In 3 Nephi 11, the resurrected Jesus Christ appears to the Nephite people in spectacular fashion, descending out of heaven before their eyes. After the people have time to react to the appearance of their Savior, including touching His nail prints and the place where the sword pierced His side, Jesus begins to teach them things that are important for them to know.
Jesus begins with teaching them how to baptize. For those of us who are called to perform baptisms, this knowledge is invaluable. For any member of the Church — and anybody considering becoming a member of the Church — it’s great to know that the instructions of the Lord are followed exactly when a baptism is performed.
OK, someone has expressed a desire to repent of their sins and be baptized. We’re gathered at the water’s edge. What happens next?
Before proceeding into the water, the elder performing the baptism needs to ask the person two questions:
Question 1: Do you repent of all your sins?
As Moroni later records, people who were to be baptized “came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins” (Moroni 6:2).
Repentance is a requirement to be forgiven of sins. Expressing this repentance in front of the other church members allows the new convert to be viewed as a forgiven sinner (and therefore one of us).
Question 2: Do you promise to serve God for the rest of your life?
“And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end” (Moroni 6:3).
Part of repentance is having a determination to change your ways and do better going forward. Expressing this determination in front of the other church members holds the new convert accountable and identifies him as a member of this body in which we are all doing our best to serve God for the rest of our lives.
Assuming both of the questions are answered “Yes,” the baptism proceeds, following the directions of Jesus from this chapter.
Enter the Water (verse 23)
“Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name ye shall baptize them.”
The Words to Say (verses 24-25)
“And now behold, these are the words that ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
This may be the only instance in the Church where we ask someone to say exact words. Since Jesus said to say these words, a minister performing a baptism should call the convert by name and then say these exact 26 words, including every “and,” “of,” and “the.” It’s only 26 words — we can memorize this sentence.
Immersion (verse 26)
“And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.”
The convert needs to be fully immersed in the water. The recommended way to do this is to instruct the convert to keep his feet on the ground, bend his knees and tip backward until he is fully immersed. The minister assists in the process by having the convert hold on to his one arm while the other arm is behind the convert’s back to guide him into the water and assist him in standing up afterward. If done right, a convert of any size can be immersed with relative ease.
Baptism is one of the most correct things we do in The Church of Jesus Christ. There’s no excuse to do it wrong — Jesus told us exactly how to perform a baptism. All we have to do is follow His instructions.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.