Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baptism, Sacrament, and the Atonement

This is the second in a series of posts answering questions by a non-member who has only recently started learning about Mormonism. The actual question has been changed and converted from others for a better explanation.

The word sacrament is used specifically and only to refer to Eucharist. The Eucharist (sacrament) is done in regular meeting houses. Is the implication that of the 7 traditional sacraments, the only one recognized by Mormons is the Eucharist?

Any time a person visits the Sunday worship meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they go away with a few observations. Preaching doesn't come from a Pastor or Priest, but the general membership. Men or women from the congregation (called a Ward) will get up to the pulpit near where the leadership sits and deliver a talk based on a religious topic. Music used for religious hymns is a mix of traditional Protestant and a few Mormon specific songs, with a single organ for accompaniment. Somewhere between the announcements and the talks will be the blessing of bread and (uniquely) water that Mormons call the Sacrament, but recognizable as a Eucharist.

Other Christian denominations, especially the Catholic Church, recognize a number of Sacraments. There are seven famous ones with the first set as Christian initiation called Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Mormons also perform these three rites and are of similar function, although the last one is called Sacrament. The other Christian sacraments of Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony can be found in Mormonism with various degrees of importance. The term Mormons would use for the performing of rites and rituals of religious importance would be "ordinances," performed predominantly by those having Priesthood authority. Because males from the age of 14 can be given the Priesthood, they participate in officiating ordinances early. There are some ordinances recognized as salvational and others non-essential.

The first of the saving ordinances is Baptism. It is considered the gate that a person must pass to become a member of the LDS Church and therefore a covenant follower of Jesus Christ. Everyone who wants to eventually enter (or see) the Kingdom of God must first be baptized by both water and fire. This was explained by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:5, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." This was considered of such importance that Jesus was baptized by John famously known as The Baptist (Matt 3:15), "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Even though Jesus was a sinless person, he still had to do the ordinance as an example. Afterword Jesus received the Holy Ghost accompanied by the sign of the dove (Matt 3:16), and by implication was prepared to start his mission.

Before a person can be baptized, and that only by those holding the authorized Priesthood of God, they must repent of sins. The requirements can be found in D&C 20:37, as explained:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18:8-10, adds:

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and 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 that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Those worthy of baptism must have a spiritual change. They must humble their heart, gain faith in Christ, prepare to serve others, and repent of thoughts, feelings, and actions contrary to the Holy Commandments. The person then becomes worthy of the first and second ordinances of baptism of water and Spirit with the laying on of hands. These ordinances cleanse the participant of spiritual uncleanliness and enter them into a Covenant relationship by taking on the name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost remains with them after ordination unless becoming unworthy of the companionship.

The Sacrament (Eucharist) ties the Atonement of Jesus Christ in with the Covenants made during baptism and confirmation. It acts to renew in our lives the remission of our sins and invitation to have the Holy Ghost remain with us. We must, like baptism, be worthy of partaking of the Sacrament by repenting. Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said about the ordinance:

Our most valuable worship experience in the sacrament meeting is the sacred ordinance of the sacrament, for it provides the opportunity to focus our minds and hearts upon the Savior and His sacrifice.

The Apostle Paul warned the early Saints against eating this bread and drinking this cup of the Lord unworthily (see 1 Corinthians 11:27–30).

Our Savior Himself instructed the Nephites, “Whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily [brings] damnation to his soul” (3 Nephi 18:29).

Worthy partakers of the sacrament are in harmony with the Lord and put themselves under covenant with Him to always remember His sacrifice for the sins of the world, to take upon them the name of Christ, and to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. The Savior covenants that we who do so shall have His Spirit to be with us and that, if faithful to the end, we may inherit eternal life.

Our Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that “there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation” (D&C 6:13), which plan includes the ordinance of the sacrament as a continuous reminder of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. He gave instructions that “it is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (D&C 20:75).

Of course, there are other ordinances that are important to salvation. Those will be talked about later when the subject of the Temple is covered.


CD-Host said...

Hi Jettboy --

Thank you for the answer! In reading your answer I think we are talking past each other a little bit. I think the reason is that we are using the same words to mean very different things. Now that I know a bit more about Mormonism I want to try and rephrase this a bit in a way that might be more clear what I was getting at. Let me create an artificial C(atholic) and M(ormon) prefaces, and maybe that will help.

M-sacrament is the eucharist at a Mormon church.

C-sacrament is what Catholics mean by sacrament. A sacrament is a sign of grace. But a type of sign of God's grace that does not merely signify grace but by virtue of having been instituted by God in and of themselves cause that grace in the souls of men, "signum sacro sanctum efficax gratiae"

This idea of a sign inducing grace is seen by some Protestants as a rejection of sola gratis, that grace is effected without any act of man, sacramental actions are a witness. So a Presbyterian would tell you that sacraments simply don't exist and wouldn't use the word. As an aside, interesting enough Luther (author of sola gratia) agreed with the Catholics on sacramental theology (mostly). The RLDS interesting uses the Lutheran/Catholic definition CoC sacraments. Its entirely possible Joseph Smith may have entirely rejected c-sacramental theology or essentially accepted it.

So what I find weird kind of odd, is that it appears that Mormons do recognize c-sacraments: baptism, confirmation, ordination in the 2 priesthoods... that is rites that by their very nature advance one towards exaltation but they don't seem to include the m-sacrament in that and use the words.

So I guess my question rephrased is:

Do Mormons recognize C-sacraments? (The David B. Haight quote you have seems to indicate a "yes" but I want to make sure I'm understanding). Are the M-ordinances all C-sacraments? Are there any other C-sacraments, in particular is the M-sacrament a C-sacrament?

Does that help?

CD-Host said...

Rereading let me just re-clarify the key point of a c-sacrament.

1) It must be a sign and not an intrinsically good act. So feeding the hungry is not a sacrament because it impacts grace not by diving institution but by its own nature. There is nothing intrinsically good about having your head rubbed with oil when ill.

2) It must impart grace. So for example wearing a military uniform is utilizing a sign, but it doesn't impart grace.

Jettboy said...

I think your clarification is helpful. First, I will want to state that all actions done in the name of God, no matter how important, are C-sacraments. This means that they are, "a type of sign of God's grace that does not merely signify grace but by virtue of having been instituted by God in and of themselves cause that grace in the souls of men." In reading the CofC Mormonism listing, I don't know the importance they claim for each act. There are temporal blessing (non-essential) "C-sacraments," and there are Salvational "C-sacraments" in LDS Mormonism.

I will be talking about the majority of Salvational C-sacraments in the post about Temples.

The non-essential C-sacraments would be:

Baby blessings and naming.
Laying on of Hands for the Sick or Comfort.
Patriarchal blessings (what CofC terms Evangelist Blessing).
Calling/set apart for Church responsibilities and positions.

Essential Salvational C-sacraments would include:

M-Sacrament (sort of a middle non-essentail, salvational position. It isn't required per-say, but it does impart grace and forgiveness of sins as well as a baptismal ritual remembrance).
Priesthood Ordination (for males). - You might say females have been given a special dispensation not to need this; at least in the direct form.
Washing and Anointing.
Sealings (creation of Eternal Family bonds, starting with marriage).

It isn't that Mormons don't impart grace on some things and not others. For Mormons, as my "The Hidden Grace of Mormonism" post tried to explain, Grace is life itself witnessed by any good act. Instead, for sake of argument, I would break C-salvation in Mormonism down to three types. I already mentioned two; non-essential and Salvational. These would be done by those having the Priesthood confirmed on them. A third would be "pedestrian" or what any member or even non-member can do to impart grace; such as praying, showing charity and love, repenting, religious study, etc.

There are therefore to answer your question, many C-sacraments with the M-sacrament a weekly occurrence. Yet, there are sub-sets of C-sacraments with the first levels the most important or "special," while the third is casual and perhaps not even what you mean.

Aloysius said...

I prefer to think of all ordinances as being salvational but some are only required based on circumstances. Anointing the sick is truly an ordinance of atonement as the blessing offered is one-ness and healing.

CD-Host said...

OK that post clarified things. The separation you are making between essential and non essential c-sacraments actually makes a lot of sense. Your list of pedestrian you expressed concern about I'll touch on separately. So that leaves relatively easy essentially yes / noish type questions.

Pairing this I assume "essential c-sacraments" are "saving ordinances" and the others are the m-ordinances that aren't saving ordinances. Just to make sure I understand the saving ordinances, those are the m-ordinances connected to the temple.

What I've heard (unreliable source) is a person who otherwise would be exalted that is unsealed becomes an angel, is that right? The rest are required to get into the Celestial Kingdom? Is that a correct understanding of saving?

Anything unusual about "vicarious ordinances" (m-ordinance) other than what we discussed?

I notice a few ordinances are missing, like Dedication of Graves are those accidental or intentional oversights, i.e. for some reason you don't consider those ordinances c-sacramental?

And I guess now that m-ordinances and c-sacraments line up so well, why flip the names in the first place? I know no one asked you when they did this, :) but it just seems like adding a lot of confusion. I'm not seeing the upside / rationale for the switch in vocabulary.


As far as the pedestrian ones here is why I wouldn't consider those c-sacraments.

Showing charity and love, repenting, religious study are all, I suspect, intrinsic goods in Mormonism, hence ineligible to be c-sacraments.

In most c-sacramental faiths, the actual act of prayer is considered an intrinsic good and thus not c-sacramental. There are Catholic theologians who argue that specific parts of the act of prayer are sacramental. Kneeling is the prime example, in that it is a symbolic act of submission and was instituted by God and thus simply kneeling at the 5 places during the mass, often performed without intent to earnestly pray, still constitutes a good and bestows grace. Others argue because kneeling is in fact submitting to the church, thus an intrinsic good rather than a sign.

JKC said...

Most early Mormons came from a protestant background, so were a lot more comfortable with the term "ordinances" than "sacraments." But "sacraments" is used in the revelations, and somehow (I wish I new the background behind it, but I don't) made it into common usage with the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

As Jettboy explained, though, this should not be misinterpreted as meaning that Mormons don't recognize other sacraments. Within the past several years, Elder Holland has made this point--(I'm paraphrasing) that all our ordinances are "sacraments" in the sense that they are physical acts, which, when undertaken by a person with proper authority, make the power of atonement effective in the lives of church members. He may have also included that only "saving" ordinances are "sacraments," but I don't remember.

In LDS parlance, there is a distinction between "saving" ordinances (baptism, confirmation, temple endowment, sealing, and perhaps priesthood ordination) and non-saving ordinances (the sacrament of the Lord's supper, anointing and blessing for healing, dedicating homes & graves, etc.). (Even "saving" ordinances are not always necessary for salvation however--those not accountable are not required to be baptized (and therefore cannot partake in the other ordinances, of which baptism is a prerequisite), and while sealing is regarded as necessary for the "highest" degree of exaltation, only baptism and confirmation are necessary for entry into the celestial kingdom, which, qualifies as "salvation," depending on the definition.)

That distinction might roughly parallel the line separating "sacraments" in the catholic sense from other ritual, but I don't think it's a perfect parallel. for one thing, I'm not convinced that Mormons would agree that even the ordinances "in and of themselves" make grace effective. There's also a worthiness element: Mormons usually see the promises of the saving ordinances as conditioned on the recipient's faithfulness. This might be some kind of hybrid between the catholic view that the ordinance is the thing and the protestant view that individual's faith is the thing.

CD-Host said...

JKC --

Most early Mormons came from a protestant background, so were a lot more comfortable with the term "ordinances" than "sacraments."

Well yeah that certainly be the case for Congregationalists for Baptists for Quakers (don't know if they recruited Quakers or not). But in traditional protestant speak the reason to use ordinances and not sacraments, is to make a theological statement that sacraments don't exist. So yes they would be more comfortable but for the wrong reason. Does that makes sense?

for one thing, I'm not convinced that Mormons would agree that even the ordinances "in and of themselves" make grace effective. There's also a worthiness element: Mormons usually see the promises of the saving ordinances as conditioned on the recipient's faithfulness. This might be some kind of hybrid between the catholic view that the ordinance is the thing and the protestant view that individual's faith is the thing

Interesting. It sounds like you are saying the Mormon position is (I'm using this word to be descriptive not inflammatory) Novatianism. This was essentially the position of Saint Cyprian (vs. the "orthodox" position of Pope Stephen I) that sacraments are not efficacious in and of themselves.

Let me give you a few scenarios, I'll throw in the reverse idea Donatism as well to see if this work both ways. Again I'm using those terms in a purely descriptive sense, I'm not attaching any judgement to them (in my mind the right side doesn't always win theological battles, and serious scholars were on both sides of these debates). I just want to provide them so you understand where I'm going with this set of follow up questions. All baptisms are LDS and the questions are relative to LDS doctrine:

Alan is going to baptize Alice. Alice is currently engaged in an adulterous relationship that she has no intention of stopping. She does however want to be baptized and live an LDS stye life in all other respects. 5 years later she stops. Did her baptism have an effect, does she need to be re-baptized? (feel free to up the sin if that matters).

Brad is going to baptize Brandi. Brandi is getting baptized because her husband wants her to and she doesn't believe in God. 5 years later she has saving faith. Does she need to be re-baptized?

Carl is going to baptize Cindy. Cindy is getting baptized because she's running a con game on her husband. She actually is Presbyterian and while dishonest believes rebaptism is sinful. As she's being baptized she thinks to herself "this is fake". She comes to love her husband, decides not to run off with the money and comes to saving faith. Does she need to be re-baptized?

Darl is going to baptize Dawn. Darl is living way outside the church, his Bishop knows but doesn't do anything about it because Darl's tithe is large. Does this impact Dawn in any way?

Earl is going to baptize Eliza. Earl hates Eliza and wants her to go to Telestial Kingdom. He intentionally screws up the rite. Eliza however believes she was successfully baptized and lives her life in accordance with the LDS. Did Earl's actions have any effect on Eliza?

BTW I do understand if the answer is, "we don't have any kind of definitive doctrine". This situations are designed to be tough. When these issues came up the first time there were people on both sides.

Jettboy said...

First off, I think that you are trying too hard to understand the relationship of Mormon "ordinances" to match up with Catholic "Sacraments," so there is some confusion. The concepts are similar, but not the same. As JKC stated, and I guess I poorly explained, there are Saving ordinances (Enter the Kingdom of God/Church membership) and then there are Exaltation ordinances (The Temple work that pertains to theosis). There are ordinances that are meant for blessing, but not for salvation or exaltation. I added that I consider Sacrament/Eucharist between salvational and standard blessings because of its direct relationship to baptism, but not a continual requirement for purification by Grace.

Let me try again:
Salvational ordinances includes,
- Baptism by water for remission of sins and membership.
- Baptism by fire (confirmation) with the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Ghost.
- Sacrament/Eucharist (transitional?)

Exaltation ordinances include:
- Priesthood for all worthy males.
- Washing and Anointing.
- Endowment.
- Marriage and Family Sealing.

Blessing Ordinances include (If I miss anything from the list, its probably an oversight)
- Baby blessings and naming.
- Blessing of sick and for comfort.
- Patriarchal blessings.
- Calling/set apart for Church responsibilities and positions.
- Dedication of . . . whatever needs dedicated (Home, Grave, Temple, etc.)

I would have to say, "sacraments are not efficacious in and of themselves," sounds about right. They are always conditional on the faith and righteousness of both who gives and who receives. God is, of course, the final arbitrator on what is accepted or not.

I'll try to answer A-E the best I can. The caveat is that it can depend on a number of factors, such as if the Person(s) involved feel moved upon to request/require another baptism. I will point out where I think the offense such that re-baptism should be done.

A. Re-baptism. Sexual sins are considered serious.
B. No.
C. No (although if she ran off with the money than I would put it as a probable yes).
D. It depends on what you mean by "way out of the Church"? If that means constant sins, then depends on how serious they are. If you mean goes to another church for years before returning, then No.
E. No, but Earl's might have an effect on him. He might end up in the Telestial Kingdom if he doesn't get his emotional act together!

If the above has confused you, that is because when you live by the Spirit sometimes the outcomes are different from expectations. Notice that the only clear cut re-baptism answer is a very specific and serious sin. The moral doctrine on that doesn't leave much wiggle room.

JKC said...


There were certainly a few Quaker converts to Mormonism. J. Reuben Clark, who was a prominent church leader in the 1940s and 50s (approximately) was a send or third generation convert from a Quaker family background. Interestingly, he seemed to return in later life to some of his forbears pacifist positions, taking a very strong anti-war position near the end of WWII, even calling the A-bombs the "crowning savagery" of the war. (I think that was even in General Conference). But I don't know how extensive conversions from the society of friends really was.

I think you may be right that they used "ordinances" for the wrong reasons. I think that makes sense because, coming from a protestant background, especially one of several generations, here in the U.S. where they really wouldn't have had much exposure to Catholicism, they simply wouldn't have a word for rituals like sacraments, so they would use "ordinances."

While I've read enough to be somewhat conversant, it's been a few years since I last read anything about church history, so I don't know enough about Novatianism and Donatism to affirm or contradict the parallel between those and Mormon ideas on the efficacy of ritual.

But I'll do my best to answer your questions. Before I don, I should say that I differ slightly from Jettboy in that in a certain sense I really do think that the ordinances are efficacious in and of themselves, but only under the right conditions. Maybe we are saying the same thing.

A: I have a difficult time seeing this situation play out like this because of the pre-baptism interview process where the candidate has to affirm that she believes in God, in Jesus, accepts the church's claim to exclusive priesthood authority, accepts the validity of the scriptures, and is currently living according to certain church behavioral standards (including chastity). You appear to be setting her up to be sincere and honest (albeit adulterous), so it doesn't sound like she would lie, and the bishop would not approve the baptism. But laying all that aside, my answer is she does not need to be rebaptized unless she has been excommunicated. As to the question of whether she should be excommunicated, that would be up to her bishop and stake leaders. If her baptism was under false pretenses, excommunication is likely. Also, assuming that it was, as you said adultery (extra-marital sex) as opposed to fornication (pre-martial sex), excommunication may be more likely. If she has been endowed, excommunication is even more likely.

B: Rebaptism is not necessary.

C: Rebaptism is not necessary.

JKC said...


D: I think what you're getting at here is the extent to which the worthiness of the officiator has any impact on the validity of the ordinance. There is some authority in Mormon teachings for the idea that it does. It is a fairly well-settled Mormon belief that all ordinances must be performed by someone holding the proper priesthood authority (this means, in contemporary church practice, that the person must be ordained to the priesthood, and also authorized by the local leader to perform the ordinance--some ordinances like anointing for healing and blessings of comfort don't require authorization from a local leader, but those such as baptism, confirmation, and administering the sacrament of the Lord' supper do require authorization). Joseph Smith also made the statement that "the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only [read: except] upon the principles of righteousness." He then goes on to teach that a person can receive ordination to the priesthood, but when we try to "cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man." Connecting these teachings together, you could make the case that if the officiator is unworthy, he does not have priesthood authority, and that therefore, the ordinance was not valid. The church's practice, however, is not to re-do ordinances when it comes out that the officiator was not worthy.

E: I think what you're getting at is the degree to which the outward form of the ordinance matters. Mormons are very strict about getting it right, especially saving ordinances. In the case of baptism, the wording of the ordinance has to be exactly according to the prescribed form, and the candidate has to be totally immersed. If a toe pops out above the surface of the water, for example, it needs to be re-done. In order to ensure this, each baptism generally will have at least to priesthood holders present acting specifically as witnesses, and it is their job to make sure that the ordinance is done right, so unless the witnesses are colluding with Earl, its likely that such a situation would be caught when it happened. But in your hypothetical, it doesn't come out until much later. Since I'm not aware of that ever happening, I'm not sure what the church's response would be. I would guess that the church would allow the baptism to stand, but if Eliza requested rebaptism, would allow it. But I don't know.

JKC said...


I think underlying all these answers are a few points:

(1) The ordinance of baptism is "sacramental" in the sense that it is effective "in and of itself," but it is only conditionally effective--that is, it is conditioned on faithfulness. So if the ordinance is undertaken without faith, then the promises and blessings are given, but will remain "dormant" (for lack of a better word) until the conditions are fulfilled, and likewise, if the conditions of faithfulness are initially present, but lost due to sin, then the blessings and promises are still present, but not effective until repentance restores those conditions.

(2) Certain sins are serious enough for excommunication, which is a revocation of the conditional promises of salvation received in baptism, and at that point, rebaptism is necesary. (However, when a person who is endowed is excommunicated, he is not re-endowed and re-ordained to the priesthood, rather, his temple and priesthood blessings are simply "restored." The restoration of blessings is by laying on of hands similar in physical form to confirmation or any other priesthood blessing.)

(3) The unworthiness of the officiator may inhibit the presence of the holy spirit, but will not serve to punish the recipient of the ordinance.

(4) The physical form (including words) of the ordinances of baptism and confirmation must be exact. However, while minor deviations are not tolerated as a matter of church practice, it is not clear that such deviations would effect the validity of the ordinance. We have at least one baptism recorded in the Book of Mormon, for example, that follows a different form than the contemporary form.

Sorry for such a long comment!

CD-Host said...

First off, I think that you are trying too hard to understand the relationship of Mormon "ordinances" to match up with Catholic "Sacraments," so there is some confusion.

I have to put them in some sort of terms I can understand. :) Otherwise we really have to go back to square 1 like, "why would putting water on someone do anything to make them closer to God?" or "how does being anointed impart grace at all?" and build the whole argument from the ground up. I agree it can seem forced, but honestly your answers on this point seem moderately traditionalist (other than vocabulary).

This answer has turned out different than the KJV thread where you were raising arguments that were totally Mormon specific. And there I did have to ask square 1 type questions (though we couldn't get that far). I'm putting you in a traditional Christian terms, because on this issue its possible. Does that make sense?

I'm trying to hammer out this distinction:

a) They are conditional on the faith and righteousness of both who gives and who receives. Which is Donatism and Novatianism. In which case I'd say you don't really have c-ordinances or c-sacraments, though you do have a historically defensible position just not the one that won. It kinda goes with my Hermetic Christian theme :) The only question I'd have left, if that really is the answer is intent not important?

When I read A vs. C that one it sounds like you are saying that the moral state of the person receiving baptism is the key, as long as there is formal agreement. In other words Cindy's intent not to be effectively baptized is irrelevant, she was sufficiently moral and she was baptized; while Alice wasn't sufficiently moral and thus baptism didn't take. I just want to make sure I'm getting this, because if that's the case then you really are saying something highly non-traditional.

So is a baptism effective on a moral person who does not intend to be baptized? Like would a forced baptism on a moral person take?

b) They are conditional on the intent of those who receives and the status/rite of those who gives (c-sacraments).

c) They are conditional on the intent and faith of those who receive. (c-ordinances)


You might have killed the topic above if you went with (a) if not following up on your question.

Let see on D, I just mean he's doing a lot of sinning. But for this discussion we can make them as serious as you want, we can drop the bishop knowing about them, and make Darl a child murdering pedophile if you want. The question is just, whether the moral state of the person administering the baptism, providing they have the formal recognition and sanction of the Mormon church to perform the rite, have any impact on the efficiency of the baptism.

This would be the area where you would be agreeing with (a) and disagreeing with (b) and (c).

CD-Host said...

JKC --

Please don't apologize for the long comment. I appreciate it! Thank you for taking the time to construct a serious answer!

This is turning into an amusing thread. Originally I was reading Jettboy's statements as being c-sacraments and then he agreed with your characterization, which wasn't. Your answers to A-E, as well as point 1-4 are all absolutely orthodox c-sacraments, except for C (except for the vocabulary which, like "dormant" which they would totally reject).

You were absolutely dead on about the underlying question in my scenarios agree to all

I'll hit the specifics.

In A I was assuming Alice could be lying to the Bishop but is sincere in her desire to become Mormon and live under the Words of Wisdom at the time of her baptism. She lies because she wants to join the church and wants the connection with God the LDS provides. And you can make her sincere in her desire at the time of her baptism to stop the affair. She simply fails to do so until much later.

I wasn't assuming she was ever caught, thus the church doesn't know to excommunicate her. The question is once the 5 years have past she does stop

a) Can she consider herself baptized and she just needs to never do it again and repent (your point 1 in your list), that she has a "dormant" baptism vs. the postion that she does need to request rebaptism.

C: Which is interesting, in that Cindy's not faithful at the time of the baptism. So I'll hit you with the same question I did Jettboy regarding forced baptism. Again I know this has never come up for the Mormon in practice they've never done it, and AFAIK never even considered it. But one cannot say for secular leaders in Catholic history and the Pope and Cardinals and most Bishops had to constantly reject forced baptism, so its not entirely theoretical. And looking in my crystal ball, given the spread of Mormonism to Africa, during the next 150 years its probable that will it come up... if not forced baptism than forced apostasy.

Regardless its an important theological issue whether intent is required to form an m-ordinance.

D: Let me repeat this back to you, to make sure I understand. What you are saying is their scriptural support, including for Joseph Smith for the position that the moral state and not just the office is important in performing an m-ordinance however despite that looking at the entirety of the evidence the LDS has come to the conclusion that they do not need to perform ordinances again.

Is that a correct summary?

E: That's essentially the orthodox position. As an aside the Catholic church when confronted with this problem does what they call conditional baptism, "If you are not yet baptized then in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...".

Your explanation regarding ordinance makes sense. C seems to be the only area where you both had surprised me. I guess I'll stop here and wait until Jettboy responds to you and I and see where on my a,b,c list he wants to put the church i.e:

a) They are conditional on the faith and righteousness of both who gives and who receives.

b) They are conditional on the intent of those who receives and the status/rite of those who gives.

c) They are conditional on the intent and faith of those who receive.

I'm thinking I need to add an option (d) given you both answered C the same way:

d) They are conditional on the actions but not intent of those who receives and the status/rite of those who gives.

Jettboy said...

I think this is where the idea of The Sacrament/Eucharist comes in, because it acts as a baptism refresher. In all examples, but perhaps the first one and the one where the sins have been increased in seriousness (and ex-communication would be the first step, and not just a re-doing), a person who takes the Sacrament bread and water are effectively symbolically re-baptized (a symbol of a symbol if you will). It is considered part of Spiritual renewal and covenant taking. Even the requirement for worthiness to partake is the same, although there is no formal interview as that is mostly decided by the individual.

I guess what I am saying is that it is A, B, C, and since you added it D put together and considered in case by case basis. Mormonism can be an intuitive religion sometimes. I will say, however, that forced baptism would not be considered effective at all. The Priesthood officiators would be using their positions as unrighteous (amen to the Priesthood thereof) and those baptized would not be free to have decided to take upon them the Covenants of Christ. It doesn't matter how righteous they were. It would have been done against the will of God and the will of the individual. Freedom of choice is a very important concept in Mormonism, just as much as worthiness.

Jettboy said...

"ex-communication would be the first step, and not just a re-doing"

Pondering my answer on that one, I guess that this means that baptism *is* efficacious in and of itself for declaring membership, but not necessarily the blessings accompanied. To paraphrase Joseph Smith, a person might have the Holy Ghost descend on them and yet not have it stay around.

JKC said...


I'll try to answer your questions, but first, I think there are two things underlying this entire discussion, at least one of which is uniquely Mormon (at least in a modern context, anyway), that bear on the discussion.

First, my formulation of baptism (since that has been the focus of the discussion so far) as conferring conditional promises and blessings assumes that the conditions do not all have to be met at exactly the same time. So, intent, faith, worthiness, etc.--these conditions can be met long after the physical act is performed--this is with the caveat, however, that accountability is one condition that must be present at the time the baptism is performed. In other words, you can be an eight-year old kid and get baptized without understanding the full meaning of the act, but you have to at least understand the difference between right and wrong. Without that accountability, there is no sin and without sin, there is no need for baptism "for the remission of sins."

Second, the Mormon concept of vicarious baptism for deceased persons, and the somewhat associated concept of the millenial reign of Christ gives us an easy out to a lot of these questions, which could be, in part, why we haven't needed to wrestle with them. The basic idea is that folks who are alive can go to the temple and be baptized vicariously on behalf of someone who is dead (often a family member), thus fulfilling the physical act part of the ordinance (that still leaves the dead person to accept the ordinance and fulfill the other conditions). Associated with this idea is the idea that after the resurrection and the second advent, the millennial reign will be a time when Jesus can make all these hard calls and if a baptism was not valid, it can be performed either directly or vicariously at that point. This means that we can basically "cop-out" of the hard questions with "well, that's a tough one, but it will all get sorted out in the millennium."

JKC said...


Now to answer your questions:

A: If she repents, her baptism should be valid. However, part of repentance for adultery will be confession to the bishop, and a true confession will involve disclosing the fact that the adultery was going on at the time of the baptism. So, she will not be able to fully repent in the eyes of the church without facing the excommunication question.

C: Forced baptism is an interesting question. Obviously the idea of forced conversions and baptisms under duress is distasteful (to use an understatement). But when you are talking about a child who isn't really making the choice to be baptized as much as doing what Mommy and Daddy say, it's a bit different. LDS reject infant baptism, but the basis of that rejection is not so much that infants are incapable of choosing to be baptized as it is that infants are incapable of sin. Intent, I would venture, is a condition that can be fulfilled later. If it is never fulfilled at all, then the baptism is invalid (so a forced baptism would not bind a person who rejects it). But if it is fulfilled later, then the baptism could conceivably be valid (so a child who was "forced" into baptism by her parents, can experience a true conversion, or gradually develop faith and intent later in life, can continue with membership in the church without rebaptism).

D: I think that is accurate, though I'm not sure I would characterize it as "coming to a conclusion" because that suggests to me some sort of comprehensive study and deliberation. The development of Mormon practices regarding church administration tends to be much more ad hoc.

So my formulation would be that the validity of baptism is conditioned on the faith, righteousness (to a degree--you don't have to be perfect, just meet the minimum standard for worthiness), and intent of the recipient, and on the authority (but not righteousness) of the officiator), and on the physical act being performed according to the prescribed form.

Another point that Jettboy hinted at is the dual purpose of baptism. It is both "baptism for the remission of sins" and "to be received into the church by baptism." Just because the church has decided that, as an organization, certain requirements need not be met in certain circumstances (such as the discussion about the worthiness of the officiator) in order to have a valid baptism for purposes of church membership, that does not necessarily mean that the baptism is valid for all purposes, and it may very well be that some baptisms will have to be redone at some point, which is where the point about the millennium comes in.

Aloysius said...

I think that it is a mistake to see sacrament of the Lord's supper as exclusively a baptism renewal ordinance. It is a covenant renewal ordinance and helps renew any covenantal relationship.

I also think that the worthiness of the person performing an ordinance is of limited relevance to the efficaciousness of the ordinance. As long as it was properly authorized the condemnation for unworthiness falls exclusively on the person performing it unworthily. It behooves authorities who learn of such unworthiness to withdraw permission and even rights to perform ordinances.

Baptism received unworthily is not efficacious until the worthiness is achieved. In fact the blessings of all ordinances are entirely contingent on worthiness. The receipt of ordinances is very much a symbolic demonstration by the recipient that he recognizes that the Lord works through his servants and that their is indeed authority on earth. The blessings of ordinances are received both in the instant and in the worthy life that follows their receipt.

JKC said...

I'd go even further than Aloysius and say that it is a mistake to think of the sacrament of the Lord's supper as just a renewal of individual covenants. Certainly there is that aspect, but viewing the sacrament as primarily a renewal of covenants is a relatively recent innovation in Mormonism. I'm not saying that that means its incorrect--just that focusing too much on that aspect can lead us to ignore the other important symbolic points of the sacrament including the physical symbolism of the atonement and especially the communion/fellowship aspect, which brings a whole different and deeper level to the renewal of covenants, especially when taken in contexts of the covenants of the temple.

CD-Host said...

OK the children can sin thing puts a different light on this. Its similar to paedobaptism doctrine but since you don't believe in original sin, there has to actually be a sin first...

I get now the issue with A vs. C. C forms the intent to honor the baptism later and thus it does become effectual while A's dishonesty in the interview may or may not have polluted the rite. But if A were to confess say 7 years after the baptism (2 years after the affair ended) and her Bishop would not have to re-baptize her. Which works the same as a child as long as they truly have intent to follow the church they do have the later intent.

Assuming I got this right, OK... yeah this makes sense.

I know you all will be rather disappointed but I'm reading this as rather orthodox modulo adjustments. For example Aloysius' comment that sacramental blessing are not effectual until worthiness strikes me as what orthodox c-sacramental theology would look like in a Pelagian context.

So I'm ready to just say:
m-ordinances = c-sacraments with lots of details for various theological disagreements on various topics regarding original sin... with the distinction between salvation and exaltation being a further complicating factor and including an understanding that Catholics adore creeds and Mormons hate them so this whole conversation is a bit forced.

Catholics like to argue then burn people at the stake until they come to an agreement :) Mormons would rather play it by ear.

And the vocabulary which probably was just scrambled for historical purposes. Though wow does that ever make things confusing.

Thanks. I think I get it, at least well enough for now.

JKC said...

I think I'd agree that Mormon concepts of the validity of ordinances roughly line up with Catholic concepts of the validity of sacraments (even if the rituals themselves differ significantly).

I also think that point should not be very surprising given the two churches' similar claims to exclusive authority. We even both claim to have received that authority from Peter; only the Catholics claim to have received it from Peter during his life, while Mormons claim to have received it from Peter as a resurrected angel, in order to restore the authority that was lost.

CD-Host said...

Agreed. There are to my mind not that many choices when building a theory of sacraments/ordinances.

Do they have any effect at all? To pick a different one, is the distinction between marriage and concubinage (POSSLQ) merely legal or is there a spiritual dimension? If there is a spiritual dimension is it imparted by the marriage ceremony, the community awareness, the person officiating or the persons being married? After that the rest just falls out.

So.... Can I interest you in going another round, the question that's been hanging out on the KJV thread?

And if you liked, there are the Hermetic threads on my blog, where right now we are talking creeds and historicity

CD-Host said...

Just to throw out one more example of Mormon/Catholic agreement. We are on another blog discussing Kimball. As far as I can tell Kimball argues for

Which sounds a heck of a lot like the Catholic position that
faith + works -> justification.

rather than Luther’s:
faith -> justification and works

And it seems to me a lot of the anti-Mormon arguments on the salvation/justification/exaltation question are really disagreements with Catholicism. Its not like Mormons are taking an outrageous position on these base questions of repentance, they just aren't taking the Protestant position.

I can understand in the context of 1830 why Mormons (who I believe had ties to the were Whigs) didn't run around pointing this out.

Jettboy said...

I would agree with that. I just think Mormons don't care about the issue like Protestants and Catholics. We would care less what the "faith only" group believed if they weren't so aggressive.

JKC said...

I prefer this formulation to the faith/works issue:

Grace (and some measure of exercising agency) --> faith

Grace + faith --> works.

Grace + repentance (a specific type of works) --> justification.

Nathanyel7 said...

If you want the truth about Water Baptism, here are actually scriptures explaining it. Simply click my name.