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2 Nephi 31, The First Part of Nephi’s Tri-part Conclusion

 

The doctrine of Christ is why this chapter 
is usually cited. The Holy Ghost's relationship
to the Son and the Father is at play, as 
well. The main point of this chapter is 
Nephi's injunction to follow the Savior who
kept the commandments of the Father like 
those following the Savior should.

2 Nephi 31

Chapter thirty-one is a standalone chapter in the sense that the present-day chapter was a standalone chapter, chapter thirteen, in the original Book of Mormon. This is the first of the three-part conclusion of Nephi’s writings to his brethren, meaning the descendants of Lehi who, more particularly, fled with Nephi from the Lamanites. The essence of the Nephi’s doctrine of Christ is faithfulness; indeed, this chapter centers on Nephi’s exhortation to follow the Savior, and each of the levels of this essay build on the need to be faithful, what one does.

It helps to reformat this chapter as a chiasmus and study the analogues together. Therefore, the chapter is reformatted before discussing the parallel parts.

A And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren.

B And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob. Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying. For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

C Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world. And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

D And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.1

E Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.

F Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

G And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me;

H wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold,

then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.

Amen.

The foregoing chiasmus is summarized below. The central point, levels H–Hʹ, is to follow the Savior, the essence of the doctrine of Christ, levels B–Bʹ. There are various steps to be taken by one who would adopt or follow the doctrine of Christ, including baptism and keeping the commandments, levels C/D–Dʹ/Cʹ, and the doctrine leads the person on a strait and narrow path, which is a metaphor for keeping the commandments, levels E/F–Fʹ/Eʹ. But the aid that immediately bookends following the Savior and is the result of keeping the commandments is the aid that comes from the Father’s gift of the Holy Ghost, levels G–Gʹ.

The essence of Nephi’s exhortation is following the Savior.  The Holy Ghost is a gift from the Father to aid the followers of Christ—those who have been baptized and keep the commandments—but cannot conclude that the Holy Ghost does not aid other good people, as well2

This chiasmus outlines what one of Nephi’s era needed to do to attain the perfection the people of Nephi’s day were capable of achieving without the higher ordinances of the temple, which were not available until after the sacrifice of the Savior.

Other scriptures address this perfection as well. Enos, a personal essay of the highest form describes the life lived by Enos that resulted in the remission of his sins, his perfection at the end of his life. New Testament and modern-day scriptures, also, describe the perfection to be achieved.3

New Testament scriptures and section eighty-eight make it clear that ordinances performed in the temple are a necessary part of the perfection. These temple ordinances were unavailable to the Nephites before the Savior’s visit, so the modern-day reader of Nephi’s  how-to-live exhortation must appreciate that this presentation is incomplete; Nephi adverts to this incompleteness when he says, “And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.”4

The following analysis of the various levels of Nephi’s chiasmus will use the term build and explains to describe the purpose of the first-half and second-half cognates of this chiasmus. The levels of the chiasmus in the first half build on the prior first-half levels as they lead to the turning or central point. The second half explains more fully the meaning of the cognate first-half levels as the levels move away from the turning or main point of the chiasmus toward the final bookend. One must consider the cognate parts together to get the full meaning, and no level can be read without considering its relationship to both contiguous levels and the turning point.

Level A–Aʹ is his Nephi’s benediction on his writing and life. Amen is used as a concluding statement, like finis or the end, so the word is not simply a statement of concurrence or confession of belief. This level of the chiasmus is more than just a finis. It is a confession of Nephi’s testimony, so amen adds the patina of solemnity to this poem.

A And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren.

Aʹ Amen.

Level B–Bʹ uses the term doctrine of Christ. The term today would be gospel of Christ. Nephi begins by telling the reader what he is doing, and he ends by saying what he has done. He builds/explains why the doctrine of Christ is important. Of course, this is as germane today as then.

B And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob. Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying. For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

Bʹ And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.

Level C–Cʹ talks about the essential ordinance of Nephi’s day: baptism. Baptism is the fulfillment of the all righteousness that the ordinance is a part of. Level C describes the goal using the phrase to fulfill all righteousness, and level Cʹ defines what this phrase means: pressing forward after baptism in accordance with the doctrine or gospel of Christ. Level C–Cʹ, thus, builds on Level B–Bʹ.

C Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world. And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

Cʹ Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Level D–Dʹ builds/explains further. It uses rhetorical questions that, typical of the era, are explicitly answered. The word faith in level Dʹ is used in the scriptural sense, meaning what one does when one believes and hopes for the end promised by the belief. Faith, then, means being humble before the Father, making promises to Him, and being obedient by keeping the commandments like the Savior’s faith, which is highlighted in Part D.

D And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

Dʹ And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

The witness to the Father described in level D is different that the witness to the Father made today. Baptisms before Christ involved covenant making,5embracing more particular but, perhaps, more limited requirements than the modern-day analogue, the sacrament.6

Level E–Eʹ makes the turn toward central point Nephi makes, the need for the Holy Ghost in one’s life.

E Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.

Eʹ Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

A stylistic observation is fun. Level E describes the strait path (not a straight path) and then the gate while level Eʹ reverses the order, gate then path. This is very careful writing. It balances the repetition. so it does not represent a change of meaning.

The gate is here is baptism. This scripture does not say that the Holy Ghost is the result of an ordinance; in other words, there is nothing to indicate that the gift of the Holy Ghost required the laying on of hands. Moreover, level G–Gʹ, the central point of this poem, says the Holy Ghost is a gift of the Father, not the son. If it is the Father’s gift, it would seem, then the holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God, the Melchizedek priesthood, would not seem to have the necessary right or power to give the Father’s gift. Indeed, part G–Gʹ of Nephi’s words say those who are baptized receive the Holy Ghost as a gift from the Father after they are baptized without more, apparently7

Level F–Fʹ is the keep-the-commandments part of the path leading life eternal.

F Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

Fʹ But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my [the Son’s] commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 16And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Baptism does not suffice if the commandments are not kept thereafter. One must keep the commandments to return to the Father. And the commandment to be baptized is a commandment of the Father, not the Son, according to level F, but level Fʹ says being baptized is what one must do to keep the commandments of the Son. The Son, Himself, had to be baptized when baptism is viewed as a commandment of the Father, but there is no reason both the Father and the Son would not command the same thing.

The baptism of the day were not the same as baptisms today. Baptisms today are in the name of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Level F enjoins baptism “in the name of my Beloved Son.” Indeed, the Savior appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection and gave Nephi “power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.”8Nephi, of course, would have had the authority to do baptisms before the appearance of the Savior, so something happened that that authority was no longer efficacious. The baptism must have changed.

The explanation for the changed baptism may be the different attainments possible after the resurrection and the fulfillment of the promised atonement. The ordinances of the priesthood of exaltation were possible following Christ, not before. The in futuro promise of attaining the ordinances essential to live with the Father was realized after the Savior, and, therefore, the blessings associated with baptism may have changed.

The necessary change in the nature of the baptism may be reflected in the formalized prayer for baptism the Savior established at the time of His appearance, making it very similar but not the same as the prayer used today.9The Lord even notes that there had been disputations among the people prior to His advent about how to officiate in the ordinance,

And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. [The practice and the prayer as explained set forth.] And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations as there have hitherto been.10

It is not clear how long there had been these disputations among the people. Presumably, the followers of Christ understood that His coming and atonement would have an effect on the ordinances of the temple and, perhaps, they foresaw a change in the baptismal ordinance as well. Perhaps, this foresight resulted in disputes about the formalities of baptism in the interregnum between the Savior’s birth and His appearance among the Nephites.

It is less likely there were disputes about the baptismal prayer before the birth of the Savior. After all, the Nephites had the example of the baptismal prayer given by Alma at the waters of Mormon about one-hundred fifty years earlier:

Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.11

This prayer at the Waters of Mormon did not invoke the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but it contains an express covenant, the italicized portions of the foregoing quote, and associated blessings. In addition, there is hopeful, precatory language about the blessings of eternal life, a hope for eternal life that could not be realized except through the Savior’s future atonement.

This same covenant to the followers Christ and the associated blessing of the Spirit are covered by the sacrament prayers today. There was no ordinance like the sacrament before Christ, He, Himself, instituting this ordinance just before his crucifixion.12

Then, Savior instituted the sacrament among the Nephites where it was just for those who had been baptized.13

The sacrament instituted by Christ does not allude to the blessings of eternal life, which the Waters-of-Mormon paradigm does. The blessing of eternal life or the ordinances associated with it could not be realized before the Savior’s ministry, but baptisms before Christ anticipated the institution of these ordinances; hence, the reference to them in the pre-Christ prayer. The ordinances essential to eternal life—meaning life with the Father and the son in the Celestial Kingdom—are the modern-day temple ordinances.

Bookends for the central point of following the Savior is the gift from the Father, the Father’s gift of the Holy Ghost.

G And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me;

Gʹ behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

The Holy Ghost is a gift from the Father according to this scripture. Logically, then, the modern-day, post-baptism confirmation by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, the laying on of hands, does not bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost unless the right to the blessings of the Spirit changed as a result of the Savior’s ministry. But who gives the gift of the Holy Ghost does not seem to be something that would be affected by the fulfillment of the Savior’s mission. Therefore and since the Melchizedek priesthood is the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God,14 it makes no sense that an ordinance performed by the Melchizedek priesthood do something the Father did before the Savior’s ministry and, it being the Father’s gift to give, still does today. The delegation of the Father’s authority through the Son’s authority is a stretch: no where is there an indication that the Father’s priesthood, unlike the Son’s, has been delegated to anyone.

It may be a little casual to talk about the Father’s and the Son’s priesthoods as though they are different. Rather, it may be more accurate to say there are different orders of priesthood that have different powers depending on whose order it is. It is certain, for example, that Satan does not use the order of the Father or the order of the Son; he has his own, his own Satanic order of the priesthood. Likewise, it makes no sense that the Father would use a priesthood after the order of His son. Satan must have his own priesthood. The Father must use His own priesthood. The logical extension is that resurrected beings—both men and women—will use their own respective priesthood. Men and women, then, must be exercising their own priesthood while in their mortal state.15

The fact that the Father is the one who sends or gives or bestows or gifts the Holy Ghost is entirely consistent with the fact that it is the Father who sent His Son. The book of Moses says:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.16

The Book of Abraham says the same thing:

And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.17

Level Gʹ connects the Holy Ghost with the tongue of angels. This presages Nephi’s explanation of this phrase in 2 Nephi 32, which is Nephi’s explanation of this poem.

The turning point of this chiasmus is level F–F´:

F wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

F´ Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word,

Following the Savior is the doctrine or gospel of Christ. What that means is different for each individual, the idea that there is a single path one must following being an extrapolation beyond sense of the various metaphors associated with following the Savior; in other words, too much focus on the vehicle of the particular metaphor rather than its tenor.

Endnotes

  1. Levels C and D do not lay out a covenant, but they have been characterized as the “root passage that lays out [the covenant to keep the commandments]” Noel B. Reynolds, “Understanding Christian Baptism through the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies Quarterly, vol 51:2 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 2012) at 7–8. Reynolds equates making a witness or showing that one is willing to follow the Savior with a covenant.

    Though Christ was sinless, Nephi explains, it was necessary for him to humble himself like the repentant convert and to witness publicly his covenant to be obedient to the Father. In this sense, Jesus himself had to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (2 Ne. 31:5–6; compare Matt. 3:15); his baptism was more than a means to show sinners the way back to the Father.

    Id. at 8 (bolding added).

    Reynolds then proceeds to argue that all Book of Mormon accounts following this pattern of “setting forth a set of obligations assumed in baptism” by citing Mosiah 18:8–13; Mosiah 18:13; Alma 7:15; 3 Nephi 7:25; and 3 Nephi18:10–11. However, Mosiah 18:8–13 make it clear that the covenant attending the pre-Christian baptisms performed by Alma occurred before the baptism, not as part of it. Mosiah 18:13. So there was no covenant on account of the symbolic act, itself, during the pre-Christian era.. Indeed, the pre-baptismal covenant during the pre-Christian era was akin to the oath-sealed-covenant one makes today when becoming a citizen of a nation.

    The pre-Christian baptism that required a covenant beforehand is not the same baptism instituted following the Savior’s resurrection, which is the same baptism required today. Today’s baptism does not involve a pre-ordinance covenant; rather, today’s ordinance requires a post-baptism covenant, the sacrament, See D&C 20:68. Notably, the last scripture in the series cited by Reynolds, 3 Nephi 18:10–11, records the covenant made via the sacrament ordinance instituted by the Savior among the Nephites.

    Reynolds ignores when the covenant was made relative to the pre- and post-Christian baptism ordinance. He says the modern-day covenant is “this privately made covenant that will be witnessed publicly at baptism and periodically thereafter through the taking of the sacrament.” Reynolds at 9. He has to say it is privately made because there is no record or words for this unspoken covenant. Still, Reynods says, “And it [this privately-made covenant] is referred to appropriately as the ‘baptismal’ covenant.” Id. Seems like a stretch too far to this author.

  2. A tradition has developed among members of the Church that the Holy Ghost is a gift that can be accepted by only baptized members of the Church because good people striving to follow the Savior are either limited to the light of Christ until they are baptized do not enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost until baptism. The scriptures, however, equate the term light of Christ with the Holy Ghost (the second Comforter), and it is hard to imagine that the Father loves his unbaptized children any less than baptized members. So it would seem the Father would make this gift as available for acceptance to everyone, right? Understanding the functions of and names for the Holy Ghost merits study. The author’s posting on the confusion posed by the names used to describe the Holy Ghost can be read at “Operations of the Spirit, Part 2 of 12, Confusing Terms,” https://studyitout.com/operations-of-the-spirit-part-2-of-12-confusing-terms/.
  3. Hebrews 10:31–ch. 13:7; 2 Peter 1:1–11; D&C 88.
  4. 2 Nephi 32:6b.
  5. Mosiah 18:8–10 is often quoted relative to the baptismal covenant made by converts today, but this scripture is not directly related to today’s ordinance because the ordinance was different during the Mosaic epoch. Applying this scripture to today’s baptismal covenant is a likening and appropriate in that sense, but direct comparisons and conclusions are not appropriate. The New Testament is a witness for the inappropriateness of equating baptisms from the Old Testament period to the baptisms of the Christian era because the early Christians were doing baptisms for their faithful, no doubt already baptized dead, 1 Corinthians 15:29, and temple work because the valiant ancestors of the faithful could not otherwise gain their exaltation. Hebrews 11:39–40. The celestializing ordinance of the endowment was not performed before the Savior’s sacrifice, nor was the baptismal ordinance the same. After all, the early saints at the time of Joseph Smith were chastened in D&C 22 for wanting to join the church without rebaptism, which occurred for those like Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, who had previously been baptized, on the day the Church was organized History of the Church, vol. 1, at 76–79. One can hardly presume that the baptisms for the dead performed by the early Christians were for anyone other than their faithful forefathers or that the Old Testament baptisms were any more efficacious than those before the organization of the Church in 1830; hence, Old Testament era baptisms, like those recorded in Mosiah, and the covenants associated with Old Testament era baptisms cannot be a source for baptisms by which individuals enter are received into the Church since ad 1830.

    Though inappropriate, most searching for some sort of covenant associated with today’s baptisms cite Mosiah 18. See, e.g. Noel B. Reynolds, “Understanding Christian Baptism through the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, vol. 51:2 (2012), https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/understanding-christian-baptism-through-book-mormon#footnote-066-backlink. Reynold’s undisciplined comparison of baptisms before Christ with those after Christ seems to have been provoked by his review of a fascinating book in the prior issue of BYU Studies, vol, 51:1, “Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries,” https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/baptism-early-church-history-theology-and-liturgy-first-five-centuries.

  6. Cf. D&C 20:68 (requires instruction in the tenets of the church, “all things concerning the church of Christ,” before one can partake of the covenant-making sacrament. The sacrament did not exist before Christ, and early members of the Church would often be baptized after a revival-meeting experience that did not include any knowledge of the tenets of the Church.
  7. The nature of the Holy Ghost and how one is shown the path of righteousness by the Holy Ghost is the subject of a piece written by the author, “Operations of the Spirit, Part 2 of 12, Confusing Terms,” https://studyitout.com/operations-of-the-spirit-part-2-of-12-confusing-terms/. The traditional belief in the necessity of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is discussed extensively in this article, particularly footnote 7. This article discusses the confusion generated by the use of six terms used in the scriptures to refer to the Holy Ghost.
  8. 3 Nephi 11:21.
  9. 3 Nephi 11:22–28.
  10. 3 Nephi 11:22, 28.
  11. Mosiah 18:13 (emphasis added).
  12. A sacrament-like ordinance before Christ is not recounted in the scriptures, but the red-heifer ordinance has similarities, similarities to which Paul alludes in Hebrews 10:21–29.. The bodies washed with pure water in Hebrews and the reference in Ezekiel 36:25a are allusions to the washing of an individual associated with the sacrifice of the red heifer, Numbers 19:4–20, an unprecedented ordinance that probably continued the covenant instituted in Exodus 24:3–8. The red-heifer sacrifice and sprinkling are references to the same ordinance, and the purpose was the same purification/recommitment associated with the modern-day sacrament.

    The need for purification anciently involved symbols. Any individual who had touched a dead body was unclean until he had bathed in the waters of separation, fresh water to which had been added the ashes of the red heifer. The red heifer and the associated cleansing, to which allusion is made in Hebrews 9:23, and the reference in Ezekiel 36:25a militates in favor of the conclusion that this red-heifer ordinance was a type for the expediency of the sacrament instituted by the Savior. The animal was female because it was the seed of the woman who would overcome Satan, and it is the cleansing associated with washing in the ashes of this sacrifice that cleansed the defiled person. Cp. Ezekiel 36:25 (addresses the cleansing of the Lord’s people during the last days, a sprinkling with water that will clean them from their sins). It may be that the cleansing of the people associated with the constitution of the Jews, Exodus 19–ch. 24, was more than merely washing clothes as recorded in Exodus 19:10–11, 14. In any event, this was a cleansing and recommitment presaging the sacrament.

    The cleansing associated with the red-heifer sacrifice and Paul’s allusion to it at Hebrews 10:25 can be, as explained in the author’s Exegesis of Ezekiel and his Exegesis of Hebrews, paraphrased as follows:

    We have a high priest, the Savior, who sits at the right hand of God in the eternal sanctuary in the Celestial Kingdom. We have been confirmed members of His church and committing ourselves via the sacrament to the intentions manifested at baptism, so we ought to draw near to Him by what we do, which, in turn, will give us assurance of the rightness of our actions. We need to hold true to our course of action, just as the Savior holds true to His.

  13. 3 Nephi 18:1–18, 28–29 (v. 5 says it is for only for the baptized, and vv. 28–29 say it is damnation to the unworthy); 20:3–9 (this is the scripture that says the bread and water are for the soul, v. 8); 26:13 (sacrament was frequently administered by the Savior).
  14. See D&C 107:3.
  15. The nature of the priesthood and how it operates is the subject of an excursus in the author’s unpublished Exegesis of the Book of Mormon. It is unfortunate that most members of the Church cannot define what the priesthood is if three or four words are taken from their vocabulary: power, act, God/Lord. Such individuals, perhaps, do not know what the priesthood is because they can repeat the rote, accepted response but cannot describe it if the cannot use three or four words in their description.
  16. Moses 4:1.
  17. Abraham 3:27.

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