The manual starts out, “the mission of John the Baptist was to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Savior and become more like Him. How did John do it? He proclaimed, ‘Repent ye’.”
John the Baptist attracted so many people because he was the First True prophet in 400 years. His criticism of both Herod and the religious leaders was a daring act that fascinated the common people. But he also had strong words for the others in his audience – they too were sinners and needed to repent. They confessed their sins and John baptized them in the Jordan River.
It was not a normal practice to, baptize Jews. Baptism was necessary for a Gentile in order to covert to Judaism. John’s baptism was new in that he was asking the Jews themselves to be baptized as a sign of repentance. The Jews considered themselves “clean” as descendants of Abraham – only “unclean” Gentiles needed baptism. But John explained that sin makes everyone “unclean,” and they all needed to repent of sin in, order to receive forgiveness.
According to the LDS Bible Dictionary – true repentance is a “change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” “a turning of the heart and will to God.”
Then the manual asks, “How can you show that you have truly repented?” And it quotes “Luke 3:8 ”Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.” Does that mean you have to have good works to earn salvation yourselves? No, the fruits come from the knowing that you have been forgiven. They are fruits of love manifested in kindness, tolerance, patience, forgiveness, etc.
In Matthew 3:11 John explained that baptism DEMONSTRATED repentance. Baptism was an “outward” sign of an “inward” commitment. To be effective, it had to be accompanied by an “inward” change of attitude leading to a changed life.
The manual then brings up the point that Jesus Christ was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” as written in Matthew 3:15. The manual also states “Nephi recorded some important teachings about the Savior’s baptism in 2 Nephi 31.” But when you read the 31st chapter of 2 Nephi, you find all kinds of problems with it. First, of all Nephi declares what he calls the “doctrine of CHRIST.” “Christ” was a Greek term used in the Kings James Version of the bible. It begs the question, “What would Nephi a supposedly Jewish Hebrew, writing in Reformed Egyptian, be doing using a Greek term – yet to be invented – to describe the coming Messiah?” Nephi is writing this between 559 BC and 545 BC according to the Book of Mormon, which would make the name “Christ” completely anachronistic. As well, the name of the future Messiah was never mentioned in the Old Testament record. There is much more that I could comment on in 2 Nephi’s chapter 31, but we need to move on.
You might ask, “Why, was Jesus baptized if baptism is not essential for salvation?” Jesus was our example, but Jesus had no sin. He cannot be our example in being “baptized for the remission of sins” if He had no sin. Why, then was Jesus baptized? In Matthew 3:15, Jesus said to John, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was declaring, “You, John the Baptist, are the last prophet of the Old Testament (Luke 16:16, Matthew 11:13) and I am come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).” Thus, by you baptizing Me, we shall fulfill all righteousness. Obviously, Jesus’ baptism did not save Jesus even though it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.
The manual asks, “Does the Bible teach that members of the Godhead are three separate beings?” The manual claims “the account of the Savior’s baptism supports the doctrine that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings. God the Father spoke from heaven, and the Holy Ghost (represented by a dove) descended on the Savior as He was baptized.” The purpose of the voice and the dove was to reveal to John that Jesus was God’s Son, come to earth as the Promised Messiah.
Christians base their understanding of the nature of God on the accumulative evidence of the whole of Scripture. Taken by itself, all that the above passage proves is that there are three different persons in the Godhead. It does not show that these three persons all share the same divine essence. Other verses in the Bible demonstrate the unity of God – that God is one in, essence. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” Paul said explicitly in 1 Corinthians 8:4 “We know that there is none other God but one.”
Some passages show both the unity and plurality of God. For example, Matthew 28:19 declares “Go ye therefore and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” The word “name” in that verse is singular in the Greek, indicating that there is one God. But there are three distinct persons within the Godhead, each with a definite article in the Greek – THE Father, THE Son, and THE Holy Ghost. It proves that all three are incorporated under one name and therefore are indeed “one”. This proves that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three separate gods but rather are three persons within one Godhead.
Even the Book of Mormon teaches in 2 Nephi 31:21 that the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost is one God. Mosiah 15:1-5 clearly teaches that God HIMSELF shall come down and redeem his people. That Christ is both the Father and the Son. The Spirit, Son, and Father being one God. In Alma 11:22-31 we read the conversation between Amulek and Zeezrom emphasizing the point that there is not more than, one God. In Alma 11:44 the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is one Eternal God. Those are just a hand full of the many references I could cite from the Book of Mormon.
From Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 275, he taught that “The Holy Ghost is a personage and is in the form of a, personage. It does not confine itself to the form of a dove, but in the sign of the dove.” Smith is saying that the Holy Ghost, being a person and having a bodily shape, descended as a dove upon Jesus.
I just want to say that the dove is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. It is not the bird itself that was important, but the descent of the Spirit like a dove to emphasize the way the Holy Spirit related to Jesus. The Spirit descending portrays a gentle, peaceful, but active presence coming to indwell Jesus. In the same way, since Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, it is available to us as well.
The best symbolism for baptism by immersion is found in Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12. I encourage you to read those verses.
The manual asks, “Why don’t we baptize infants?” Then it quotes Moroni 8:8-12 “Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore, the curse of Adam is taken from them in me…it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.” Doctrine and Covenants 68:27 says, “And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of hands.” But, if little children are not capable of committing sin until the age of accountability which is the age of eight according to Doctrine and Covenants 18:42, what sins are remitted by baptism of an eight-year old child? Baptizing an eight-year-old child who personally believes in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as his or her Savior is certainly Biblical. But to baptize a child simply because they are eight years old, is not biblical.
The manual asks, “John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood. What can we learn about the Aaronic Priesthood as we study about him?” “Why is it important that baptism be performed by someone with authority, not just sincere intent.” Mormonism maintains that someone with the LDS priesthood must do the baptizing in, order for God to recognize the baptism. But, nowhere does the Bible say that priesthood is necessary in, order for God to recognize someone’s baptism. Neither does is it in the Book of Mormon. The only Biblical case of rebaptism is found in Acts 19:1-5 and the reason for it was not lack of authority or priesthood. Those Ephesian disciples had been baptized “unto repentance” with John the Baptist’s baptism, but they had not even heard of the Holy Ghost (vs. 2-4). When they heard Paul preach the New Testament message, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (vs. 4-5). John’s baptism was unto repentance, but a believer’s baptism identified the person with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The manual asks, “If I am already baptized into another church, why do I need to be baptized again?” I have heard that question asked by many Christians. John never once mentioned his priesthood. Neither John nor Jesus taught that priesthood was necessary in, order to baptize. Yet, LDS Apostle Orson Pratt said in his book The Seer p. 255 “But who in this generation have authority to baptize? None but those who have received authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: All other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who receives baptism or the Lord’s Supper from their hands will highly offend God; for He looks upon them as the most corrupt of all people. Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.”
Water baptism doesn’t wash away sin. 1 John 1:7 declares that “the blood of Jesus Christ His (God’s) Son cleanseth us from all sin.” If Christ’s blood cleanses from all sin, how much sin can be cleansed away by baptism? Notice that baptism was not involved in the saving. In Galatians 3:6, Paul also said that we are saved or born from above “by faith in Christ Jesus”. The Book of Mormon doesn’t say anything about priesthood being necessary for baptism to be “recognized” by the Lord. In Mosiah 18:14, Alma baptized himself as he baptized Helam. Did Alma have the Priesthood authority before he was baptized, so that his baptism would be recognized by God? If he didn’t have it, his baptism was not valid by LDS standards.
That concludes our review of the Matthew 3, Mark 1, and Luke 3.