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Obtaining and Retaining a Remission of Sins through Ordinances (Bednar)
To comprehend more fully the process whereby we may obtain and always retain a remission of our sins, we need first to understand the inseparable relationship among three sacred ordinances that provide access to the powers of heaven: baptism by immersion, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament.
Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins “is the introductory ordinance of the gospel”16 of Jesus Christ and must be preceded by faith in the Savior and by sincere repentance. This ordinance “is a sign and a commandment which God has set for [His children] to enter into His kingdom.”17 Baptism is administered in the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood. In the process of coming unto the Savior and spiritual rebirth, baptism provides a necessary initial cleansing of our soul from sin.
The baptismal covenant includes three fundamental commitments: (1) to be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, (2) to always remember Him, and (3) to keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is “that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us].”18 Thus, baptism is the essential preparation to receive the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.
“Baptism [by] water … must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete.”19 As the Savior taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”20
Three statements by the Prophet Joseph Smith emphasize the vital linkage between the ordinances of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Statement 1: “Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered.”21
Statement 2: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”22
Statement 3: “The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use. They are necessarily and inseparably connected.”23
The consistent connectedness among the principle of repentance, the ordinances of baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the glorious blessing of the remission of sins is emphasized repeatedly in the scriptures.
Nephi declared, “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.”24
The Savior Himself proclaimed, “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”25
Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost is an ordinance administered in the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the process of coming unto the Savior and spiritual rebirth, receiving the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost in our lives creates the possibility of anongoing cleansing of our soul from sin. This joyous blessing is vital because “no unclean thing can dwell with God.”26
As members of the Lord’s restored Church, we are blessed both by ourinitial cleansing from sin associated with baptism and by the potential for an ongoing cleansing from sin made possible through the companionship and power of the Holy Ghost—even the third member of the Godhead.
Consider how a farmer depends upon the unchanging pattern of planting and harvesting. Understanding the connection between sowing and reaping is a constant source of purpose and influences all of the decisions and actions a farmer undertakes in all seasons of the year. In like manner, the inseparable connection between the ordinances of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost should impact every aspect of our discipleship in all seasons of our lives.
The sacrament is the third ordinance necessary to obtain access to the power of godliness. That we might more fully keep ourselves unspotted from the world, we are commanded to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments upon the Lord’s holy day.27 Please consider that the emblems of the Lord’s body and blood, the bread and the water, are both blessed and sanctified. “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread [or this water] to the souls of all those who partake [or drink] of it.”28 To sanctify is to make pure and holy. The sacramental emblems are sanctified in remembrance of Christ’s purity, of our total dependence upon His Atonement, and of our responsibility to so honor our ordinances and covenants that we can “stand spotless before [Him] at the last day.”29
The ordinance of the sacrament is a holy and repeated invitation to repent sincerely and to be renewed spiritually. The act of partaking of the sacrament, in and of itself, does not remit sins. But as we prepare conscientiously and participate in this holy ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the promise is that we may always have the Spirit of the Lord to be with us. And by the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we can always retain a remission of our sins.
We truly are blessed each week by the opportunity to evaluate our lives through the ordinance of the sacrament, to renew our covenants, and to receive this covenant promise.30
God’s ways of educating our desires are, of course, always the most perfect. . . . And what is God’s way? Everywhere in nature we are taught the lessons of patience and waiting. We want things a long time before we get them, and the fact that we wanted them a long time makes them all the more precious when they come. In nature we have our seedtime and harvest; and if children were taught that the desires that they sow may be reaped by and by through patience and labor, they will learn to appreciate whenever a long-looked-for goal has been reached. Nature resists us and keeps admonishing us to wait; indeed, we are compelled to wait. [GD, pp. 297–98]
“Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone; it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. ...Every person radiates what he or she really is. ...It is what we are and what we radiate that effects the people around us.”