[I am traveling for the 4th annual Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference — please excuse the delay in posting this.]
From the beginning of Mormonism, Baptism has been a central focus of our preaching. Baptism must be done in the correct manner and by the correct authority, and should be followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And this is the focus of the second lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society.
Of course, our baptisms have always been accompanied by hymns, and the following hymn appeared in Emma Smith’s first hymnal in 1835 and in subsequent hymnals through 1841, but disappeared thereafter. It was likely sung at baptisms during the first decade of Mormonism (perhaps even the baptism of Lorenzo Snow).
Who wrote this poem is not known. None of the early hymnals indicate an author nor does the Evening and Morning Star. But this hymn also doesn’t turn up in the collections of any other denomination or religious body, so its author could have been Mormon.
- Come, ye children of the kingdom,
- Sing with me for joy to day;
- Gather round, as Christ’s disciples,
- Kneel with grateful hearts and pray.
- There’s a line contain’d in Matthew
- What the Savior said to John1,
- And the sacred words from heaven;
- This is my beloved Son.
- As ’twas said to Nicodemus,
- So I must be born again;
- ‘Tis by water and the Spirit
- I the promise may obtain.
- So I will obey the Savior,
- Keep his law and do his will,
- That I may enjoy forever,
- Happiness on Zion’s hill.
Evening and Morning Star, April 1833
As poetry this is quite simple and straightforward. Even doctrinally, the poem focuses on baptism to the exclusion of any other doctrines. The message is clear: baptism is a commandment, so be baptized.
Of course, today much more is said about baptism, as anyone who has thought about what should be said in a baptismal talk knows. We describe the symbolism of the ordinance, we talk about the atonement and baptism’s role in our salvation, and we talk about much more. Perhaps the fact that this hymn doesn’t say much more is why it was dropped from the hymnal.
Still, I suppose there is something to be said for this simple approach. We have been told to be baptized. So we should do so. If you believe in this commandment and those who have the authority to baptize, its really simple enough, isn’t it?