This talk was given on Saturday, September 03, 2011, on the occasion of the baptism of Andrew Jerry Calabrese.
The fourth Article of Faith states: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The Savior revealed the true method of baptism to the Prophet Joseph Smith, making clear that the ordinance must be performed by one having priesthood authority and that it must be done by immersion.
We are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73-74:
The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: 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. Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
The act of immersing a person in water is symbolic of that person’s sinful life being buried and they being reborn or receiving a new life – a spiritual life – a life that is dedicated to serving God and others. Immersion is also symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ was our perfect exemplar in fulfilling this sacred ordinance of baptism. Nephi, as recorded in 2 Nephi 31:4-9 tells us why Christ was baptized:
4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
In verses 10-18 of that same chapter Nephi teaches us that men must follow Christ’s example, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end to be saved. He also teaches us that repentance and baptism is the gate to the straight and narrow path. We read these words:
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the the htongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
When we are baptized we enter into a covenant with God to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep His commandments, and to serve Him to the end (See Mosiah 18:8-10; D&C 20:37). Each time that we partake of the Sacrament we renew the covenants that we made at the time of our baptism (See D&C 20:77-79).
Jerry, a little over 13 years ago in the far away land of Iceland, where I was stationed in the Navy at the time, I made the decision to be baptized. That decision started me in a whole new direction in my life. I am convinced that had the Lord not taken me out of the main stream of things and sent me to a place as far away as Iceland, I probably would not be standing here speaking to this audience this morning. My plans, goals and priorities for my life where definitely a lot different than what the Lord had in mind. After being baptized and becoming more learned of the Gospel, and because of my willingness to take upon me His name, to follow His example, and to be obedient to His commands, I have seen and continue to see blessing after blessing in my life. Many doors that I once thought would never be opened to me are now beginning to open and I have been blessed in so many ways with new opportunities to help me grow and mature in the Gospel.
I believe that the words of President Joseph F. Smith best describe how I felt after being baptized. He said:
When I [was] baptized for the remission of my sins, the feeling that came upon me was that of pure peace, of love and of light. I felt in my soul that if I had sinned – and surely I was not without sin – that it had been forgiven me; that I was indeed cleansed from my sin; my heart was touched, and I felt that I would not injure the smallest insect beneath my feet. I felt as if I wanted to do good everywhere to everybody and to everything. I felt a newness of life, a newness of desire to do that which was right. There was not one particle of desire for evil left in my soul . . . this was the influence that came upon me, and I know that it was from God, and was and ever has been a living witness to me of my acceptance of the Lord (CR, April 1898, p.66).
I will conclude my remarks by returning to the words of Nephi as recorded in 2 Nephi 31:19-20:
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the Word of God. I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a Prophet of the Lord. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church upon the earth today and that His Church is being led by a Living Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. Of these things I do so testify and bear solemn witness in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.