Baptism of Jesus Christ

by J. Philip Schaelling

At the commencement of his public ministry, Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan, where he was baptized by John the Baptist. He did thereby "humble himself before the Father" and witness to him "that he would be obedient to him" (2 Ne. 31:7). For Latter-day Saints this event shows that Jesus by his own example taught that all people must be baptized by immersion by one having authority. All persons must also receive the Holy Ghost in order to obtain the testimony of Jesus (see John 1:32-34; Rev. 1:2; 19:10) and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was baptized by immersion by John, who was ordained when eight days old by an angel of God to "make straight the way of the Lord" (D&C 84:28). As Jesus came up out of the water, John saw the heavens open and the spirit of God descending upon Jesus (see Dove, Sign of), and the voice of God the Father declared to John, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Thereafter John bore record that Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:33-34; D&C 93:15-17). At the baptism of Jesus all three members of the Godhead were manifest, thus revealing the separate identities of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Many have wondered why Jesus needed baptism, since he was without sin. Some have seen this as "an act of simple submissive obedience on the part of the Perfect One" (A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [reprinted, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1971], p. 280); others have suggested that Jesus still faced "a possibility of a subtle sin: the sin of shrinking from what might lie ahead" and thus was baptized to fortify himself with "utter consecration" and to express to his nation "the urgency of commitment" (Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 8, p. 78).

However, Latter-day Saints understand from the Bible and the Book of Mormon that Jesus was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness," which means that Jesus humbled himself before the Father, witnessed to the Father that he would obey him, and thereby showed mankind the narrowness of the gate leading to eternal life (2 Ne. 31:6-9). In submitting to baptism Jesus "set the example" for all mankind, for if Jesus, being holy, was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness…how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized?" (2 Ne. 31:5; see also AF, chap. 6). Those who follow his example and his gospel with full purpose of heart, with honesty before God, and "with real intent, repenting of [their] sins," are promised that they will receive the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and be able to "speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises" to God (2 Ne. 31:13).

Bibliography

Farley, S. Brent. "The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus." In Studies in Scripture, ed. K. Jackson and R. Millet, Vol. 5, pp. 175-87. Salt Lake City, 1986.

McConkie, Bruce R. The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 1, pp. 399-404. Salt Lake City, 1979.