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Question: Is priesthood authority not needed to perform baptisms?
Some excommunicated members claim that "[I]t would be good to have an authorized minister to perform the ordinance [of baptism, but] it does not matter whether there is an officiator with authority from God on the earth or not...."
Joseph Smith said,
[There is] no salvation between the two lids of the bible without a legal administrator.
The scriptures and Joseph Smith repeatedly teach that an authorized priesthood holder is necessary for ordinances, including baptism:
- Jesus in 3 Nephi 11:21-22: "I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize."
- Articles of Faith: "We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof" (A+of+F 1:5).
- Book of Mormon: "...king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God....Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord....They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter" (Mosiah 21:33-35).
Snuffer also contradicts Joseph Smith, who said, "Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood; and without the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness."
Snuffer claims anyone can baptize without authority, but the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that not even all priesthood offices can baptize:
But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands.... (D&C 20:58).
The scripture tells us precisely who may baptize:
an Apostle is an Elder & it is his calling to Baptize & to ordain other Elders, Priests, Teachers & Deacons…The Priests duty is to…baptize…& ordain other Priests, Teaches & Deacons....
Joseph Smith also denied that one could be saved without ordinances from a legal priesthood holder:
Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God; but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not. All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels.
A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the priesthood is for that purpose.
- Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 418.
- Joseph Smith Diary (23 July 1843); cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 235..
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:211, read in general conference October 1840, emphasis added. Volume 3 link
- Dean Jessee (editor), Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books, The Joseph Smith Papers, Facsimile ed. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Church Historian’s Press, 2009), 85; see D&C 20:38–60.
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:256-59. Volume 5 link
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:363. Volume 6 link