Literary BMGD #19: Baptism

May 7, 2012 | one comment
By
Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

I think the most significant event in Mosiah 18-24 is the baptism of Alma and his followers in the Waters of Mormon. There we find the great description of the Baptismal covenant, in which those baptized

…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…

This event led me to a poem by Parley P. Pratt about Baptism, a hymn that seeks to encourage non-members to partake of the ordinance.

Baptism was first published in the very first issue of the Millennial Star, the monthly Church periodical in England. Immediately after publishing the first issue of the Star, Pratt was charged with producing a hymnal and other books needed for regular Church meetings there. Under the title Repent Ye Gentiles All this hymn was included, and it appeared in LDS hymnals until the 1927 hymnal, used until it was replaced in 1948. I’m not sure why it was dropped from the hymnal–it seems as doctrinally sound as other hymns.

.

Baptism

by Parley P. Pratt

Repent ye Gentiles all,
And come and be baptiz’d;
It is the Saviour’s call,
He’s spoken from the skies,
And sent the message we declare,
His second coming to prepare.
Be buried with your Lord,
And rise divinely new,
‘Tis his eternal word—
The ancient path pursue,
The promised blessing now secure,
The Spirit’s seal, for ever sure.
Ye souls with sin distress’d,
Who fain would find relief;
Come, on his promise rest,
He will assuage your grief,
He’ll send the Spirit from on high,
When with the gospel you comply.
Come be adopted in,
With Israel’s chosen race,
And wash away your sins,
The promised blessing taste;
The covenant stands for ever sure,
To all who to the end endure.

Millennial Star, v1 n1
May 1840

.

There are a couple of intriguing things in the hymn that might sound a little strange to the modern LDS ear. The first line of the second stanza, “Be buried with your Lord” sounds a bit protestant (Baptist, I assume)—the only time that the phrase has been used in General Conference in the past 50 years is when someone has died and was buried with an object, or when quoting Paul (Colossians 2:12 or Romans 6:4). The first line of the last stanza, “Come be adopted in” refers to a concept that isn’t emphasized much today (adoption into the House of Israel has been mentioned in Conference just a handful of times since 1950).

But even in the “buried with your Lord” line, as well as in many other lines of the poem, we can read echoes of the description of baptism in Mosiah. Alma’s initial baptism is described as being “buried in the water” (Mosiah 18:14). Baptism is described as a ‘covenant’ (v 13), just as it is in the poem’s next to last line. And the idea that those who are baptized will “keep his commandments” (v 10) appears in the last line of the third stanza, “When with the gospel you comply.”

Of course, to a degree these are all ideas that we might expect of an LDS poem about baptism today; but they weren’t quite as well understood when Pratt penned these lines in 1840. And they served as part of Mormon practice and culture for more than 100 years.

And as an adjunct to a lesson like this one, I think these lines may have some life in them yet.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to Literary BMGD #19: Baptism

  1. Sonny on May 8, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Thank you, Kent.