Lorenzo Snow, as mentioned by Mike last week, is a creature of his age. He, in comparison to his contemporaries, can be considered a creature of the enlightenment. As a ‘leading star’ of his generation intellectually, it is no surprise that he rose so high in early Mormonism and its theological and intellectual development. The emphasis on works on the path to godhood, a theme that was explored by Mike in his review of chapter 1, in Snow’s thought is part of the foundations of Mormon faith. Snow’s school of thought on the subject of Baptism and the Holy Ghost, as seen in chapter 2, has proved equally as influential.
In chapter 2, Snow is explaining how one receives blessings in the Mormon religion and the history of blessings and their usage in the Old Testament. Snow’s references (Abel, the people before the Flood etc.) are examples of how humanity squander the promises and blessings of God. These examples are ones that Christianity would not disagree with. Snow’s conclusion, that works are necessary to obtaining the blessings as it is a ‘vain imagination’ to suggest that one can obtain the blessings and Gospel dispensations by faith and repentance alone is where Snow and Christianity disagree. This ‘work’ however is complicated as the ‘outward work’ is that of baptism and confirmation, something that Christianity outwardly supports. So what are we to make of what President Snow is suggesting?
There is a crucial difference that emerges between Mormonism and Christianity when we consider baptism and the remission of sins. The quotations from the New Testament do stress the importance of baptism. We cannot ignore that baptism is a command that cannot be ignored (something President Snow and myself agree on), but whether baptism itself brings remission of sins is a different matter. The remission of sins in Christianity comes from the simple statement ‘repent and believe’ (Mark 1:15). Baptism is considered necessary (as it is a sacrament in every Christian tradition bar the Salvation Army) and is taken seriously but the seriousness of baptism does not take away from central tenet that the remission of sins comes from belief in Christ. Baptism is a response to that. Baptism a sign of the commitment of our lives to Jesus after coming to faith and our sins being forgiven. Baptism is also a symbol of Christ’s death.
This is important when we contrast Christianity with the Mormon view on baptism. Below are some quotations from the Standard Works:
And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins (Moroni 8:25)
And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. (D&C 39:6)
“And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned” (The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 11:34).
And here are some quotations from Presidents and Apostles of the LDS Church:
“Baptism into Christ’s true church by proper authority opens the doors for exaltation in the eternal kingdoms of glory, exaltation to be earned by repentance, by living righteously, keeping the commandments of the Lord, and service to one’s fellowmen” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Stone Cut without Hands,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1976, p. 7)
“In addition to the physical ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands, one must be spiritually born again to gain exaltation and eternal life” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 78).
“There is no salvation without repentance, and no remission of sin without baptism. It is a universal requirement—and yet it has its exceptions. Little children, too young to have sinned, and therefore incapable of repentance are exempt from baptism, and it is a sin to baptize them, involving as it does the vain use of a sacred ordinance” (Orson F. Whitney, Baptism: The Birth of Water and the Spirit, p. 6).
And here are some quotations from Church Manuals:
“Two priests or Melchizedek Priesthood holders witness each Baptist to make sure it is performed properly. The baptism must be repeated if the words are not spoken exactly as given in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73 or if part of a person’s body or clothing was not immersed completely” (Church Handbook of Instructions, 1998,
“Persons who have been convicted of crimes and seek baptism for the first time or baptism for readmission into the Church are not baptized until they complete their terms of imprisonment, parole, or probation resulting from their convictions (unless the First Presidency has granted an exception). They are encouraged to work closely with local priesthood leaders and to do everything they can to become worthy of baptism. A person who has been convicted of, or who has confessed to, murder (even in private confessions to a priesthood leader) may not be baptized unless the First Presidency gives permission. The request for permission to baptize must include all pertinent details as determined during a personal interview by the mission president (if the person is seeking baptism for the first time) or bishop (if a former member is seeking readmission)” (Church Handbook of Instructions, 1998, p. 26).
It is quite clear to see from these quotations that Lorenzo Snow, his predecessors and successors not only believe in the importance of baptism (as we discussed earlier) but that they believe that baptism is fundamentally necessary to salvation and that the way it is done must be correct or it is invalid, therefore preventing salvation. This is a crucial difference between Mormonism and Christianity and is something that Christians must challenge. Snow uses some scriptural quotes such as Mark 16:16 (He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned) to justify his position that baptism is necessary for salvation but he does seem to ignore Mark 16:17 where Christ says that those who are damned are those who do not believe. Christ does not say that those who believe and are not baptized will not be saved. This links in with the verse that best summarises the gospel concisely “and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). When this is linked into Romans 4 where Paul explicitly argues that Abraham’s faith is what was credited to him as righteousness and he was only circumcised after professing his faith and having that faith credited to him as righteousness. Abraham’s circumcision is a sign of his covenant with God, not as a necessary ritual for his salvation. This is the same with baptism. Baptism is a sign of the covenantal promises that God has given to us through Christ. Baptism reminds us that we have died with Christ and we will rise with Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Baptism reminds us that we are members of one church but we do not have a physical mark to show for it like the previous covenant and circumcision. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward change. We are saved by faith (1 Corinthians 15:2, Acts 10:44-48) and baptism is an important reminder of that covenant of faith and grace. It is not necessary for salvation.
As a side note, it is wrong to deny prisoners baptism until their freedom. Not only does Mormonism, by its own standards, deny salvation to prisoners until they are redeemed by human law and withholds salvation to prisoners who suffer miscarriages of justice, it ignores Acts 16 where Paul and Silas minister to the prisoners and jailers during their captivity. It ignores Jesus telling his followers that whoever visits those in prison and cares for them, loves and cares for him (Matthew 25:34-46). This is totally out of character with what Christ tells us to do.
When the authority to baptize is considered, something that is important when we consider the issue of the lost authority that the LDS claim suffers the Christian churches (D&C 20:58-59, 72-73). The baptiser is not what is crucial in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul does not claim that his baptism is what brings salvation or that Peter or Apollo’s baptisms are invalid. Paul argues that it is the baptism and the membership of one church that is important. It can be inferred that there are some slight differences between Paul, Peter and Apollos in how they are baptizing as they are in different locations with no central headquarters for the church like there are today. Paul does not claim the baptiser or how they have baptized is important or any difference invalidates them. In fact Paul embraces the Christians they baptized and does not call them to be rebaptised, instead he calls on them to remember that Christ is what unites.
In summary, Lorenzo Snow upholds the Mormon position that baptism is necessary for salvation and that it must be done correctly or it needs to be repeated until correctly done. This position ignores baptism as an outward example of the covenant of grace and as a sacrament that comes after repentance and salvation. It is a position that ignores salvation by faith and grace and is yet another requirement that is added to exultation by Mormonism. Mormonism and Christianity agree that baptism is fundamental to Christian life but it is not fundamentally necessary to for eternal life. All that is necessary is to repent and believe.