Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baptism in 4 Nephi, The Book of Mormon

Fourth Nephi 1:1 [Book of Mormon]
“And it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Chris in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus, and they did also receive the Holy Ghost. “
This is how Joseph Smith starts out $ Nephi describing a Utopia, that falls into chaos later on. I would just like to know exactly what it means to be “truly repentant.” Is that opposed to just repentant?
The “Gospel Principles” which the LDS use to catechize their people echoes all this, and set the age of accountability at 8. This is when you are able to truly repent I guess. Truly repent.
I think the question needs to be asked first and foremost what repentance is. Acts 5:31 says that Jesus gives repentance. Repentance is really beyond us that is. It isn’t something we can do, much less truly do. People who are dead, and children of wrath, do not repent on their own anymore than they believe on their own. It is beyond their ability. Why? Because in order to repent you must believe.
Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. You cannot believe without repenting and you cannot repent without believing. This all because all sin is a sin against the first commandment, all sin is a result of unbelief. Unbelief is something we all have inside of us. Think of the Demoniacs father in Mark chapter 9, I believe, help my unbelief. Unbelief is the domain of the Old Adam, it is the sinner within us. We believe and yet unbelief dwells within us. It is the crux of Romans 7. And every sin we commit in thought word and deed is an expression of unbelief. It is a breaking of the first commandment. It is something we do because there is something aside from God that we fear, love or trust just a tad more than him, that compels us to break his commandments despite our fear, love and trust in him. The fear love and trust that is faith in God, that defines what it means to believe in God, a threefold cord not easily broken. So it is when we have faith, we at the same time are given to repentance. We could not have faith. First and foremost we must repent of unbelief, and the only way to do this is to believe.
So just as faith is a gift of God, so is repentance a gift from God. It is for this reason that faith, repentance and baptism go hand in hand. One who believes desires baptism. Just as one who loves desires to marry, true love doesn’t shack up, true love places everything on red and takes the plunge. So it is with Baptism, and why Paul talks about it in precisely these terms in Ephesians 5. In Baptism we are sanctified as the bride of Christ, made pure with the water and the word. Faith believes the promises of baptism precisely because at the heart of faith is a love that trusts in God. So faith gets baptized. So it is not a mockery of Jesus as “Gospel Principles” says to baptize babies and infants. Jesus speaks of them and says that they believe in him. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “ (Matthew 18:6 (ESV) It makes sense then that we should baptize our children, and in doing so bring them up in the fear of the Lord. It would be to cause them to stumble to teach them that baptism is their work of obedience, that in being baptized they do something for God and their own salvation. Rather in baptism God bestows upon them that which is theirs, the kingdom of God, and when we are baptized we enter that same kingdom in the same manner as a little child.

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