Are Ordinances Retroactive?

July 12, 2006 | 72 comments

If I am baptized on July 11, 2006, is that the effective date of my baptism, or is my baptism effective as of an earlier date? You may think the question is bizarre and the answer obvious, but stick with me. I think you’ll find there’s something to it.

In Spain I knew a woman who was almost a saint, and almost a Saint. She was good friends with us missionaries because she was so good-hearted, because she loved religion and loved that we loved it, because she believed much of what we preached, and, a little, because she was an expatriate who missed talking English. Naturally we invited her to come down to the waters a lot. She always refused. Years ago in England, as a young housewife, she decided to be baptized by the Methodists (I think) and recieved a strong spiritual witness that in so doing she had made a real commitment to Christ and that Christ had accepted this commitment. She could not square our exclusive claims to authority to baptize with the genuine success of her Methodist baptism. She had a spiritual witness of the latter. I had and have a spiritual witness of the former. How to reconcile them?

That’s one problem. Consider another. The Doctrine and Covenants tell us that priesthood is conditional, such that a great many priesthood holders do not actually possess it. This raises a Donatist problem–can an unworthy person perform a valid ordinance? The ordinary Mormon response is to shrug and say, sure, why not? There’s support for this answer in scripture, but it doesn’t quite satisfy me. What difference is there between a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he sinned and a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he never recieved it in the first place?

One possible solution to the problem is to say that its not the worthiness of the priesthood holder at the time of the ordinance that matters, but at the end of time. If our sins are remembered no more when we repent–and, as some descriptions of Christ’s sacrifice seem to suggest, our ultimate, defining choices are in some sense with us from the foundation of the world–then a priesthood holder who is redeemed and found spotless at the judgment will have been spotless his whole existence. He will always have been a worthy bearer of the priesthood and an acceptable stand-in for the Lord.

But this solution is only partial. Some unworthy priesthood holders won’t repent, and some priesthood holders who are worthy will fall away later. What about the ordinances they performed?

Another solution is that the unworthy’s man bishoprick will be taken from him and given to another. (We’ve discussed this elsewhere with reference both to children and to priesthood ordinances (see comments)). The idea simply is that the ordinance performed by the unworthy man becomes as if it were performed by another, who gets the credit and the relationship. But this is unsatisfactory too, for some of the same reasons its unsatisfactory to think about children being given to worthy parents. Our experiences are who we are. Whether bad or good, we don’t want to overwrite them. I’ve made that argument before with respect to children, though I can’t find it now, but in any case commenter Tatiana said it better. The identity of the person who performed your ordinance doesn’t matter nearly as much, but we still shrink, I think, from having them unwritten from our history and replaced.

A different solution to the problem of unworthy priesthood holders could also be a solution to the problem of the exclusivity of LDS authority and the apparent effectiveness of my friend’s non-LDS ordinance. That is, we can agree that non-LDS ordinances and unworthy LDS ordinances are formally ineffective and will have to be redone at some point. But since the persons receiving the ordinances are not to blame for this, perhaps the ordinances take effect for them as soon as they are performed. The later, formally-valid ordinances are either retroactive to the date of the prior, invalid ordinance, or the prior ordinances are provisionally valid until a formally-valid ordinance can be performed.

This still leaves us with the problem of people who felt that the ordinances they recieved outside the church did nothing . . .


I’ve said a lot here. Comments can go in lots of different directions (I list a few below). But please start from the premises that LDS ordinances have some kind of exclusive validity and that spiritual experiences such as my friends are genuine in some way.

1) How to reconcile the exclusive validity of LDS ordinances with genuine spiritual experiences that sometimes seem to accompany non-LDS ordinances? And how to reconcile your answer to this question with the genuine experiences of those who felt a lack of spiritual effect in non-LDS ordinances and not in LDS ones?

2) What real difference is there between a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he sinned and a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he never received it in the first place?

3) Can an unworthy man validly stand-in for Christ by performing ordinances?

Tags: ,

72 Responses to Are Ordinances Retroactive?

  1. Clair on July 12, 2006 at 9:01 am

    This discussion could include the role of being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. LDS ordinances are of no effect without it, regardless of the priesthood authority of the one performing the ordinance. So there is an administrative activity and a spiritual activity. Can the spiritual occur without the administrative being in perfect order?

    We once had a disciplinary council for a man who had been disfellowshipped years ago. Some time later, a DC was held and he was undisfellowshipped (sp?). However, because of the nature of his transgression, first presidency approval was needed. His SP neglected to submit the needed papers to SLC for approval. This fellow lived the next ten years thinking his priesthood authority was intact, but it was not. In that time, he baptized his children, etc. Our DC was held essentially to straighten out the paperwork. Our SP said the question of whether his children would need to be rebaptized would be answered by SLC later. I haven’t heard the outcome of that (and probably won’t).

  2. Last Lemming on July 12, 2006 at 9:38 am

    This is specualtion, but you asked for it. None of my comments directly address the issue of the officiator’s worthiness, but ultimately I don’t think that it is a relevent question. The validity of ordinances is entirely determined by the recipient and the Holy Spirit of Promise (see Clair’s comment above).

    We will be judged according to the law we have received. Your friend in Spain received a Terrestrial law and will be judged accordingly. She may indeed be forgiven of her sins, thereby avoiding a stint in hell, but will not be admitted to the Celestial Kingdom and will not be a candidate for exaltation. (It might, however, be necessary for her to accept a proxy Mormon baptism after her death. I’m still uncertain about that.)

    Had your friend been baptized into the Mormon Church and had that ordinance been sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, she would have received a Celestial law. Not only would her sins have been forgiven, she would have become a candidate for exaltation. This is fundamentally different than receiving the Terrestrial law, so there is no retroactivity involved.

    Those who feel no spiritual confirmation of the validity of their ordinances (Mormon or otherwise)have not truly “received” the associated law (just as many who are given the gift of the Holy Ghost do not truly “receive” the Holy Ghost). Their baptisms are of no effect and they remain under condemnation for their sins until such time as their ordinance is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

  3. Wacky Hermit on July 12, 2006 at 9:56 am

    My understanding of the ordinance of baptism is that it has two components: the baptism of the spirit, and the baptism of the body. The baptism of the spirit requires consent by the spirit, and the baptism of the body can be done by proxy. The ordinance is incomplete and invalid without both parts.

    In the case of someone baptized on Earth, the spirit and the body are conveniently located in the same place, so both can be done simultaneously. In the case of the dead, the physical baptism is done by proxy and the spiritual baptism, I presume, is done on the “other side”. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible for someone to have the spiritual baptism without the physical baptism, but a physical baptism would have to be performed to complete the ordinance.

    As far as when the ordinance takes effect, I think time doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think it does. Christ’s atonement, after all, occurred in the middle of time, not at the beginning or end, and yet it applies equally to all.

  4. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 10:02 am

    So I broke the venerable three-paragraph rule.

    Let me give it a stab:

    Some people have spiritual experiences while undergoing invalid, non-LDS baptism. Perhaps, because they are sincere, the ordinance is provisionally effective for them and their valid, LDS baptism, when finally performed, will be backdated to their original baptism.

    We don’t have a satisfactory reason why LDS ordinances, performed by unworthy men, are still valid. Remember, these are men whose priesthood has come to its amen. They have no authority, no more than a Methodist minister does. So why do we treat their ordinances as valid and the Methodist ordinances as not? Perhaps because we are usually uncertain about which LDS men are real priesthood holders and which aren’t, we are content to wait until such things are known in the Millennium, when the ordinances can be performed again and backdated to the original ordinance.

  5. DHofmann on July 12, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Maybe one reason multiple Priesthood holders are involved in a blessing is for redundancy, in case one or more people in the circle are unworthy. Hopefully at least one is worthy. Does it matter which of them is speaking?

  6. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 10:31 am

    …role of being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. LDS ordinances are of no effect without it…

    Though I know that this is popular in some circles of thought, this is a demonstrable (and unfortunate) expansion of scripture and the teachings of Joseph.

    An aspect that is not being considered is institutional authority. The Church is governed by the hierarchy that it is for 3 principle reasons: authority to recieve revelations for the Church, authority to govern the Church; and authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. If the institution mandates the administration of an ordinance, then it is valid, unless the constraints of the the institution are broken.

    The principles of 121 while true and eternal don’t really effect the institutional authority of the Church. Unless the principles are broken to the point of Church discipline an individual retains the authority to perform ordinances for the insitution.

  7. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 10:33 am

    …and why wouldn’t a sincere follower of Christ feal the spirit when making a commitment such non-Mormon baptism, even if it had to be rebaptized Mormon later?

  8. Clair on July 12, 2006 at 10:43 am

    4. “We don’t have a satisfactory reason why LDS ordinances, performed by unworthy men, are still valid. Remember, these are men whose priesthood has come to its amen.”

    If “many” are called, but “few” are chosen because of the disposition of “almost all men” toward unrighteous dominion, are therefore almost all LDS ordinances invalid? I don’t think so. I can’t necessarily reconcile it with scripture, but I just don’t think so. As per #3, Christ’s atonement is retroactive, which may help correct a lot of the unworthiness and “amens” of the past. Scarlet sins becoming white as snow, and such as that.

    3rd paragraph: Having said that, we should still do things in order, and correct errors of administration when we find them.

  9. Christian Y. Cardall on July 12, 2006 at 11:04 am

    If Elder Packer is right, as he expresses in The Holy Temple, that the validity of all our ordinances—not just eternal marriage—depends on the sealing power conferred by Elijah, then there must be a retroactive aspect to it to cover those ordinances performed in the years before Elijah’s visit.

    But despite the title, this post does not seem to really be about the possible retroactive nature of ordinances. On the main issue, I offer a manual trackback.

  10. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 11:14 am

    C. Cardall:
    “One approach that might resonate with Adam’s apparent interest in Catholicism might be to make a comparison with what Mormons take to be the wickedness of the doctrine of Original Sin. It seems about as likely that God would withhold the gift of the Holy Ghost from someone for a lifetime simply because the person who baptized them violated the sanctity (not really the validity) of the ordinance by doing so unworthily, as it would be for God to condemn an unbaptized infant to hell. It also seems about as likely that the First Presidency would have someone rebaptized if such unworthiness on the part of the baptizer were later discovered, as it would be for the First Presidency to have an infant baptized.”

    This doesn’t appeal to me quite the way you think, because I do think that infants will eventually be baptized. I see a conflict between the formal requirements of valid ordinances and individual fault. In former times Catholics reconciled these by condemning infants to hell despite their lack of fault. Now they just make an exception. Same with heathens who died unbaptized. With the latter, the heathens, Mormonism acknowledges the injustice of condemning them to hell despite their fault but doesn’t waive the ordinances. Mormonism’s rather elegant solution is baptism for the dead. I’ve argued elsewhere that I believe that something similar is the case with infants though it hasn’t been revealed to us yet.

    So, while I agree with you that God in justice won’t punish someone because through no fault of their own their officiator was unworthy, I don’t think that God solves the problem just by ignoring it. I believe there is probably a mechanism that allows the individual to have a formally valid ordinance, and this post is an attempt to tease out what that mechanism may be.

  11. Jim F. on July 12, 2006 at 11:23 am

    My vote is with J. Stapley–a very thoughtful answer to the question.

  12. Dave on July 12, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Three-paragraph Dave here. I think the Mormon view that earthly ordinances really, truly constrain what God can or cannot do kind of paints you in a corner here. If, instead, you think of ordinances as terrestrial requirements whose function is simply to permit orderly management of the Church and bolster faith most of the difficulties disappear. Personal worthiness (in which we all fall short of perfection) is not required for ordinances to be efficacious in the eyes of the Church as an institution, and that’s all that really matters.

    This may sound like a cynical position, but it matches my understanding of what is now done when a woman whose husband dies young requests a second eternal sealing to a second husband. Rather than standing on theological details and give her a Sophie’s Choice dilemma between husband #1 or husband #2, they just allow full sealing (rather than a second-class time-only marriage) to husband #2 and say, “God will work it all out in the end.” I like that pragmatic approach, but if you take it to the logical conclusion it suggests the ordinances are freely reprogrammable in heaven (i.e., they don’t really bind in heaven). Or maybe they are just superfluous once we stand before God to be judged on our words, actions, and intents of the heart.

  13. greenfrog on July 12, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Adam G.,

    Thanks for posing this question. I don’t have a ready response, but the question lies near the heart of much that matters to me.

  14. bbell on July 12, 2006 at 12:30 pm


    I once was involved in the conversion and baptism of an ordained Anglican minister and his family. He had similar concerns to your methodist friend. I resolved his concerns by asking him if he had a testimony that the gospel had been restored thru JS. When he answered yes I showed him Section 22 where the issue is addressed. He was then baptized along with his family.

    I believe that if a unworthy PH holder performs an ordinance the Lord will still recognize the validity of the ordinance. See comment number 1 and the HSOP. The HSOP is what actually seals an ordinace. This “sealing” as it were is between God and the person that received the ordinance.

  15. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    the second sealing only postpones the dilemma. Eventually the handwaving must stop. I think most of what we say about unworthy men purporting to perform valid ordinances is handwaving, and I’m speculating here about what might actually be behind the handwaving.
    I also think you are incorrect that my view (and the Mormon view) is that “earthly ordinances really, truly constrain what God can or cannot do.’ We see them as instituted by God himself. Rather than constraints on what he can do, they are in fact what he is doing. You are free to believe that ordinances have no eternal significance, but I cannot, since the scriptures and the prophets say otherwise in my view. You are also free to think that the requirements for ordinances give way to justice whenever there appears to be a conflict, but this doesn’t seem like the divine approach to me. A baptism-for-the-dead solution, in which both justice and the formal requirements of ordinances are served, seems more likely to me.

  16. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    Dave, I disagree with your analysis. You are talking about two seperate events. The idea of charismatic and institutional priesthood goes back to the foundation of the Church (see esp. the debates about the esoteric ordinances of the Temple). We have always struggled with the concept of a worthy priesthood holder. And as long as the institutional priesthood effectuated an ordinance, it has been considered valid, regardless of the worthiness of the administrator.

    Your second point, about the laissez faire ordinance work that we now do is born of pragmatism and as I see it stems directly from Woodruff revelation and policy change repealing the law of adoption in 1894. After that levy was broken there is no reason to even try to get it completely correct in this life.

  17. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 12:40 pm


    my question then would be why the Holy Spirit of Promise wouldn’t seal the Methodist baptism?

    Is the woman being baptized by an LDS adulterer any different from my friend being baptized by a Methodist? (1) the officiator doesn’t have authority and (2) the soul being baptized sees herself as making a covenant with God and Christ and uniting herself to their Christian community?

  18. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    my question then would be why the Holy Spirit of Promise wouldn’t seal the Methodist baptism?

    Perhaps because it doesn’t seal Mormon baptisms either.

    I wonder if this wouldn’t even be a conversation if we were in the 19th century when member and prominant church leaders were baptized scores of times in their lifetimes.

  19. bbell on July 12, 2006 at 12:48 pm


    I think you know the answers but like the discussion:)

    See section 22.

    The HSOP only comes and “Seals” “valid” baptisms as performed under the auspices of PH leaders rightly ordained despite the individual worthiness of the ordinance performing PH holder.

    Also Paul had the rebaptize some individuals in the NT.

    Its an authority issue. I do not doubt that to some degree or another the spirit can be felt at a Methodist baptism. Anytime somebody sincerely accepts Jesus its a good thing.

  20. bbell on July 12, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    J stapely. I am also familiar with practice of rebaptism in our past. It was stopped because it was considered redundent no? getting married? Get rebaptized…. etc.

    Is the idea that the HSOP “stamps ordinances with approval” current today? I once sat and heard a 90 minute lecture on the HSOP from a Seventy.

    I am open to correction if my understanding is wrong.

  21. Dave on July 12, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    J., I’m not sure you are considering the full impact of allowing some sort of ordinance clean-up work in the hereafter into the scheme of things. It undercuts both the “bind on earth, bind in heaven” notion that causes the problems posed by Adam as well as the definitive need to do vicarious ordinance work here on earth (as opposed to in the hereafter).

  22. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Hm. I agree that the ramifications are tremendous and far reaching, Dave. They are also a significant departure from Joseph’s and Brigham’s theology. I just don’t see how they change the institutional/charismatic priesthood tension that is underlayed in the original post.

    bbell, sure it is popular in some circles. I liken it to the Spirit of Elijah. There is the popular modern concept of what the Spirit of Elijah and the Holy Spirit of Promise are. Then there is Joseph’s Smith’s teachings (and the scriptures), which are very specific and don’t particularly relate to what the modern usage is. If we use the HSoP to mean the Holy Spirit, then we should just say that or at least recognize that the current usage has no basis.

  23. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    I always assume that the clean-up will be done in the Millennium. I’m unaware of any authority for unearthly ordinances.

    I know its an authority issue. I’m saying that the unworthy priesthood holder doesn’t have authority. “Amen to the authority of that man.” Section 22 is a wall of bricks, as far as I’m concerned. Opaque. Perhaps you could explain it a little? As best as I can tell, it says that some baptisms are ‘dead works,’ presumably because they’re done without authority, but others aren’t, presumably because they are done with authority. That still leaves me wondering why we accept some baptisms done without authority and not others; or, alternatively, why we treat unworthy priesthood holders as having authority though the D&C says they don’t.


    Rebaptism doesn’t solve any problems here, because presumably we’d want to claim that each one of those baptisms was a valid ordinance.

  24. Dave on July 12, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Adam, try Romans 2:25-29, where Paul explains that God is free to ignore or infer ordinances as needed to provide for just outcomes.

  25. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    So I’m thinking a little bit more about the practice of doing multiple baptisms. If a church really were Donatist (i.e., it thought unworthy men could not perform valid ordinances), it would probably start performing most ordinances multiple times, just to make sure. You’d get baptized five times, ordained five times, and so on, in hopes that at least one of the officiators was worthy and the ordinance would take. This is not the reason why the Church rebaptized back in Deseret days. But it is something that some of the comments are getting at. In blessings, for instance, if you have multiple elders participating then presumably the ordinance could still be valid for a Donatist as long as at least one of those elders were worthy.

    Take that to its logical extreme, and you end up where J. Stapley and Jim F. are. It’s not the authority of the man doing the ordinance we’re concerned with, or even the authority of all the men in the Church. Its the authority of the Church itself. So long as the Church formally recognizes a man’s authority, he has it. In this view, the scripture on ‘amen to the authority of that man’ is really about the conditions in which the church’s formal extension of authority to a man will persist into the eternities, and about when the church should formally act to withdraw authority.

  26. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I don’t think that supports your conclusion, Dave. We don’t believe that ordinances take effect regardless of the personal righteousness of the recipient, nor do we believe that circumcision is a required ordinance.

  27. bbell on July 12, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Adam its the context of section 22 that makes it relevant. See the heading People have been sincerely asking this question since 1830.

    J stapely. Yes its popular. Does this make the HSOP idea true? It rings true to me.

  28. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    J.Stapley (#16), I dispute the suggestion that the Law of Adoption has been repealed, as if man could repeal God’s laws in any event. The only thing that is changed is when it is applied. Whenever any child is adopted or sealed to his non-natural born parents, that is the Law of Adoption at work, on exactly the same eternal principles as anyone else ever being sealed to someone other than their earthly father and mother.

    What was changed, by revelation, is the presumption that ones earthly ancestors will not some day be saved and exalted to take their rightful place in the patrilineal chain (which is father-mother-father-mother-father-mother,…. in a very important sense, by the way).

    Any of those grandparents that are not saved and exalted at the last day, will be patched around by the law of adoption, adopting children to parents who were worthy, most often probably simply by skipping them and adopting them one or more generations further back, that the promises made to the fathers (and mothers) not be made void.

    Now, on the original question, I don’t think the worthiness of a priesthood holder has any effect on the efficacy of an ordain-ance such as baptism. The requirement is simply that he be duly ordained to his office, and authorized by someone holding the keys of that ordinance in his area, which means the bishop. Those keys are delegated by God himself to local key holders that they may grant specific authority unto those ordained and set apart unto an office of the priesthood to administer in heavenly things.

    In a covenantal ordinance like baptism, it does not matter if the priesthood holder is unworthy, what matters is that there was a proper chain of authority and authorization for the ordainance that extends all the way back to God himself. The proper analogy is with the civil government. Some official are authorized to perform certain acts, or to ratify certain covenants / contracts, etc. and others are not. And they typically have a domain of their jurisdiction, person or persons from whom they derive their authority and so on. On appeal, the validity of their acts does not depend on whether they were good people per se, but whether their official actions were performed according to both law and authority.

    The actions that are, are recognized both by the sovereign and all the people as carrying the force of law, in short that the officeholder was a viable proxy for the sovereign himself, in the administration of his official acts. It is called the law of agency – governmental agency in this case.

    Baptism is like a judge administering an oath of citizenship in the kingdom of God, and making certain promises on God’s behalf – making it into a covenant and not just an oath. Now one can make an oath or a less formal affirmation of loyalty to a sovereign in any circumstance, and what sovereign would not smile upon that?

    The difference in the non-LDS case is the second part is lacking, the minister is not duly authorized to administer a covenant that includes obligations on God’s part. That doesn’t mean that God will not informally bless those who seek to do his will, it means that formally he has not covenanted to grant certain blessings reserved for citizens of the kingdom of God.

    A proper covenant creates a binding obligation on both parties, when each other lives up to the specified terms and conditions. An affirmation, or pure oath on the part of anyone except God himself, does not create this kind of obligation, either on the part of the affirming party, nor on the part of anyone else (God in this case).

    The covenant is so important that it is done, even after someone has been righteous enough to receive the Holy Ghost, and even the Holy Spirit of Promise which God sheds forth on all those who are just and true. It is simply a matter of doing things in the proper order.

    John the Baptist was ordained by an angel at the age of eight. Some scriptures speak of a natural right to the priesthood by heritage, contingent upon righteousness. But no doubt John was later ordained, probably by his father, just to fulfil all righteousness, as Christ also was baptised despite having no need for remission of sins. These formalities of celestial government matter to the Lord, they are indeed what he has ordained.

    As long as a covenantal ordain-ance is performed by someone having the proper authority both by office and jurisdictional approval, it doesn’t matter – the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed and God is obligated to honor the covenant formally, and not just informally, according to his will and pleasure.

  29. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    We don’t believe that ordinances take effect regardless of the personal righteousness of the recipient…

    For the salvific and dedicatory ordinances, I would argue that we do. I would argue that we don’t only for those ordinances that rest on the foundation of spiritual (charismatic) gifts, i.e., healing and blessing.

  30. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Let me get some clarification, J. Stapley:

    Are you saying that someone who is validly baptized is sure to be saved, no matter how unrighteous they become and choose to remain?

    Are you saying that for whatever reason it is impossible for some who is validly baptized to become and choose to remain unrighteous?

    Or are you saying that a baptism is valid even if the recipient was not righteous or in the right state of mind at the time of the ordinance?

  31. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Adam, I maintain that “amen to the authority of that man” refers to priesthood authority in a fundamentally different sense than the authorization to officiate in covenantal ordinances.

    For example the natural order of the priesthood is patriarchal, or more properly speaking patrilineal. The authority of a father is conditioned upon righteousness for a variety of reasons, most importantly because neither his father (who is a proxy for the sovereign), nor his children (sons in particular, who are proxies for all their patrilineal descendants) will honor it. The authority that flows through him in any but the most formal of senses is invalid when handled on any but the principles of righteousness.

    If that condition persists, ultimately he will be spliced out, and “cast into the fire”. The Spirit does not flow through withered branches – The Spirit views unrighteousness as damage, and routes around it, to to the point of raising the informal authority higher than a formal one on a temporal basis. e.g. if a father, or both father and mother are unrighteous whoever is most righteous in a home informally becomes the spiritual leader there, because they have the spirit and the others do not.

    Now the difference with covenantal ordinances is that they are sufficiently formal that the spirit does not need to flow through the priesthood holder, i.e. the prayers are set, the baptiser has minimal discretion (it actually lies with the bishop), etc.

    It is where discretion or where particular faith is required that a person is acting according to principles of inspired direction, that the spirit must flow through the priesthood holder for the priesthood holder to be maximally effective.

    The spirit can always route around an unworthy priesthood holder, but his bishopric is ineffective because those he presides over do not feel the spirit coming from *him* – he is a superfluity, a formality at best. Even in baptism it is the best possible case when the person has complete confidence in the spirit and righteousness of the officiator, even though it is formal enough that such spirit and righteousness are not required for God to honor the covenant there entered in.

  32. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Well, within a reasonable extent, you don’t get to be re-baptized, re-anointed, or re-endowed in this life, even if you were not ready the first time through. We believe, however, that they are still valid and legal.

  33. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    J. Stapely (#30), I belive the proper doctrine is that salvific (covenantal) ordinances are mere formalities of no real effect until a person honors the terms and conditions thereof.

    A righteous person who has not yet been baptized has *far* greater claim to an inheritance at the right hand of God, and an unrighteous baptized person. The Spirit itself is witness of that.

  34. Dave on July 12, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    J., when you say we believe ordinances are “valid and legal,” is that in the eyes of the Church for earthly purposes or in the eyes of God for ultimate salvation, assuming (following Adam’s view) that God requires ordinance paperwork to be in good order before granting one’s just reward in the hereafter? It seems like the whole point of the Donatist complaint was that the earthly (Catholic) Church was accepting as “valid and legal” ordinances that were, in the Donatist view, not acceptable to God, so I’m not just quibbling here.

  35. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Indeed that is what the Holy Spirit of Promise is. It is a *promise* (not an oath, nor a formal covenant) but an informal promise that as long a person who is just and true continues as such in all humility and obedience he will eventually be saved and receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. No ordinance required prior to the fact – the ordinance formalizes the promise as a covenant, making it known unto the proper authorities and citizens of the Saints.

    “Who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true“.
    (D&C 76:53)

    “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
    Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
    (Ephesians 1:12-14)

  36. Christian Y. Cardall on July 12, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Adam (#10), I didn’t realize Catholics now make an exception for infants.

    We should try to look at real-world effects to determine the efficacy or validity of ordinances. In the case of heathen receiving vicarious baptism, the standard (though perhaps non-canonized) notion is that they remain in spirit prison, even after accepting the gospel, until the ordinances are actually performed on their behalf.

    In the case of baptisms by Methodists vs. baptisms by unworthy Mormons, I’d like to know your perspective on a real-world effect: the gift of the Holy Ghost. Does your Methodist friend have the gift of the Holy Ghost? Does someone baptized by an unworthy Mormon? If the answer to the former is “yes,� then I think you are outside the pale of orthodox Mormon understandings of priesthood authority. If the answer to the latter is “yes,� then distinguishing between ‘validity’ and ‘effectiveness’ becomes a distinction without a difference, and the whole discussion becomes a trivial and uninteresting matter of bookkeeping.

    The First Presidency is not about to knowingly leave innocent people without covenanting with God or the gift of the Holy Ghost, so the fact that they do not order rebaptism in cases of discovered unworthiness of officiators suggests that they do see a material difference between baptism by Methodists and baptism by unworthy Mormons—and therefore that their interpretation of D&C 121 is more like that in the last paragraph of my post than your interpretation.

  37. Anon on July 12, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Here’s a twist to the question: What if the ordinance never happened in the first place?

    The activity level of my wife’s family ranged all over the place while she was growing up. For a number of reasons, when she was eight, she was scheduled to be baptized, but the family left before she actually got in the water. Apparently, an overzealous clerk filed the paperwork anyway, and the official church records showed the baptism and confirmation as if they had actually happened. She didn’t know any better, and thought everything was done correctly.

    Fast forward several years later. We met, she got active, took out her endowments, and we were married and sealed in the temple. She had a nagging feeling about her membership, until one day when our branch president, when giving her a blessing felt inspired to say those words that hadn’t been pronounced more than twenty years earlier: “Receive the Holy Ghost.” As the two of them discussed why he would get that particular inspiration, they figured out it was because the original ordinances never really took place.

    When we asked the First Presidency how to resolve the issue (after all, how valid are an endowment and sealing if the person had never been baptised?), they gave her a choice. She could either continue as she was, or, if she wanted to be sure a valid baptism had taken place, she could request that her name be taken from the records of the church, and then start over from scratch.

    I’m not sure that would be the answer for everybody, but we were very surprised they would give her the option of continuing without a baptism ever having taken place.

  38. J. Stapley on July 12, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    J., when you say we believe ordinances are “valid and legal,� is that in the eyes of the Church for earthly purposes or in the eyes of God for ultimate salvation, assuming (following Adam’s view) that God requires ordinance paperwork to be in good order before granting one’s just reward in the hereafter?

    Well, if you can’t be re-baptized, re-anointed or -re-endowed, then it has to be in both, no?

  39. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Between J. Stapley’s putting the Church front-and-center instead of the officiator, and Mark Butler’s exegesis of “amen to the authority,” I think all my Donatist problems are cleared up.

    I’m still thinking that the non-LDS can enter a covenant with God by being baptized outside the church, as long as the baptism is later validated by an authoritative baptism. But this doesn’t make much difference in practice.

  40. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 3:02 pm


    If I were in charge, I would tell the authorities to correct the date of the baptism and confirmation to the date of the first baptism requiring ordinance, and then to go ahead and baptize and confirm her anyway, with special wording in the prayer of confirmation recognizing that this is a formalization of an action taken years previously.

  41. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Christian, I understand the doctrine to be that any righteous person can experience the power of the Holy Ghost, even feel the Holy Spirit of Promise that is shed forth upon all those who are just and true, but that only those confirmed can have the gift thereof, or receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion as long as they are worthy.

    As Joseph Smith said, the Holy Ghost is a revelator, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, possessed by a righteous person, no doubt entails a greater degree of revelation and companionship than that merited by righteousness alone.

    (cf. Acts 8:15-19, 3 Ne 9:20, D&C 76:53)

  42. Christian Y. Cardall on July 12, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    By the standard of D&C 84:45-53, Adam’s Methodist friend is not righteous, but groaning in sin.

  43. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    That’s not a good reading, C. Cardall.

  44. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    Christian, I disagree. I believe you have too bivalent a definition of “come unto me”, something we can tell from the next three verses:

    And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

    Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

    And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
    (D&C 84:56-58)

  45. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Adam (#39), I would say that is like the difference between dating and getting married.

  46. Christian Y. Cardall on July 12, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    A. Greenwood, what would be a good reading?

    Mark, that Church members can also be in darkness does not mean Adam’s friend is not! There is plenty of darkness to go around, you see. ;)

    The meaning of “come unto me” is plainly expressed in 3 Ne. 12:1-3: faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost at the hands of those given authority to do so. The D&C 84 passage affirms that God will lead “every one” seeking light from Him to where this authority can be found, viz., the Church established by Joseph Smith (v. 47-48), and that those who fail to do so—especially when explicitly taught—are groaning in darkness. I confess I do not see any other possible reading.

  47. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    C. Cardall,

    its the world as an entity that’s in darkness, not every single individual living in the world. And even if we accepted your reading that every single individual living in the world is in darkness, I see no reason to accept your reading that up until the moment of baptism folks don’t have righteous desires or make righteous choices. That’s layering Calvinism onto the excesses of sacramentalism.

  48. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Christian (#46),

    I am saying that the world is not black and white, even before one comes into the marvelous light, there are shades of light and truth all around. And anyone who sincerely desires to follow the gospel as taught in the New Testament has found a particularly bright shade of it, not the full light of the Church of Jesus Christ, but a lesser light of faith and repentance, which in all humility will eventually lead unto life and salvation through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Kingdom of God.

    We should be very careful not to knock the good wherever it may be found, division between light and light is the strategy of the devil. Invitation to the greater light is the strategy of Jesus Christ:

    And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
    And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
    (Luke 9:49-50)

    Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works. I have heard thy prayers, and prepared thee for a greater work.

    Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth, even as John, to prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should come, and thou knewest it not.

    Thou didst baptize by water unto repentance, but they received not the Holy Ghost;

    But now I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.
    (D&C 35:3-6)

    Is there any serious doubt that Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, and many others, for all their weaknesess, do not fall in the same category?

  49. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 12, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    I haven’t read all responses, so forgive if this is redundant.

    Question #1 How to reconcile the exclusive validity of LDS ordinances with genuine spiritual experiences that sometimes seem to accompany non-LDS ordinances?

    Sometimes I think people take steps in coming to Christ that are valid, even if not validated by a priesthood ordinance. Wilford Woodruff did all he could to receive ordinances, etc. according to the knowledge he had. I think sometimes people do the same. Combine that with people also being confused by the craftiness of men and such, and they will do what they can.

    #2 What real difference is there between a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he sinned and a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he never received it in the first place?

    I think this is an issue of power vs. authority. The power of the priesthood might still be effectual and recognized by God somehow…and the lack of authority covered by the Atonement, I would say. The person receiving the ordinance has no control over the priesthood holder’s worthiness. A person does have a choice about where to receive ordinances. Because priesthood ordinances in the Church were received by revelation, in the manner as commanded by God, and under that kind of order and authority as well, they are different in that regard when compared to other ordinances.

    3) Can an unworthy man validly stand-in for Christ by performing ordinances?
    He shouldn’t but sometimes it happens. I believe the atonement covers these types of situations, just as ordinances with mistakes are also covered (I was an ordinance worker for a while and made mistakes…but the imperfections of this world are covered by the Atonement.)

    Also, as a side note, ordinances won’t be made right in the hereafter, but in the millenium (at least as I understand it). There will still be that “on earth” component.

  50. Matt Elggren on July 12, 2006 at 4:57 pm


    I think you over-emphasize the worthiness aspect in creating this apparent dilemma. While authority can be seen as absolute, worthiness is a continuum with more or less arbitrary markers. The gray stuff of worthiness is best suited as a control for granting and rescinding authority but not as a measure of the authority itself.

  51. DKL on July 12, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    Adam: What difference is there between a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he sinned and a man performing ordinances who doesn’t hold the priesthood because he never received it in the first place?

    Authority, which transcends the man. In spite of a general state of apostasy, someone evidently had the authority to ordain John the Baptist. Eli was a corrupt priest, but his prophecy to Hannah still came true. The odds that a priest blessing the sacrament has compromised his worthiness aren’t terribly remote. Must the entire congregation pay for this? If I call my home teacher for a blessing, and he is unworthy but does it anyway, is the Lord going to begrudge me that blessing?

    But you’re right that some parity must exist with the non-ordained, but I think that it goes the other way. If the church cannot locate the record of my Melchesidec priesthood ordination, I must be re-ordained. But it doesn’t undo the sealings, endowments, etc. that I’ve done by proxy. This is true even if the reason that the church did not locate my record because (by some mistake) the ordination didn’t occur.

    In the New Testament, Jesus says that many will do miracles in his name, and in the last day he will cast them out anyway. A common Mormon tradition takes this to refer to spiritual miracle workers outside of Mormonism. Whether it applies to them, I don’t know. But I’m fairly certain that it applies to those within Mormonism who administer priesthood ordinances unworthily.

    I think, though, that it’s a mistake to suppose that the institutional tidiness that we expect is somehow reflected in the Kingdom of God. In the end, it’s up to Him whether ordinances are efficacious, not us.

    I think that there’s another interesting question: “To what degree is the priesthood of different restoration groups efficacious?” The official answer of our church is, “absolutely none.” But I think that there is a possibility that there are churches whose priesthood is power remains, albeit in some attenuated form. For example, the RLDS/CoC Church seems to be in a state of full apostasy right now. But in the beginning, Joseph III and the other founders did, in fact, hold the priesthood and they were ordained by the same people that ordained Brigham’s group. Was there any validity at all to Joseph III’s ordination of others? Was that priesthood preserved for a time in some attenuated form after his death? (as it may have been with at least one priesthood holder in the days of John the Baptist?) Perhaps not, but I do have a wild fantasy that God smiles on Joseph’s descendants, and that bias leads me to believe that maybe (but only just maybe) it is not that simple.

  52. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Ooh, DKL, you just gave me an idea. Post to follow.

  53. sideline on July 12, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    Many people enter the temple unworthily everyday. No doubt everyone here knows someone who has a temple recommend for cultural reasons and does not believe or believes but commits actions worthy of excommunication and still goes to the temple. Will those who they proxy for be denied?

    One thing that drew me to the church was that it gave everyone, even those who had died an opportunity accept or reject the gospel and have valid ordinances done. What you pose here is that may not be true. The what ifs are endless as are the potential pitfalls and solutions. This is another example of why I no longer believe. People say the gospel is simple. It really isn’t, is it?

  54. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    DKL (#54), I don’t think you can make a good argument that Zacharias did not hold the priesthood of Aaron through a chain of proper authority. The Jews as a people were certainly largely apostate from the time of Moses to the time of Christ. The scriptures tell as much.

    But there is not as convincing evidence that the high priests of the Aaronic priesthood taught doctrines to the people sufficiently corrupt to invalidate the chain. And even then, the descendants of Aaron had a natural right to the priesthood, on conditions of righteousness. Presumably, as the son of the high priest, John the Baptist was one of those descendants through the patrilineal line.

    Nonetheless, John the Baptist was probably ordained twice, either that or he was set apart (which is a practical synonym for ordain) for a very special mission, an event that occured at the age of eight days:

    And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

    Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.

    For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.
    (D&C 84:26-28)

    Note that the scripture implies that John held something greater than the priesthood of Aaron, hence the angel.

  55. Christian Y. Cardall on July 12, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    Adam (#47), I don’t find the world groaning in sin, but not the individuals, particularly compelling; but I agree that people who are by and large ‘righteous’ have some sinful thoughts and acts, and conversely that people who are by and large ‘groaning under sin and darkness’ have some righteous thoughts and acts.

    Look, as I said in my post I’m with you on the possibility of a real but isolated spiritual experience in connection with an unauthorized baptism. However, since baptism by authority for the remission of sins is pretty basic Mormon stuff, I’m a little surprised that a scripture describing its rejection as leaving one “under the bondage of sin” would be controversial. Not too surprised, though, since I understand the impulse for your friend to be ‘okay,’ and share it. I just don’t think the Restoration allows for the view that your friend can be sanctified in Christ prior to accepting baptism into the Church. Doesn’t mean she never will be; just that she isn’t now.

    DKL (#51), that’s where the keys come in, the right to direct what official acts can be performed by people who have been ordained to the priesthood can do. Authority may transcend individual men, as you say, but according to D&C 132 it doesn’t transcend those at the top with the keys. As for John the Baptist, D&C 84:28 says he was ordained by an angel of God.

    Generally speaking, I’m not necessarily against the sort of feel-good ecumenical sentiment on display here. I’m just saying that such thinking is outside of the Restoration, and we should admit it if pressed.

  56. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    I don’t want to argue with you too much, C. Cardall, because I’m a believer in the Restoration myself. I think our baptism is the one baptism. I just want to note that the verses you cite don’t talk about rejecting Mormon baptism, they talk about rejecting Christ. When a soul does not know that the Mormon baptism is Christ’s baptism, rejecting Mormon baptism is not rejecting Christ.

  57. Mark Butler on July 12, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Christian (#55), I believe the idea that one must be baptized for the remission of sins is an incorrect doctrine. Remission of sins is a side effect of the reception of the Holy Ghost, baptism per se is only instrument in bringing remission to those who exercise sufficient faith unto its reception. No faith unto repentance, no remission.

    Now as I have mentioned, it is possible for the just and true to feel the power of the Holy Ghost and receive of the Holy Spirit of Promise even prior to the formal ordinance of baptism.

    And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

    Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin. Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.
    (3 Ne 9:20-21)

    Jesus Christ is a pretty good authority on the subject, I think. Baptism by water, has other purposes, mostly covenantal purposes, of course, which we have lately discussed at NCT. Mosiah 18 is probably the best reference on those.

    Notice the comparable, rather unconventional causality in D&C 20:37:

    And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.
    (D&C 20:37, second emphasis added)

    These two witnesses are more than adequate enough, I submit, to demonstrate that one can receive a remission of their sins through sincere faith and repentance alone. The primary purpose of baptism is quite different:

    And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

    Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

    Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

    And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.
    (Mosiah 18:8-11)

    Notice that Alma does not even mention remission of sins, per se, in this list, though remission of sins is certainly a consequence of the justification by faith that should properly precede baptism. Otherwise the baptized person will not feel the Spirit, nor receive the Holy Ghost the way he should, until he completes his repentance and acquires the necessary faith in Jesus Christ and his holy name.

  58. DKL on July 12, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Mark and Christian, I’m not really advancing an argument, just posing a hypothetical with regard to priesthood and such.

    Mark, I don’t have any beef with your assessment of John the Baptists keys. I’d just advise you not to get too comfortable with it, since one of the only things to recommend it is that it agrees with our 21st century Mormon notions of authority (i.e., it has no obvious basis in recorded history). It’s clear that in some cases, at least, failing to follow Brigham was not taken as a sign of apostasy. If I recall correctly, Emma was never released from being Relief Society President, and Eliza Snow was not called as the new president until after Emma’s death.

    Christian, I don’t think that introducing keys changes the nature of the problem. There ended up being leaders in the RLDS church who received keys of the same authority as the apostle’s who followed Brigham. So my hypothetical can be advanced by rephrasing it to ask whether the keys continued to maintain any power, albeit attenuated.

  59. Bookslinger on July 12, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    The Lord can bless whoever he wants, however he wants, whenever he wants. According to several examples in the scriptures, one doesn’t need a valid ordinance to receive many of the possible blessings.

    Lamoni, Lamoni’s father, and Cornelius all received grand outpourings of the Spirit prior to their baptism. Naaman the Syrian, a non-Israelite, was cleansed of leprosy. Two men prophesied, who weren’t of the 70 elders, someone complained to Moses about them, and Moses said he wished everyone were a prophet.

    My point is that just because blessings and very good spiritual feelings are given by the Lord, and the Lord lets the individual know that he is “well pleased” it doesn’t mean that the ordinance performed by a non-priesthood-holder/non-member was/is valid per se. I think it basically means that the Lord is pleased with your efforts, and that you are headed in the right direction, and that you “done good.” It doesn’t mean you’re perfect, or you did perfect, but you did the best you could at that time, and the Lord was pleased with your faith, attitude, actions, words, intentions, decisions, etc., within the framework of the existing conditions.

    In 1972 I was standing in Rex Humbard’s “Cathedral of Tomorrow” in Akron Ohio when I went through a process and event that I still refer to as “accepting Christ as my savior”. I will never forget the seeking that I went through, the feelings and revelation that I received, and the decisions I made that day. Before that day I was an agnostic. Ever since that day I’ve been a believer in God and Jesus Christ. I know that the Lord was pleased with my decision to follow him that day. I was on a spiritual high for weeks. However, I never, even back then, took it to mean that Rex Humbard was “the” or “an” official representative of the Lord, or that the Cathedral of Tomorrow was the Lord’s official church. My little “transaction” was between me and the Lord and his Spirit.

    A few weeks later, some other students who had recently gone through that experience then received a grand outpouring of the Spirit in a private prayer meeting. At the time of that particular prayer meeting, all of us were at least 2 years away from finding the true church, and I was 10 years away from finding the true church. Yet, during that grand outpouring of the Spirit, all or most of us present (including me) went from believing in the Lord, to knowing that the Lord lived. The Spirit somehow burned that knowledge into us. Very accurate descriptions of what happened in that prayer meeting can be found in the Book of Mormon and in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, even more accurate than what’s in the Bible.

    Most of the students at that prayer meeting went on to join the Lord’s only authorized and official church.

    So to me, whether or not the Lord “counted” the immersion in water that I received in the Cathedral of Tomorrow as a valid baptism, is moot. At the time, I did the best I could with the knowledge that I had back then. I was sincere in seeking and believing back then. The Lord let me know he was pleased by the outpouring of the Spirit; and eventually all those things helped me recognize his official church when I got around to investigating it.

    A more important question to me, in my current status, is when I’m re-baptized, does that become my official baptism, or does it
    undo the undoing of my first authorized baptism and make my first baptism valid again? :-)

  60. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 2:39 am

    DKL (#58), Your statement about apostasy seems to sustain what I said, not contradict it – i.e. that Zacharias held the priesthood of Aaron. The point about the angel was first, that he ordained (set apart) John the Baptist to a specific mission, according to the scripture, and second that the phrase “until John” implies that somehow John received the Melchizedek priesthood. Whether it was the angel or not is hypothetical.

    As far as evidence goes, a canonized statement of a prophet is good enough to more than settle the question for me, unless there is clearly credible contradictory evidence. The doubts of scholars don’t qualify as evidence in my book. In any case, Joseph Smith once said that no one was ever damned for believing too much, but rather for believing too little.

  61. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 13, 2006 at 2:52 am

    Joseph Smith once said that no one was ever damned for believing too much, but rather for believing too little.

    Do you have the reference for this quote? I like it! :)

  62. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 3:01 am

    Here you go:

    I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief
    (Joseph Smith, Sermon in the Grove,
    June 16, 1844, TPJS, p. 374)

  63. DavidH on July 13, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    “A more important question to me, in my current status, is when I’m re-baptized, does that become my official baptism, or does it
    undo the undoing of my first authorized baptism and make my first baptism valid again?”

    As I understand it, only the original baptism date will appear on the membership record. Given the Lord’s remembering our confessed and forsaken sins no more, I suspect that is how He sees it also.

  64. Christian Y. Cardall on July 13, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Adam (#56): rejecting Mormon baptism is not rejecting Christ. Again, a noble sentiment I can understand, but which I am afraid conflicts with scripture—not only because of the clear definition of “come unto me” in 3 Ne. 12:1-3 I quoted earlier and preceding verses in the D&C 84:45-53 passage, but also because of the principle in v. 36 of the same section and a few other places, that accepting the Lord’s servants is accepting him. Luke 10:16 has a strong expression of the converse as well (i.e. rejecting his servants is rejecting Him).

    Mark (#57), I disagree about whether baptism is necessary for the remission of sins, but there are some interesting aspects I’ll try to put in a separate post.

    DKL (#58), I have something to learn about Nauvoo history… the claim I always heard was that the keys of the kingdom were bestowed on the Twelve. Who else?

    Bookslinger‘s experience (#59) seems like a perfect example of the playing-out of D&C 84:45-53.

  65. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Again, I disagree with your reading. I don’t see that rejecting the servants can be subjective rejecting of Christ unless one has some glimmering that they are Christ’s servants. And I’m not sure that turning down a challenge to be baptized is the same as rejecting servants.

  66. Mary B on July 14, 2006 at 10:53 am

    I have found that sometimes the Acts 19:1-7 helps in the answering of this question. It chronicles Paul’s interaction with a group of people who had recognized the truth of the baptism that John the Baptist taught (a good and righteous thing, inspired of God) and had accepted it, but had not yet become aware of the further truth that Jesus was the Messiah that John had prophesied would come and that baptism by Jesus’ apostles would allow them to receive the gift of the holy ghost.

    Here’s the passage. 1 AND it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, _2_ He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. _3_ And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. _4_ Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. _5_ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. _6_ And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. _7_ And all the men were about twelve.

    Rather than say “but I’ve already been baptized and that one should count” they chose to be baptized anew, affirming their new understanding of further truth from God beyond what they had hitherto received and receiving the further blessings that came from receiving this ordinance by messengers who (like John and his disciples) were inspired by God, but who had further light and knowledge and gifts from God (beyond what John was given) to impart to those who would receive it. (John, as you know, died before the gift of the Holy Ghost was given to anyone and had baptized many people, admonishing them to believe on the Messiah which was to come, before he recognized that Jesus was that Messiah. He had numerous good disciples who also spread word of his work and teachings and likely these were the source of the information that the disciples in Ephesus had.)

    Many investigators fear that accepting baptism by the authority of God’s church on earth requires that they deny that there was anything of God in their previous baptismal experience. That isn’t the case. In Acts 19, there is none of that. Their acceptance of baptism from Paul is simply a reaffirmation of previous commitment plus additional commitment to further light and knowledge that they have received from Paul, the Lord’s messenger to them. That new baptism is what opens the door for them to receive the gift (the holy ghost) that God has given Paul to give to them. The point isn’t that the previous baptism wasn’t “authorized” or good. The point is that the new baptism is a manifestation of the person’s increased understanding of and commitment to truth and brings specific blessings at the hands of those whom the Lord has ordained (authorized, given the ability, etc.) to give those blessings.

    Perhaps this will be helpful sometime.

  67. Dan Richards on July 14, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    I recently encountered the following situation: Mrs. X hired Attorney Y to represent her in a lawsuit against an insurance company. She was upset and dissatisfied with Attorney Y’s performance, and sent him a letter firing him as her attorney. She also sent a copy of the letter to the insurance company. Not many days later, Attorney Z, who represented the insurance company, contacted Mrs. X, arranged a meeting, and at that meeting took her deposition without any counsel for Mrs. X being present. Did Attorney Z violate the rule of professional conduct that proscribes contact between a lawyer and an adverse party represented by counsel?

    Answer: yes. Although Mrs. X had fired Attorney Y, he was still her attorney of record, until relieved or replaced by order of the court. Although he could no longer bill her for any services or speak on her behalf, the attorney-client relationship continued as to third parties. As to Mrs. X, the relationship had been severed.

    Likewise, if a man is unworthy to exercise his priesthood, the agency relationship between him and God is severed. But as to third parties, the man is a priesthood holder, and those third parties may rely that designation.

  68. Bookslinger on July 15, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Good comparison and analysis about a representative’s relation to third parties.

    Another point about when rejecting the Lord’s servants (or missionaries) is or is not tantamount to rejecting the Lord is whether those particular servants/missionaries are speaking with the Spirit. If a representative of the Lord is not speaking or preaching by the Spirit, it is not of the Lord, and therefore rejecting such a message or messenger might not be the same as rejecting the Lord. D&C 50:17-18

    Even the next two verses, 19-20, indicate that if the listener is not receiving the word by the Lord’s Spirit (Spirit of truth), it is still not of God. In the latter case, it seems to imply so even if it was preached by the Spirit.

    These verses, especially the latter two, seem to me to support Adam’s point that if the listeners don’t recognize the speakers as the Lord’s servants, then rejecting them is not tantamount to rejecting the Lord. Only if the message is both preached and received by the Spirit does it “count.”

    17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
    18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
    19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
    20 If it be some other way it is not of God.

  69. Mark Butler on July 15, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    Dan (#67),

    I don’t think that is a plausible argument. There is typically no persistent relationship between the person receiving an ordinance and the priesthood holder. The relationship that matters is between the priesthood holder and the Church.

    In other words, the ordinance is valid as long as the Church authorizes the priesthood holder to do so. The whole principle of agency is that God delegates authority to the Church which then delegates authority to the priesthood holder. God does not invalidate ordinances unless the Church does. That is the whole point of the law of agency with regard to the priesthood. No matter how unworthy, the priesthood holder is duly authorized to act in certain formal ways, with the Bishop’s endorsement.

    Unless God withdraws the priesthood authority from the Church and/or the Church withdraws the priesthood authority from the man, he is a valid agent in those respects where he has been duly authorized to act. Worthiness is immaterial for such formalities until the Church notices and acts upon it, e.g. by refusing to authorize somebody to conduct a particular ordinance. Being a Priest is not enough – you need the Bishop’s or Branch President’s endorsement.

  70. Adam Greenwood on August 24, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    An interesting discussion, with some good quotes from Dan Petersen, here:

  71. Jason Richards on November 3, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    Mark Butler (#69), I’m surprised at you!

    The Church does not, can not, never has, never will have the authority to “authorize[ a] priesthood holder to do” anything. Only one holding keys may do that. “The Church” is a useful organization that exists around, near, and to support those who hold the keys; but Priesthood holders organized the Church and not the other way around. In fairness, you eventually get to that point at the end of your post when you say “Being a Priest is not enough — you need the Bishop’s or Branch President’s endorsement.”

    It all goes back to the one who holds the keys. That and to the one who records the ordinance. Unless and until it is recorded on earth and in heaven, it is not valid. That’s why we watch those who hold the keys and possess the ‘Book of Remembrance.’

  72. gene rogers on April 13, 2008 at 1:07 am

    i have a question

    my wife and i do not remember at the time of baptism being asked to hold our hand to the square and making
    promises while doing so before we were baptised

    please clear this up

    thank you


Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.