We recently received this question from a reader named Cheryl:
I was born a Christian (Baptist) and baptized. If I decide to make the step toward [becoming] Mormon, will I need to be baptized again?
~Answer by Michelle**
Cheryl, thank you for your question. It’s a good one, and one that many people have when studying Mormonism.
The short answer is yes.
Of course, the natural follow-up question to that would be, “Why would I need to be baptized again?”
Shortly after the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830, there were people hearing about the Church who also had been baptized in other churches. They had the same question you do. Joseph Smith learned that baptism as performed in the Church was part of the restored covenants that had existed from the beginning (we read from other scriptures that Adam and Eve were baptized) and that it needed to be performed as the Lord had directed him.
These directions included performing the ordinance by immersion and with the proper authority. (Baptism in the Church is also not performed on infants; the minimum age is eight.)
Throughout the ages when the gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth, authority has been necessary to perform and receive saving ordinances. In Old Testament times, for example, only authorized priests could perform the ordinances of the law of Moses. If you think about when the Savior was baptized, he sought out John the Baptist because John had the authority to baptize. This authority is called priesthood, which makes the ordinances for the remission of sin and for entrance into the kingdom of God binding with and approved by God.
Before the Savior’s death and resurrection, He gave the Apostles priesthood authority to direct His Church and perform saving ordinances of the gospel. Over time, as had happened in previous times in history, people rejected the gospel and the Lord’s authorized leaders. There came a long period of what is called apostasy — time when the priesthood authority had been taken away.
As part of the restoration of the gospel, Joseph Smith was visited by those from Christ’s time who held priesthood authority. These heavenly messengers conferred that authority, through the laying on of hands, on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. John the Baptist conferred the authority to baptize (called the Aaronic Priesthood); Peter, James and John conferred authority to direct the Church, to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, to bless and heal in Christ’s name, and to perform all other saving ordinances that are necessary to return to live with God and to be with our families for eternity (called the Melchizedek Priesthood). This authority made the organization of the Savior’s Church possible in “the latter days” as part of the preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
This priesthood authority was then conferred on other men in the early days of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and has continued in the Church until the present day.
Let me add one thing. When we share the message of the Restoration of the gospel and the priesthood and the Church with others, we do so in a spirit of respect and rejoicing in the good in others’ lives and in other churches. President Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th president of the restored Church said it well:
“We recognize the good in all people. We recognize the good in all churches, in their efforts to improve mankind and to teach principles that lead to good, stable, productive living. To people everywhere we simply say, ‘You bring with you all the good that you have, and let us add to it. That is the principle on which we work’ ”
If you would like to read others’ experiences who also had this question, following are a few articles from lds.org (with excerpts):
My Second Baptism: “The elders next taught me about the Apostasy, the Restoration of the Church, and the restoration of priesthood authority. But when they invited me to be baptized, I was shocked. I had been baptized many years before, also by immersion. Being baptized again seemed unnecessary; it felt like a betrayal of my former beliefs….”
“Thanks for the Flood“: “On the missionaries’ second visit, I had a problem accepting the missionary discussion. They seemed to be challenging all of my religious beliefs. For example, they asked me how I felt about baptism. I told them I had already been baptized….”
Baptized Again?: “I told them that I had already been baptized, and they explained that there was a proper method of baptism, which was complete immersion. I liked their message, but I couldn’t accept their challenge when I had already been baptized. While I was walking home, the word baptism kept ringing in my ears….”
Asencão Frango [was a] nun for twenty years….Hearing of a new religion, she attended her first meeting of our church with a friend, out of curiosity. It was held on the dirt floor of a member’s garage, but the spirit of the meeting impressed her. The elders began teaching her the discussions and challenged her to be baptized. She declined, saying that she already had been baptized. The elders persisted by inviting her to read the Book of Mormon….”
– – – – – – –
**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women: Who We Are, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.
Have a question you would like to ask? Send an email to us at gmail, with username ‘mormonwoman’