“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; Fifth, the Lord’s Supper.” – Fourth Article of Faith
There are two twin parts to salvation: faith and works. The first two principles of the Gospel (faith) make the first 3 ordinances (works) relevant. We simply cannot have one without the other. Without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, why repent? And if we are unwilling to repent, why wash one’s self clean via baptism, etc? Thus we see that faith and works must go hand in hand, as one becomes irrelevant without the other.
Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ
Look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:2, KJV
This faith in Christ is the first step in becoming a Christian. The first step isn’t realizing we are sinners, or that we need to be made pure. This realization of sin cannot come unless or until we personally know Christ. And, only through the wittiness of the Holy Spirit can one know Christ. We cannot convert others to Christ. We may merely make the introduction. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to convert. Once we know Christ, we make a choice. The Christian is one who chooses to be converted. This choice, the acceptance of Jesus as our personal savior, washes us clean of all of our sins.
For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. -Psalms 38:18, KJV
Once we have been washed clean in Christ’s grace, we realize that our past selves lived in sin. This is nothing to be ashamed of, as we were all sinners before Christ. Repentance is the path we enter upon accepting Christ’s grace. Sometimes this path is hard, but we know is of God as it makes us happy. This happiness comes from the Holy Spirit within us. As we grow in grace, we feel this Spirit stronger in our hearts, and our joy grows in Christ. Rather than doing what we think is best, we seek God’s guidance in our lives. This guidance allows us, over time, to make better and better choices. This is the path of repentance, the path of a Christian; our personal growth in Christ’s grace. Though we are already purified in Christ, we are continually made anew as we grow and move forward in our new lives with God.
Baptism by Immersion
If the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water! -2 Nephi 13:7 RAV, 31:5 OPV
Baptism is the symbolic ritual of death and rebirth. Just as we will come up from the grave when Christ calls us at his coming, we come up from the water reborn into our new life as Christians. This is the physical representation of being spiritually born again. Baptism does not save us. It does not wash us clean. Christ saves us. And, it is Christ’s blood that washes us clean. We are baptized because God has commanded us to be baptized. We do this work as a gesture of our faith. We have already been born again in Christ, and in baptism we have a physical representation of our spiritual transition.
Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost
Upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles. -Moroni 2:2, OPV & RAV
The Holy Spirit converts us, but does not terry with us. We can feel the Spirit telling us what is right, and be moved by the Spirit to do God’s work. Through the laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit becomes our constant companion. We may chose to back slide and not listen, but he will never leave us. This laying on of hands is a sealing, powerfully tying the Holy Ghost to you. This bond helps us grow in grace, as we have the constant companionship of God.
The Lord’s Supper
Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, 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. -Matthew 26:26-28 KJV
We are made perfect in Christ upon conversion. This does not mean that we always do what is right in God’s eyes. One way to renew our covenants is re-baptism, but the Lord has given us a simpler way. This way is the Lord’s Supper. By taking these specially blessed tokens of bread and wine or water, we remember the covenants we made at baptism to be one with Christ. This renews our vows to him, and strengthen our bonds with the Holy Spirit. We take the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, in a state of repentant mediation. Communion is a time of reflection, to repent of our wrongs and listen to God’s voice as he forgives us and helps us become better Christians.
The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. -Hebrews 6:1-2 KJV
These first principles are the potter’s hands, sculpting us better into God’s image. As his creations, we are to learn and grow to know better how to serve him. The best way to serve God is to serve one another, to bear each other’s burdens. Sometimes we do this in service within the Fellowship, and at all times we should be ready to serve in the world as we help to bring heaven here to earth.
Featured Image: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. late 1490s.