Teachings Concerning

The First Principles
and Ordinances of the Gospel

PDF Version
Article of Faith 4

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

To Be Born Again Requires Ordinances

Joseph Smith (President of Church)

Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.162)

Joseph F. Smith (President of Church)

To all believers, and to the Latter-day Saints especially, there is sweet comfort in this knowledge, and in the thought that through obedience to the ordinances and principles of the gospel, which Christ, our Savior, taught and enjoined upon the people and his disciples, men shall be born again, redeemed from sin, arise from the grave, and like Jesus return into the presence of the Father. (Gospel Doctrine, p.447)

Orson Pratt (Quorum of the Twelve)

A person cannot be born again legitimately without a legal administrator. If you are born of the Spirit, there must needs be a man authorized to administer that Spirit. Paul says, "Who hath also made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Why? because he was authorized to lay his hands on baptized believers, and confirm upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost, that they might be born of the Spirit and become new creatures. (Journal of Discourses, 7:265)


Wilford Woodruff  (President of Church)

The very first principle was faith in the Messiah; this was the first principle ever taught to man. When Adam, after being driven from the garden of Eden, went to Adam-ondi-Ahman to offer sacrifice, the angel of the Lord asked him why he did so. Adam replied that he did not know, but the Lord had commanded him to do it. He was then told that the blood of bulls and goats, of rams and lambs should be spilt upon the altar as a type of the great and last sacrifice which should be offered up for the sins of the world. The first principle, then, ever taught to Father Adam was faith in the Messiah, who was to come in the meridian of time to lay down his life for the redemption of man. The second principle was repentance. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p.18)

Heber J. Grant  (President of Church)

"We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ--" and when I say "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," we want it distinctly understood that we believe absolutely in Jesus Christ, that He was the Son of God, and that He did come to the earth with a divinely-appointed mission to die on the cross as the Redeemer of mankind. We do not believe that He was just a "great moral teacher," but that He is our Redeemer . . . (Gospel Standards, p.6).

Ezra Taft Benson (President of Church)

Charles W. Penrose (Quorum of the Twelve)
The first principle of true religion is faith. Jesus Christ says, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." This is verily so. All people must be "born again" to be able to see the kingdom of God, or to be able to comprehend the ways of the Lord. Is this a mystery? No, it is plain and easily understood when we get the spirit and light of God upon it. Jesus said also, "Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." A change must take place in the human heart. Men must first be born of the word of God, which lives and abides for ever. As the Apostle Peter says, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." The Apostle James says, "Of his own will begat He us with the word of truth." And again we read, "Faith cometh by hearing the word of God." God's way is this: "He calls men who are fitted for His work, and inspires them, and endows them with authority to represent Him, and sends them forth to preach the word of God. When they bear their testimony to people who are honest in their hearts, who desire the truth and who wish to know of God, the Holy Spirit that is in the servants of God, the Spirit accompanying the word spoken by authority, enters the hearts of such people, and they are born of the word of God, so that they can see and comprehend the truth. A change is wrought upon them by the power and influence of divine truth, by which they are able to see the truth as the speaker sees it; the word spoken by the gift and power of God carries conviction to the heart, and they at once begin to recognize the authority of Him who imparts the words of life to them. They are born of the word and are able to see and understand to a certain degree, their faith and their ideas having been quickened by the power of God. The light and influence of the Holy Ghost radiating and proceeding from the inspired speaker, accompanies his word. As his testimony is borne under the influence of the Holy Ghost and by authority from on high, conviction seizes hold of the people, and if they are honest in their hearts and desires, it bears record in their souls. (Journal of Discourses, 23:349-350)


Helaman 15:7

And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them--

David O. McKay (President of Church)

Ezra Taft Benson (President of Church)
Lehi taught that "no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). Even the most just and upright man cannot save himself solely on his own merits, for, as the Apostle Paul tells us, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great will-power and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance. Repentance involves not just a change of actions, but a change of heart.
As we seek to qualify to be members of Christ's Church -- members in the sense in which He uses the term, members who have repented and come unto Him -- let us remember these principles. The gospel is the Lord's plan of happiness and repentance is designed to bring us joy. True repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way. True repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior (see Alma 5:13). Part of this mighty change of heart is to feel godly sorrow for our sins. This is what is meant by a broken heart and a contrite spirit. God's gifts are sufficient to help us overcome every sin and weakness if we will but turn to Him for help. Most repentance does not involve sensational or dramatic changes, but rather is a step by step, steady and consistent movement toward godliness. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.71)

Orson F. Whitney  (Quorum of the Twelve)

Repentance is not that superficial sorrow felt by the wrongdoer when "caught in the act"- a sorrow not for sin, but for sin's detection. Chagrin is not repentance. Mortification and shame alone bring no change of heart toward right feeling and right living. Even remorse is not all there is to repentance. In the highest meaning and fullest measure, repentance is equivalent to reformation; the beginning of the reformatory process being resolve to "sin no more." (Cowley and Whitney on Doctrine, p. 435)


Joseph Smith (President of Church)

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.(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.198)

Joseph Fielding Smith (President of Church)

NATURE OF COVENANT OF BAPTISM. Every person baptized into this Church has made a covenant with the Lord to keep his commandments. We are to serve the Lord with all the heart, and all the mind, and all the strength that we have, and that too in the name of Jesus Christ. Everything that we do should be done in the name of Jesus Christ.

In the waters of baptism, we covenanted that we would keep these commandments; that we would serve the Lord; that we would keep this first and greatest of all commandments, and love the Lord our God; that we would keep the next great commandment, we would love our neighbor as ourselves; and with all the might that we have, with all the strength, with all our hearts, we would prove to him that we would "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God"; that we would be obedient and humble, diligent in his service, willing to obey, to hearken to the counsels of those who preside over us and do all things with an eye single to the glory of God. (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:328)

WHY BAPTISM MUST BE BY IMMERSION. The mode of baptism is by immersion in water. Sprinkling or pouring did not come into vogue until two or three centuries after Christ, and such a practice was not universal until about the 13th century A.D. We have to go into history to find these particulars. Baptism cannot be by any other means than immersion of the entire body in water, for the following reasons:
1. It is in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of all others who have received the resurrection.

2. Baptism is also a birth and is performed in the similitude of the birth of a child into this world.

3. Baptism is not only a figure of the resurrection, but also is literally a transplanting or resurrection from one life to another -- from the life of sin to the life of spiritual life.
I want to take up the second reason: Baptism is also a birth and is performed in the similitude of the birth of a child into this world. When this earth was created, it came into existence the same way. (I am not speaking scientifically, and yet scientific doctrine tells us the same thing.) This earth was born in water. Before the land appeared the whole sphere was covered with water.

BIRTH COMES BY WATER, BLOOD, AND SPIRIT. In the Book of Moses we read: "Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified." That is one of the finest passages I know, and we find practically the same thing recorded by John.

SAME ELEMENTS PRESENT IN FIRST AND SECOND BIRTHS. Every child that comes into this world is carried in water, is born of water, and of blood, and of the spirit, So when we are born into the kingdom of God, we must be born in the same way. By baptism, we are born of the water. Through the shedding of the blood of Christ, we are cleansed and sanctified: and we are justified, through the Spirit of God, for baptism is not complete without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. You see the parallel between birth into the world and birth into the kingdom of God. How foolish it is to think for a moment that baptism could be accomplished by pouring water on a child's head, it does not meet the requirements.

I have heard some of our young elders preaching on baptism say that the Lord could have brought to pass the remission of sins in some other way. They reasoned he could have done it by sprinkling, or in this way or that way. The Lord could not consistently do it any other way, only by being buried in the water, born of water and of the spirit, and cleansed by the blood of Christ, just as a child is born into this world of water, blood, and spirit. The comparison is very striking.

BAPTISM: A RESURRECTION TO LIFE. Coming now to the third reason: Baptism is not only a figure of the resurrection, but also is literally a transplanting or resurrection from one life to another -- from the life of sin to the life of spiritual life. For proof of that, I am going to read first something the Lord said to Joseph Smith.

"Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he [Adam] should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed."

Here we have two conditions, spiritual life and spiritual death. The condition of Adam in the Garden of Eden was spiritual life. He was in the presence of God. Through his transgression, he was banished into spiritual death -- a new life entirely. He was no longer in the presence of God. He was shut out, separated, a veil drawn between him, and the Lord.
Adam, after the fall, was in spiritual death, and not only Adam but every man and woman upon the face of the earth who is accountable before God, We will not consider the last death more than to say it is also banishment from the presence of God.

"But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son. And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation -- that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe; And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not."

We find Adam, then, in spiritual death, and all his posterity, excepting little children. All men and women need repentance. Death is banishment. They are in spiritual death. How are they going to get back? By being buried in the water. They are dead and are buried in the water and come forth in the resurrection of the Spirit back into spiritual life. That is what baptism is.

WHY BAPTISM REMITS FUTURE SINS. I have heard some of our young men, and some not so young, when talking on baptism, say they do not know why it is, since baptism is for the remission of sins, that a man does not have to be baptized every time he commits a sin. Do you see the reason? As long as a man sins and stays within spiritual life, he is alive, he can repent and be forgiven. He does not need to be baptized to be brought back to where he already is, But there are sins, John says, "unto death," and if a man commits a sin unto death, he is banished again and comes back into spiritual death.

Through this kind of transgression he loses the effect of baptism and is banished into spiritual death. When a man commits a sin unto death, he is banished from spiritual life. The shedding of innocent blood is one such sin and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost another. The enemies of the Prophet Joseph Smith carried him off to Carthage and put him and his brother to death. Deliberately murdering the servants of God is the shedding of innocent blood.

If a man sins unto death, he goes back again to spiritual death, but as long as he stays within spiritual life, he does not have to be baptized again.

DEATH TO SIN BRINGS RESURRECTION TO LIFE. Paul had that very clearly in mind. He says, in writing to the Romans: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
Paul is speaking to members of the Church. We are dead to sin because we have left it. Banishment works one way as well as the other. In other words, when we are in spiritual life (or in the Church or in the kingdom of God), we ought not to sin. Through baptism we come back from the spiritual death which is upon all unbaptized men. Whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant, if they are unrepentant and unbaptized they are in spiritual death. But we who have received the gospel, why should we live in sin when we have been baptized and are in spiritual life?
HOW SAINTS ARE IN PRESENCE OF GOD. We are back in the presence of God. The question might naturally be raised: How do we come back into the presence of God if we do not see him? We do not see him now, but are we not in his presence when we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, one of the members of the Godhead, to lead and direct us in righteousness? We are back in his presence, if we keep the commandments and do not longer live in sin; then we are in spiritual life. That is an important thing in connection with baptism not generally understood. (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:323-328)


The Gift of the Holy Ghost

3 Nephi 27:19-20

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.

Marion G. Romney  (First Presidency)

One is born again by actually receiving and experiencing the light and power inherent in the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 61; or Ensign, May 1977, 44)

Joseph Smith (President of Church)

Charles W. Penrose  (Quorum of the Twelve)
After we had been baptized we were anxious to have hands laid upon our heads that we might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. In using that term, the "gift of the Holy Ghost," we do not mean some particular gift of the Spirit, but the gift of the Spirit itself--the Holy Ghost given unto us as a gift from God. We will find that term, "gift of the Holy Ghost," used in the old Scriptures, and in the latter day Scriptures. It is the Holy Ghost itself given unto us as a gift from the Almighty. "Then laid they their hands upon them and they received the Holy Ghost." The promise is to those who will repent and be baptized for the remission of sins; they shall receive "the gift of the Holy Ghost." What is it? It is a greater and higher endowment of the same spirit which enlightens every man that comes into the world; a greater power given unto us as an abiding witness, to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path; as a restraint against sin, to guide us into all truth, to open up the vision of the mind, to bring things past to our remembrance, and to make manifest things to come. It is the spirit of truth that reveals the things of the Father and the Son, proceeding from the presence of the Almighty and the very glory in which He is enrobed, which makes him like unto a consuming fire. If we receive that heavenly gift all are brought into communion with Him; we can understand something concerning Him, that we may pattern after Him until we become like Him; for if we are continually guided by that spirit, eventually we will come back to His presence and be able to enjoy the fullness of His glory. And while we remain in the flesh He will not be a stranger to us; we will not walk in the dark like the majority of mankind, but we will be the children of the light, comprehending the truth as it is in Him, and seeing the path in which we should walk. (Journal of Discourses, 23:350)

Ezra Taft Benson (President of Church)

His law required all mankind, regardless of station in life, to repent and be baptized in His name and receive the Holy Ghost as the sanctifying power to cleanse themselves from sin. Compliance with these laws and ordinances will enable each individual to stand guiltless before Him at the day of judgment. Those who so comply are likened to one who builds his house on a firm foundation so that even "the gates of hell shall not prevail against them" (3 Nephi 11:39). (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.65-66)

Bruce R. McConkie (Quorum of the Twelve)

The Holy Ghost - A Sanctifier To be sanctified is to be saved; to fall short of sanctification Is to fail to gain full salvation. Only the sanctified gain eternal life. To be sanctified is to be clean; it is a state of purity and spotlessness in which no taint of sin is found. Only those who die as to sin and are born again to righteousness, becoming thus new creatures of the Holy Ghost, are numbered with the sanctified.

It is the work and mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit of God to sanctify the souls of men. This is his assigned labor in the Eternal Godhead. How he does it we do not know, except that it is a work that can only be performed by a spirit being, and     hence the need for one of his personality, status, and standing in the Supreme Presidency of the universe.

Baptism of the Spirit is the way and the means whereby sanctification is made available. Thus, Jesus commands all the "ends of the earth" to be baptized in water "that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day." (3 Nephi 27:20.) Truly, the Holy Ghost is a sanctifier, and the extent to which men receive and enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost is the extent to which they are sanctified. In the lives of most of us, sanctification is an ongoing process, and we obtain that glorious status by degrees as we overcome the world and become saints in deed as well as in name.

The Holy Ghost -- a Revelator Light and truth and knowledge may be gained in many ways. They come through the senses, from experience, and by reason. When so received, man, of course, may be deceived. In their pure and perfect form they are manifest by revelation, through a process of Spirit speaking to spirit, of the Holy Spirit whispering to the properly attuned spirit within us. This also is his work, mission, and assigned ministry. He is a revelator. According to the eternal laws that govern all things, he has power to convey and reveal truth to a human soul with absolute finality. There is never any deception or uncertainty when the Spirit speaks. And where the truths about God and faith and salvation are concerned, there is no way to gain them except by revelation from the Spirit.

Those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost have this glorious promise: "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, [knowledge] that has not been revealed since the world was until now." (D&C 121:26.) As Paul said: "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10.) How do these hidden and unknown things come from the Holy Ghost to us? As to this we know only that it is by obedience to those laws upon which the receipt of such heavenly truths is predicated. These are the laws of righteousness. "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart," the Lord says, "by the [power of the] Holy Ghost, which shall . . . dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation." (D&C 8:2-3.) And the presence of the spirit of revelation identifies the true church and kingdom of God on earth; where this is, there is the true church; and where there is no spirit of revelation there the true church is not. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp.265-267)

Harold B. Lee  (President of Church)

May I change that about and give it point to the Latter-day Saints and say, Any Latter-day Saint who has been baptized and who has had hands laid upon him from those officiating, commanding him to receive the Holy Ghost, and who has not received a revelation of the spirit of the Holy Ghost, has not received the gift of the Holy Ghost to which he is entitled. Therein lies a very important matter. Let me refer to what the Prophet Joseph Smith said about revelation: "A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation. For instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas so that by noticing it you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon. That is, those things that were presented into your minds by the Spirit of God will come to pass, and thus by learning the Spirit of God, and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation until you become perfect in Christ Jesus." (Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.140-141)

Parley P. Pratt (Quorum of the Twelve)