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Can We PLEASE Get This Straight?

I’ve been a member of the church nearly all my life and am baffled at how often incorrect doctrine and concepts are taught, certainly not intentionally, but occurring nonetheless. And it happens almost every time I attend a baptism. So can we please get one thing straight?

A newly baptized person is not necessarily “the cleanest person in the room.” I’m confident that the people who speak this phrase, Bishopric members included, simply aren’t thinking about what they are saying when they say it. But every time I hear it, I sit in my chair and cringe, biting my lip trying to stop myself from blurting out “So I guess that whole thing about taking the sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants is just a rouse to get our fannies in a pew on Sunday so the ward clerk can turn in a high attendance count and secure a larger ward budget?”

How can we expect members, especially those who are newly baptized, to fully understand and appreciate the wonderful blessing of partaking of the Sacrament when from day one they are led to believe that the only really clean and righteous people are those whose hair is still dripping wet?

The incredible opportunity we have each week to partake of the sacrament is, at it’s very core, foundational in the gospel. It wouldn’t do us much good to get baptized for a remission of our sins, (especially at the age of eight when technically, you wouldn’t have been held accountable for any sins up to that point anyway) if that was the only time in our lives when we could be called “clean.” What difference would it make to get baptized one day back in 1976 if I’m going to end up unclean the rest of my life regardless of it? Or is it that the sacrament only works partially? It renews your covenants, but it doesn’t renew them all the way? It makes you clean again, but not really clean?

Participating in the ordinance of the sacrament is one of the most precious blessings we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each week, if we prepare properly and attend Sacrament Meeting with a broken heart and contrite, repentant spirit, we can be made clean again as we lift bread and water to our lips that have been blessed and sanctified (consecrated; made holy) for the very purpose of renewing our baptismal covenant and demonstrating that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember him and keep His commandments so that His spirit can be with us.

With an understanding of this divine principle, we should all understand that at any baptismal service, all Sacrament-taking members in attendance should be just as clean as the person who has just been baptized.

Of course, there are many (and I’m sure all of us have been guilty of it more than once) who take the sacrament simply because it’s passing by. The tray of bread is in front of our face, we put a piece in our mouth and chew, and don’t give a thought as to why we’re taking it. It’s very easy to lose sight of the reason and purpose of what we’re doing and merely go through the motions.

But I know there are plenty of people on any given Sunday who are taking the Sacrament with full purpose of heart, having repented, contemplating on the things they may have done wrong during week and sincerely seeking the power of the atonement to make them clean yet again. I’ve even managed to do that myself on occasion.

And is it too far-fetched to suggest that the very people who are the ones you can count on to actually take the extra time out of their hectic lives to attend the baptism of someone they may not have ever even met before, driving the extra “lap” back to the church building, maybe skipping out on other more recreational or self-serving things they could doing, so that they could witness and show support to someone making those sacred covenants, might actually be some of the very people who take those covenants serious enough that they did take the Sacrament with full of purpose of heart and are also really clean? I don’t think that’s too big of a stretch.

Let’s not diminish the power and glory of the atonement, nor the miraculous cleansing power of baptism and the sacrament (which all are inexorably entwined in correct doctrine and righteous practice) by implying that the cleanest person in the room can only be the one whose clothing is sticking to their still dampened skin.

{ 45 comments… add one }

  • Paul July 5, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Hurray for you. Great observation. (Though in fairness to those well-meaning baptismal speakers, perhaps they assume the one dripping wet has more recently been cleansed, so in that moment they are cleaner than anyone else — until, at least (as a member on my mission in Germany put it) the new member stubs his toe in the locker room, has an unkind thought, and Mr. Clean is just like the rest of us…)

    Truth be told, the “most clean” would be the pre-accountability set in attendance.

    But to your real point — anything that reminds us of the sacrament and its sacred purpose (rather than relegating it to also-ran status) is a thumbs-up in my book.
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  • Kayla July 5, 2011, 3:48 pm

    Unless they passed the sacrament around the congregation directly after the baptism, then the baptizee probably is the cleanest person in the room. Just sayin.

  • jennycherie July 5, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Nicely said, Tracy. Kayla, I see what you’re saying, but I also think it is important not to deny the power of the weekly. sacrament.
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  • jks July 5, 2011, 8:55 pm

    I don’t want to get too wrapped up in the sacrament renewal of covenants kind of thing.
    The point really should be that you sin and then repent. If you repent you are clean again. Period.
    However, since sometimes it takes awhile to realize your sin and it can take a while to repent and feel clean, people can feel like they are currently in the process rather than already at this moment squeaky clean.
    When it comes to baptisms, I have different pet peeves. I have pet peeves that people gush about their spiritual experience being baptized and assume you will have the same one. They can sometimes ask questions of kids like “How did you feel right after you were baptized?” and get answers like “I needed to go to the bathroom.” I guess that particular kid didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed that the adult was trying to get them to give a “spiritual feeling” kind of answer because they were naive, but I could tell. Let the kid have her own experience!
    Anyway, I think the sacrament is there to help us remember and take time to recommit and focus and we are promised his spirit. Just listen to the prayer. It doesn’t say that we become clean again by taking the sacrament. I think it “works” as a renewal of covenants but that is not its sole or complete purpose.
    I have faith in the atonement and it is something that I grow to understand as life gives me chances to access it.

  • jennycherie July 6, 2011, 1:32 am

    They can sometimes ask questions of kids like “How did you feel right after you were baptized?” and get answers like “I needed to go to the bathroom.”

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! too funny~
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  • Alison Moore Smith July 6, 2011, 9:28 am

    I tend to agree. However, I’m not really convinced of some exact connection between taking the sacrament and being “washed clean.” As jks said, I think it’s more a “we mess up, we repent, and every week we remember what we promised and recommit.” (If I’m misrepresenting what jks thinks, just take this as my own statement.)

    OTOH, I’m not really convinced that baptism has some kind of magical “cleaning” power, either. We don’t just march in and baptize people. For example, they are expected to STOP doing things like smoking, drinking, living with unmarried partners, etc., BEFORE baptism. In other words, they are supposed to repent first. We don’t say, “Hey, once you’re baptized, you need to stop doing X. Now part of that could be about habits, but I’m not sure that’s all of it.
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  • Olivia July 6, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Tracy, tell me if I understand you correctly. Are you saying that you feel your (and others’) efforts at repentance and sacrament participation are being unappreciated when someone says the newly baptized person is “the cleanest person in the room”?

  • Tracy Keeney July 6, 2011, 2:34 pm

    @Kayla–
    First, please note that I said the “baptizee” isn’t NECESSARILY the cleanest person in the room.
    But really, how many sins do you think someone has commited after having sincerely taken the Sacrament meeting then sits through Sunday School and Relief Society?
    If I’m (or anyone) sincerely repentant when I take the Sacrament and sit through the remainder of my meetings honestly seeking for greater knowledge and understanding during Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society, enjoying the lessons and participating, how many SINS have I commited in the 2 1/2 hours before I attend the baptism? Of course, I COULD sit in class and make an unfair judgment or criticism of someone’s comment, I could have an unkind thought– but what if I didn’t?

    If I go home right after the block meetings and make lunch for the kids, write in my journal, search through my music for the next piece I want to work on for choir, make a VT visit, then head to an evening baptism all without an incident where I lost my temper or whatever, what sin have I commited that makes me “not clean” at the baptism?
    But let’s set aside for a minute, whether or not attendees happened to have “sinned” between time– what message does it send to the person being baptized for a speaker to say that they are the cleanest person in the room? By default, they are ALSO saying the reverse, “everyone else in the room is LESS clean than you”. So if ALL the previously baptized people in the room are automatically deemed to be “less clean” than the baptizee simply because they aren’t freshly wet,– then doesn’t that infer TO the baptizee that THEY won’t ever be that clean again either? That in order to be “really clean” you have to have been baptized within the last 5 minutes? (And none of this takes into account that the person who was just baptized could have stubbed their toe or slipped on the way up the font stairs and lost their temper a little and said something inappropriate under their breath. WALA– they’re not perfectly clean anymore. :)

  • Tracy Keeney July 6, 2011, 3:00 pm

    Okay, I’m not sure how I managed to completely skip over Paul’s comment– but now I feel pretty stupid, because he made a similar comment about the toe! How weird is that?

    jks and Alison — the sacrament prayers don’t say “and if you take the Sacrament your sins are washed away” but that IS the doctrine.

    When we take the Sacrament we’re renewing our covenant. If a covenant is a TWO way promise, then it isn’t just OUR side that’s getting “renewed”. We come with a repentent heart, take the Sacrament thereby renewing our covenants, and he FORGIVES us of our sins– just as he did at our baptism. THAT’S the covenant. We repent, he forgives. Is that not being “washed clean”? It’s the whole point of taking the Sacrament– it’s WHY during the Sacrament, He wants us to think about his suffering. He wants us remember what He did to make that possible.

    Here’s the doctrine on the Sacrament and it’s role in making us clean. (Assuming of course, that the person taking it is doing so sincerely)

    Caps are mine for emphasis.

    From the Gospel Principles manual: “..when we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants we made when we were baptized. Jesus gave us the pattern for partaking of the sacrament (see 3 Nephi 18:1–12) and said that WHEN WE FOLLOW THIS PATTERN repenting of our sins and believing on His name, we will GAIN A REMISSION OF OUR SINS (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24).”

    Dallin H. Oaks, Conference Report, Nov 1996
    “In partaking of the sacrament, we can RENEW THE EFFECTS of our baptism. When we desire a remission of our sins through the Atonement of our Savior, we are commanded to repent and come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 3 Ne. 9:20; 3 Ne. 12:19; Moro. 6:2; D&C 20:37). In the waters of baptism we witness to the Lord that we have repented of our sins and are willing to take his name upon us and serve him to the end (see D&C 20:37)…. The renewal of our covenants by partaking of the sacrament should also be preceded by repentance, so we come to that sacred ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 2 Ne. 2:7; 3 Ne. 12:19; D&C 59:8). Then, as we renew our baptismal covenants and affirm that we will “always remember him” (D&C 20:77), THE LORD WILL RENEW THE PROMISED REMISSION OF OUR SINS…”

    John H. Groberg, Conference Report, May 1989
    “Do you remember the feeling you had when you were baptized—that sweet, clean feeling of a pure soul, having been forgiven, washed clean through the merits of the Savior? IF WE PARTAKE OF THE SACRAMENT WORTHILY, WE CAN FEEL THAT WAY REGULARLY , for we renew that covenant, WHICH INCLUDES HIS FORGIVENESS.”

    Vaughn J. Featherstone, Ensign, September 2001
    It is essential that we renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. When we do this with a sincere heart, with real intent, forsaking our sins, and renewing our commitment to God, the Lord provides a way whereby SINS CAN BE FORGIVEN WEEK TO WEEK. Simply eating the bread and drinking the water will not bring that forgiveness. We must prepare and then partake with a broken heart and contrite spirit. The spiritual preparation we make to partake of the sacrament is essential to receiving a REMISSION OF OUR SINS.”

  • Alison Moore Smith July 6, 2011, 8:02 pm

    My thinking comes from the same quotes. :)

    Jesus gave us the pattern for partaking of the sacrament and said that when we follow this pattern repenting of our sins and believing on His name, we will gain a remission of our sins.

    …we are commanded to repent and come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit

    The renewal of our covenants by partaking of the sacrament should also be preceded by repentance, so we come to that sacred ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Then, as we renew our baptismal covenants and affirm that we will “always remember him,” the Lord will renew the promised remission of our sins…

    If we partake of the sacrament worthily [as specified elsewhere, being repentant and faithful], we can feel that way regularly, for we renew the covent which includes his forgiveness.

    When we do this with a sincere heart, with real intent, forsaking our sins, and renewing our commitment to God, the Lord provides a way whereby sing can be forgiven week to week. Simply eating the bread and drinking the water will not bring that forgiveness. We must prepare and then partake with a broken heart and contrite spirit. The spiritual preparation we make to partake of the sacrament is essential to receiving a remission of our sins.

    I see the covenants of baptism and the renewal of the sacrament to be meaningful rituals to keep in mind what we are to do.

    Part of the promise of our baptism is that IF we repent, etc., we will be forgiven. We promise to keep the commandments, God promises that if we fail and repent, he will forgive us. That is an ongoing promise, with the result not directly tied to either the dunking or the drinking, IMO.

    If someone was in a place where they could NOT partake of the sacrament, but still repented and believed, they’d still have their sins forgiven. Wouldn’t you agree? I don’t believe we do the weekly repentance gig, then wait until the water is passed on Sunday when God finally forgives us.

    I don’t see the actual ordinance as some kind of magical forgiveness moment. I see forgiveness coming from God the minute we have repented and done what he asks — and the baptism and renewal as commitment rituals.

    All in all I agree with the main point that the “more clean” argument is lame. (1) Because I don’t see the act of baptism as the mechanism to induce “cleanliness” and (2) that would requires the exact kind of judgment we have no business making — a judgment of another’s spiritual position — because we don’t have the information to make it correctly.
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  • Tracy Keeney July 6, 2011, 10:11 pm

    @Olivia–
    No– it isn’t whether or not an attendee’s repentence is appreciated or recognized. And certainly not that an attendee might feel slighted or hurt by the comment (if that’s what you meant.) It’s simply that the comment is
    1) Possibly wrong, even though it’s said so matter of factly, as if it’s just a given and
    2) Even more importantly, that it dismisses the power and purpose of the Sacrament, and therefore the Atonement.

  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 5:09 am

    “If someone was in a place where they could NOT partake of the sacrament, but still repented and believed, they’d still have their sins forgiven. Wouldn’t you agree? ”

    Of course. But the implication you seem to be giving, (BARRING the exception that partaking was impossible– no priesthood around, or the person is fed by feeding tube or something) is that we don’t need the Sacrament to gain remission. But we do. That’s why it’s THE most important meeting we attend. I think a comparison to what you said, would be “If someone didn’t have access to a Priesthood holder, they could pray and through their own faith be healed. Wouldn’t you agree? ” And of course I would… but following the implication it seems you’re making—then why have a Priesthood blessing for healing if someone could be healed on their own? And that’s not even a very good comparison because “blessings of healing” aren’t even a necessary ordinance. I imagine that in extreme circumstances, although it’s probably very rare, if it’s ever even happened at all, that people can’t get baptized, either. If someone had some sort of permanent medical condition where they COULDN’T be immersed in water, would the Church refuse them membership and blessings of the gospel? I can’t imagine they’d say – you’ll just have to wait until your dead, and we’ll have someone do your work by proxy. I’m sure the Lord would reveal SOME way for that person to become a member and claim the blessings of baptism, even IF an actual baptism would still be necessary by proxy later. In a similar vein, if we don’t have bread and water for the Sacrament, other things CAN be used.
    I don’t know– this just all reminds me of the “what if someone doesn’t have a right hand” argument.

    “I don’t see the actual ordinance as some kind of magical forgiveness moment”

    Well, not any more or less “magical” than baptism. Is it the actual going under the water that washes away the sins? No—that’s SYBMBOLIC of what’s actually washing away the sins. And sticking the bread and water in your mouth is the same way.

    I’m curious what you think THIS specific statement from Dallin H. Oaks means, if not EXACTLY what it’s saying?
    “In partaking of the sacrament, we can renew THE EFFECTS of our baptism…. THE LORD WILL RENEW THE PROMISED REMISSION OF OUR SINS…”
    That makes it clear to me that it isn’t just us renewing the COMMITMENTS we made at baptism, but the EFFECTS—which was what? The remission of sins. If a person approaches baptism with a truly penitent heart and his sins are symbolically “washed away” and the person is “made clean”, then that happens AGAIN when the “effects” of baptism are once again achieved by penitently partaking of the Sacrament. His sins are symbolically “washed away” and the person is “made clean”. What else does “we renew the effects” mean?

  • Melissa July 7, 2011, 9:45 am

    Isn’t it true that the baptismal process isn’t complete until we have received the Holy Ghost because we need to have the baptism of water and of the Spirit? So maybe the correlation between the repentance process and the sacrament has a lot to do with our renewal to the commitment of living so that we can always have the cleansing power of the Spirit with us. To me, it seems like maybe this is another gospel pattern in action, similar to eternal life/exaltation. Eternal life is a gift given by virtue of a one time act where exaltation is a reward earned by continual progression but they go hand in hand. Baptism is a one time ordinance but repentance is a continual process facilitated by the Holy Ghost but they are both necessary to the cleansing process.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 10:11 am

    But the implication you seem to be giving, (BARRING the exception that partaking was impossible– no priesthood around, or the person is fed by feeding tube or something) is that we don’t need the Sacrament to gain remission. But we do.

    I don’t know of any doctrine that indicates that we need to take the sacrament in order to gain remission of sins. Or be baptized, for that matter.

    That’s why it’s THE most important meeting we attend.

    I think it’s THE most important meeting we attend because it is the designated place for us to use an ordinance to re-covenant with God. That is, apparently, a very important thing for humans to do.

    If someone had some sort of permanent medical condition where they COULDN’T be immersed in water, would the Church refuse them membership and blessings of the gospel?

    That’s an interesting question. I have not known of anyone becoming a member without baptism.

    have known of a couple elderly people for whom it would have been traumatic and they were simply told that they’d be baptized by proxy after death. I also know of one terminally ill man who was baptized in a swimming pool with medical personnel around.

    I don’t know– this just all reminds me of the “what if someone doesn’t have a right hand” argument.

    First, I’ll point out that the church doesn’t teach the “right hand” thing anymore. (I think that came up in a discussion a number of years ago, but it may have been another venue.) :) But, more importantly, I’d say it’s nothing like that. I think we have a fundamental disagreement of how repentance is obtained and the actual function of baptism and the sacrament.

    I’m no expert on this and have only been thinking about this particular correlation for a day. :) I have just never heard anyone present the idea that it is the act of taking the sacrament that produces a remission of sin.

    I’m curious what you think THIS specific statement from Dallin H. Oaks means, if not EXACTLY what it’s saying?
    “In partaking of the sacrament, we can renew THE EFFECTS of our baptism…. THE LORD WILL RENEW THE PROMISED REMISSION OF OUR SINS…”

    Because renewing a covenant isn’t the same thing as providing what a covenant allows.

    Renewing my library card is entering — again — into a contract about what the library will allow me to do and what I will do in return. It’s re-engaging in an agreement. It’s not the same as giving me a book to read.

    Renewing my rental contract is determining — for a subsequent event — that the landlord will give me a place to live and I’ll pay rent and keep up the property as agreed. It’s not the same as PAYING the rent or doing the work or getting an apartment with working plumbing. It’s an AGREEMENT to do so in the future.

    Oaks didn’t say, “In partaking of the sacrament, our sins are forgiven.” He said, “In partaking of the sacrament, we RENEW the agreements at baptism, one of which is the promise of a remission of our sins”– which, or course, is dependent upon REPENTANCE.

    I submit that you can’t renew an agreement without renewing it’s effects — unless, of course, you are lying. :)

    As I said, I’m open to this idea. I’ve just never heard it presented that way before.
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  • Amber Mae July 7, 2011, 10:30 am

    As Paul mentioned earlier I always assumed they were referring to the fact that the person baptized is the most recently cleaned. Either way I can’t help but think that you’re straining at a gnat. Why get all in a huff over a stupid phrase. It’s not meant to be some big doctrinal lesson, and I have never met an active member who was confused over the purpose of the sacrament because someone muttered that a recently baptized person was the most clean person in the room.
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  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 10:58 am

    “I don’t know of any doctrine that indicates that we need to take the sacrament in order to gain remission of sins. Or be baptized, for that matter.”

    I’m falling out of my chair. The doctrine is that we are baptized for a remission of our sins. I know you know that, so I honestly don’t know how to respond to the comment.
    Can you explain? Because I’m thinking that what you mean is something different than what you actually said.

    ” First, I’ll point out that the church doesn’t teach the “right hand” thing anymore.”

    I realize that– and I remember the conversation myself. My point is that the “but there are people who don’t have a right hand” argument always seemed silly and thoughtless to me. If the Church were to say tomorrow, “We’re re-instituting the right hand thing”, then of course, people without a right hand would be able to take it with the left. They wouldn’t summarily disallow people missing a right hand from taking the Sacrament– that anyone would imply for a second that the instruction to use the right hand would prevent those without one from taking the Sacrament always blew my mind.

    “Renewing my rental contract is determining — for a subsequent event — that the landlord will give me a place to live and I’ll pay rent and keep up the property as agreed. It’s not the same as PAYING the rent or doing the work or getting an apartment with working plumbing….
    I submit that you can’t renew an agreement without renewing it’s effects — unless, of course, you are lying. ”

    Of course, but unless I’m misunderstanding your point, wouldn’t ACTUALLY being repentant, and SINCERELY taking the sacrament to renew those covenants to renew the EFFECTS, and doing our best to avoid the things we’re repenting of in the future, be the equivalent (in your comparison to renting an apartment) to “paying the rent, or doing the work, or getting an apartment with working plumbing?”
    I’m either TOTALLY misunderstanding you, or you’re saying that the doctrine stated in the 4th Article of Faith, “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” isn’t really true. That the baptism being symbolic has no bearing on our salvation.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 11:13 am

    I just went onto the Mormon.org chat line and asked the question. :) Not an authoritative source, but sanctioned. :) Here is what they said (chatted with “Tim” and “Chris”):

    Sacrament is a reminder of the promises we made at baptism.

    When I asked if you can be forgiven if you don’t take the sacrament, he said:

    Right, but it is a time when we can renew the promise we made to keep God’s commandments.

    To make sure the question was clear, I asked, “So, it isn’t taking the sacrament that brings forgiveness, but repenting?”

    Right, if you listen to the sacrament prayer, it goes over the various promises and blessings we can receive for keeping those promises. Repenting isn’t really anywhere in it. It’s like baptism for ourselves each week, or a rededication of or efforts.

    He said, “being washed clean” is “not an accurate statement” referring to baptism and the sacrament.

    Repentance is part of the process in being baptized, and I think some people blend the process together.

    It’s hard to say where that statement [washed clean of sin] came from. But the point is that we repent and are made clean. Repentance means turning to God. Baptism is a step in coming to God. The scriptures often say repent and be baptized. We must not only leave behind our old lives, but commit to follow a new one in order to be cleansed. Do you see how they work together and reinforce one another?

    Hope that helps.
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  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 11:47 am

    No– because it’s contradictory to the very specific wording of prophets and apostles. I can’t help but suspect that if they were reading our entire conversation they’d disagree with you. I think if I quoted you saying ““I don’t know of any doctrine that indicates that we need to take the sacrament in order to gain remission of sins. Or be baptized, for that matter” that they’d give you a different answer.
    Even I agree that it isn’t the symbolism (the actual water doesn’t “wash” you clean) or the symbolism of taking the bread and water that “renews the effects” of baptism. And I’m confidant that THAT is what the guys at Mormon.org were implying. But we’ve been told that those things are necessary parts of the gospel for a remission of our sins and are necessary for our salvation. If the symbolism of being baptized really didn’t matter, then Christ himself wouldn’t have needed in order to fulfill all righteousness. It wouldn’t be a necessary ordinance.
    Baptism and partaking of the Sacrament are necessary. You wouldn’t even be considered a member, therefore elligible for God’s eternal blessings if you weren’t baptized. You wouldn’t be considered an active member of the church if you weren’t partaking of the Sacrament (that’s why priesthood holders take it to those who can’t physically come to the meeting). You would be deemed “Unworthy” to go to the temple if you weren’t baptized, or if you weren’t regularly partaking of the Sacrament (one of the reasons why you’re asked if you attend your meetings). I submit that “repent and be baptized” is a COMMANDMENT, not just because it’s a nice way to show commitment, but because they’re necessary for a remission of our sins and our salvation. Otherwise, we’re wasting alot of time and money doing all this missionary work if all anyone has to do is repent, without the sacred ordinances and the priesthood they require, that are suppose to accompany the repentance process.

  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 12:27 pm

    Maybe I’ll go to mormon.org and see what I can do to preach the gospel to the missionaries there.

    “It’s hard to say where the statement washed clean from sin came from” ???

    Well, let’s see– how about scripture?

    Acts 22:16
    16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

    And how about the words of Christ himself and not “just” an apostle?

    Doctrine and Covenants 39:10
    10 But, behold, the days of thy deliverance are come, if thou wilt hearken to my voice, which saith unto thee: Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on my name, and you shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never have known.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I’m falling out of my chair.

    Don’t hurt yourself! :D

    The doctrine is that we are baptized for a remission of our sins. I know you know that…

    I don’t know that in the way you are interpreting. I assume that anyone can repent, regardless of their status as members of the church. I believe God forgives anyone who repents of sin. I’ve never heard a statement saying that nonmembers cannot be forgiven of sins if the repent.

    The page about baptism on the church website says this:

    Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to receive eternal salvation. All who seek eternal life must follow the example of the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Nothing about getting baptized in order to receive forgiveness.

    I you read further on that page, it lists one of God’s promises as “remission of sins.” This, along with all the others is specifically stated as being for “those who keep the covenants they made at baptism.”

    The page about baptism on the church website says:

    Today the sacrament is an ordinance in which Church members partake of bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This ordinance is an essential part of worship and spiritual development. Through this ordinance, Church members renew the covenants they made with God when they were baptized.

    Other pertinent passages included there:

    The sacrament provides an opportunity for Church members to ponder and remember with gratitude the life, ministry, and Atonement of the Son of God. The broken bread is a reminder of His body and His physical suffering—especially His suffering on the cross. It is also a reminder that through His mercy and grace, all people will be resurrected and given the opportunity for eternal life with God.

    The water is a reminder that the Savior shed His blood in intense spiritual suffering and anguish, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding on the cross.

    In partaking of the sacrament and making these commitments, Church members renew the covenant they made at baptism.

    In return, the Lord renews the promised remission of sin and enables Church members to “always have his Spirit to be with them.”

    Of course, but unless I’m misunderstanding your point, wouldn’t ACTUALLY being repentant, and SINCERELY taking the sacrament to renew those covenants to renew the EFFECTS, and doing our best to avoid the things we’re repenting of in the future, be the equivalent (in your comparison to renting an apartment) to “paying the rent, or doing the work, or getting an apartment with working plumbing?”

    If by “being repentant” you mean “repenting” then sure. But you are including taking the sacrament as PART of repentance (necessary for forgiveness except in some unnamed unusual circumstances, like a feeding tubes) and I (and the guys at Mormon.org) are saying that it’s not.

    If you’re saying that the doctrine stated in the 4th Article of Faith, “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” isn’t really true.

    That’s a good question. I tried to ask it at Mormon.org and couldn’t get a straight answer. I talked to “Mathilda” and “Steffany.” The best answer I could get — about what “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” meant (specifically asking, repeatedly, if nonmembers could repent and if baptism CAUSED the remission of sin) — was this:

    I guess the best explination [sic] we can give is that renewing our baptismal covenants is also renewing the promise to keep His commandments and one of those commandments is to attend church every Sunday and partake of the sacrament.

    They spent most of the time asking why I wanted to know, how I defined “repent,” and how OLD I was! Then they said they were out of time.

    My own interpretation is that the baptismal covenant carries a PROMISE to forgive us if we repent. So the “baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” isn’t some kind of “your are forgiven NOW” statement and it’s also not “you could never repent UNTIL now” statement. It’s simply a promise of future forgiveness conditional upon our obedience.

    Tracy:

    That the baptism being symbolic has no bearing on our salvation.

    That’s an inaccurate reflection of what I said. The fact that ordinances in the church are symbolic doesn’t reflect whether or not they have bearing on our salvation.

    I don’t have any indication that symbolic ordinances are something eternally necessary. My thought is that the symbolism is in place because it helps US. We make connections between symbolism and reality (like being “born again”), the act of going through an ordinances makes it more serious than other things we do, etc. I think God could (without violating some eternal law) change the symbolism to something more meaningful to us. (Indicated in endowment, initiatory changes.)

    I think if I quoted you saying ““I don’t know of any doctrine that indicates that we need to take the sacrament in order to gain remission of sins. Or be baptized, for that matter” that they’d give you a different answer.

    I did quote it. Copy and paste. I also copied and pasted your statement. I said, “I have an LDS friend who said COPYPASTEYOU but I understand COPYPASTEME. Can you clarify?”

    I will concede that the guys at Mormon.org could be flat out wrong. They are just folks like us with a bit more training, maybe. But I asked with specific copy and paste and then re-asked, repeatedly, to make sure it was clear. I asked and even said, “I’m sorry, I just want to be clear.” I asked about seven or eight different ways.

    But we’ve been told that those things are necessary parts of the gospel for a remission of our sins and are necessary for our salvation.

    I agree that baptism is necessary for exaltation. Have not suggested otherwise. The sacrament, however, is not necessary for salvation. We baptize for the dead. We don’t take sacrament for the dead. :)

    If the symbolism of being baptized really didn’t matter…

    To be clear, I didn’t say it didn’t matter. Not sure where you got that. I tried rereading the thread and can’t see what has led you to say that.

    I submit that “repent and be baptized” is a COMMANDMENT, not just because it’s a nice way to show commitment, but because they’re necessary for a remission of our sins and our salvation.

    Again, I’m unsure where I stated or implied that being baptized and repenting were unnecessary or merely “a nice way to show commitment.” ???
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  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Here’s a reference that might help:

    Has water, in itself, any virtue to wash away sin? Certainly not; but the Lord says, “If the sinner will repent of his sins, and go down into the waters of baptism, and there be buried in the likeness of being put into the earth and buried, and again be delivered from the water, in the likeness of being born—if in the sincerity of his heart he will do this, his sins shall be washed away.” [See D&C 128:12–13.] Will the water of itself wash them away? No; but keeping the commandments of God will cleanse away the stain of sin (DBY, 159).

    Here is an explanation of the statement “we must be baptized for the remission of our sins:

    When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized, our sins are forgiven through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    I don’t make the connection between baptism/sacrament and being clean that you seem to.

    The idea of whether nonmembers can be forgiven is one I haven’t thought of before today, just assumed. I’ll be looking into that more. Hope others will, too. Perhaps baptism is required in order to actually ACCEPT the atonement, which would make sense.
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  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 12:55 pm

    “I assume that anyone can repent, regardless of their status as members of the church. I believe God forgives anyone who repents of sin. I’ve never heard a statement saying that nonmembers cannot be forgiven of sins if the repent.”

    Of course they can. But the scriptures are clear that baptism is a part of that process. The doctrine is “baptism, for a remission of sins”– not “baptism, so that you’re name can be on the records of the church” right? Clearly, the record keeping part is important, but God himself is keeping record, the record keeping is for OUR benefit, not His. And the record keeping part isn’t as salvationally crucial as the “remission of sins part.”

    Now, I don’t know how all that works– maybe a nonmember repents and is forgiven, and that person, who’s temple work would eventually be done, would accept baptism by proxy to make their remission of sins complete or binding– or whatever. I’m not sure how to word it.

    Very interesting discussion– funny how something so basic to the gospel can be interpreted differently by different people– even people pretty darn well-versed. I never would have thought that this was even debateable!

    Okay all you lurkers– speak up!! Thoughts?

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 1:25 pm

    I have asked some folks (completely non-authoritative, :) but smart) this question: Can nonmembers be forgiven of sin if they repent? Or must one be baptized in order to accept (and utilize) the atonement? I’ll post the responses of those who give permission.

    In the long run, every one is baptized and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. So I suppose the question becomes can God let a person take advantage of a baptism that is still in the future? It seems likely that the answer is yes. Especially since many people were baptized before the accompanying atonement had even occurred. Of course, it probably depends on the person’s state of mind and intent.

    And, of course, repentance precedes baptism in the gospel, so obviously one can and should repent before ever being baptized, whatever one’s state of forgiveness.

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  • MonMon July 7, 2011, 1:29 pm

    You don’t have to take the sacrament to get forgiven even if you are healthy and eat bread like a pig every minute of your life.

    Why do missionaries make you repent before baptism if it’s all washed away anyway?

  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 1:29 pm

    Well put Melissa!! And so CONSISELY put. (Why can’t I do that?)
    I’m sorry for the delay in my response. I’m not sure how this posting thing works– (maybe Alison can explain it?)
    but all this time (until 2:20 pm) your comment has not been showing up in the thread. I only knew you’d commented because your response JUST popped up in my email, then when I came back to the site, I saw it listed way up higher in the thread, and it says you commented at 9:45 in the morning!

  • Angie July 7, 2011, 1:38 pm

    I find this discussion fascinating, but it’s not my pet peeve so I don’t really have a strong opinion. Honestly, I just find both baptism and the sacrament to be symbolic of covenants we are making (or renewal of those covenants) and it’s more what you are doing in your heart than in the water or by taking the sacrament anyway.

    FYI. Tracy, next you should write on my pet peeves: “free” agency (grates at me as it is not the term used in the scriptures and there is nothing free about it) and “pre-existence”. If we are talking about the existence before our earthly existence, our spirits did exist so it’s not really a pre-existence. Pre-existing would be before our spirits existed, right? It’s also not the scriptural term. And yet, I hear it all the time…included just last week in a youth conference address given by our area authority.

    I prefer simply agency and pre-earthly existence or pre-earth life.

    End of threadjack.

  • Barbj July 7, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I don’t know. I think anyone can be forgiven if they truly repent even if they aren’t baptized. But I don’t know. But I know you don’t have to take the sacrament to be forgiven if you are baptized. That would be like saying that oops the baptism isn’t working anymore.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Tracy, when someone comments for the FIRST time (meaning they use a particular name/email combination for the first time), the comment is automatically put into moderation until I approve it. I have to “release” the comment from moderation before it shows up on the blog.

    Once that combination is approved their comments will post immediately, unless they are later explicitly placed on moderation.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 2:07 pm

    Angie, Packer (I think?) once made the argument that the appropriate term was “moral agency” as opposed to “free agency.” Since then the use of “free agency” has kind of grated on me, too. Still, there are over 3,000 references to “free agency” on LDS.org and a few hundred less to “moral agency,” so I’m guessing that the powers that be weren’t as bugged as Packer. :/
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  • partone July 7, 2011, 3:15 pm

    I have never ever heard that repentence is incomplete without taking the sacrament. Tracey, where did you get that idea. That’s got to be just plain wrong. You are clean when you repent and that doesn’t mean you have to get someone to prepare the sacrament for you!

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 4:29 pm

    Hey partone, nice to see you again!
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  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 4:36 pm

    Another answer I got to my question:

    I think there are some examples that suggest that God can forgive non-members, here are just a few:

    1. In early versions of his account of the first vision, Joseph Smith emphasized that God and Jesus Christ told him, an unbaptized non-member, that his sins were forgiven him. Bushman uses this to explain the differences between the various first vision accounts — stating that early on Joseph Smith understood the experience more from a perspective of personal salvation, whereas later on he understood that the real take-away from his experience was much broader than that.
    2. In Matthew 9, Christ forgives the sins of a man sick with palsy, who very likely had NOT been baptized by proper authority, and said “be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
    3. In Luke 7, Christ forgives a woman of ill repute (who very likely had NOT been baptized by proper authority) who came and washed his feet with ointment, saying “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much…”

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  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 6:26 pm

    Amber, I’ve known quite a few converts who DIDN’T understand the importance of the Sacrament. Can I say that it was a “you’re the cleanest person in the room” comment that caused that? No. But I DO see how it would lead them to believe that the only time they can be clean is freshly after baptism. I can’t help but think of the phrase “clean every whit” — that isn’t said at baptism but elsewhere.

    “Honestly, I just find both baptism and the sacrament to be symbolic of covenants we are making (or renewal of those covenants) and it’s more what you are doing in your heart than in the water or by taking the sacrament anyway.”

    This has been brought up several times– so I just want to make sure it’s understood that I have said the same thing a couple times here myself. I acknowledge that the baptism and water are symbolic of the covenant. But my point is that evidently, the symbolic part is quite crucial, not just incidental, since we know for sure, that baptism is REQUIRED. As for the Sacrament– I think Melissa said what I was getting at, but failed to actually put well into words. We can’t be washed clean once and call it a day. We sin enough that Christ instituted the Sacrament as a way to renew those covenants AND it’s effects and expects us to partake of it every week. Hence the quotes I posted from Elder Oaks and Vaughn J. Featherstone back in comment #9.

    Oh– and I love the “pre-existance” comment! Never thought of that! :)

    “I have never ever heard that repentence is incomplete without taking the sacrament. Tracey, where did you get that idea?”

    Partone– aside from the answer I just gave a few sentences earlier, where I mentioned Melissa’s comments (and please know I’m honestly not trying to be rude– I’m sincerely asking the question) but did you read anything I’ve written since the actual article? My comments are FLOODED with
    with explanations and quotes to explain my point. Read on for quick update if you haven’t.

    “But I know you don’t have to take the sacrament to be forgiven if you are baptized. That would be like saying that oops the baptism isn’t working anymore.”

    See– this is where I have a problem. Because if all you had to do is get baptized, then why bother having the Sacrament at all to renew the covenant? It’s not that the baptism “doesn’t work anymore”… it’s that you keep sinning, and need to once again repent and come to partake of the Sacrament to renew the covenant so the Lord can RENEW His remission of your sins, just like Dallin H Oaks said in the quote I posted in #9. If someone got baptized, and died right afterward, then they WOULDN’T need the Sacrament. :) But if you keep on living, you’re going to sin, and you’re going to NEED to renew the covenant and it’s effects. The only crucial meeting we have is Sacrament meeting, and it isn’t because of the talks. It’s because we NEED to take the Sacrament.
    What did Christ say?
    “Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup… and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” In other verses it says “in remembrance of me”
    In remembrance of WHAT about him? There are LOTS of things about Him that we can remember. We do it in remembrance of his body and blood which were sacrificed “for the remission of sins”. That’s WHY we take the Sacrament– that’s what the whole thing, all the symbolism represent. That’s why we’re suppose to take it having repented and coming with a broken heart and contrite spirit. It’s also why you CAN’T take it if the sin in too great.
    Think about that– why can’t someone who’s commited a sexual sin for example, just “repent” on their own and go take the Sacrament? They need Bishopric counsel and “sanction” so to speak, that they HAVE repented so they can worthily take the Sacrament to renew their covenant AND it’s effects. Once the Bishop feels that the person is truly repentent, he tells them they can once again partake.
    So just like someone has to “repent AND be baptized” as the scriptures say over and over again and as Christ says in Alma “Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins” , we also should repent and take the Sacrament to renew the remission of our sins, just as explained in the quote by Dallin H. Oaks. “In the waters of baptism we witness to the Lord that we have repented of our sins and are willing to take his name upon us and serve him to the end …The renewal of our covenants by partaking of the sacrament should ALSO be preceded by repentance, so we come to that sacred ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Then, as we renew our baptismal covenants and affirm that we will “always remember him” THE LORD WILL RENEW THE PROMISED REMISSION OF OUR SINS…”

  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 6:30 pm

    All the answers explaining how non-members can be forgiven totally miss my point.

  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 6:40 pm

    By the way— I just have to say here, that I love this doctrinal discussions where we get into the nitty-gritty of the gospel. As I mentioned earlier, I never would have guessed that the issue of the necessity of baptism and partaking of the Sacrament as they are related to the remission of our sins would even be debateable. But this discussion really causes us to ponder and even do a little study of scripture and prophetic and apostolic teaching, even for a topic that seems so basic. So I really appreciate the thoughtful and sincere responses. I love these kinds of discussions. I’d have made a good Jew. :)

  • MeriKae Leavitt July 7, 2011, 8:45 pm

    Line upon line, precept upon precept.
    Baptism is one line and to maintain and build upon the Sacrament is given (another line) for those of us imperfect creatures who need a weekly aid, Priesthood (another line)and this all builds to bring us to further light and knowledge as we can understand and receive it. It is a very simple and sweet concept, as we try to obtain light and perfect ourselves in the proper order as laid out by Father.

  • MeriKae Leavitt July 7, 2011, 8:46 pm

    whoops forgot to say it all works together as a whole.

  • MeriKae Leavitt July 7, 2011, 8:54 pm

    We will be judged on what we know of these lines of light, so forgiveness isn’t for us to decide how it is done but to do our best with the knowledge we currently have. The knowledge not the idea.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 7, 2011, 10:48 pm

    But I DO see how it would lead them to believe that the only time they can be clean is freshly after baptism. I can’t help but think of the phrase “clean every whit” — that isn’t said at baptism but elsewhere.

    I agree with this and think it can be problematic. There is no need, for example, to wish we had waited until we were old to get baptized, so that all those sins we committed between 8 and “old” could be forgiven. Of course, they can be anyway. :)

    All the answers explaining how non-members can be forgiven totally miss my point.

    Definitely a tangent, but not off topic at all. In fact, I think it’s central to the discussion and provided the key to the debate. It was addressing my statement (against which you contended) that we don’t NEED baptism in order to repent. The more I think and read about it, here is what I’ve concluded (to this point, anyway) :):

    Anyone can repent. Member, nonmember. Baptized or not. Sacrament or no. Or at least go through all the steps as listed by most authoritative sources (see below for a number of them).

    Forgiveness (or “remission of sins”) is only truly possible when we have actually ACCEPTED Christ and his atonement. We do this by being baptized.

    “Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” isn’t about being “washed clean” by the mere act of baptism, but is accepting Christ and thus putting us in a STATE to ALLOW the atonement to work for us. Forgiveness is always on the condition of REPENTANCE.

    And, like I said, while I agree that the sacrament is an important ordinance, we seem to disagree on whether it is REQUIRED as part of repentance. I don’t think it is and I don’t think Oaks statement (or the others) support that idea.

    The repentance page on the church website lists the “elements of repentance” thusly:

    • Faith in Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
    • Sorrow for Sin
    • Confession
    • Abandonment of Sin
    • Restitution
    • Righteous Living

    Neal Maxwell listed these steps:

    • Recognition
    • Remorse
    • Confession
    • Forsaking
    • Restitution

    Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen gave the steps of repentance here:

    • Go to the Lord
    • Go the the one offended
    • Go to the bishop (if necessary)
    • Put the sin away

    Elder Scott’s list of repentance steps (from Kimballs’ Miracle of Forgiveness):

    • Sorrow for sin
    • Abandonment of sin
    • Confession of sin
    • Restitution for sin
    • Obedience to all the commandments
    • Recognition of the Savior (Scott added this to Kimball’s list)

    None of those lists includes taking the sacrament as a condition of repentance or remission of sins. Unless I’m mistaken (I tried to search carefully), the sacrament isn’t referenced anywhere on the repentance page nor on any of the pages, talks, lessons, or articles linked to from the church’s repentance page as supporting sources, with one exception. There is only one reference to the sacrament. And that addresses another issue you brought up.

    As for disallowing the sacrament for serious sin, President Kimball said it was for the purpose of punishing serious sin:

    One form of punishment is deprivation, and so if one is not permitted to partake of the sacrament or to use his priesthood or to go to the temple or to preach or pray in any of the meetings, it constitutes a degree of embarrassment and deprivation and punishment. In fact, the principal punishment that the Church can deal is deprivation from privileges.

    Want to thank Tracy for this thoughtful post. It really got me thinking and taking the time to study today. I’ll bow out now, but sure thought this was a great discussion. I learned a lot! :) Carry on!
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  • Tracy Keeney July 7, 2011, 11:09 pm

    “Anyone can repent. Member, nonmember. Baptized or not. Sacrament or no. Or at least go through all the steps as listed by most authoritative sources (see below for a number of them).”

    Agreed with this from the very first time this idea was introduced.

    “Forgiveness (or “remission of sins”) is only truly possible when we have actually ACCEPTED Christ and his atonement. We do this by being baptized.”

    Agree with that as well.

    “Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” isn’t about being “washed clean” by the mere act of baptism, but is accepting Christ and thus putting us in a STATE to ALLOW the atonement to work for us. Forgiveness is always on the condition of REPENTANCE.”

    I also agreed with this a couple tmes as well.

  • Amber Mae July 8, 2011, 10:37 am

    Renewing your covenants in sacrament each week is one of the ordinances necessary for salvation.

    http://lds.org/manual/duties-and-blessings-of-the-priesthood-basic-manual-for-priesthood-holders-part-b/lesson-4-the-purpose-of-priesthood-ordinances?lang=eng

    This comes from the official manual for priesthood holders
    President Wilford Woodruff said: “No [one] will receive of the celestial glory except it be through the ordinances of the House of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 19:361; see also D&C 84:20–22). Ordinances that are necessary for us to return to Heavenly Father include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for brethren), the temple endowment, and temple marriage.

    The manual also says that:

    The ordinance of the sacrament reminds us of the promises we made when we were baptized. We renew our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember our Savior’s life and His sacrifice. We remember our promise to follow Him. When taken worthily, the sacrament is a source of spiritual strength. It helps us develop greater power to keep the commandments. With sincere repentance it helps cleanse us of the sins we commit after baptism.

    So is it necessary for repentance? At this point I’m not sure – but it helps!

    Thanks Tracy, for an interesting discussion – like others I was genuinely surprised at the confusion members have on such a basic topic, it definitely gives me the idea that we should be careful of our comments in church so as not to confuse or downplay the importance of various aspects of our religion.
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  • MeriKae Leavitt July 8, 2011, 11:25 am

    hmmm…nicely put

  • partone July 8, 2011, 4:27 pm

    Allison, thanks for all those links and lists. Those are the things I’ve been taught, but it’s always good to refresh.

  • partone July 8, 2011, 4:31 pm

    I like those posts from friends. The scriptures show that nonmembers CAN not just repent, but also be forgiven. So you do need to accept Jesus (he won’t forgive you if you don’t want forgiveness) but you do NOT need to be baptized.

  • Mitch January 15, 2013, 6:09 pm

    This is a good lead into a discussion about justification and sanctification. Pardon of sins first but still feeling the stain of sin because we are not a new creature yet. The cleansing of sin later when we have given up our desire for the sin. Holy Ghost burns the sin out of us. Now we can stand before God and be like him.

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