Mosiah 18:8-9 The requirements for baptism
Nowhere in scripture is there a more comprehensive discussion of the requirements and performance of baptism in the pre-Christian era than in this story of Alma and his people. Alma is interested in baptizing his little flock. He inquires whether they have the same interest asking them several questions to determine their readiness. The qualities of a prepared candidate include: 1) a desire to come into the fold of God, 2) a desire to be called his people, 3) a willingness to bear one another's burdens, 4) a willingness to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and 5) a readiness to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places...even until death.
These requirements are similar to the standard revealed to Joseph Smith in DC 20, 1) humility, 2) a desire to be baptized, 3) a broken heart and contrite spirit, 4) a witness of true repentance, 5) a willingness to take upon them the name of Christ, 6) a determination to serve him to the end, and 7) a manifestation by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins (DC 20:37). These latter-day requirements focus more on the manifestation by the candidate that they have truly repented and received a remission of their sins. Alma may have known that his flock had already met this requirement by their diligent efforts to travel to the place called Mormon to hear his teachings about resurrection and redemption (v. 2).
All candidates for a convert baptism must meet these requirements in their baptismal interview before they can receive this ordinance. In our desire to offer baptism to everyone who will accept it, there is a tendency among those giving the interview to allow a candidate to pass when not all of these conditions have been met. However, to baptize someone who is not prepared or is only getting baptized at the request of the missionaries without a real desire to change their lives, does not bless the life of that individual in any way. It acts more as a cursing because they are given a responsibility that they will likely not meet. Those performing the baptismal interview must remember these requirements so that all things may be done in order (DC 20:68). In the case of Alma's people, they had no lack of desire for they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts (v. 11).
Mosiah 18:9 willing to mourn with those that mourn
We often forget that part of the baptismal covenant is to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Alma reminds of this important principle.
"Someone has said that people would rather be understood than be loved. In truth, the surest way to increase our love for someone is to listen with patience and respect. I believe that our baptismal covenant demands this. How can we 'mourn with those that mourn' and 'bear one another's burdens' (Mosiah 18:8-9) if we don't listen to know what those burdens are?...But we must be careful not to listen as Laman and Lemuel listened to each other. They encouraged mutual murmuring. When fellow ward members complain, blame others, and repeat negative tales, it takes self-discipline to stop ourselves from adding more fuel to their fire of disgruntlement. Mutual murmuring is a smoldering fire that can burst into flame and destroy a ward." (Virginia H. Pearce, Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 80 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 225)
Neal A. Maxwell
"It is abundantly clear, therefore, that we have a duty to comfort others, to mourn with them, to serve them, and to help them. When there is so much to do to help others, there is little time for self-pity. We do not know all the details of the crosses others bear, but we know enough to understand that crosses are being borne valiantly. Moreover, the courage of others can be contagious." (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 94)
Mosiah 18:9 to stand as witnesses of God at all times
Apostles are especial witnesses of Christ. Missionaries represent the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet, all those who have been baptized take upon themselves His holy name and have covenanted to stand as witnesses of God at all times. That means that one's demeanor and behavior must be Christ-like in all situations, the locker room, the ball game, the work environment, etc. The scripture condemns the Sunday-only Mormon.
"Our religion incorporates every act and word of man. No man should go to merchandising unless he does it in God; no man should go to farming or any other business unless he does it in the Lord. No man of council should sit to judge the people but what should judge in the Lord that he may righteously and impartially discern between right and wrong, truth and error, light and darkness, justice and injustice." (Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. by John A. Widstoe, p. 9)
Neil L. Andersen
I suggest that you stop feeling guilty about any insufficiency you think you have in sharing the gospel. Rather, pray, like Alma taught, for opportunities “to stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … that [others] may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, [and] have eternal life.” This is a much stronger motivation than guilt.
To be a witness of God at all times and in all places reflects both how we live and how we speak.
Be open about your faith in Christ. When the occasion presents itself, speak of His life, His teachings, and His incomparable gift to all mankind. Share His powerful truths from the Book of Mormon. He has given us this promise: “Whosoever … shall confess me before men, him will I confess … before my Father … in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32) I promise you that as you pray often and sincerely for opportunities to “stand as a witness of God,” those opportunities will come, and those who seek more light and knowledge will be put before you. As you respond to spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost will carry your words to the heart of another, and one day the Savior will confess you before His Father. (www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/a-witness-of-god?lang=eng)
Harold B. Lee
"Today we should ask ourselves the question, in answer to what the Master asked of those in His day, 'What think ye of Christ?' (Matthew 22:42.) ...Do I think of Him as the Redeemer of my soul? Do I think of Him with no doubt in my mind as the one who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do I believe that He established this church upon the earth? Do I accept Him as the Savior of this world? Am I true to my covenants [made] in the waters of baptism, which, if I understood, meant that I would stand as a witness of Him at all times, and in all things, and in all places, wherever I would be, even until death? (See Mosiah 18:9.)" (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 8)
M. Russell Ballard
"When we covenant in the waters of baptism to 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places,'...It may not always be easy, convenient, or politically correct to stand for truth and right, but it is always the right thing to do. Always!" (Ensign, Nov. 1997, pp. 37-39 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 225)
Mosiah 18:10 baptized...as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant
Baptism is the first of many covenants made with the Lord in the journey of discipleship. Everyone knows that a covenant is a two-way promise between the individual and the Lord. Alma tells us what the obligations are for each party in this contract. The person being baptized promises to serve the Lord and keep his commandments. The Lord promises to pour out his Spirit more abundantly. These are the terms of the agreement. The Lord is bound to bless us with his Spirit if we serve him and keep his commandments.
We speak of "renewing our covenants" during the sacrament. What covenants are we renewing? The covenants made at baptism. As the ordinance of the sacrament was instituted to remind us of this baptismal covenant, the elements of the covenant are included in the sacrament prayer, and the contract is renewed every time a member takes the sacrament.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"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, vol. 2, p. 238)
Harold B. Lee
"Man through the baptism of the water and of the Spirit is redeemed from this spiritual death and by the power of the Holy Ghost, brought back into direct communion with God, and these are 'born again.' To those who keep the commandments '...he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you.' (Mosiah 18:10.)" (Conference Reports, Apr. 1961, p. 33)
Mosiah 18:13 Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God...
It is interesting to compare the words of the baptismal ordinance in Alma's day to the latter-days. They are similar, but by no means identical. If Alma had used the modern day wording, he would have said, Helam, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen (DC 20:73). Although we like to think of things being done exactly the same way in every dispensation, the truth is that there was some variation in how ordinances have been performed in the past. Alma uses language in his baptism of Helam that was appropriate, approved in the sight of God, but different from our day. "Alma included a prayer for, we surmise, the benefit of Helam and also to impress on him and the others who waited for this glorious ministration, the importance of the covenant they made at that time." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 195) He emphasized the fact that baptism is a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body. In fact, the ordinance of baptism had a slightly different connotation in Old Testament times. Although it still pointed to the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, the focus was on repentance and covenant making with God. This is why those who were baptized by John the Baptist had to be rebaptized:
'And he (Paul) said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.' (Acts 19:3-5)
"[speaking of Alma's pattern of baptism] ...They're following strictly the order before the time of Christ, and this is the order we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 'as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body'...[They were] looking forward to the pre-existent, eternal, unchanging gospel that's to be given later." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 36, p. 114)
Mosiah 18:14 both Alma and Helaman were buried in the water
Alma was already an ordained priest with enough authority to perform baptism. He may well have been baptized before this event. If so, his rebaptism would have been symbolic of his own repentance (v. 1) and desire to serve God for the rest of his life.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Therefore, when Alma baptized himself with Helam that was not a case of Alma baptizing himself, but merely as a token to the Lord of his humility and full repentance. In Alma 5:3 we learn that Alma [the younger] was consecrated the high priest over the Church under his father. Now Alma did not organize the Church with the idea that they had no church before that time. They had a church from the days of Lehi and Alma only set things in order." (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 3, pp. 203-4)
Mosiah 18:14 they...came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit
We have already noticed some subtle differences between the baptism of Helam and our current practice. Hidden in verse 14 is another difference. After baptism, Alma and Helam are filled with the Spirit. This occurs without the ordinance of the laying on of hands. There is no record of Alma ever laying hands on his disciples to give them the gift of the Holy Ghost. In fact, there is no record of this ordinance in the Old Testament, Pearl of Great Price, or the Book of Mormon prior to the ministry of the Savior. Yet, from several scriptures, we know that they received the gift of the Holy Ghost (Alma 9:21, Jacob 6:8). The gift is given at the time of baptism, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost (2 Ne 31:12). This is what happened to Alma and Helam. They were given the gift of the Holy Ghost after their were baptized.
One might argue that the Spirit attended their baptism but that the ordinance of the laying on of hands was performed later. There is no scriptural evidence for this theory. In Old Testament times, the Lord apparently gave the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of baptism. The Lord said as much to Nephi, and this is what happened to Adam. The Lord promised him that he would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after his baptism, If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water...ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Moses 6:52). The fulfillment of the promise is as follows:
'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.
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.
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 6:64-6)
On the other hand, John the Baptist was clear to point out that his baptism did not include the gift of the Holy Ghost, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matt 3:11). We should not find this surprising since John held the Levitical priesthood which lacked the power to give the Holy Ghost. Alma and all the Nephite prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood and the baptism administered could be accompanied by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"It is true that the Lord gave the commandment to Joseph Smith that those who are baptized for the remission of sins shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and this is the practice in the Church. This does not prove, however, that the gift of the Holy Ghost may not be received without the laying on of the hands, although we assume that this was the general custom of the Church in ancient days.
"When certain disciples were brought to Paul at Corinth who claimed that they had been baptized, he asked them the question: 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?' They answer was: 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.' Paul then asked: 'Unto what then were ye baptized?' they answered, 'Unto John's baptism.' Paul realized from this answer that there was something wrong, therefore he had them baptized again, after which he laid his hands upon them and conferred the Holy Ghost. This, however, may not have been the universal custom through the ages." (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4, p. 93)
Mosiah 18:17 they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ
The Book of Mormon was written for our day, but ever since the days of Nephi, it was known that the organizational structure of God's kingdom should be named after Christ. He refers to the Church of the latter-days as the Church of the Lamb of God (1 Ne 14:10,12). Later, the Savior explains why the name of the church is so important:
'...therefore ye shall call the church in my name...
And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.' (3 Ne 27:7-8)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830. However, the full name was not used until it was given in a revelation in April of 1838, thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (DC 115:4). Prior to that time, one of the names of the early church was the Church of Christ (DC 20:1) just as it was called by Alma and his people.
George Albert Smith
"I would like to suggest to you, my brothers and sisters, that we honor the name of the Church. It is not the church of James and John, it is not the church of Moroni, nor is it the church of Mormon. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. And while all these men were wonderful and notable characters, we have been directed to worship God in a church that bears the name of his Beloved Son. I wish that our young people as they grow up would keep that fact in mind. We have become so accustomed to being called the Mormon Church by all our friends and neighbors throughout the world, that many people do not know the proper name of the Church, and I think the Lord would expect us to let them know that." (Conference Reports, Oct. 1945, p. 168)
Mosiah 18:18 Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Question: "Where did Alma get his authority? All we can find is that he received it from God, but there is no detail, and we are left to wonder if it was before he was baptized. We are confused about the whole matter and would appreciate any information you can give us."
"Answer: We should take into consideration in the study of the Book of Mormon the fact that it is an abridgment taken from the records or history that had been kept by the prophets among the Nephites. Therefore, many of the details are lacking...Moreover, while the detail is lacking, the evidence is very clear that the Melchizedek Priesthood was possessed by the Nephites.
"In the case of Alma and his priesthood, we are left to surmise that he legally and divinely received it before the days of King Noah. We read that Zeniff, the father of Noah, was a righteous man. Alma evidently received the priesthood in the days of Zeniff, and at no time did he fully accept the teachings nor with full purpose follow the counsels and procedure of Noah and his wicked priests...
"The question is: Where did Alma get his authority? Evidently he obtained it when he received the priesthood, which through his repentance he had not lost. There can be no serious question in relation to his authority, for it is written:
'And it came to pass that Alma; having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them, and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.'" (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4, pp. 161-164)
Mosiah 18:19 they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught
When teaching an investigator, there is nothing more confusing and wasteful than discussing the mysteries of the kingdom and the most difficult prophecies in scripture. The saving principles of the gospel are simple and teachers should teach them that way. The same counsel is given in the latter-days, let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith (DC 52:9), and Say nothing but repentance unto this generation (DC 6:9).
"Strive not about the mysteries of the kingdom; cast not your pearls before swine, give not the bread of the children to dogs, lest you and the children should suffer, and you thereby offend your righteous Judge." (Teachings of the Prophet, p. 77)
"Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about-repentance and baptism for the remission of sins." (Teachings of the Prophet, p. 292)]
Mosiah 18:21 there should be no contention
The Lord has explained, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me (3 Ne 11:29). The source of such contention is pride, Only by pride cometh contention (Prov 13:10). Again from Proverbs, we learn that the tendency to contend is a sign of foolishness, A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul (Prov 18:6-7). Yet, from time to time, the Latter-day saints are guilty of this sin. If you don't believe this, it is because you have never attended a church basketball game.
"Throughout the scriptures the Lord has warned that 'there should be no contention one with another' (Mosiah 18:21) for it is 'unprofitable and vain.' (Titus 3:9.) The Lord has made it clear that contention is 'not of me, but is of the devil.' (3 Ne. 11:29.)
"A priesthood quorum instructor would begin his lesson each week by focusing on some controversial topic. While the discussion proved lively and tested his brethren's tempers, it was a most unprofitable hour, because the Spirit of the Lord was not present. A gentle reminder from his quorum leader helped him to see the destructive nature of his teaching technique.
'And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.' (Mosiah 18:21)" (Church News, Jun. 20, 1992)
George Q. Cannon
"My brethren and sisters, above all things, therefore, we should seek for this spirit of union and love. It should be sought for in our councils, and we should not contend. Now, suppose that I should take it into my head to say that a certain doctrine is true, and I contend for it, determined to have it so; does my contention make it true? Suppose that I should contend from now until the Savior came that it is true, would my contention make it true? Certainly not. I cannot change a principle of truth. Then why contend or dispute, or argue about it?...There can be no change wrought in doctrine and in truth by our contention. But I will tell you where there is room for differences of opinion--in regard to the policy to be pursued. There ought to be no contention, however. God speaks against it. We have no right to be a disputing, contentious people. And whenever I dispute with my brother I am likely to grieve the Spirit of the Lord and darken my own mind. Therefore, let us avoid contention, in our councils and in all our intercourse one with another." (Collected Discourses 1886-1898, ed. by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, George Q. Cannon, Apr. 7, 1895)
Joseph F. Smith
"I pray God that this spirit may especially enter into the hearts of this people, that they may strive for peace among themselves, that peace may dwell in their own hearts and houses, that peace may exist between neighbors, that peace, goodwill, love and union may characterize the associations of members of the Church with their fellow members, and that there may be no contention among them, nor strife, nor bitterness, nor back-sliding, nor back-biting, nor complaint of any description, but that peace on earth and good will to men may pervade the hearts and minds of all the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and that from them this spirit of peace and love for God and for our fellow man may go out into the world, as far as we have power to send it forth through the elders of the Church and otherwise, that men may hear the good tidings and receive them in their hearts, obey the truth, and join the ranks of the peaceful, of the peace-loving, of the peace-makers, of the God-fearing, and of the God-loving people that all Latter-day Saints should be, in every part of the world." (Conference Reports, Oct. 1914)
Mosiah 18:23 observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy
Mark E. Petersen
"...observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the depth of our conversion. Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection of the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us." (CR, April 1975, p. 72 as taken from McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 262)
Mosiah 18:27 the people of the church should impart of their substance
As a small band, Alma's new church practiced a form of welfare which resembles the united order. The latter was definitely practiced after Christ's ascension, on both continents (3 Ne 26:19, Acts 2:44). We see from this passage, that although the Nephites were living according to the Law of Moses, they often lived the greater law in many respects. In this case, they made sure that there were no hungry, needy, or naked among them, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants (v. 29).
Mosiah 18:30 the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon
In verse 30 alone, the word Mormon appears six times. In the preceding verses, the name appears another six times. What could the reason be for this persistent use of the name Mormon? Could it be that the writer of this abridgement was named Mormon? Could it be that the prophet Mormon was named after the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon? No other geographic location in the Book of Mormon get as much attention as do the waters of Mormon. The scripture states, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer. Certainly the waters of Mormon were important to the 204 souls who were taught and baptized there, but they were equally important to the prophet we know as Mormon, whose love of the area is hardly hidden in his description of Alma and his people. And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression (3 Ne 5:12).
Mosiah 18:34 Alma and the people...were apprised of the coming of the king's army
The language of this verse infers that the people had scouts or connections which tipped them off about the activities of the king's army. Later on, we learn that the Lord was their informant. The account of Alma reads, Now Alma, having been warned of the Lord that the armies of king Noah would come upon them, and having made it known to his people, therefore they gathered together their flocks, and took of their grain, and departed into the wilderness (Mosiah 23:1, italics added).