On the “Baptismal” Covenant

We frequently hear of our “baptismal covenants” in church and conference. I cannot quite pinpoint the exact spot in space-time, but I can say that a few years ago I began to view the “baptismal” covenant with suspicion. Why? It seemed that a lot of people were discussing the baptismal covenant, but I could not recall for myself what exactly that covenant entailed. With all the other covenants of the gospel, most of them housed in the temple, I could easily recall their stipulations, scope, focus, (and before 1990, their) penalties, etc. etc. I made a covenant of chastity which was laid out in detail before me, one of consecration that was explained to me, one not to reveal the little tidbits of the rituals, etc. etc. In each case, I bowed my head and said “yes.” I had volition. The ceremony itself allowed me to back out before it began (“if you don’t want to take upon yourself these obligations, raise your hand”). Same thing when I was married. The proctor (I still have a tough time calling them “sealers” if they’re not performing the fullness of the priesthood) looked at me and asked me if I would enter a covenant to keep my wife and I said “yes.” I could have said “no.” Same with her. Volition was present. The choice was mine, and I made it. The ceremony allowed for this. None of the stipulations in these covenants were given by implication, all were explicit and given to me in plain speech.

With baptism, many recall the baptism of Helam from the Book of Mormon as viable proof-text for the baptismal covenant:

And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye [sic.] have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.

So apparently Helam made a covenant upon being baptized to serve God until death. But did I? Here’s what was said when I was baptized (D&C 20:73):

“David J., Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Millions of others have likewise been baptized the same way, and indeed D&C 20:73 is the standard by which baptism is performed in the church today. In the field of Biblical Studies, we would say that Helam’s baptism is situation-bound. That is, his baptism is an anomaly in the presence of countless others performed under the other formula, and his baptism is unique to him. The main point here is that any mention of covenant in my baptism was absent.

One of the foremost biblical paradigms for covenant-making comes from Joshua 24. Notice the following points which have parallel in the modern temple:

1. The people are gathered before God’s presence (v. 1).
2. The people are given a review of their history (and, by extension, God’s greatness in that history) (v. 2-13). We are also given a review of our history via the creation epic.
3. The people are charged with the stipulations of the covenant, and given the opportunity to choose for themselves (which Joshua does before the people in v. 15).
4. Affirmation (v. 6-18). In this sense, the people express their willingness and volition to follow, akin to bowing the head and saying “yes.”
5. Penalties (v. 19-20). Again, before 1990, these were integral.
6. Penalties accepted if covenant is violated (v. 21).
7. Witnesses and signs (v. 22-23, 27).
8. Final affirmation (v. 24).
9. A record is kept (v. 25-27).

This paradigm fits quite nicely with the temple covenants made, but in my opinion, baptism fails. The thrust of the covenant here and in other places is that none of the stipulations of the covenant, for the temple or for these people, are implied. Covenants are always detailed and explicit.

But this raises another issue, this time stemming from symbology. In the temple, the individual is symbolically taken from birth into life. When in the womb, we are fully immersed in water, like we are in baptism. When a baby is born, it is washed off and then anointed with a sweet-smelling ointment, or soap. This is the pattern of the initiatory ordinances as well. The child is then usually clothed in a garment of some kind, and lastly given a name. This also follows the initiatory ordinance pattern. Notice that when a baby is born, it has no accountability or say-so about its birth, washing, anointing, clothing, and naming. It remains silent and yielding. Likewise, the ordinances of the gospel which follow this pattern exude the same principles upon its recipient – the initiate has no say-so or opportunity to renege until the “ordinance of accountability,” which is the temple endowment, where the opportunity to back out is finally given. Again, the “newborn” not only does not make a covenant, but is incapable of doing so and incapable of understanding the ramifications of covenant-making. So there could be symbological reasons for the absence of a baptismal covenant.

If there is a baptismal covenant, I am suspicious of it because it was placed upon me without explicit mention in the ceremony itself. Moreover, I am suspicious of any covenant that is implied. By my own cognition and research, I believe that the “baptismal covenant” as it exists today, is a relatively late introduction to Mormonism.

As for me and my house, we don’t believe it even exists.

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98 responses to “On the “Baptismal” Covenant

  1. Phouchg

    Another reason that the “baptismal covenant” is meaningless – the person being baptised does not have all the facts. “Milk before Meat” and all that. It is the equivalent of buying a car and the salespeople are pushing a contract in front of you “Don’t read it, just sign it!”.

    The difference is there are legal consequences if you fail to honor your auto contract. If you don’t believe, then the so-called “covenants” you enter don’t have any consequence if you don’t follow them. Which leads back to how can you follow something if you don’t know what it is you are covenanting to.

    It’s a vicious circle.

    Ken

  2. Ben

    Baptism isn’t a covenant. It’s the witness/sign of the covenant, as is made clear by the passage you quoted, other scriptures, and some of Joseph Smith’s teachings.

    The stipulations or terms are spelled out (at least today) in the baptismal interview.

    “You have been taught that membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    includes living gospel standards. What do you understand of the following standards? Are you willing to obey them?
    a. The law of chastity, which prohibits any sexual relationship outside the bonds of a legal marriage between a man and a woman.
    b. The law of tithing.
    c. The Word of Wisdom.
    d. The Sabbath day, including partaking of the sacrament weekly and rendering service to fellow members.

    6. When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?”

    Assuming that people willingly agree to these and proceed to baptism, giving the sign of the covenant ratifies their verbal consent to live by those standards. If they don’t consent, they don’t get baptised.

    Phouch, haven’t seen you around for a while. I thought you pretty much stuck to RFM…

  3. Nice post, David. I have been considering a post that elucidated the historical significance of Baptism, re-baptism and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in Mormonism. This is a nice compliment.

    I do think that missionaries are generally instructed to explicate the modern conceptions of the Baptismal Covenant to prospective members.

    It is quite certain that the concept of what baptism means has been dynamic in the restoration.

  4. Ben

    “Baptism is a sign to God, to angels to heaven that we do the will of God ” Words of Joseph Smith, 108.

    Alma 7:15 “show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.”

    It has been said that the sacrament is a renewal of the baptismal covenants, and I believe this is born out by the language of the baptismal-covenant-sign scriptures.

    Mos 18:10 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 [past tense] into a covenant with him, [and how does Alma summarize the stipulations of the covenant?] that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

    Note the connection between keeping the commandments and having the spirit poured out upon you, which should call to mind the sacramental prayers. Nephi also makes the connection in 2 Nephi 31:13 between taking Christ’s name upon us by baptism, which further connects baptism to the wording of the sacramental prayers.

  5. Ben, that discourse in WoJS is really important on many subjects (the subsequent paragraph on healing the sick is awesome), but the section on Baptism as a sign is quite significant:

    God has set many signs in the earth as well as in heaven 9 for instance the oaks of the forrest the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there, for it is a decree of the Lord that evry tree fruit or herb baring seed should bring forth after its kind & cannot come forth after any other law or principle. upon the same principle do I contend that Baptism is a sign ordained of God for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, “for except you are born of the water & the spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Saith the Savior as It is a sign of command which God hath set for man to enter into this kingdom of God those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain for God will not receive them neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not taken upon themselves those ordinances & signs which God ordained for man to receive in order to receive a celestial glory, & God has decreed that all that who will not obey his voice shall not escape the damnation of hell, what is the damnation of hell, to go with that society who have not obeyed his commands Baptism is a sign to God, to angels to heaven that we do the will of God & there is no other way beneath the heavens whareby God hath ordained for man to come to God & any other course is in vain. God hath decreed & ordained that man should repent of all his sins & Be Baptized for the remission of his sins then he can come to God in the name of Jesus Christ in faith then we have the promise of the Holy Ghost

  6. For some reason, the “del” tags didn’t work. Note that there are several strike outs in the above text.

  7. Ronan

    What Dawid hath said.

    But there’s a special place in hell reserved for “ye(sic)”-ers.

  8. WJS 108 — notice he says “sign,” not covenant. A covenant is an agreement, a sign doesn’t necessarily have to be an agreement.

    Alma 7:15 is easy: the person witnesses their willingness to make covenants, but doesn’t actually make covenants.

    And as far as the sacrament renewing baptismal covenant or renewing anything of that matter, we call that eisegesis where I come from. It’s another made up thing I think people use to make a mundane ritual seem more meaningful. Although I can’t prove it yet, I think this idea that the sacrament renews baptism covenants stems from the church’s wish to discontinue rebaptisms, so they just told the people that taking the sacrament did the same thing, so viola, we have a new theology from it.

    The whole matter is riddled with problems.

  9. Going off Ronan’s comment: did the plates confuse the words “ye” (2nd person plural) and “thee,” (2nd person singular) or is that just “the translator” who was confused??? ;)

  10. Matt W.

    I think Elder Hales put it very beautifully here.

    http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-138-2,00.html

    “At baptism we make a covenant with our Heavenly Father that we are willing to come into His kingdom and keep His commandments from that time forward, even though we still live in the world.”

    I also believe the general concensus of the Church today is what some may term the Sacrament Prayer Covenant Is the Baptismal Covenant being renewed. This is what the missonaries teach and along with the Helam baptism answer.

    Again, Elder Hales does a greater job than I.

  11. Matt W.

    For COmpleteness, this is what the Faith in God award teaches about the Baptismal Covenant to children preparing to be baptised.

    My Baptismal Covenant
    When I was baptized I made a covenant to take upon me the name of Jesus Christ and to serve Him and be obedient.

    Heavenly Father has given me the Holy Ghost. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I can be forgiven of my sins when I repent. If I keep my baptismal covenant, I can return to live with Him.

    When I take the sacrament, I renew my covenant to take upon me the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to obey His commandments. When I do this, I can feel the Holy Ghost guiding me.

    (See Mosiah 18:8–10 and D&C 20:37.)

  12. I think this idea that the sacrament renews baptism covenants stems from the church’s wish to discontinue rebaptisms, so they just told the people that taking the sacrament did the same thing, so viola, we have a new theology from it.

    I definitely think they are related. If the were the same thing, why would Brigham have been baptized a couple dozen times? I think the biggest casualty is the loss of the communal nature of the sacrament. By emphasizing the covenant renewal aspect, the other aspects of the supper have faded.

  13. Ronan

    Matt,
    You’re demonstrating that Mormons believe there to be a baptismal covenant. David is saying that they can believe it all they like; no covenant is made. That’s the debate.

  14. Stapley, I’ve thought a lot about that one, and I think that the Brotherhood, I mean, the Brethren, got tired of all the re-baptism requests (because it was a bishop/S.P. thing) and so told the people that the sacrament did the same thing, which it doesn’t.

    Matt, Ronan is right, what I’m saying here is that the baptismal covenant doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t fit what a “covenant” is within our own ranks (temple covenants), let alone what the Bible teaches about it.

    When I take the sacrament, I renew my covenant to take upon me the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to obey His commandments. When I do this, I can feel the Holy Ghost guiding me.

    No. There is no “renewal” of anything, because there wasn’t any covenant made to begin with. Let the ceremony speak for itself. If we do this, which is what I’m advocating here, baptism utterly fails as a covenant.

  15. Ronan

    I don’t think there are such things as silent covenants, which is what you need to exist if you think baptism is a covenant (because never once do you say, “I promise to do X.”)

    So, Dave, I’m with you that this ain’t as easy as it looks. Now, baptism may well be a *sign* of something. What shall I tell my son that sign is? (He turns 8 next year.)

    I’ll let Mogs tell us what baptism meant in the NT. (What was Jesus “covenanting” to do?)

  16. I’m most assuredly going to pull together a history now (when I get a chance). I did a quick search, and the idea of baptism as covenant goes back quite far. E.g., Brigham Young in 1856 (JD, 4:43):

    When we get the font prepared that is now being built, I will take you into the waters of baptism, if you repent of your sins. If you will covenant to live your religion and be Saints of the Most High, you shall have that privilege, and I will have the honor of baptizing you in that font, or of seeing that it is done.

    or Amasa Lyman in 1857 (JD 5:40)

    You may say I am selfish. Why? Because I promised my Father, when I went into the waters of baptism, that I would obey His commandments as they were made known to me. I made Him that brief promise, and it has cost me all that “Mormonism” has cost me. It has cost me all the toil and labour that has been crowded into my history during the past twenty-five years of my life, to keep that little covenant.

    Both of these were during the Reformation. Rebaptism was very common, with whole wards doing it together. Whether or not Baptism meets the criteria for covenant, it has been taught as such for a very long time.

  17. Yeah, what on earth does “to fulfill all righteousness mean” anyway? Matthew 3, I think.

  18. Ben

    “I don’t think there are such things as silent covenants, which is what you need to exist if you think baptism is a covenant (because never once do you say, “I promise to do X.”)”

    I agree with the first half of this, but not the second. The covenant is made in the interview. One explicitly must answer “yes” to the question “will you do x, y, and z” as posted above.

    I think you’re either misunderstanding my argument or deliberately misconstruing it but I’ll have to come back and argue this later… Pressed at the moment.

  19. Ben makes a good point. One agrees to the terms of the covenant in the pre-baptism interview process (this applies to eight year olds too). One “signs” the contract via the baptismal ritual.

    And in any case, this sort of legalism seems rather pointless to me. God expects some things of us when we are baptized and we will never be able to squirm out of our obligations based on some legal loophole like “I didn’t specifically agree to those terms during the actual ritual portion”. Either we are drawing closer to God in a personal relationship or we aren’t. I think it is contrary to the order of the Universe for us to draw nearer to God while not living up to the terms spelled out to us prior to our baptism (and then weekly at church thereafter).

  20. I remember looking for the exact wording of “the baptismal covenant” a few years ago—your post is reminiscent of that fruitless search. But I would echo more or less what Ronan said: that baptism is at minimum a sign that one is willing to be a disciple of Christ. That may have broad implications and it allows the inclusion of specific covenantal language in individual circumstances (as in Helam’s case).

    One very nice result of my search was that I came away focusing more on the Holy Ghost part than the baptism. 2 Ne 31:17 advances baptism and repentance together as “the gate” (ie. a sign?), but that the real cleansing comes with the Holy Ghost.

    Does anyone know when the term “baptismal covenant” was first used?

  21. LXX Luthor

    Matt W,
    I had this argument out with David J over the SBL conference and I took the side that you have been taking and argued it vehemently. And I went home and I argued it to myself over and over until I realized that in the strictest definition of the world he’s right, there is no covenant in the baptismal ordinance. Not by technicality. If you say that we think of there as being a covenant in baptism today you say that we/”the brotherhood” have changed the way in which covenants are made. And that’s fine but you need to make the distinction.

    I’m currenlty siding with David J. I’ve been trying to pin down what baptism is since that heated discussion and I’ve realized a few things. It’s salvific, or rather necessary for salvation. It’s an ordinance that must be performed by the priesthood. It’s a symbol of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is the “gate” into the kingdom of God; you are in the kingdom when you are done. In all of the BoM scriptures I could find you witness that you are willing to keep the commandments. How do you interpret this if you live a hundred years ago and no one is talking about a baptismal covenant and renewal during sacrament?

    It seems to me that baptism puts you into a position to make covenants and the position that one needs to be in is in the kingdom of God. This is the one explicit thing that you are told happens to you during the two halves of baptism (hence confirmation). The covenants you make are bound up in the sacrament: remember Christ, take his name upon you, keep his commandments. In return God promises to give us the Spirit (note that this is not what is said during confimation, we are only told to receive it). This two way promise language is the heart of a covenant. This covenant is not open to those who are accountable and unbaptised. You take the sacrament soon after you are baptised. Right now this is how it seems to fit together to me.

  22. Fellas, look at the “baptismal covenant” diachronically then, and you’ll see it cropping up in Mormonism very, very late. For something so foundational to salvation, I find it hard to believe it wasn’t revealed early on without it being made up off the cuff.

    And Ben, there is no way in hell we make a covenant in the interview. Again, that would make the baptism THE anomaly of anomalies when it comes to Mormon covenants.

    No baptismal covenant. One has to strain quite hard to come up with it, and even then it’s pieced together randomly and quizzically. It just doesn’t fit.

  23. Matt W.

    Ronan, David J, and LXX Luthor:

    I haen’t been able to get on here all day, and as far as textual biblical criticism goes, you could probably jump all over me, but there is a baptismal covenant. All I see you as doing is creating a false definition of what a covenant is which then excludes what a covenant is.

    Baptismal Covenant follows the same lines as the Abrahamic Covenant, the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, the circumcision covenant, etc.

  24. BrianJ

    Matt W: “All I see you as doing is creating a false definition of what a covenant is which then excludes what a covenant is.”

    I think that actually supports David J’s point. He is using a definition of “covenant” that is used in Church lesson manuals—the same manuals that then proof-text scriptures to illustrate a baptismal covenant that fits within their definition. David J points out that baptism doesn’t fit their definition of a covenant.

  25. admin

    Matt,

    The things they’re writing about are potentially as accesible to you as they are to them. Covenant formulae and language have a long and rich Biblical history. It’s probably best not to label their thoughts as “false” or impugn their motives, but to study the issues out yourself. Ask them what they’ve read and they’ll tell you. Then you can judge for yourself.

  26. HP

    Matt, you are correct that they are using a very narrow definition of covenant (possibly one that is more narrow than one should reasonably respect). I think that things are more ambiguous than they make it out to be. Fear not, you don’t have to drink their Kool-Aid.

  27. Matt W.

    Perhaps I came accross too harshly. For that I apologize. And perhaps I have not readly closely enough previous posts (as I don’t recall any previous posts on this theme)

    Be that as it may, I must have missed the definition of covenant from church lesson manuals where baptism is an outlier. The basic bible dictionary definiton simply says an agreement between man and God where God sets the terms of the agreement. Going back I can’t seem to find the definition we are going by, can we restate? sorry. Bold is def. I am going by, for clarity sake.

    Anyway, I think the Biblical reference which lends strongest support to the covenant idea is Acts 2:38, 39

    Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

    There are others, but I am now getting somewhat consumed with the difference between epangello and diatheke, so let me come back when I work that one out.

  28. David J: And Ben, there is no way in hell we make a covenant in the interview.

    I remain somewhat baffled by this entire conversation. Can someone explain why I should care in the least whether there was a traditional covenant associated with my baptism or not?

    I can only guess that David J and others are working under the strange assumption that covenants are somehow an end in themselves. They aren’t. Covenants are simply a means to a spiritual end. That end is that we come to know God and that we become as God is.

    So again I ask… why on earth should I or you or anyone care about this subject?

  29. LXX Luthor

    I have a new idea on the subject, specifically on the use of the Mosiah proof text quoted above in the article. My compadres at a Lord’s University aren’t buying that just because the words are different for Helam and us today that they are actually doing different things.

    My response to this is that prior to Christ’s visit to the Nephites they didn’t have an equivalent of our Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper where we actually make our covenants. So what we do in two steps (baptism/entrance ordinance and sacrament/covenant) they rolled into one: the baptism Helam received. It’s entrance and covenant all in one because they did not have a sacrament follow-up in which to make the covenants. Does this make sense? Does it fly with anyone else?

  30. Matt W.

    Here is the closest biblical scripture I can find(so far) where I think it is saying Baptism is the replacement for circumcission. I assume we all know circumcission is a covenant circa Gen 17:10-14 etc.

    Anyway:

    Colossions 2:10-15

    10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
    11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
    12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
    13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
    14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
    15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

    I think there is something I am fundamentally not getting from the initial post.

    I’m actually pretty terrified by the idea that I am just not grasping what is discussed here and am spouting of some sort of Mark Butler response to a statement I don’t really understand.

    I guess I don’t see how there can logically not be a baptismal covenant…

  31. Mogget

    Matt,

    I don’t think you sound like Matt Butler.

    That said, the Colossians passage you have cited uses circumcision to refer to the cross, not baptism.

  32. Mogget

    6. When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?”

    Assuming that people willingly agree to these and proceed to baptism, giving the sign of the covenant ratifies their verbal consent to live by those standards. If they don’t consent, they don’t get baptised.

    This sounds more like taking an oath to me. But perhaps we have shifted the definition of an oath as well?

  33. Brett

    “I don’t think there are such things as silent covenants, which is what you need to exist if you think baptism is a covenant (because never once do you say, “I promise to do X.”)”

    Actually, there are such things as silent promises. As long as a group has imbued a particular act with some type of meaning, then the act itself can be considered a speech.

    Examples:
    Middle Finger- F*** You!
    Two fingers held up: peace or victory
    Nodding head: yes

    Ok, applying this to a promise. If we as members of the church imbue the ritual of baptism as a means to communicate a promise to God, then getting baptized means making a promise to God. There’s no need to say “yes” or “I do.” In the modern church, the ritual has been imbued with covenant making ability, so when people get baptized, we as a community, and the person getting baptized recognize it as a covenent.

    I’ll concede that to the point that historically baptism wasn’t a covenant making ritual. But, my response to that is so what? Part of being a member of a living church is that things will change. If you don’t like the changes and are really into the fundamentals, move to Colorado City.

  34. admin

    Let me just point out that this sort of thing is uneccessary:

    If you don’t like the changes and are really into the fundamentals, move to Colorado City.

    The point was well-made before that sentence was added.

  35. Baptism not a covenant? You have to be kidding me, right? This is a joke, isnt it? An exercise in absurdity? Please tell me it is.

  36. Brett

    Sorry. I was feeling sassy. I didn’t mean to offend.

  37. Matt W.

    Mogget, my reading of the passage has baptism pointing to the cross and circumcission and baptism being equivilant. I will try to look at other version of the bible (not KJV or greek) tomorrow and see if I can find a different understanding.

    Covenantal Theology of course would be an easy shot if I were looknig for some easy backing to my point of view, but I am not.

    THanks for the assurance I am not Mark Butlering you.

  38. Matt W.

    Ok, I went back over everything, and upon rereading, the idea here is that the concept of Baptismal Covenants are a recent invention and are not old.

    AS far as what JS taught, I will admit that I can not immediately find a reference where he uses both the term covenant and baptism together, but I can find many where he says almost as much, such as:

    “Upon the same principle do I contend that baptism is a sign ordained of God, for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter into the kingdom of God, “for except ye are born of water and of the Spirit ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” said the Savior. It is a sign and a commandment which God has set for man to enter into His kingdom. Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man, to prepare him for, and give him a title to, a celestial glory; and God had decreed that all who will not obey His voice shall not escape the damnation of hell. What is the damnation of hell? To go with that society who have not obeyed His commands. Baptism is a sign to God, to angels, and to heaven that we do the will of God, and there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to Him to be saved, and enter into the kingdom of God, except faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, and any other course is in vain; then you have the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    History of the Church, vol 4, p 554-555

    I would suggest that this teaches the concept very well.

    I don’t think this has much value though, I’d like to push back further to early church fathers or the bible if I am able.

    I am interested in any material on when we began to understand sacrament as a renewal of the baptismal covenant. that is interesting as well. We have explicit biblical statements that the sacrament is a covenant, of course.

  39. Matt W.

    Elder Hyde in a Letter, 1842 :

    “My humble advice to all such is, that they repent and cast far from them these wicked traditions, and be baptized into the new and everlasting covenant, lest the Lord speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.”

    History of the Church, vol 4, p. 497

  40. Bishop

    If baptism constitutes a covenant to keep all of God’s commandments, are the covenants made in the temple redundant? If so, of what significance are temple covenants?

  41. LXX Luthor

    Matt, I like you man. Keep plugging away.

  42. FHL

    On one hand, I feel like I agreed to do certain things in the interview before being baptised. Had I not been baptised, I would not have considered those agreements binding (obviously. I’m not joining your church; I don’t have to do the things that you do.)

    On the other hand, I really don’t want to get into a debate with DavidJ, because I know he’ll beat me like a red-headed stepchild. =)

    I will however, completely support the fact that nothing in the actual ordinance suggests covenant. It’s like you have to step back from it and group more stuff into it before it becomes a covenant.

  43. By listing the formal, complete covenant formula of Joshua 24, you have implied that *all* covenants must conform to every stage of the covenant formula. But that simply isn’t so. Many perfectly valid covenants throughout scripture consisted merely of a promise and an outward sign of intent. The Noahic covenant, for example, merely involved God’s promise to never again flood the earth, and was confirmed with the sign of the bow in the heavens (Gen. 9:11-13). Although baptism displays more covenant elements than we might initially think, it clearly doesn’t match the complexity of some covenant enactments recorded in scripture.

    Christianity has long viewed baptism in connection with covenant, so we should not consider this a late development in Mormonism. Indeed, whenever God established a special relationship with a people he did so through the initiation of a covenant. As Baptism for Latter-day Saints marks the entrance into church membership, and into the fold of Christ, it is natural to view Baptism in the context of covenant.

    The very work of the Cross is itself covenant ritual, where God himself provided the sacrifice and established a covenant wherein he gave mankind the “promise” of salvation. If God provides a “confirmation,” by the outward manifestation of the Spirit, that he fully intends to keep his promise, it is by no means a stretch to consider the associated baptismal ordinance as sufficient covenant ritual for the believer to signify entrance into a special covenant relationship with God.

    As far as the specific promises the baptismal candidate makes, or *doesn’t* make in this case; many of these are implicit in the symbolism of the ordinance itself: Death to sin (putting our past behind us), rebirth and walking in a new life of righteousness, being washed clean from sin, white clothing and sanctification, etc. Indeed, these symbols represent the covenant terms and promises on the part of both parties, even if they are not outwardly expressed.

    Even though many ancient covenants recorded in scripture involved the recitation of blessings and curses, some conveyed the penalty element through the covenant ritual itself (Jer. 34:18, Neh. 5:13, Alma 46:20-22). Similarly, both baptism and the covenant-renewal sacrament of the Lord’s supper contain implicit elements of fellowship, reconciliation, promise, blessings and curses that were also essential elements of ancient covenant and covenant-renewal ceremonies.

    In summary, I think baptism is clearly the outward ritual connected with entrance into the New Covenant. It simply lacks some of the formal elements that we sometimes see in other recorded covenants, but which are not required in every case.

  44. Mogget

    My interview consisted of being asked by the bishop when I wanted to be baptized while standing in the foyer of the church.

    To be “baptized into the new and everlasting covenant” sounds like it makes baptism into an initiation rite. This is actually rather close to the way the NT sometimes talks about baptism.

  45. Ignoramus P. Dingbat

    I knowe yoo alln be edjookated an I am dooffy and symplemynded, butt iffin bapperttism ainnt a covernant, pleez usplain too mee’un wha deez skriptoorz meen, cuz ahm beeun konfoozled a might tetch in deh heyd:

    Mosiah 18
    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?…13 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.

    Alma 7
    15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

    D&C 107
    20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

    Thaynx, y’all, I shuoor dew preeshiate it.

  46. Mogget

    Implicit covenants present something of a challenge. Covenants by nature are intended to make the obligations of both parties clear.

    Christian baptism in the NT is an initiation or identification formation ritual. Covenant making can be an initiation rite, but all initiation rites are not covenants. Similarly, covenant-making can be an occasion for a change in lifestyle, but all changes in lifestyle do not result from covenant-making activities.

    In Paul, baptism along with faith is the human response to the Christ-event. The new creature/creation that rises from the water “has grown together with Christ.” We are “in Christ” and members of the community.

    As with all other effects of the Christ-event, this new life comes as a gift. There is no covenant, but by virtue of our new status we are enabled to adopt new behaviors–to finally live in a manner pleasing to God.

  47. Ignoramus P. Dingbat

    Mogget,

    It is pretty plain from the Scriptures what the covenantal obligations of baptism are, for both parties. For the baptiser, they take upon themselves the name of Christ (i.e., formally accept him as their Savior and agree to live his teachings, references already provided) and the Lord then redeems them as His own (cf. Lev. 25, Isa. 52, Gal. 3, 2 Ne. 1:15; obviously pending the final Day of Judgement, if they arent part of Israel they are adopted in at this point, see Rom. 8, Gal. 3, Eph. 3:6) and send His Holy Spirit as promised to teach, lead, reveal, sanctify, etc (cf. Matt. 3:11, John 3:3-12, John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:13, Acts 1:5, Acts 2:1-5, Acts 2:38-39, also see 1 Ne. 10:11, 3 Ne. 20:27).

    Oh, man, now there is a surprise, that is just what the Sacrament prayers say.

    Apparently, the problem here is there is no place in the Scriptures that explicity states “And the covenant of baptism, which thou enactest when to doest the immersion in the water, not implicitly, but explicitly getting wet all over from they head to thy foot; forsooth it is too a covenant, a formal agreement between thee and the Lord and not some namby pamby implication of faithfulness or symbol thereof; and that covenant shall be that you shall take upon you my name and do what I said both before, during and after mortality, and I shall send my Holy Spirit to the party of the first part for all intents and purposes in good faith; and you shall listen to what that Spirit, My Spirit, which I sent unto you, the party of the first part, or thou shalt be a foolish and unwise servant who actest silly and builds figuratively upon a sandy foundation. Amen. End of explicit covenant, as signified by registered Public Notaries: Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”

  48. Matt W.

    Well, if nothing else, I have learned that I am a CredoBaptist Covenant Theologian, by default. :)

    While I do feel it can be explicitly argued that the credobaptist covenant theology viewpoint can be pointed out at least implicitly throughout the writings and revelations of Joseph Smith (this includes the book of Mormon), i am having too much fun trying to tie the the concept to a earlier understanding of Mikvah.

    I have no solid source yet, but around the first century BCE, it was apparantly customary when a student became committed to a new rabbi, that this student would participate in a mikvah to show he was “born again” to the teachings, etc.

    Mogget, I still don’t see how Collossions connects circumcission with the Cross. Can you elaborate?

  49. Mogget

    Hello Matt,

    Yes, happily. I will elaborate but it will have to wait a few days. I must return a revised chapter by Friday.

    And what is all that theo-babble? It makes my tail twitch, you know!

    Mogs

  50. Matt W.

    Mogget, thanks, and in my patience I will attempt to possess my own soul.

    In the meantime, Here is Severus of Antioch’s view of Baptism as a Covenant and it connects with the scripture in question.

    LETTERS OF SEVERUS OF ANTIOCH (7th Century CE?)

    FROM THE LETTER OF THE SAME HOLY SEVERUS TO EUPRAXIUS THE CHAMBERLAIN, AND ABOUT THE QUESTIONS WHICH HE ADDRESSED TO HIM.

    “The truth itself, of which circumcision is a type, testifies to us; for Paul wrote to the Colossians and said that circumcision in Christ is baptism, whereby we put away from us our old man, and the mortality wherein we died after our fall from Paradise, and we also cut away the bodily desire as it were a kind of foreskin, and bury it in the waters which slay sin, and in the same way we are buried with Christ, and rise as new men and born afresh, and hasten to the new and; passionless life; for this is what Paul wrote: «In whom ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, by stripping off the body of your flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, and were buried with him in baptism, and rose in him through faith in the operation of God who raised him from the place of the dead; and you also, who had died in your sins and in the foreskin of your flesh, he quickened with him, and he forgave you all your sins. You see that circumcision is the destruction of the foreskin, and contains a renunciation of fleshly birth and of the body’s pleasure in mortality; for it confesses the passionless and new-fashioned life, as the actual truth of baptism showed, of which circumcision is a type, which in a shadow cuts away the foreskin of the flesh, while baptism cuts away the foreskin of the soul, and, so to speak, destroys its excessive wickedness. Such was the legal ceremony, and the covenant with Abraham, and of his descendants, which by the ancients was carried out in a bodily and sensual fashion, but signified beforehand the allegorical conceptions, which the spiritual and suprasensual ceremony in Christ revealed and brought to pass, for through baptism we are circumcised with a suprasensual circumcision, and receive in our mind the privilege of being no longer sons of the flesh, for we are named sons of God. Hear what John the thunder and trumpet of the divine words says, For those who received him he gave them power to become sons of God, those who believed on his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God. Joshua also the son of Nun, who typified Jesus who is God and our Saviour, shows this clearly, that circumcision is the baptism which is perfected in Christ, and was given to the sons of Israel as to a kind of sons without passibility; but, because they had lived forty years in the wilderness, it happened that the sons who were begotten by them remained uncircumcised, though it was possible for them to circumcise. But this did not happen by chance, but because God was directing this matter in order to reveal the future mystery; and neither did Moses circumcise them, the exact observer of the fathers’ customs, who ordered that anyone who collected sticks on the sabbath-day should die, who knew all things beforehand, and among them the threat pronounced by God who said, Whoever is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin on the eighth day, that soul shall perish from among its people, because it hath set at naught my covenant; nor yet did Joshua again, who succeeded to the government after Moses, circumcise them before they crossed Jordan; but, after they had crossed Jordan, then he took knives of rock and cut away their foreskins from them. And this is plain, that he who has crossed Jordan and by the laver is admitted to regeneration is circumcised with a rock-knife, which is Christ: for the Word of God is living, and effectual and sharp beyond a two-edged knife; and according to Paul’s saying Christ also is a rock. Let no one hold the unreasonable supposition that they had no iron-knives in the wilderness; for they were armed, and slew those who opposed them. Mark again the same type in other mysteries also; for the blessed Paul said, «Those who were baptized in Christ were baptized in his death, and. Joshua the son of Nun presents the same figure, for he provided that the knives with which he circumcised the sons 0f Israel should be buried with him, that thereby he might show that those who are baptized in the name of Jesus the true God with the baptism that is completed in his death are by it circumcised.”

    - Sorry it’s a bit long, but he says it in a lot more fun way than I could ever say it.

  51. Mogget, I agree with what you have written about baptism in the NT, as the early Christian view of baptism. Christianity and Mormonism have clearly developed the concept beyond what the NT teaches.

  52. LXX Luthor

    Ignoramus – you should read me comment above at December 4, 2006 @ 6:17 pm as for a good explanation of those pesky BoM preChrist baptisms. And as for D&C 107 it seems to me that baptism could be connected to the ordinances, commandment, or covenants mentioned there. No reason it has to be a covenant. Plus, if you see the sacrament as a covenant then that could be the covenant mentioned there.

    Matt – You are going to have to help me with the sermon up there you posted because I read it and didn’t find anything that connects baptism to a covenant, just the initiation stuff Mogget was talking about. But it numbed my brain very quickly and I could seriously just be missing your point.

    Stephen – I agree that not all covenants have to follow the exact formula of Joshua but it is a good prototype. Temple marriage and SA never have had explicit penalties that I’m aware of and they qualify in my mind as the highest and most important covenants. Also, good stuff about the cross up there. Very interesting.

  53. Matt W.

    LXX if circumcision = covenant and circumcision = baptism, then covenant = baptism? Sorry, going back over the quote it wasn’t quite what I was going for, and was very long. The point is that the interpretation of baptism = circumcision seems pretty central to covenant theology, and seems to have been taught a long time before JS.

    I am really hoping to find a solid mikvah = covenant quote, but am in unfamiliar territory.

  54. Matt W.

    Ok, some other early christians have discussed baptism as a covenant.

    The most explicit is Basil the Great (329-379 CE)
    He said:
    And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” On this account we do not, as is the fashion of the Jews, wash ourselves at each defilement, but own the baptism of salvation to be one. For there the death on behalf of the world is one, and one the resurrection of the dead, whereof baptism is a type. For this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life.
    (Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto) .)

    Another, though not as explicit mention is by Cyril, but he passed away in 869, so I am not sure he could be considered an early church father:

    “But if any one wishes to know why the grace is given by water and not by a different element, let him take up the Divine Scriptures and he shall learn. For water is a grand thing, and the noblest of the four visible elements of the world. Heaven is the dwelling-place of Angels, but the heavens are from the waters: the earth is the place of men, but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days’ formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water. The water was the beginning of the world, and Jordan the beginning of the Gospel tidings: for Israel deliverance from Pharaoh was through the sea, and for the world deliverance from sins by the was of water with the word of God. Where a covenant is made with any, there is water also. After the flood, a covenant was made with Noah: a covenant for Israel from Mount Sinai, but with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop. Elias is taken up, but not apart from water: for first he crosses the Jordan, then in a chariot mounts the heaven. The high-priest is first washed, then offers incense; for Aaron first washed, then was made high-priest: for how could one who had not yet been purified by water pray for the rest? Also as a symbol of Baptism there was a layer [laver?] set apart within the Tabernacle.”
    (Cyril, Catechetical Lectures) .)

    This all, of course, proves nothing, but it is interesting to note that the idea of Baptism being an entry into covenant is not a new concept, as J. noted it was posited by B. Young, I noted it was posited by J. Smith and Elder Page, It is implicit to a reading of the Book of Mormon, Mogget and I are going to discuss at some point it’s possibility within the letter to the Colossians, It is hinted at by Severus and Cyril, and is flat out stated by Basil the great.

    Now I still need to connect it with Mikvah, but I am afraid I do not even know where to begin.

  55. Mogget

    Christianity and Mormonism have clearly developed the concept beyond what the NT teaches.

    Oui. My point precisely. Baptism did not start as a covenant. We are some innovative restorers. But as long as the rhetoric matches the reality, that’s all that’s needed.

    Matt,

    One of the ironies of finding current LDS thought in the writings of the Fathers is that you are potentially solidifying the link between our beliefs and those of the architects of the Great Apostasy. This is particularly so when the Fathers have moved beyond the NT. The Fathers are some of the most tendentious, uncritical students of scripture in all of human history.

    That said, I really liked that bit from Severus and I’ll give you a nickel if at the appropriate time in the GD cycle you pop up in SS and give your opinion that Christ was, in fact, the stone knife that circumcised the Israelites under Joshua. That will make a most memorable lesson, I think. ;)

  56. Matt W.

    While I do think there are issues with taking from the Church Fathers, as we LDS do so in a Cafeteria line style, (This matches our beliefs, so it is true, that doesn’t so it is apostacy) I am merely trying to show that the concept of baptism’s relationship with circumcission and covenant making isn’t some new novelty invented by primary trachers of the 20th century.

    Even Justin Martyr linked the two:

    “As, then, circumcision began with Abraham, and the Sabbath and sacrifices and offerings and feasts with Moses, and it has been proved they were enjoined on account of the hardness of your people’s heart, so it was necessary, in accordance with the Father’s will, that they should have an end in Him who was born of a virgin, of the family of Abraham and tribe of Judah, and of David; in Christ the Son of God, who was proclaimed as about to come to all the world, to be the everlasting law and the everlasting covenant, even as the forementioned prophecies show. And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it. ”
    (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho) .)

    I teach the 16-18 year old class, so if I am still teaching when NT comes around (since we obviously missed the OT opportunity) I’ll see if I can squeeze it in. :)

  57. Matt W.

    Since I feel like I am being borderline obnoxious here, I want to clarify what I think I am blabbering on and on about. (If only for myself, as I am trying to recall.)

    It is acceptable to say Baptismal Covenant because baptism is the first ordinance, sacrament, or rite of the covenant with Christ, whereby we promise to meet his requirements (which were taught us by either our parents and fellow ward members, or by missionaries) and he promises to wash us clean of our deficiencies and to help us be free, complete, and happy.

    My above posts are to show that it has consistently been considered ok to consider an implied covenant in the Christian ordinance of Baptism, and my understanding currently is that it would be considered acceptable in the pre-christian ordinance or rite of mikvah as well.

    Of course, my primary reason for posting any of this is that it is a slow day at work and I need something to do, so I am exploiting your hospitality for my own intellectual stimulation.

  58. Mogs

    Dude from the number of your postings on the Naccle today, you must work for the government!

    Well, since you’ve nothing to do, why don’t you see if you can actually find that covenant that you’ve articulated in Paul?
    ;)

  59. Matt W.

    Worse, I work for A T & T, thanks for the challenge, more tomorrow…. School now…

  60. Matt W.

    You can do a simple query on Testament (Diatheke) and come up with quite a few reasonable scriptures.

    I guess Colossions 2 is still high up on my list…

  61. Mogget

    Really? You can find a place where Paul says there’s a covenant associcated with baptism?

    Give us a few. Just ones with baptism and covenant in the same verse will be fine.

  62. Matt W.

    Well, we’ve mentioned Co. 2 enough, which allegorically addressed the covenant of Christ via circumcission, and is of course, still awaiting a good solid thumping. There’s Galatians 3, which speaks about the end of the old covenant and seems to use epaggelia(sp?) and diatheke interchangedly, and says as we put on Christ through baptism, we inherit Abraham’s epaggelia.

    Anyway, I am not sure we are both talking about the same thing as you are looking for some magic single verse, which you are probably aware is not forthcoming. After all, the Bible wasn’t in verses when Paul wrote it.

  63. Mogget

    No, don’t be impatient with me. I’m not looking for magical verses. I’m guiding you toward actual, real, close, reading and exegetical arguments. You’ve picked a tough place to start, though. It’s usually easier to start with stories.

    If you were reading a passage that said that the flag was red, white, and blue, you’d expect to find the word “flag” somewhere around the words “red,” “white,” and “blue.”

    If you were to argue that Hemingway didn’t like women, you’d want to consult the areas where he talks about women and see how he characterizes them. Do his male characters have a good relationship with their wives or significant others? Or are the women out burning the fishing tackle, arguing about their abortions, or whatever?

    Now if Paul argues that baptism is associated with a covenant, then you’d naturally expect the words “covenant” and “baptism” to be somewhere near each other. And you’d also expect the terms of this covenant to be spelled out in some fashion. Somewhere around the word “covenant,” most likely.

    So if you don’t find this, then you need to explain why. What, exactly, is Paul’s argument? Who is his audience and why is he saying what he’s saying? He’s not explaining that baptism is a covenant to the Galatians, which goes a long ways toward explaining why the two words aren’t very close.

    What is he explaining? What has gone wrong among the Galatians and how does his argument fix it? If you want to read Galatians 3, okay. But take a look at what it actually says:


    Galatians 3:1-5(NAB) O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? 3 Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so many things in vain?– if indeed it was in vain. 5 Does, then, the one who supplies the Spirit to you and works mighty deeds among you do so from works of the law or from faith in what you heard?

    Circumcision is one of the works of the law. To what are the works of the law being contrasted? What replaced the works of the law? How did the Spirit and the “mighty deeds” come to the Galatians? Through what?

    The Galatians, after experiencing God’s great gift of the Spirit and the mighty deeds that come thereby, have gone back to the works of the law. O’ foolish Galatians!

    And what, exactly, is the blessing of Abraham? What are we to receive?

    Galatians 3:13-14 3 Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,” 14 that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    You see, the NT has a very, very, high estimate of the worth of the Spirit. Much higher than we do. But I’m not sure it knows anything about our ideas concerning the promises made to Abraham. I’ve never really looked to see if they’re there or not.

    Anyway, part of Paul’s argument in Galatians 3 is that in giving the Spirit to the uncircumcised Gentiles through faith, God is fulfilling the promise to Abraham who was likewise accounted righteous by faith.

    So don’t get frustrated. It’s takes A LOT of time and thinking and frustration. But the pain is mitigated by the pleasure of new ideas and insights…of really getting to know Paul and how he approached the issue of what God did for man in Christ Jesus. And you’ll be amazed at what God did, as well!

  64. Matt W.

    Galatians 3 is definitely a challenging text.

    Of course the verses that are of interest in discussing baptisms relationship begin with the end: (Gal 3:26-29 NAB)

    For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
    And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

    Baptism makes us belong to christ, as sons and dauthers, and we thus become an heir of abraham, according to “the promise”. (greek, eppagelia). In this chapter, some commentators I’ve recently read, say eppagelia is synonomous with “covenant.”

    Let’s look and see.
    Starting where you left off.
    Galatians 3:15-18 (NAB)

    Brothers, in human terms I say that no one can annul or amend even a human will once ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It does not say, “And to descendants,” as referring to many, but as referring to one, “And to your descendant,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it is no longer from a promise; but God bestowed it on Abraham through a promise.

    What do you think?

    On other fronts, there is still Colossians 2:11-12, which the NAB renders a little differently than the KJV.

    In him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    The footnote in the NAB I am using says “A description of baptism (Col 2:12) in symbolic terms of the Old Testament rite for entry into the community.” Of course, there are many Old Testament Scriptures which use the word covenant instead of rite.

    Both of these scriptures seem to say that the covenantal requirement for Baptism is Faith, which of course could heavily be debated as to what that entails.

    To go to another scripture which is debateable as to whether or not it is Paul, There are a few verses in Hebrews which seem to attach the διαθήκη καινή to Baptism. (NAB Hebrews 10:19-22)

    Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

    It is probably important to mention that the LDS KJV of the scriptures notes that the GR for “sprinkled” could be accurately rendered as a symbol of being purified, and not as noting that Baptism is done by sprinkling.

    The requirements here seem to be a sincere heart and absolute trust to begin this Journey of Faith.

    Anyway, I have to admit I haven’t enjoyed the NT this much in sometime. Thank you for giving me this gift of interest.

  65. Mogget

    Er…you forgot to answer the question.

    It is faith that replaces the works of the law, including circumcision. Your original assertion was that baptism replaced circumcision. Not in Galatians and we’ll get to Colossians. We can do Hebrews, too. But one at a time. (Paul probably didn’t write either Colossians or Hebrews.)

    Now, if there’s a covenant associated with baptism here in Galatians, what/where is it?
    My point is that baptism in Galatians, as elsewhere, marks a shift in identity and status. This shift is not made by covenant.

    Abraham was promised that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3). This promise to Abraham was met when, by incorporation into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Gentiles and Jews alike receive the Spirit. In other words, they get a new status — they’re “in Christ” and they get the Spirit. Baptism marks that shift in identity and status.

    So God’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled when the baptisand receives the blessing of the Spirit as a gift through his/her new status. All the nations of the earth have benefited from Abraham through their new status of incorporation in Christ.

    But where is the covenant that the baptisand enters?

  66. Matt W.

    Sorry, I did forget to answer the question.

    My point on Circumcission was only in relation to Colossians, not in relation to Galatians.

    My original assertion was simply that there was and is a covenant or agreement which we enter into symbolically when we are baptised, and it is thus acceptable to use the term Baptismal Covenant.

    I think your perspective is that the Baptism is not a Covenant but is just a rite. This idea in my minds is confusing to me, and perhaps we should exit scriptural interpretation, and see if I can just come to grips with your theological idea here. I am not sure why Baptism is needed if it is just a ceremony and no agreement is made or understood between us and God. I know that the vast majority of Christians probably do not consider this an issue, seeing that the Catholics are the Christian Majority and allow and practice paedobaptism. (Which I do not fault them for, as I have a large level of Holy Envy for my former faith, and also acknowledge that only through the Book of Mormon is this adequately clarified.)

    Anyway, as far as what Paul felt was the covenant that the baptisand entered into, It would seem that Galatians supports the idea that Paul connected this with the Covenant of Abraham, which was not disannulled by the law. Now, as to what Paul believed the covenant of Abraham to entail on man’s part or God’s part, that I do not know, as I have not looked yet.

    (As an Aside, is the Prominance of the NAB a Catholic school thing, a you thing, or have other schools really switched to it from the NRSV? When I took classes in NT at IU, we used NRSV. I like the NAB though, it is a good bible, and the only one I’ve seen with stupid instead of foolish.)

  67. Mogget

    OK, we’re beginning to agree, which I knew we would, sooner or later! ;)

    In current LDS thought, there is a covenant. It’s terms are explained in the pre-baptism interview. Folks who receive baptism NOW are by their own understanding, entering a covenant. The passive act of receiving baptism is a speech-act that invokes the covenant.

    When I was baptized, there was no such understanding, no pre-baptism interview, none of that. I had never heard of it before Ben put it in a comment. Others will have to speculate on what an eight-year old understands, or a new convert. I just assume that God handles those details without my input or assistance.

    My only point is that baptism is not a covenant in the NT. That’s it.

    Now to say that it’s not a covenant is not to say that it is unimportant. It is tremendously important! It is involved in identification formation ==> being “in Christ” and in entering the community of those being saved ==> the church. It marks a crucial transition and in many, but not all, books of the NT, it is a necessary precursor to the all-important gift of the Spirit.

    So…baptism is VERY important.

    But these are ideas that seem lost to the LDS world, which is pretty thoroughly focused on covenants at the moment. We might be thinking that identity and relationship can only change by covenant. And that’s fine for current events if that’s how we’re going to do it, but it’s inappropriate for reading the NT.

    I will write on the importance of baptism w/o reference to covenant theology later, and then you can see what you think!

    I learned my Greek from the gentlemen who translated the NAB. This means that I know its strengths and weaknesses better than other translations. So I use it a lot with other people. I also have a set of the notes on the text-critical decisions of the OT, and that’s invaluable.

    The standard translation remains either the RSV or the NRSV, as far as I know. Anyway, that’s what the Catholic around here use. ;)

    Back to the Christological themes of Revelation…. have a nice afternoon!

    Mogs

  68. Matt W.

    I guess we do sort of agree, although somewhat in the oddest way. I mean I could argue that since Baptism has always been a covenant, it was a covenant in the NT, based on the POGP and discourses of JS, but was not argued to be a part of the new covenant as that was implicitly understood. I won’t as on the ground of the Bible alone, there is plenty of room to roam, as evidenced by the thousands of churches in existance today. In fact, even with the Open LDS cannon, there is still plenty of room to roam.

    I think we probably disagree in that I read Baptism in Gal. 3 as entry into the Abrahamic Covenant, and you read it as fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. I’d love your thoughts on that as well as how you think Paul interpretted the Abrahimic Covenant, but I’ll let you get back to revelations for now.

    Anyway, thanks again for all your thoughts, and I will look forward to your future posts.

  69. Matt W.

    I should add that I am sorry you don’t feel like you were adequately prepared for your baptism. I don’t know how I would have done at 8. I was Baptised at 21, and it was a great experience then. (I guess I was also baptised at two months, but you know what I mean.)

    If nothing else, it is a reminder to work with my children on this, to ensure they have a solid experience.

    On the other hand, I guess we do also have the Sacrament and the Temple to renew covenants with if we missed the first go around.

  70. Mogget, I’m always fascinated that when one takes the covenantal aspect away from the Mormon understanding of baptism, they think that you’re left with nothing but a silly ritual in the water. This could not be farther from the truth. Like you said, the NT (and, by extension, the OT) does not have baptismal covenant. Full stop.

    Matt, there is no renewal of covenants at any time, anywhere in Mormonism. It’s a made-up thing to keep shmucks like us in line. When you’re in the temple acting posthumously, you’re not renewing your own covenants, but making them afresh for one who did not receive them in this life. Furthermore, the sacrament’s links to covenant are non-existent, as far as the ceremony itself is concerned, and no renewal is ever mentioned. The renewal thing is horse-poop.

    It’s also important to remember that Joseph Smith said that the Levitical prieshood is not taken by an oath, but that the Melchizedek is taken by an oath and a covenant. Since priests can perform baptism, it makes no sense for them to be causing others to receive it by covenant.

  71. Matt W.

    DavidJ:

    Let’s see if we can analyze what you are saying.

    Matt, there is no renewal of covenants at any time, anywhere in Mormonism.

    D&C 84:48 “And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the cwhole world.”

    This is regaridng the priesthood, I believe, but you weren’t explicit, so I won’t be either.

    Further, as to “anywhere in mormonism”, the following comes from the ensign, but is definitely related. I’d say these prophets are just as good as Paul.

    President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the primary reason for attending sacrament meeting is to “renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament.” 1 Further, he taught that “each ordinance and requirement given to man for the purpose of bringing to pass his salvation and exaltation is a covenant.” 2

    President Spencer W. Kimball elaborated on this theme: “Remembering covenants prevents apostasy. That is the real purpose of the sacrament, to keep us from forgetting, to help us to remember … [that which we have] covenanted at the water’s edge or at the sacrament table and in the temple.” 3 President Kimball further said: “The Savior emphasized that the tangible bread and water of the Sacrament were to remind us continually of the sacrifice he made for us and for renewal of our covenants of righteousness. … If a person, not a member of the Church, is in the congregation, we do not forbid him partaking of [the sacrament], but would properly advise that the sacrament is for the renewing of covenants. And, since he has not made the true covenant of baptism or temple covenant, he is exempt.” 4

    President Brigham Young wrote in 1857 about the sacrament and the members of the Church, “The bread and cup [are for] a renewal of their covenants.” 5

    Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “Partaking of the sacrament worthily may be regarded … as a means of renewing our avowals before the Lord.” 6

    Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “Another important purpose of the sacrament is to renew and keep in force the covenants and obligations which we have entered into with our God.” 7

    President Ezra Taft Benson’s teachings summarize this entire understanding: “We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. … Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God.” 8

    more later.

    references:
    1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–1956), 2:345–46.

    2. Ibid., 1:152.

    3. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), p. 112.

    4. Ibid., pp. 220, 226–27.

    5. As quoted in Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 503.

    6. James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977), p. 175.

    7. The Sacrament, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year), 8 May 1956, pp. 5–6.

    8. Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), p. 36.

  72. Matt W.

    Furthermore, the sacrament’s links to covenant are non-existent, as far as the ceremony itself is concerned, and no renewal is ever mentioned.

    Matt. 26: 28, Mark 14: 24, Luke 22: 20, 1 Cor. 11: 25, all link what the LDS church terms the sacrament with diatheke, or covenant in greek.

  73. Ronan

    This is still going?!

    OK, time to show one’s final hand…

    Matt, in a sentence or two, and without bombarding us with scriptural references and Greek words, what is the baptismal covenant? In a sentence or two.

    Once you’ve formulated that, please specify where and how an 8-year old or a new covenant make that covenant according to the stipulations in your brief formulation.

    You can also bolster your argument by showing your proofs in relation to baptism in earlier incarnations of Mormonism.

    It would also be useful to demonstrate the checks that exist in the church to make sure this baptismal covenant is explicitly understood.

    We’re getting down to the wire now. Covenanters, arise and deliver the final blow!

  74. Matt W.

    Ronan, I thought I already did this and now we were talking about Sacrament? On the other hand Mogget has a forthcoming position piece on her point of view. As to this still going, c’mon, where else can we talk about this stuff? I’m just grateful I haven’t been banned as an annoyance yet.

    In short and for simplicitly, we covenant to follow Christ (by faith and other actions)and be a member of the LDS church implicitly in Baptism.

    By agreeing to be baptized, and meeting any pre-baptism requirements, a convert or 8 year old evidences their willingness to enter this covenant by being baptized.

    Please see all the prior comments for “bolstering”, but to put it simply, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, James E. Talmage, etc etc, have described baptism as a covenant. The Bible relates baptism to circumcision symbolicaly, and relates baptism to initiation into Christianity, with it’s promise. In pre-Christian Era times, the Mikvah was used as a means of showing committment and affiliation to the views of certain rabbis.

    It would also be useful to demonstrate the checks that exist in the church to make sure this baptismal covenant is explicitly understood. A baptismal interview is required.

  75. Ronan

    Thanks, Matt.

    Does someone have access to the Baptism Record book (to which the CHI refers)? I wonder what it asks bishops to ask children. If it says, “you’re agreeing to do X, and God is agreeing to do Y, is that something you are happy with, little Jonny?” then I think your card may well be pretty strong.

  76. Matt W.

    Ronan:

    I’d be interested to see the verbage there, but not surprised if it lacked what you are looking for.

    When I get my Temple recommend, which I think we all agree the Temple Endowment is a covenant, I don’t recall this sort of wording. In the endowment ceremony itself, I do not know that the individual covenants are so explicitly stated (God agreeing to do Y is unstated, to my recollection.)

    I hesitate to mention this, but when circumcission was the symbol of the covenant in the OT, I am not sure any such agreement was required, as getting circ’ed was a paedo-covenant.

  77. Ronan

    Then you’ll have to forgive ol’ Dave J. He likes his covenants all formal and explicit. You see, he’s an OT guy, and in OT 101 they teach you that the Israelite covenant is inherently legalistic, kind of like a treaty. That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Explicit vs. implied.

  78. Matt W.

    Which is fine, except not all covenants in the OT are formal and explicit. But I guess the implicit or explicit issue would be the binary way to look at it.

    I don’t need to forgive DavidJ, he has done nothing that needs forgiveness. It’s just banter.

  79. Ronan

    I don’t need to forgive DavidJ, he has done nothing that needs forgiveness.

    A fatal, terrifying lack of judgment.

  80. Matt W.

    Maybe I should have said he has doen nothing that needs my forgiveness. :)

  81. Ronan, just to keep the feathers ruffled.

    Well, I guess I’ll spit out the final word. I didn’t make a baptismal covenant when, or just before, I was baptized. Maybe others did. I think there’s a really good case in the Bible and the ANE that covenants are explicit and do not rob the covenanter of his or her liberty to accept or decline. If we exclude baptism, all the covenants in Mormonism contain these elements, which means baptism is the odd man out, which, in my book, means it’s wrong.

    Besides, it’s so damn cheesy and nebulous; it can’t be for real.

  82. Matt W.

    To show I’m an ignoramus, what is the “ANE”

    and I totally disagree, of course :)

  83. Mogs who doesn't really have time for this...

    ANE = Ancient Near East

    And as for covenants in the OT, as far as I know the purpose was to create a new relationship in which the details of the relationship were stipulated ahead of time.

    So now, I’m curious about these instances of implied covenants. Let’s have an example or two.

    I’m specifically looking to distinguish between implicit covenants and covenants about which we are simply uncertain due to lack of information. The second type, of course, is not really an implicit covenant.

    In the case of implicit covenants, I’m interested in distinguishing between covenants in which the human response is implicit and covenants in which the divine response is implicit.

    I’m also interested in instances of covenant in which divine initiative is exercised before initiation of the covenant.

  84. Matt W.

    I’m also interested in all these things.

    The immediate examples which come to mind are all expressed elsewhere but even the first covenant commonly acknowledged, (Noahic) seems to have implicit parts and precursers, IMO.

    Good questions though, I will think on it and hopefully come back with decent answers.

  85. The Anti-Wiki Mogs

    Oh Matt, you are a Wiki theologian!

    Now I understand where you are coming up with these ideas. There is often a huge gulf between theology and the historical-critical exegesis.

    Repent! Repent! Awake and arise from the dust! Get some oil for your lamp before it is too late!
    ;)

  86. wikipedia is not allowed here. It’s like quoting GAs. Like Mogget said, you gotta do the grunt-work yourself. Wiki-eology is just that: it’s wiki(-ed?).

  87. Once again, let me reiterate my adoration.

  88. Matt W.

    Way to avoid discussion by dismissing a hyper-link. I’ll try to not make the error of using references again. It is obviously frowned on here.

  89. Matt W.

    Baptism was practiced as a covenant in the ancient near east. It was practiced as a covenant in the time of Christ. It has been practiced as a covenant in multiple cultures. It replaced circumcission as the token sign of membership into the kingdom of God at least before Paul wrote his letter so mentioning it.

    Baptism is and has always been directly connected with entrance to membership in the christian church (and was connected to entrance into the Jewish Church for coverts before that.). Membership in the church means being adopted into the Covenant.

    Do you actually have any historical-critical or theological evidence to the contrary? Nope, didn’t think so.

  90. Mogs the Alpha Exegete

    Oh, Matt, this is a nest of exegetes! We have to diss the theologians or we loose our membership in bible dorkdom! So don’t get all mad. Just hit the exegesis. You’ll love it once you get used to the detail of the argumentation!

    One potential indication that the NT doesn’t teach baptism as a covenant is that that little speech Ben provided, the one detailing the covenant in the pre-baptism interview at about the second or third reply, makes no reference to any NT or OT citations. There are, of course, NT reference to the ideas, but I’m not thinking I’ve ever seen any of them in a baptismal setting.

    Then again, I’ve not been sensitive to it before, either. And it may be that Ben didn’t type them in, of course… But had there been something to cite, I would have expected it, because that seems to me to be what I usually see.

  91. Matt W.

    Mogs, that is problematic though as
    the NT (or OT) doesn’t not (explicitly) teach baptism as a covenant either.

    Can you provide any explicit evidence of that?

    I believe it implicitly does teach such, and Tertullian and Basil the Great teach that taking (What they terms as) Baptismal Vows goes back to the Apostles.

    Sorry, I did get into a bit of a tizzy last night.

  92. LXX Luthor

    Matt – We are clearly talking in circles here because we keep saying the same things and so do you. We need to find the disconnect. Or disconnects. I think I see one so I hope I can get you to see it too.

    Baptism was practiced as a covenant in the ancient near east. It was practiced as a covenant in the time of Christ. It has been practiced as a covenant in multiple cultures.

    This is what is being disputed here, the heart of both of our arguments. I don’t think it’s fair to just out and out state this as difinitively supporting your side. And I’m going to tell you that the first two of these statements are almost certainly wrong. But let’s move on.

    It replaced circumcission as the token sign of membership into the kingdom of God at least before Paul wrote his letter so mentioning it. Baptism is and has always been directly connected with entrance to membership in the christian church (and was connected to entrance into the Jewish Church for coverts before that.). Membership in the church means being adopted into the Covenant.

    I think these statements represent a serious disconnect between our two sides. I would agree with all of them and yet somehow you haven’t converted me. I’m not trying to convince you that we’re right (ok I guess I am in some way) but what I’m interested in right now is that you see that we can make those same claims and still not see baptism as a covenant.

    We differentiate between initiation ceremonies and entering into covenants. As a Jew you get snipped (or dunked and snipped) to enter into the House of Israel. You make your first covenants only after you are in at the temple. Same with Christian baptism. You get in and then you covenant through the Lord’s Supper.

    As for entering the covenant through circumcision or baptism, language that seems to imply covenant making to be sure, I think the problem here is a trifle more complicated. And you OT guys here please be the check on my thinking ok? And Mogs of course.

    When we are initiated into the House of Israel/Church we receive blessings that fall under the purview of the Abrahamic covenant (little “c” not big). But we didn’t explicitly make the same covenant with God as Abraham did in order to get them. Here, the blessings come first as a direct result of Abraham’s covenant. We get the fruits without making the covenant because God promised Abraham he would bless his seed. So these blessings are a direct result of someone else’s covenant. Sort of like our kids being “born in the covenant”. They didn’t make a covenant either, children are not capable of making covenants (one other reason why circumicision isn’t a covenant). Those blessings come from someone else’s covenant. Circumsicison, like baptism, puts you into a position where you can make covenants and receive the blessings of other people’s covenants.

    The rest of the blessings we receive that are called Abrahamic, we do have to get the same way Abraham did, by making our own covenants with God. These are Mosaic temple covenants, Christian Lord’s Supper covenants, and Mormon temple covenants. And in our temple, the wording explicitly states that only by entering into the covenant at that place and time do we get all of the blessings promised to Abraham.

    As for baptismal vows, I believe there are vows. There is a baptismal interview after all and we must be worthy to receive batpism. But vowing and entering into a covenant are not always the same thing because with a covenant God vows something back explicitly like in the sacrament. I had to promise to be good to receive baptism but God only made promises back when I took the sacrament.

  93. Matt W.

    LXX, thanks for engaging me seriously. I really appreciate it. I hope I can respond in kind. I agree, there is definitely a series of disconnects here.

    the first two of these statements are almost certainly wrong. I understand, how one could arrive at this point of view for a historical-critical perspective. However, all I have seen is lack of evidence for baptism being a covenant, and have seen no evidence for baptism not being a covenant. I feel like we are working with two different definitions of the term covenant(To me it is just a mutual agreement with God), and this may be a major disconnect which may need to be settled on terms of mutual disagreement and moving on, (but, hey, personally, this is the most interesting thing going on the ‘nacle right now, so I’m still playing as long as you are. And while I’d love to say I’m not trying to convince you I am right, I have to admit, I am trying to convince you my point of view has as much legitimacy as other points of view, whether agreed upon or not.)

    Anyway, I would love to view the evidence, if there is any, which shows baptism was not a covenant in Christ’s time or in the ANE. I have presented the Early Church Father Quotes which I had easy access (i.e.- my access is limited, so there is probably a lot more out there than what I have access to) to which support Baptism as a covenant, but have not seen reciprocity in this. I have also discussed Mikvah and Circumcision, albeit I have not fully addressed either.

    I understand conceptually the difference between an initiation ceremony and a temple ceremony, but don’t see how that strips initiation of it’s covenant aspects.

    Here is something you said that I am not sure I get what you mean: Abrahamic covenant (little “c” not big). Why little ‘c’ not big? I’ve never honestly understood the theological significance of capitalization outside of LORD, GOD etc. If Abrahamic is capitalized as a name, should not covenant be capitalized as the second word in a two word proper noun construct? (This is probably OCD, but I am curious if this is just English or theologically relevant to your POV. If it’s not, sorry.)

    I agree with you that the covenant of circumcision and possibly baptism we are adopted into is Abraham’s covenant. I can see your point of view, in that children are not agreeing to do anything or exercising agency in paedo-circumcision or paedo-baptism.

    To further this, let me ask you (and any one else who cares to answer.) What did Abraham agree to when he received his covenant? To me, he basically agreed to be a follower of God. Isn’t that the desire for us when we agree to be baptized?

    Theologically, I guess I see there only being one covenant with God, and all requirements[rites, ordinances, etc.] being requirements of that covenant.

    I am afraid I am not nearly as coherent as you, but am very grateful for your correspondence.

    2 more things.

    I understand your vow, covenant, oath point, but am not sure I agree. After all, we can not make the sacrament covenant without being baptized, according to Early Church Fathers and modern LDS teachings, so isn’t there an implicit vow back from God that we will be able to participate in the Sacrament?

    In this same line of reasoning, Are you saying God promises nothing back for faith and baptism? No forgiveness of sin? No blessings of the covenant? No answers to prater? etc.?

    Ok, I lied, one last though… If we are grandfathered into the Abrahamic Covenant (or covenant), and thus get the blessing God promised Abraham without making our own promises, however we do make “vows” to which God makes not promises back, isn’t there both a promise on our part and a promise on God’s part which leaves us both making promises, or in other words, a covenant?

  94. admin

    OK, I just lost two posts, one from David J and one from LXXLuthor, I think. When I approved their status in the queue, the entire queue just up and disappeared.

    How weird is that?

    Anyway, my apologies.

  95. LXXLuthor

    Dang, and mine was huge. And I don’t have time to type it up anymore. Crud.

  96. LXXLuthor

    Well, I’m going to try again and get everything I meant to say. Matt, I think we are finally communicating about things now. It’s nice to hear you say you can see where we are coming from at least. I know that I can clearly see where you are coming from, I was there until recently myself.

    Anyway, I would love to view the evidence, if there is any, which shows baptism was not a covenant in Christ’s time or in the ANE.

    I’m not sure what evidence you mean. If you want someone to say in the NT that baptism is or is not a covenant then clearly we know that isn’t going to happen. It means we are both sort of arguing from silence in that respect. And then there are no accounts of the exact formula for baptism so we are still arguing from silence. And I’m not convinced by late church fathers calling it a covenant because they were not Jews by decent and they didn’t come from the Jewish OT background just like we don’t today. I’m not giving any old Greek the benefit of the doubt that they have a proper technical conception of what makes a covenant a covenant.

    Theologically, I guess I see there only being one covenant with God, and all requirements[rites, ordinances, etc.] being requirements of that covenant.

    Interesting idea. Sort of like the way we describe the New and Everlasting Covenant where everything is just a part of it.

    As for the “little c not big C” thing, that is my own distinction and I should have clarified. There is, in the Church, the concept of the Abrahamic Covenant (or big c). It seems to me like this is some overarching, all encompassing thing to do with the House of Israel. The Abrahamic covenant (little c) is the very covenant Abraham made with God which pertained dierctly to himself.

    To be honest, I don’t know that I have a clue what the Abrahamic Covenant really is. As I read the Bible Dictionary entry on it I get the feeling that what I said in my last comment is essentially correct. In the one on one covenant, Abraham was promised that all of the blessings given to him would be offered to all of his posterity by entering into the same covenant as he had. One is either born into or adopted into the position where one can make those covenants.

    Do we normally mean this when we say Abrahamic Covenant in the Church? I get the impression that there is a misconception that we are already in a covenant with the Lord just by being born into or adopted into the House of Israel. I know that I am certainly unclear about it all.

    isn’t there an implicit vow back from God that we will be able to participate in the Sacrament? In this same line of reasoning, Are you saying God promises nothing back for faith and baptism? No forgiveness of sin? No blessings of the covenant? No answers to prater? etc.?

    And also:

    however we do make “vows” to which God makes not promises back, isn’t there both a promise on our part and a promise on God’s part which leaves us both making promises, or in other words, a covenant?

    Now I can’t reproduce the stuff in my deleted comment like I had it there but I will try to give you the gist of my answer to this as clearly as I can.

    Whatever God gives us that he is not compelled to give to us, is given out of love, from grace. It isn’t earned (we’ve already established this I know, but bear with me). Rewards for faithfulness on our part are not compelled that I know of. Same with prayer. Therefore they are gifts from God. Blessings from covenants are delineated during the covenant whether it is one we make ourselves or one that someone else makes but directly affects us (like Abraham or being born in the covenant).

    The promises for those who get baptised is a different issue to me. And here I’m going to introduce another idea that hasn’t been raised. The promised results for being baptised were not established during baptism, they were established in the pre-mortal council.

    Before anyone came to earth, or even before it was created, the whole plan of salvation was laid out and agreed upon, right? This means that God decreed “whoever does X is worthy of baptism” and “whoever is baptised will become a part of the kingdom of God on earth” and finally “any member of the Kingdom of God on earth in good standing may enter into the covenant of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” (or something like this) And we all agreed to these terms, maybe by covenant (I’m personally fond of this idea).

    Let me see if I can make this make sense (even to me). We agreed, previous to this life, to the way that the plan of salvation would work. We agreed that anyone who got baptised would be considered a part of the Kingdom. This means that in this life God is bound to admit anyone who meets the agreed upon terms into his kingdom. If there is a covenant in this equation it was made in the premortal life, not at the time of baptism.

    On the other hand, we all agreed to the same stuff for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and in that case there is an explicit covenant even in mortality. And the same with temple covenants.

    isn’t there an implicit vow back from God that we will be able to participate in the Sacrament?

    I say no. It is not an implicit vow being made at the time of baptism back to the initiate, it is an explicit agreement agreed to beforehand by God and us. That agreement in heaven may have ben a covenant but on earth it is simply an initiation ceremony whose terms were determined for all beforehand. And I think the same is true of washings and annointings in the temple: they are ordinances with positive blessings being received without a concurrent covenant being made, the basis for those blessings having agreed upon in the premortal council.

    Now I didn’t do nearly so good of a job at explaining this this time around. I hope it makes sense. Under this understanding I continue to believe that all covenants must be explicit.

  97. Matt W.

    LXX, give me til monday or so to stew this over, and I’ll get back with you.

  98. Matt W.

    First, let me apoligize, I have been getting Basil’s and Justin Martyr’s dates confused in the last few posts. Hence my reference to a late church father as opposed to an early church father.

    The pertinent Justin Martyr was

    …we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism…

    which links circumcision and Baptism. But again, Justin is just another convert and around 130 AD, so his date may be too late for you,which is understandable.

    So we are both arguing from silence, regarding the Bible. I do feel like I have Alma 7:15 and Moses 6:52-end in my favor, though I’n not sure they can not be engaged by historical criticism as a practice, being divinely recieved by Joseph Smith.
    I would be interested if there is some other way these verses can be interpreted from a believer’s perspective?

    As for the Abrahamic Covenant, I like Jennifer Clark Lane’s model . (If you have Gospel Link, she presented another article at the 1994 Sperry Symposium which directly links her model to Paul.) In brief, we are adopted into the Abrahamic Covenant at Baptism. Of course, this brings up questions of what it means to be born in the covenant which I’m not prepared to answer. It also brings up questions about what exactly is meant by how we are God’s children, which I am also a little fuzzy on (ie-my answer is complicated at best.)

    Your idea regarding a pre-mortal covenant is very interesting, and I am critical of it in no way, shape or form. But doesn’t this imply a baptismal covenant (where covenant means 2-way or 3-way promise or agreement)?

    As for your last comments, I am somewhat at a loss at the difference between an initiation with pre-determined terms and a covenant, but this may be due to different definitions of covenant.

    One additional thing I wanted to add:
    In a way, in POGP, BOM, and D&C, the covenant of Baptism is explicit. In the Bible, it is not explicit, but is implicitly connected to covenant via circumcission in Colossians. Now scholars are split about 60/40 as to the authenticity of Collosians as being from Paul. (I would be in the 40% I guess)

    Anyway, by implicit I mean that Baptism is not directly called a covenant in the NT. I think, on the other hand, the requirements for baptism and the blessings from baptism are somewhat laid out in the Bible and in the ANE, which is enough for me to show a two-way promise or covenant, even without the explicit statement (Outside of the use in Galatians 3 of course, which is debateable, as Mogget and I have already gone rounds for.)

    Anyway, I guess my major points for Baptism as a covenant are faith claims based on Joseph Smith originated Scripture and the world view placed therein. Is there an alternative way to handle these points?