I’ll never forget the day of my baptism, now nearly three decades ago as an eight-year-old boy. It was a stake baptism with multiple youths being baptized that day and a large number of people in attendance. I was baptized three times that day, only one counting, as my foot left the water the first time and my dad flubbed the prayer the second time. We laughed together as a family afterward, but my thoughts soon turned to my responsibility: keeping myself sinless because I’d just been made clean.
I didn’t understand completely the concept that I could continue to receive a remission of my sins – and I hoped to have another 80-90 years of sinning left to live. Admittedly, I began to feel jealous of those who were baptized later in life. These were some desperate thoughts for an eight-year-old.
Fast forward many years later. I had a friend who asked me, “why would I want to get baptized now when I can just wait until later and have fun now while being forgiven of my sins?” I answered him without hesitation, “because you don’t have the Holy Ghost.” I had come to understand the wonderful gift I had been granted in my youth.
I wrote previously about the Mission of the Holy Ghost and that it seemed many forget His most important role – as Sanctifier. John the Baptist understood baptism by water wasn’t sufficient: I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Matthew 3:11)
John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith, which has the power of administering the outward ordinance of baptism. Baptism by water is the physical act of showing our commitment to making covenants with our Heavenly Father. However, it is the Melchizedek Priesthood that holds the keys to the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the sanctification that comes with baptism by fire.
When I was a missionary, it was made clear by our Mission President that a baptism was not complete until the convert had been confirmed and received the Holy Ghost. Paul understood this as well: He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:2-5)
If I had understood that the water wasn’t what had cleaned me, but the Holy Ghost, my worries would have been dissuaded as a youth. Nephi taught: For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:17)
Knowing that the Confirmation Ordinance is what gives us remission of our sins, it should give us a new perspective on the Sacrament. We promise three things: Take upon us the name of Christ, Always remember Him, and Keep His commandments. We are “only” promised one thing in return: To always have His Spirit to be with us. (D&C 20:77) But if we understand that it is His Spirit that purifies us and sanctifies us, we can cherish His companionship even more. If we are worthy to have His Spirit with us, a member of the Godhead, at all times, we can live with the quiet peace of knowing our fate at “the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah” before we even arrive at that great and fateful day. The promise of the Spirit is available to us as we come to the Sacrament table each week with a “broken heart and a contrite spirit,” having repented for our sins.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost and the reassurance that we can “always retain a remission of [our] sins” is what allows for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to proclaim their joy and peace in this life – while at the same time having an assurance of coming blessings in the hereafter. No delay of that blessing is worth delaying for the gratification of the things of this world.
“Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins” -Elder David A. Bednar, April 2016
“Always Have His Spirit” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 1996
Dustin Turner is a life long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission in Monterrey, Mexico (2002-04). He has been married 15 years to his wife, Paola and together they have five boys. You can follow him @dmturner1232