During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost
Even after receiving a witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet, Lorenzo Snow wrestled with the decision to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He knew that if he became a member of the Church, he would have to abandon some of his worldly aspirations. But following an experience that he called his “fiercest struggle of heart and soul,” he agreed to be baptized. He recounted: “Through the help of the Lord—for I feel certain He must have helped me—I laid my pride, worldly ambition and aspirations upon the altar, and, humble as a child, went to the waters of baptism and received the ordinances of the gospel. … I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority.”
In the very first paragraph, several assumptions must be made. The writer’s presuppositions are very clear with the following statements:
- “Joseph Smith was a prophet.” Yet how do we know? The evidence seems to indicate that he was not. For example, some problems with saying Smith was a prophet include:
- He taught in a different God than the Bible and the prophets from the Old Testament. See here. http://www.mrm.org/god-of-mormonism
- He taught in a book that just doesn’t have the evidence to support it. For instance, DNA scientific evidence does not support it. See here.
- His story of gold plates just doesn’t match up to the evidence. See here and here and here.
- He was fooled by the Kinderhook Plates. See here.
2. “Through the help of the Lord.” Again, how do we know? Snow says that he is “certain.” Are we supposed to accept him at face value? Could it be that he just “felt” that it was God and not something else?
3. “I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority.” How do we know? Just because Joseph Smith claimed to have divine authority?
We receive blessings from God when we follow the principles He has established.
When the Gospel dispensation was introduced, gifts and blessings were obtained upon similar principles; that is, upon obedience to certain established rules. The Lord still marked out certain acts, promising to all those who would do them, certain peculiar privileges; and when those acts were performed—observed in every particular—then those blessings promised were sure to be realized.
In Snow’s previous paragraphs (which I did not include), Snow uses examples of Old Testament figures such as Abel, Joshua, and Naaman to show them as people who did what was commanded them, blessed by God. In the same way, then, Snow’s words are attempting to show that when a person does something for God, “then those blessings promised (are) sure to be realized.” While it is true that God generally blesses the righteous—certainly the books of Psalms and Proverbs have many examples of how obedience generally brings blessing—it’s a misnomer to make it sound that God somehow owes a person blessings just because he or she is obedient “in every particular.” Consider the life of Job, for instance. Would anyone suggest that this righteous man was plagued because of his unrighteousness? Instead, the biblical account makes it appear that he did nothing to desire his fate. Or how about Jesus? Certainly nobody was more righteous than He, yet He ended up getting nailed to a cross.
This idea proclaimed by Snow is one often preached by “Health and Wealth” prosperity teachers. Don’t just ask for a Mercedes, one preacher once bellowed. Pray about the color of the car. God doesn’t work this way. Consider an article in the July 2012 Ensign titled “Understanding Our Covenants with God: An Overview of our Most Important Promises.” The article, which has no individual author and thus appears to be approved by the First Presidency, says, “A covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep those conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return” (22).
The rules are quite simple, it continues. “When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us—eternal life (see D&C 14:7).” D&C 14:7 says, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” Isn’t it a misnomer to say something “is the greatest of all gifts” if there is a price-tag involved (“endure to the end”). This coincides with D&C 25:15, which says, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.”
Under the subtitle “Baptism and Confirmation” in the July 2012 Ensign article, the article (untitled, meaning it must have had the permission of the First Presidency) explains, “When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. We also promise ‘to serve Him to the end’ (D&C 20:37; see also Mosiah 18:8-10). In return, Heavenly Father promises that if we repent of our sins, we can be forgiven (see Alma 7:14) and ‘always have His Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77)…” (23) The words “keep His commandments” or “keep the covenants” are prominently listed under the different sections discussing the covenants, including the Sacrament, the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, the Endowment, and the Sealing.
Understand that the agreement is valid only if the Mormons first keep their end of the agreement, which is what Snow calls “keep(ing) the associated covenants.” Keeping these in full will result in “eternal life” or “exaltation.” However, it is impossible for the Mormons to ever know if they are achieving this goal. Page 25 of the Ensign article states, “As we strive to understand and keep our covenants, we should remember that keeping our covenants is not merely a list of things but a commitment to become like the Savior.”
So, according to this piece, a person is required to “strive” to keep the covenants. Yet keeping these is an impossible chore. After all, consider the following LDS scriptures:
- D&C 1:31 says that God cannot look upon sin with the “least degree of allowance.”
- Moroni 10:32 says that a person must deny himself of all ungodliness, and “then is his grace sufficient for you.”
- Alma 11:37 says that you can’t be saved in your sins.
- And keeping these should be possible, as 1 Nephi 3:7 says.
The Mormon may respond, “Of course I can’t be perfect in this life. That’s why we have “repentance.” But D&C 58:43 says, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” So, if you really have “repenteth” of your sins, then this verse says that you won’t do them anymore. Is this even possible?
For the Latter-day Saint who suggests that this is not what is meant by repentance, consider the following quotes of President Spencer Kimball in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness. (For a review of this book, click here.)
- “Christ became perfect through overcoming. Only as we overcome shall we become perfect and move toward godhood. As I have indicated previously, the time to do this is now, in mortality” (210).
- “That armor is incomplete without steadfast effort to live God’s commandments. Without such effort repentance too is incomplete. And incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness” (212).
- “Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (324-325).
- “Little reward can be expected for a tiny effort to repent, for the Lord has said that it must be a total repentance ‘with all his heart’ and the error must be forsaken fully and wholly, mentally as well as physically” (333).
- “This passage [Alma 13:11-12] indicates an attitude which is basic to the sanctification we should all be seeking, and thus to the repentance which merits forgiveness. It is that the former transgressor must have reached a ‘point of no return’ to sin wherein there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life” (354-355. Brackets mine. See also the Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, 78).
This same President Kimball said, “Without repentance there can be no forgiveness, and without forgiveness all the blessings of eternity hang in jeopardy” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 83). He also said in a general conference talk, “There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul” (Conference Reports, April 1975, 116).
Latter-day Saint, perhaps you feel that I went out on a tangent. However, I don’t believe that I did. Mormonism places the carrot before the horse, but the promise is tied to a stick that is so long no horse could ever reach it. This is why many Evangelical Christians call Mormonism’s quest for truth the “Impossible Gospel.” For an audio on this topic, go here.
Salvation is a gift of God and is not based on how righteous a person can be. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it very clear that “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Notice, if salvation is based on good works, then we would have something to boast about. It is a straw man fallacy to say that good works are somehow necessary for God’s justification, for verse 10 makes it abundantly clear how “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” For a video on this topic, see here.
The outward ordinances of baptism and confirmation are inseparably connected with the inward works of faith and repentance.
Some vainly imagine that under the Gospel dispensation, gifts and blessings were obtained not by external observances, or external works, but merely through faith and repentance, through mental operations, independent of physical. But, laying aside the traditions, superstitions, and creeds of men, we will look to the word of God, where we shall discover that external works, or outward ordinances, under the Gospel dispensation, were inseparably connected with inward works, with faith and repentance.
President Snow’s words attack the gospel of grace believed by millions of Evangelical Christians all over the world. He uses the adverb “vainly” to insinuate that Christians have no biblical support for their position. We’ve already quoted Ephesians 2:8-9. Consider other verses, such as Titus 3:5, which says that “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…”
Dealing with the issue of law versus works, Paul writes in Galatians 2:16 that “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (And look carefully at Galatians 3:1-14 for more of an explanation as to what he meant here.) Romans 3:28 in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible reads, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.” I could go on. The point is that good works never are credited for somehow attaining the justification and righteousness that God requires.
Thus, when the LDS leaders quote Snow to say that such a belief is tied to “traditions, superstitions, and creeds of man,” I cringe. Today, Latter-day Saints whom I meet seem to try to be so politically correct and thereby pretend that there are more similarities between our views than differences. Yet here we see the church taking an intentional stab at biblical Christianity. How is it possible to “stand together” and join hands in an ecumenical manner when it is the LDS Church that fires the shots, criticizing faithful Christians all over the world who believe in sola fides and salvation based on faith, not works? Snow claims that “external works” or “ordinances” are somehow connected with justification. However, any reference to good works (such as Ephesians 2:10 as mentioned above) is as a result of the regeneration that has already taken place, not somehow as a means to earn God’s favor. Whether this involves baptism, regularly attending church services, or doing nice things to other people, the Bible is clear that these are not deeds we perform for attaining justification before the All-Holy God of the universe.
In proof of this, I introduce the following observation:—The Saviour said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46.] Again; he says, “He that heareth my words, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a man that built his house upon a rock.” [See Matthew 7:24.]
Jesus was speaking to those who were His followers in name only but did not have accompanying actions. Christians would agree that a follower of Christ ought to do good works, such as displaying the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. In Revelation 3:16, Jesus explains to the church of Laodicea that He would rather have them be hot or cold, but lukewarm he would spit them out of His mouth. His desire is that we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, but this is not a condition for somehow earning justification.
And, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” [Mark 16:16.]
Snow pulls out some common verses used by those who practice baptismal regeneration. Allow me to quote from our book Mormonism 101 on page 197: “The second half of the verse states “but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Assuming that water baptism is meant, then the Mormon needs to explain the second half of the verse. If belief plus baptism truly equals salvation, then why wasn’t this formula used when it says that a person who “believeth not” would be condemned? To support the LDS position, this passage should read: “he that believeth not, and is baptized not shall be damned.” Taken at face value, this says that a lack of belief, not a lack of water baptism, is what damns a person. This certainly would be supported by the rest of Scripture (see Acts 4:12; 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10).”
In addition, modern translations point out in a note listed just in front of verse 9, accurately I might add, that “the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” This means we must be very careful when interpreting such passages.
Likewise, he says, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5.] These sayings of our Saviour require men to perform external works in order to receive their salvation.
We must ask what being ‘born of water’ would have meant to Nicodemus. In his commentary on John, Christian scholar Leon Morris writes, “Nicodemus could not possibly have perceived an allusion to an as yet non-existent sacrament. It is difficult to think that Jesus would have spoken in such a way that His meaning could not possibly be grasped. It is difficult to think that Jesus would have spoken in such a way that His meaning could not possibly be grasped. His purpose was not mystify but to enlighten. In any case the whole thrust of the passage is to put the emphasis on the activity of the Spirit, not on any rite of the church” (The Gospel According to John, 1995, 215-16). The emphasis throughout the passage is on the Spirit, with no other reference to water.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter says, to the surrounding multitude, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [See Acts 2:38.] In this prophetic statement, we learn that people were to perform an external work, baptism in water, in order that they might receive the remission of sins, and afterwards the gift of the Holy Ghost. But, before attending to the outward work, the inward work must be performed—faith and repentance. Faith and repentance go before baptism; and baptism before the remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Ghost. …
Acts 2:38 says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here Peter was encouraging his hearers to be baptized in view of the remission of sins that they had received when they were cut to the heart by his message regarding Christ. It is interesting to note that Peter made no reference to baptism in his next recorded sermon. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” Why did Luke take out “and be baptized,” as surely that would have been part of Peter’s speech if what Mormons are saying Acts 2:38 really means.
Allow me to quote from our new book, Answering Mormons’ Questions, beginning of page 168:
The disagreement between Christian and LDS theology stems from the use of the word for in this verse. Those who accept baptismal regeneration argue that this means baptism grants remission of sins. However, the Bible emphasizes that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses a person from sin, not the water of baptism. For example, Colossians 1:14 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” First John 1:7 adds, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
Because the meaning of a word is tied to its context, it can readily be seen how the Greek word translated “for” (eis) in Acts 2:38 cannot mean “in order to obtain” but rather “in view of” or “because of.” The usage indicates “the ground or reason for the action. It answers the question, Why?” Consider a similar usage found in Matthew 12:41: “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at [eis] the preaching of Jonas [Jonah].” Are we to assume that the people in Nineveh repented in order to obtain the preaching of Jonah? Or was their repentance in view of, or because of, Jonah’s preaching? The latter interpretation makes more sense.
Explaining Acts 2:38, Christian commentator Richard N. Longenecker writes, “In trying to deal with the various elements in this passage, some interpreters have stressed the command to be baptized so as to link the forgiveness of sins exclusively with baptism. But it runs contrary to all biblical religion to assume that outward rites have any value apart from true repentance and an inward change.” Following his sermon in Acts 2, Peter stated in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” No mention of baptism is made here. Longenecker noted, “This shows that for Luke at least, and probably also for Peter, while baptism with water was the expected symbol for conversion, it was not an indispensable criterion for salvation.”
Christian theologian G. R. Beasley-Murray explained, “At the close of his address on the same day, Peter calls for his hearers to repent and be baptized, with a view to receiving forgiveness and the Spirit.” The act of baptism is not something that saves a person but is an action that comes out of belief. Beasley-Murray wrote, “Baptism is an overt, public act that expresses inward decision and intent; since it is performed in the open, and not in secret, it becomes by its nature a confession of a faith and allegiance embraced.”
Another biblical passage that should be considered is Acts 16:30–31, where the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas what he had to do in order to be saved. They told the jailor simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (v. 31). Paul and Silas eventually explained the “word of the Lord” to the jailor and “all that were in his house.” As a result of their saving faith, they were baptized (vv. 32–33).
Consider Acts 10:44–48 as well. Here, Peter delivered the gospel of truth to the Gentiles, and before anyone from his audience was baptized in water, the “Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (v. 44 esv). Believing Jews who witnessed this event “were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (v. 45 esv). As a result, Peter asked the crowd, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (v. 47 esv). Peter obviously recognized the Spirit’s coming upon them as God’s confirmation that the Gentiles were a part of the church, just as the Jewish believers were part of the church.
It would be strange indeed for the Holy Spirit to fall on these Gentiles if they were not already believers. But as previously stated, it is not baptism but faith alone that justifies a person before God. Mormons might argue that if this is the case, they too are qualified for salvation since they also “have faith.” There is a difference, however. The Christian’s faith is based on the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the entire debt of sin. Nothing more can be added to a debt that has been paid in full. Mormon leaders have argued that Christ’s sacrifice was not all-sufficient. As James Faust, a member of the First Presidency, stated, “All of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. When we sincerely repent, the Savior’s magnificent Atonement pays the rest of that debt.”
Baptism is administered by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed by the laying on of hands.
Baptism in water, forming a part of the Gospel of Christ, we notice therefore that the servants of God in early ages were very particular in attending to its administration. …
We will now occupy a moment in endeavouring to obtain a proper view of the mode in which baptism was administered. It is quite evident that there was but one way or mode in which this ordinance was to be administered, and that mode was explained to the apostles and strictly adhered to in all their administrations. In order that we may obtain a proper notion of this subject, it will be necessary to refer to the circumstances under which baptism was administered.
It says of John [the Baptist] that he baptized at Aenon, because there was much water [see John 3:23]; then if sprinkling had been the mode, we can hardly suppose he would have gone to Aenon, because there was much water at that place, for a very little water, indeed, would have sprinkled all Judea, which he could have obtained without having performed a journey to Aenon. We are told, also, that he baptized in Jordan, and that after the ordinance was administered to our Saviour, he came up out of the water, expressly signifying that he had been down into the water, in order that the ordinance might be administered in a proper manner [see Matthew 3:16].
I like the symbolism of immersion of the new believer into water. It provides a very powerful image. But it is just symbolic, similar to a wedding ring on someone that symbolize their status of being married. Taking the wedding ring off does not mean the person is no longer married. Quoting Matthew 3:16 and saying that this somehow shows “that the ordinance might be administered in a proper manner” is not a powerful apologetic on the Mormon’s side, as this verse speaks about the baptism of Jesus. How does this verse show that baptism is not valid unless it is done in a proper manner?
Again; it speaks of the Eunuch, that he went down into the water with Philip, and then came up out of the water [see Acts 8:26-38]; now it must be acknowledged by every one who makes any pretensions to reason and consistency that had sprinkling a little water on the forehead answered the purpose, then those persons never would have gone into the water to have received the ordinance. Paul, in writing to the saints, gives us a plain testimony in favour of immersion. … That apostle states there that the saints had been buried with Christ by baptism [see Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12].
Again, I don’t disagree with the idea of immersion. However, these passages involving symbolism are used to show that, somehow, a physical rite must therefore be performed. This is twisting of the scripture for support of something these verses do not defend.
We learn from the 6th [chapter] of Hebrews that the laying on of hands was enumerated among the principles of the Gospel. It is known by all that this ordinance, as well as baptism for the remission of sins, by immersion, is quite neglected at the present day in the Christian churches;
There are many Protestant churches that believe in baptism by immersion, so I would disagree that this ordinance is “quite neglected,” even in Snow’s day! As mentioned before, I believe baptism by immersion offers the best symbolism for baptism. I just disagree that a) baptism is a requirement for justification (salvation) (as I described above); and b) baptism must be performed by someone with the proper authority (as we will discuss below).
a few remarks, therefore, upon this subject, I hope, will prove profitable. We have several instances where Christ laid his hands upon the sick and healed them; and in his commission to the apostles, last chapter of Mark, he says, These signs shall follow them that believe; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover, etc. Ananias laid his hands on Saul, who immediately received his sight after this ordinance was administered [see Acts 9:17-18]. Paul, when shipwrecked upon the island of Melita, laid his hands upon the father of Publius, the governor of the island, and healed him of a fever [see Acts 28:8]. These few remarks show clearly that laying on of hands has been appointed of God to be a [means] through which heavenly blessings may be obtained.
What a leap! The conclusion Snow makes is that the passages he has just quoted proves how heavenly blessings may be obtained. Now, again, I do believe in power through touching, and the laying of hands is a symbolic way that Christians often use to pray over people. But to turn this formula into some type of literal command is stretching the passage to a place it was never intended to go.
Although the healing of the sick was connected with the administration of this ordinance, yet, when we peruse the subject farther, we shall discover that a still greater blessing was connected with this ordinance. We are told, in the city of Samaria, men and women had been baptized by Philip, which caused great rejoicing in them baptized. They probably were rejoicing in consequence of having received remission of sins, through faith, repentance, and baptism, and of receiving some portion of the Holy Spirit of God, which naturally followed them, after having obtained the answer of a good conscience by the remission of their sins. Through this portion of the Holy Spirit, which they came in possession of, they began to see the kingdom of God. For it will be recollected that our Saviour has declared, That no man can see the kingdom of God, unless he is born again; and in [the] verse following, he says, He cannot enter into it, except he is born twice; first of water, then of the Spirit [see John 3:3-5].
A connection between the laying on of hands and baptism is attempted, but none of the given passages have anything to do with baptism. Then Snow returns to John 3:3-5, a passage (as explained above) that is certainly not talking about something Nicodemus knew nothing about.
Now those people at Samaria had been born of water—they had received the first birth, therefore, they were in a state of seeing the kingdom of God, of contemplating with the eye of faith its various blessings, privileges, and glories; but as they had not been born the second time, that is, of the Spirit, they had not entered into the kingdom of God—they had not entered into possession of Gospel privileges in their fulness. When the apostles at Jerusalem heard of the success of Philip, they sent Peter and John to Samaria, for the purpose of administering the laying on of hands. Accordingly, when they arrived at Samaria, they laid their hands upon those that had been baptized, and they received the Holy Ghost. [See Acts 8:5-8, 12, 14-17.]
Look up the passages and you will see Acts 8 does not specifically tie “laying on of hands” with baptism, as Snow apparently believed was the case. In verses 5-8, Philip “proclaimed” the gospel in Samaria. He did miraculous signs. No baptisms were performed in connection with this. In verse 12, Philip preached the good news and people were being baptized. In verse 14-17, Peter and John did put their hands on those people who had been baptized but had not received the Holy Ghost. But notice, this was not a typical conversion (if any conversion is “typical”). The passage is very clear that “the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them.” This was not the only occurrence, as Acts 19:3 described how twelve men had been baptized by John the Baptist but missed out on Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit. The need to be baptized again wasn’t based on the “authority” of who baptized them. (If so, we could conclude that the Mormon would not uphold John the Baptist’s authority. Wouldn’t this be problematic since Joseph Smith supposedly received his Aaronic priesthood through John the Baptist in 1829?) Instead, these twelve recorded here in Acts did not know about the outpouring that took place in Acts 2. When they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
In both Acts 8 and 19, we see hands that were laid upon the heads. However, if this act was a requirement, then why do we not see the laying on of hands take place in many passages involving baptism, including Acts 2:38? After all, this is a passage was referenced by Snow as a support for the necessity of baptism. But verse 41 says, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Or in another passage we’ve talked about, Acts 10:44ff, why is there no mention of the laying on of hands after baptism? After they had already received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, verse 48 merely says, “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” If the laying on of hands was as important as receiving the gospel (and hence the Holy Ghost) and specific mention is made of water baptism, why wasn’t the laying on of hands talked about here?
The blessings of baptism and confirmation come only when those ordinances are administered by the proper authority.
Unless [ordinances] are administered by one who is actually sent of God, the same blessings will not follow. The apostles and seventies were ordained by Jesus Christ to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, through which the gifts and blessings of the eternal worlds were to be enjoyed. Hence, Christ says to the apostles, Whosesoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they shall be retained [see John 20:23]: that is, every man that would come in humility, sincerely repenting of his sins, and receive baptism from the apostles should have his sins forgiven through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and through the laying on of hands should receive the Holy Ghost; but those that would refuse receiving this order of things from the apostles would have their sins remain upon them. … This power and authority of administering the Gospel was conferred upon others by the apostles; so that the apostles were not the only ones who held this responsible office. … Now, until some one can be found that holds an office like this, some one having authority to baptize and lay hands on, no one is under any obligation to receive those ordinances, nor need he expect the blessings, unless they have been administered legally.
Where did the “conferring” of this authority from the apostles to others take place in the Bible? I know of no such evidence. As to the “seventies,” we have no evidence that there was ever such an office in apostolic times. Of course, Jesus did send out the “Seventy” during his ministry, but that’s the only time we hear of this group. With no further reference of the so-called “seventies,” it’s nothing more than an argument from silence to suggest such an office even existed.
Now I realize that Mormons are really enthralled with “offices” and authority. That’s why Peter, James, and John had to come down along with John the Baptist as they supposedly transferred their priesthood authority to Joseph Smith. Without a presupposition that authority needed to be transferred in such a literal way, there is no way that an objective reader would have ever understood this concept as Mormon leaders explain it to be.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s just suppose that water baptism is vital for a relationship with God and membership in His true church. We’ll further assume that this ordinance must be performed in order for a person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And we will also assume that it must be done by someone with authority. Continue to suppose that you lived during the days of the apostolic church. Your name is Peter, James, or Paul. You travel around the country and preach the gospel. When it’s time for a conversion to take place, people would have desired water baptism because, if the Mormons are correct, it was a requirement for salvation. Suppose you are proud of the fact that you don’t like to baptize and, except on rare occasions, you don’t perform this crucial ordinance? In fact, you even “thank God” that you didn’t make it a point to baptize people? Wouldn’t this sound illogical?
Consider the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17: “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
First of all, Paul had a hard time recollecting those he baptized, even though he had baptized fewer than probably 20 people in his entire ministry! In my life, I have baptized about 30 people. It would take me a few minutes, but I could name just about every one without having to look up my database. I’m sure there are many Mormon men who have a pretty good collection of those whom they have baptized into the church. If baptism is crucial, then why does Paul say that “Christ did not send me to baptize”? The evidence to support the Mormon Church’s stance on this issue is curiously missing from the pages of the Bible.
… The authority of administering in Gospel ordinances [was] lost for many centuries. … The church established by the apostles gradually fell away, wandered into the wilderness, and lost its authority, its priesthood, and departing from the order of God, it lost also its gifts and graces; it transgressed the laws and changed the ordinances of the Gospel; changed immersion into sprinkling, and quite neglected laying on of hands; despised prophecy and disbelieved in signs. …
This is what is called the Great Apostasy. While the Bible does talk about partial apostasies and people leaving the faith, never did it explain that all authority would be lost from the face of the earth until it could be restored (i.e. Joseph Smith). Matthew 16:18 says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Or how about Matthew 28:18-20, which says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Ephesians 3:21 details, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” There are many others. To the Latter-day Saint, I recommend you carefully go through the following article on this topic and see if the traditional LDS view stands the test. Click here.
… I now bear testimony, having the highest assurance by revelation from God, that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, that an Angel from God has visited man in these last days and restored that which has long been lost, even the priesthood,—the keys of the kingdom,—the fulness of the everlasting Gospel.
According to Mormonism, it all comes down to this: Trust Joseph Smith, who claims he saw God the Father and Jesus in the First Vision. Trust Joseph Smith, who said he saw the Angel Moroni. Trust Joseph Smith, who said he was given plates of gold about an ancient American people group, even though nobody saw the plates except through vision. And trust Joseph Smith, even though the evidence against all of these items is much greater than any evidence that these are historical events.
When we keep the baptismal covenant and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the promised blessings are sure to follow.
This then was the Gospel order in the days of the apostles, belief on Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. When this order was understood and properly attended to, power, gifts, blessings, and glorious privileges followed immediately; and in every age and period, when these steps are properly attended [to] and observed in their proper place and order, the same blessings are sure to follow; but when neglected, either wholly or in part, there will be either an entire absence of those blessings, or a great diminishment of them.
According to the LDS Church, the order for the Gospel goes like this:
- Belief in Jesus Christ
- Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins
- Laying on of hands for the receiving of the Holy Ghost.
The Bible agrees that a belief in Jesus is required to have a relationship with Him. However, as 2 Corinthians 11:4 says, it is possible to have faith in a Jesus who is not authentic and true. But if a person does not have a relationship with the God of the Bible, then nothing else matters. Since Mormonism does not teach in the true God and Jesus of the Bible, we’re stuck at point one.
Christ, in his commission to the apostles, speaks of some supernatural gifts that those receive[d] that yielded obedience to this order of things [see Mark 16:15-18].
Mark 16:17-18—which, again, was not listed among the earliest known manuscripts—gives some specifics as the “supernatural gifts.” Let’s see how the Mormon Church does in fulfilling these items:
- They will drive out demons. When does this take place in Mormonism?
- They will speak in new tongues. Where in the evidence for this? I can hear a Mormon argue that this benefit refers to a place like the MTC in Provo. But their language-learning methods there are not spiritual but educational. While they employ good systems, this certainly could not be what Snow is referring to.
- They will pick up snakes. Yes, snake-handling churches in West Virginia have used this verse as support for their unique activities. Is this something that Mormons endorse?
- They will drink deadly poison. Again, how does this apply to the Mormon Church?
- They will place their hands on sick people and they will get well. Are there such healing ministries in the Mormon Church?
I’m not sure the Mormon Church can point to anything listed in Mark 16:15-18 as “supernatural gifts” experienced in their organization.
Paul … gives a more full account of the various gifts that attended the fulness of the Gospel; he mentions nine of them and informs us that they are the effects or fruits of the Holy Ghost [see 1 Corinthians 12:8-10]. Now the Holy Ghost was promised unto all, even as many as the Lord should call [see Acts 2:37-39]. This gift, being unchangeable in its nature and operations, and being inseparably connected by promise with this scheme or order of things, it becomes reasonable, consistent, and Scriptural to anticipate the same gifts and blessings; and if Noah, after having built the Ark, could claim and obtain his temporal salvation according to promise [see Moses 7:42-43]; or Joshua, having compassed Jericho the number of times mentioned, could go up upon her prostrated walls and make captive her inhabitants [see Joshua 6:12-20]; or the Israelites, having offered up the sacrifices commanded, could then, as promised, [have] their sins forgiven [see Leviticus 4:22-35]; or Naaman, after having complied with the injunction of Elisha, in washing seven times in Jordan’s waters, could demand and obtain his recovery [see 2 Kings 5:1-14]; or lastly, the blind man, after having washed in the pool of Siloam, if he could then claim and realize the promised reward [see John 9:1-7], then, I say, with propriety and consistency, that whenever a man will lay aside his prejudice, and sectarian notions, and false traditions, and conform to the whole order of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then there is nothing beneath the celestial worlds that will operate against claiming and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and all the blessings connected with the Gospel in the apostolic age. To obtain religion that will save us in the presence of God, we must obtain the Holy Ghost, and in order to obtain the Holy Ghost, we must believe on the Lord Jesus, then repent of our sins, that is, forsake them, then go forward and be immersed in water for the remission of sins, then receive the laying on of hands.
Like the crescendo of multiple fireworks at a July 4th display or a half-time oration from a fired-up football coach, Snow’s mentions of these multiple passages is meant to get the Latter-day Saints all worked up. It’s great rhetoric, but as I believe I have shown in this review, these are empty words. Mormonism does not have the corner on truth. In fact, it is a spiritually bankrupt system in need of a complete reformation.
Until the Latter-day Saint realizes this, he will never be able to experience the saving power of the Holy Spirit, which is available to him or her today. It’s as simple as asking Jesus to forgive your sins and receive the free gift He has made available. This is not about, as Snow calls it, “obtaining religion.” It’s not based on your good works, either in the past or in the future. Salvation lies completely on His mercy and grace. Until the Latter-day Saint experiences a saving relationship with the God of this universe, there will be a void that this church will never fulfill. Mormonism offers nothing more than an impossible gospel. Latter-day Saint, do you hear the Savior’s call?
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.