By Eric Johnson
When someone leaves the Mormon Church and becomes a Christian believer, one common issue that may come up concerns baptism and whether or not rebaptism is necessary. The issue may be brought up in some churches that require candidates seeking membership to get rebaptized. Some ex-Mormons bristle at this rule, saying, “I was already baptized once. Why should I get baptized again?”
The hesitation is completely understandable. In fact, I think it’s great that the person is having some doubts about what may seem to be a legalistic regulation. Possibly this means that the ex-Mormon has learned some valuable lessons (i.e., discernment) from having mistakenly accepted Mormonism in a previous spiritual life. If you are a Christian friend to this person, please be patient! Understand that some issues need to be worked out. After all, the ex-Mormon has already been burned once with religion. Now someone is giving new commands (involving work, no less!). The question they want answered is this: Can you and your pastor (and even Christianity as a whole) be trusted? Or is this an example of another work-based cult?
With that in mind, allow me to give a simple answer to the question that has been posed. Yes, I believe getting rebaptized is the right thing to do according to the Bible. Allow me to provide three straightforward reasons:
1. The baptism of the Mormon Church involved a false gospel: In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul said that if anyone taught a gospel that wasn’t true, they should be accursed. (He repeats himself in verse 9.) To me, receiving a false gospel is very dangerous; one fallout is that all ordinances performed by officers in that religion (whether baptism or the works done in the temple) were based on error and not the truth. In other words, the power of the Holy Spirit was not behind these rites. Consider the example as given in Acts 19:
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Notice how there was no hesitation on the players of this passage. Paul and these twelve men must have agreed in unison, for it says “on hearing this, they were baptized.”
2. The baptism of the Mormon Church involved a false God: The God of Christianity is so much unlike the God of Mormonism. For example, Christians don’t worship a God who was once a man and has a body of flesh and bones. And they don’t worship a tritheistic God, meaning there are three separate Gods that are merely “one in purpose.” Instead, Christians baptize in the Trinitarian formula (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). In other words, one God as revealed in three Persons. There is a huge difference, of course!
3. The baptism of the Mormon Church was done as a requirement for salvation: Mormonism teaches in baptismal regeneration, which means baptism is the first step on the road to exaltation. Don’t get me wrong, I think baptism is important. But going under the water is not something a person does as a check off on a salvation list. To think this is the case makes a mockery of the overriding theme that “sola fides,” salvation only comes through faith.
Allow me to say that I grew up in a Lutheran home for the first 17 years of my life. We ended up leaving that church because we felt it was getting too liberal and thus started to attend the local Baptist church. In order to become members, my family was told by Pastor Ray Hahn that we would need to undergo immersion as adults. At first, I was a bit offended. Was he saying that my original baptism wasn’t efficacious? Then I thought about it some more and realized that the original baptism was done without my consent. While my parents had good intentions, I had no choice in the manner. Now I could say “yes” to Jesus on my own. This attitude was important to me as I underwent my second “baptism.”
Now that I’m in preaching mode, allow me to provide the 3 “Rs” as to the purpose of public water baptism and why I believe it’s important for every Christian to do this.
First of all, baptism is a Response to Jesus’s Example. Jesus humbled Himself to become a man (Phil 2:5-8), becoming our example as John the Baptist baptized him. He didn’t have to do this as a responsibility to God. He did it because He wanted to. To undergo baptism is not something owed to anyone—your parents, pastor, or friends. However, it is a chance to own your own faith and follow in the footsteps of the Savior. I have had a chance to baptize several dozen people in the Jordan River (in Israel, not Utah!), most of whom were students I taught in a Bible classroom. (I had a chance to baptize my oldest daughter in our jacuzzi and my other daughters in Israel.) There is no greater joy I had as a teacher than to see these teens get serious with God (what I call “owning their own faith”), with the desire to be an example to their friends and others as they followed the Master.
Second, Baptism is a Realization of a Public Confession. It is your opportunity to say, as the hymn puts it, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” This is an event to invite all your family, friends, neighbors, and even those who still belong to the LDS Church. Hopefully your Christian church gives you an opportunity to tell your testimony before the ceremony. Can you imagine how many people will be listening so very carefully, wondering what your story is all about? What better venue to do this than in your new Christian home!
Finally, Baptism is a Reflection on your Commitment to Jesus. This is a symbolic act of going into the water and then coming out (symbolically) a cleansed individual. This act does not “save” a person. The scripture is clear that it is faith and faith alone that justifies a person before God. If you’re in doubt of this, read Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians—there is no way around it! Getting baptized is like putting on a wedding ring. Placing this on your figure doesn’t make you married any more than taking it off makes you a bachelor. What the ring does say, though, is that you are taken and owned by someone; you’re no longer a free agent. You go into the water, figuratively unclean, and come out washed anew. What a lovely symbol baptism is!
With all of this said, I’m excited that you are now a believer in the true Jesus of the Bible. May God guide you as you do your best to determine discernment and follow the Truth.
For a refutation on baptism being necessary for salvation, see here.