no need of witnesses. It could be done in private, at any time, or any place with sufficient water. It could be done by any person holding the office of Priest. It would be good practice for future missionaries if they were given the opportunity. I think the idea is one which ought to be acted upon with regularity, in private and without troubling the busy and overburdened church and priesthood. A close family member could take care of it, and I suspect all involved will soon recognize heaven’s approval of the idea.]

    The original comment that Snuffer was responding to can be found in this post, at September 24th, 9:32am (3rd comment). This is what it said, in entirety:

    To Anon @ 9:12

    Can you even imagine the burden that would be placed upon the church and bearers of the priesthood if it were allowed that we be re-baptized every time we needed to recommit? Isn’t that why we take the sacrament every Sunday? It doesn’t take being re-baptized to repent and recommit once we have already received the ordinance.

  20. Nobody says:

    Here’s another article on the subject of rebaptizing someone for health reasons:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/11/the-mormon-temple-ritual-youve-never-heard-of.html

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