Friday, June 4, 2010

Baptism—New, Everlasting, and Ancient

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. (D&C 22:1, emphasis added)
I think it is very interesting that the covenant we are asked to enter is described as “new” and “everlasting” and “that which was from the beginning”. We are left wondering how those somewhat contradictory adjectives can all be true.

What is new about it? The restoration of the priesthood authority made it something special and different from everything else that had been known among men at the time. People knew about baptism, and there was a vague idea of priesthood authority (even if only Catholics believed something about that at the time), but the idea that baptism was a covenantal act was certainly new.
Another thing that could be new about it was that it would make a person a new creature as it washed away sin--“being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).

The dictionary has some definitions for “new” which are very helpful too.
  • “in original condition; not worn or used”
  • “already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time”
  • “different from a previous one”
  • “just beginning and regarded as better than what went before”
  • “superseding another or others of the same kind, and advanced in method or theory”
What was everlasting about it? It applied beyond the grave, through the eternal nature of the priesthood power that executed it. It did what it promised.
If we combine this with “new”, it implies that the newness can last forever!

How was it “that which was from the beginning”? It was done at the very beginning of the world; Adam and his believing posterity submitted to baptism.
64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever; (Moses 6:64-66)