Mission leaders are in a position to help the Church’s full-time missionaries truly understand the ordinance and covenant of baptism and its accompanying fruits, taught Elder Marcus B. Nash at the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders.
In his opening-day message on Thursday, June 24, the General Authority Seventy and Missionary Department executive director called on the new mission leaders participating in the three-day online seminar to help cultivate missionaries to match the message.
“Teach your missionaries to understand baptism,” he said. “Teach them that because of Christ, His priesthood authority, and the Holy Ghost, baptism is sacred, joyous, liberating, sanctifying. …
“If you and the missionaries you lead understand the ordinance and covenant of baptism, that understanding will forever change you, the missionaries, and those they teach. Together, you will gather Israel and prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
Baptism of the water and of the Spirit
After briefly reviewing baptism’s integral role in the plan of salvation and the Savior’s example in being baptized, Elder Nash underscored the two parts of the saving ordinance — baptism of water and of the Spirit.
Baptism in water by immersion by one holding the holy priesthood represents, among other things, a natural woman or man being buried and then being born again into a new life, becoming a new creature in Christ, he said.
And the subsequent confirmation by the laying on of hands of a priesthood holder and the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost serves as the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, he added.
“The Holy Ghost sanctifies us and breathes spiritual life into our souls. He teaches, reproves, instructs and brings all things to our remembrance. He comforts us, deepens our joys, inspires, reveals, testifies and purifies. The Holy Ghost’s sanctifying power makes us more whole, more holy, more like God.”
Qualifying to be baptized
Detailing the Lord’s revealed qualifications for baptism in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, Elder Nash said the standard for baptism is not perfection, emotional or spiritual maturity or deep gospel knowledge.
“But it does require a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” he continued. “This is so, for the miracle of receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost and becoming like God starts with, and requires, that kind of heart and spirit. …
“True spiritual rebirth only happens with the convergence of personal humility and the power of God manifest through the Holy Ghost. The convergence point is baptism.”
The covenant and blessings of baptism
Those who are baptized promise to take the name of Christ upon themselves, to comfort and serve others, to stand as a witness of Christ at all times and in all things and in all places, to always remember Him and to keep His commandments.
In return, God promises to remit one’s sins, to give the companionship of the Holy Ghost, to grant membership in the Church of Christ and to bestow the power of godliness needed in order to inherit eternal life.
“The covenant of baptism is not a self-improvement program,” said Elder Nash, adding, “We agree to live according to the prescribed pattern of discipleship. In return, we receive the Holy Ghost so that we can be spiritually reborn.”
Missionaries to match the message
To match the message of the gospel, missionaries must experience the joy, peace and spiritual rebirth that comes to those who are baptized of the water and the Spirit and who partake of the sacrament thoughtfully and worthily, Elder Nash said. A spiritually reborn missionary will teach the doctrine with authenticity and with love and power.
“A missionary who tastes the fruit of baptism in his or her own life is better able to help others taste, see and know what the missionary tastes, sees and knows. This kind of missionary will desire from the heart to set goals and make plans to bring those they teach to be baptized and enjoy the blessings of baptism, knowing that it will stretch him or her to influence more of our Father’s children.”
When missionaries match the message, they have greater power in their teaching and ministry, he added. “By word and deed they demonstrate to the person they teach what it means to be spiritually reborn. This helps the new convert start on the gospel path ‘in the right way’ and to stay ‘in the right way’ (Moroni 6:4).”
‘I am the vine, ye are the branches’
Elder Nash cited the Lord teaching His disciples that “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5) and then likened the process of grafting a branch into the vine to conversion.
“It is by the covenant of baptism that the branch is bound to the vine so that the branch and vine become one, the branch receiving life-sustaining sustenance and power from the vine and producing fruit,” Elder Nash said. “Keeping the covenants binds each of us who have been baptized to the vine, and the vine — the Savior — brings life to us, enabling us to bear much precious fruit.”
Additional ordinances and covenants help provide increasing strength and result in multiplied fruit. As missionaries invite people to be baptized, they should have the end in mind, as taught by President Russell M. Nelson in his first message after being set apart in January 2018 as the new President of the Church.
“The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of God — that of eternal life,” President Nelson said. “The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary.”