Laws and Ordinances

Hey guys, so: According to Latter-day Saint beliefs, is baptism required for salvation? Well, it depends on what you mean by salvation. What most people probably mean when they ask that question is: Do I have to be baptized to go to heaven? Well, Latter-day Saints believe in multiple degrees or levels of heaven. So technically we believe pretty much everyone will be “saved” to a degree of heaven with or without baptism. But in order to be exalted, in order to live with God the Father after this life, we believe baptism is required.

For the rest of this video, we’re going to take a look at some different viewpoints on baptism and hopefully come to a better understanding of the Latter-day Saint perspective on this. Let’s do it!

OK, so the Bible talks about baptism A LOT, but let’s just get right to the words of Christ in John 3 and Mark 16. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

To some faiths (including us) it seems very clear from these and other scriptures that baptism is essential. But some other faiths would say, ‘well, what about all these other scriptures like Ephesians 2 that say we’re saved exclusively by faith?’ “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

So, what’s the deal here, is baptism necessary or not? In the early Christian church, people clearly fell on the baptism-is-essential side of the fence. But that belief came with its challenges. For example, since nobody could be saved without baptism, the church began baptizing infant children, because if an unbaptized child were to die they’d be damned, right? And what about all those people who never had the opportunity to be baptized in their lifetime? Also damned? That doesn’t sound fair.

Over time, people started asking these questions and seeing the implications of required baptism. So during the Reformation period, the pendulum understandably swung to the other end of the spectrum, and baptism was an act of faith, but just a symbol and really not necessary for salvation.

So in this battle of scriptural interpretation, one group says, “Christ said baptism is necessary, so these other scriptures have to mean something else.” And the other group says, “Romans and Ephesians say this, so Christ had to have meant something else.”

For example, in the case of John 3:5, some people started to interpret the term “water” here as actually a reference to natural birth or the Word of God or the Holy Spirit, etc.—anything but baptism. (Even though the earliest Christians clearly taught that it meant baptism, but whatever.)

Latter-day Saints have a very unique view on this whole subject that preserves the integrity of the scriptures and the justice of God, but you’ll need a little doctrinal background: Latter-day Saints believe that after we die, we do not just immediately go to Heaven or Hell. We go to what we just call the Spirit World, where spirits wait for the final judgment that is to take place after the Second Coming of Christ.

If you die without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, you can be taught that gospel in the Spirit World. In the meantime, we mortals are performing vicarious or proxy baptisms for our deceased ancestors. And in the Spirit World, they have the option of accepting or rejecting that baptism. I need to do a whole episode about baptisms for the dead, but the point is:

We believe that in order to live in the presence of God the Father after this life, baptism is essential, and one way or another, everyone will have the opportunity to be baptized. But, you might be wondering, “Isn’t baptism still a ‘work?’” Sure it’s a work. Confessing the Lord Jesus as Romans 10 instructs is a work. I think just having faith is a work. It certainly takes work to have faith! But it’s the purpose of these works that makes all the difference.

The purpose of faith and repentance and baptism isn’t for me to save myself. I can’t do that, and that’s the point the Bible is trying to make. I can go dunk myself in water a thousand times and I won’t be any closer to earning my way into Heaven. Only God can get me there—we look at baptism simply as a condition Christ has set on the reception of His gift of grace.

For example, in 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha commands the Syrian captain Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river 7 times in order to be healed of his leprosy. He is reluctant at first because of the simplicity of the task. His servant says, “if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?”

So, Naaman humbles himself and washes, “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” Never once did he boast of having cleaned himself. He knew who had actually cleaned him, and he was converted to the God of Israel.

This story has baptism imagery all over it. It’s even in the same river where John the Baptist would later baptize Christ. Was it Naaman’s ‘work’ that cleaned him? No, it was the grace of God. Did Naaman need to wash in the river to receive that gift? Yes, because that’s what was asked of him, and we believe it is also what Christ has asked of us through baptism.

Learning More:

If you have more questions about grace vs works or salvation vs exaltation, check out these videos. There’s also more info on this subject in the description—have a great day!

Explore More Articles and Videos