en English

Rebaptism

Rebaptism?

A November 21, 2015, blog posted by Denver Snuffer alleges that in the early days of the restoration, rebaptism was a way to renew baptismal covenants. In support of this theory, he quotes entries from Wilford Woodruff’s journal for March 20 and 27, 1842:

[March 20] President Smith informed the congregation that he should attend to the ordinance of Baptism in the river near his house, at 2 o’clock; and at the appointed hour the bank of the Mississippi was lined with a multitude of people, and President Joseph Smith went forth into the river and baptized with his own hands 80 persons, for the remission of their sins; and what added joy to the scene was, that the first person baptized was Mr. L.D. Wasson, a nephew of Mrs Emma Smith; the first of her kindred that have embraced the fulness of the Gospel.[1]

[March 27] After meeting closed the congregation again assembled upon the bank of the river & Joseph the seer went into the river & Baptized all that Came unto him & I considered it my privilege to be Baptized for the remission of my sins for I had not been since I first Joined the Church in 1833. I was then Baptized under the hands of Elder Zerah Pulsipher. Therefore I went forth into the river & was Baptized under the hands of JOSEPH THE SEER & likewise did Elder J Taylor & many others & Joseph. [2]

Snuffer then concludes: “In just these two journal entries we see rebaptism was taught and practiced by Joseph Smith, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. If other contemporaneous records are consulted it is clear that rebaptism was universal in the early days of Mormonism. It was not the sacrament that renewed baptismal covenants, but rebaptism.”[3]

Several observations indicate that Snuffer’s conclusions are in error.

Rebaptisms in the Early Church

Rebaptisms were performed on many occasions in the nineteenth century Church,[4] but the claim that “rebaptism was universal” during the Nauvoo era is not supported:

  1. All members during Joseph’s time were not rebaptized; it was not universal.
  2. Rebaptisms were performed for some members who wished to publicly demonstrate a rededication to their covenants, but there is insufficient data to indicate that it could even be termed a common practice.
  3. Rebaptisms were performed for several purposes including for renewed health. In these instances, rebaptisms were not connected with baptismal covenants.
  4. There is no ordinance of rebaptism described in the scriptures. Only one baptism ordinance is needed for exaltation (see D&C 76:51). Paul explained there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5; see also Mosiah 18:21) meaning one form of valid baptism, but also the need for only one such ordinance. Joseph did not preach against this pattern.
  5. Joseph never indicated that rebaptism was preferable to other methods of rededication by worthy members to one’s covenants with God.

Snuffer is going beyond the evidence in this claim.

The Sacrament as a Renewal of Covenants

Snuffer states, “It was not the sacrament that renewed baptismal covenants.” This is false.

As Elder Anderson recently pointed out in a training seminar, the phrase “renewing our baptismal covenants” is not found in our scriptures, but “it is not inappropriate.”[5] Other phrases in scripture indicate that in partaking of the sacrament we do make covenants similar to those made through baptism:

Baptismal Covenants Sacrament Covenants

(D&C 20:77)

Mosiah 21:35 “as a witness and a testimony” “witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father”
Mosiah 18:10 “keep his commandments” “keep his commandments”
2 Ne. 31:14 “willing to keep my commandments”
Moro. 6:3 “took upon them the name of Christ” “they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son”
D&C 20:37 “willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ”
3 Ne. 18:11 “that ye do always remember me” “always remember him”
Mosiah 18:10 “that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them”
3 Ne. 12:2 “for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost”

 

Multiple references show a close relationship between baptism and the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:5, 11, 30; D&C 20:68), undoubtedly due to the fact that they involve the same types of covenant-making with God.

The Sacrament Is More Than a Renewal of Baptismal Covenants

Partaking the sacrament can help remind us of all the covenants we have made with the Lord whether they were made through baptism or in the temple.

According to Elder Neil L. Andersen:

“Spirituality is not stagnant and neither are covenants. And hopefully what we pray is that all of us as members are moving along a progressive growth both in our spirituality and in our covenants. Covenants not only bring commitment but they bring spiritual power. We should teach our members moving toward our Heavenly Father. The sacrament is a beautiful time to not just renew our baptismal covenants but to commit to Him to renew all our covenants—all our promises —and to approach Him in a spiritual power that we did not have previously as we move forward.”[6]

The sacrament is powerful in reminding us of covenants that go beyond the entry ordinance of baptism—something the rebaptism could not accomplish.

Further Context from Wilford Woodruff’s Journal

Snuffer neglects to further describe what happened after the rebaptisms on March 20 and 27, 1842:

[March 20] After baptism the congregation again repaired to the g[rove] to the ordinance of confirmation; and, notwithstanding, President Smith had spoken in the open air to the people, and stood in the water and baptized about 80 persons, about 50 of those baptized received their confirmation under his hands.[7]

[March 27] We then again repaired to the place of meeting near the Temple & Elder Taylor & myself was confirmed by the laying on of hands. We then commenced confirming others who had been baptized. I confirmed about 20.[8]

After their rebaptisms, many of the individuals were re-confirmed.

Using the logic that rebaptism renews baptismal covenants, are we to believe that re-confirmation equally renews confirmation?

Does Denver Snuffer also encourage reconfirmation?

A better interpretation may be that these rebaptisms were not needed repetitions of ordinances but rather practices permitted by priesthood leaders at that time and place.

No scripture or other prophetic pronouncement declares a universal need for these reperformances or any eternal benefit from such.

Lack of Authority

Where does the authority implemented by Snuffer and his followers to rebaptized come from?

Whether discussing baptism or rebaptism in the early Church, a common element in these rites was that the man ministering held priesthood authority.

In the Book of Mormon, Ammon found the people of Limhi and taught them of the need for baptism (Mosiah 7:1–14): “And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant” (Mosiah 21:33).

Valid priesthood authority is needed. It is not apparent how Denver Snuffer and his followers have obtained priesthood authority to perform rebaptisms as Snuffer has been excommunicated.

Heber C. Kimball explained: “When a man loses his membership in this Church, he also loses his Priesthood.”[9]

The Church discontinued the practice of rebaptism of worthy members in the early twentieth century deeming it unnecessary and subordinate to other forms or remembering and honoring covenants.

If a man performing rebaptisms is still a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, any rebaptisms he performs without permission of the man who presides over all priesthood, President Thomas S. Monson (see D&C 107:65, 91).

In either case, valid priesthood authority is absent.

To summarize, rebaptisms do not renew baptismal covenants (unless the person has been excommunicated and is rejoining the Church), are unnecessary, and are unauthorized today.


 

 

[1] Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898. 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:163. See also Times and Seasons, 3:752–53.

[2] Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898. 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:165.

[3] Denver Snuffer, “Rebaptism,” accessed November 21, 2015, http://denversnuffer.com/2015/11/rebaptism-2/.

[4] See Jennifer Ann Mackley, Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine (Seattle: High Desert Publishing 2014), 59, 120–21, 132–34, 143–45, 268–72.

[5] General Authority Training DVD Presentation on Sabbath Day Observance, April 2015.

[6] General Authority Training DVD Presentation on Sabbath Day Observance, April 2015.

[7] Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898. 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:163.

[8] Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898. 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:165.

[9] Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 3:269.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This