Believing in Christ precedes baptism. In fact, belief in Christ causes baptism. The one results in the other. Without faith in Him, there is no need for baptism. This then makes the first step belief in Christ, with baptism the second step. “I’ve heard of those who obtain a testimony of Christ in adulthood, but who were baptized many years earlier at age eight. If belief in Christ is supposed to precede baptism, but in fact follows it, does that recommend repeating the ordinance? Does Christ’s establishment of an order to these things, by the commandment of the Father, matter? If it matters, then why not try it? If tried and it ‘tastes good,’ then you have your answer. And if nothing changes, then you also have learned something, as well. I was fortunate to be able to follow the proper sequence. I was 19 years old when I came to the [truth]. I try to follow the proper sequence with my own children by teaching them before baptism and testifying of Christ to them in a way calculated to produce faith in Him. I would take no offense, however, if one of my children were to later want to be rebaptized as an affirmation of their continuing belief in Christ. I can’t see why anyone would take offense.”1
On Sunday, March 20, 1842, Joseph Smith preached about baptism and rebaptized about 79 church members and at least one new convert. The first baptism was the convert. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal records: “President Joseph Smith went forth into the river & Baptized with his own hands about 80 persons for the remission of their sins & what added Joy to the scene the first person Baptized was Mr L. D. Wason a nephew of sister Emma Smith was the first of her kindred that have embraced the fulness of the gospel.”2 On the next Sunday, Woodruff recorded: “After the meeting closed the congregation again assembled upon the bank of the river & Joseph the seer went into the river & Baptized all that Came unto him & I considered it my privilege to be Baptized for the remission of my sins for I had not been since I first Joined the Church in 1833. I was then Baptized under the hands of Elder Zerah Pulsipher. Therefore I went forth into the river & was Baptized under the hands of JOSEPH THE SEER & likewise did Elder J Taylor & many others…” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, March 27, 1842).3 In these two journal entries one sees that rebaptism was taught and practiced by Joseph Smith, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff. If other contemporaneous records are consulted, it is clear that rebaptism was universal in the early days of Mormonism. One did not partake of the sacrament to renew baptismal covenants; they were rebaptized.4 The purpose of baptism grew from remitting sins and joining the church to include rebaptism as a means for rededication and purification, as well as rebaptism for the healing of the sick. Emma Smith was rebaptized in October 1842 for her health.5 Nephi had authority to baptize before Christ came. When Christ came, He gave Nephi the authority to baptize again. Nephi baptized a group of people, then he baptized the same group of people a second time — he rebaptized them. Rebaptism is a sound gospel principle and is practiced every time God sends a message. The correct way to accept and proceed is to renew baptism, just like the people in the Book of Mormon did.6 The Lord renewed this commandment (for all to be baptized) on September 9, 2014. “He expects us to follow His pattern and obey this to receive a remission of sins.”7
“Even if you have been baptized previously, be baptized in this new dispensation. The Lord has renewed this commandment for our time and baptism is a sign of acceptance of what God is doing in each generation. He expects us to follow His pattern and obey this to receive a remission of sins. This baptism is not membership in any organized church or religion. It is a sign between you and God that you sincerely believe in Jesus Christ and wish to follow Him. If you’ve not been baptized, or would like to be baptized again, there are those who have authority to administer this ordinance. To the thousands who have been rebaptized: This is a sign you are not an idolater and will not be destroyed at the Lord’s coming.”8See also BAPTISM.
1 “3 Nephi 31:33–34,” Sept. 28, 2010, blog post.
2 WWJ, 2:163.
3 WWJ, 2:165.
4 “Rebaptism,” Nov. 21, 2015, blog post.
5 “Was There An Original,” address given at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, July 29, 2016, paper, 8–9.
6 “Rebaptism,” May 6, 2015, blog post.
7 Preserving the Restoration, 516.
8 “God’s Great Work,” Nov. 21, 2014, blog post.