An ordinance that is intended to communicate light and truth into the mind of the individual, not merely to fulfill an initiation rite. It is meant to enlighten. The ordinance is performed by following the instructions taught by Christ in 3 Nephi 5:8. One must be put under the water and then come forth again out of the water. The purpose of baptism is to follow Christ’s example (see John 6:29; 9:8). It symbolizes the death of the old man of sin and the resurrection into a new life in Christ (see Romans 1:25). This symbol cannot be mirrored by sprinkling. It must involve immersion. One is placed below the surface of the water, in the same way the dead are buried below ground. The breath of life is cut off while under the water and restored anew when [coming] forth again out of the water. The officiator, having obtained power and authority from God (see Preserving the Restoration, 512; T&C 175:26–32) is the one who immerses and then brings the recipient up out of the water. Performing this ordinance puts the officiator in the role of the Lord, who holds the keys of death (see Revelation 1:6) and resurrection (see 2 Nephi 1:6). 1
Christ prescribes the exact words to be used in the ordinance. Authorization comes from Jesus Christ, but the ordinance is performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy ghost. The power to do the ordinance comes from the Son, but the ordinance is in the name of each member of the Godhead. Though they are one, they occupy different roles and hold different responsibilities. In this fallen world, God communicates with man primarily through the holy ghost. However, when a person rises up through the merits of Jesus Christ to receive Him as a minister, they are living in a Terrestrial law and inherit Terrestrial blessings. When He has finished His preparations with the person and can bring them to the Father, the person is brought to a point where the Father can accept and acknowledge them as a son. They are then begotten of the Father (see T&C 86:3–4).2
The ordinance of baptism symbolizes some eternal truths regarding the plan of salvation. In the very moment the ordinance is performed, there is a renewal in the symbols of life, innocence, forgiveness, and resurrection. The earth itself is blessed by baptism, as well as other ordinances. The earth itself is defiled when the ordinances are not kept exactly as prescribed (see Isaiah 7:1; Genesis 5:12). The earth knows that God ordained the ordinances of Heaven and earth. As regular and reliable as the movements of the sun and moon are, so too should the ordinances of the Lord be kept in their appointed ways (see Jeremiah 13:10). The Heavens and earth rejoice when the ordinances are kept. They symbolize eternal hope, man’s acceptance of God’s plan, and a presence of righteousness in a fallen world. Mankind’s participation in ordinances is vital to his or her own renewal and the renewal of all creation through redemption of each individual soul. The baptism ordinance, like all those that follow after, is intended not merely to fulfill an initiation rite. It is intended to communicate light and truth into the mind of the individual who is performing and receiving the ordinance. It is meant to enlighten. In the same way that Christ restored life to Lazarus and commanded him to come forth (John 7:6), baptism allows all to rise from the tomb of sin, which imprisons them, into the new life awaiting them in Christ.3See also REBAPTISM.
1 “3 Nephi 11:26,” Sept. 25, 2010, blog post.
2 “3 Nephi 11:24–25,” Sept. 24, 2010, blog post.
3 “3 Nephi 11:26,” Sept. 25, 2010, blog post.