Ogden Kraut

At this time came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends. Brigham Young J.D. 18:241

And now I speak concerning baptism; Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.  Moroni 6:1




Baptism, as a fundamental principle of the Gospel, is also one of the most purposeful of the ordinances. Within the beauty and simplicity of baptism, there is also a complex of symbolic and binding covenants. And yet, despite the clarity of this doctrine, it is the source of more controversy among Christian sects than any other ordinance. Some churches immerse, sprinkle, or pour; while others feel that it has been accomplished and done away with by Christ. There are many churches assuming a water baptism to be non-essential because baptism of the spirit is all important. A few churches reject the necessity of baptism in any form. Then amidst all this rivalry and confusion, the authority to baptize became an issue with the restoration of the priesthood.  (See D. & C. 22) However, at the present time, a few churches are beginning to accept or recognize baptisms performed by other churches.

Amidst this quandary of truth and error, supposition and fact, there remains a practice throughout the pages of history, which has ascribed but little attention from most historians. This practice was the doctrine and ordinance of re-baptism. Those who have heard or read about this ordinance have assumed it was done to complete mission records or to re-admit some member back into the Church after excommunication. However, this practice was performed anciently and in modern times for many reasons.

For nearly 60 years, in our own dispensation, almost every member of the Church had [4] experienced re-baptism, and some many times. From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the turn of the century, re-baptism became an integral part of the teachings and faith of the Latter-day Saints. Certainly then, it deserves more than a casual notice, or a passing glance, in the annals of Church history. [6]











Baptism is an essential law of the Kingdom Heaven. All men, including the innocent Christ, must comply with that law in order to enter God’s

Kingdom. [7]




When the Savior of the world, who was innocent of sin, went down into the waters of baptism, He did so to fulfill the requirements of gospel law. Every man and woman must necessarily follow His example to acquire heaven’s choicest rewards. No one can ascend to a celestial glory by any other way.

…baptism is a sign ordained of God, for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter into the kingdom of God, “for except ye are born of water and of the Spirit ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of God,” said the Savior. It is a sign and a commandment which God has set for man to enter into His kingdom. Those who seek to enter in any other way will seek in vain; for God will not receive them, neither will the angels acknowledge their works as accepted, for they have not obeyed the ordinances, nor attended to the signs which God ordained for the salvation of man, to prepare him for, and give him a title to, a celestial glory; and God had decreed that all who will not obey His voice shall not escape the damnation of hell. What is the damnation of hell? To go with that society who have not obeyed His commands. (TPJS, p. 198)

Baptism was a law of salvation before the time of Christ, for recorded in scripture are the baptisms of Adam (Moses 6:51-68), Enoch [8] (Moses 7:10-11), and Noah (Moses 8:23-24). Also, we know that John the Baptist was baptizing at Jordan before Jesus came to him. (Matt. 3:5)


A baptism by sprinkling or pouring was not an acceptable mode of baptism. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he came “up straightway out of the water” (Matt. 3:16), indicating that he was immersed. John the Baptist also “was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there;” (John 3:23). When Paul baptized the Ethiopian, “they went down both into the water” (Acts 8:38), showing that the Apostle baptized by immersion. He also inferred as much when he wrote that we should be “buried with him in baptism.” (Col. 2:12)


The Bible is the grand guide toward eternal salvation; but it is not–by any stretch of the imagination–the authority to baptize. God has always established priesthood authority to administer His ordinances. Presuming to have the authority of God is a reckless and, in most instances, disastrous course for men to pursue.

Many objections are urged against the Latter-day Saints for not admitting the validity of sectarian baptism, and for withholding fellowship from sectarian churches. Yet to do otherwise would be like putting new wine into old bottles, and putting old wine into new bottles. What: New revelations in the old churches? New revelations would knock out the bottom of their bottomless pit. New wine into old bottles! The bottles burst and [9] the wine runs out: What! Sadducees in the new church! Old wine in new leathern bottles will leak through the pores and escape. So the Sadducee saints mock at authority, kick out of the traces, and run to the mountains of perdition, leaving the long echo of their braying behind them. (TPJS, p. 192)

The Lord acknowledged the vanity of believing in a baptism done without authority when He revealed that

…although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. (D. & C. 22:2)

A baptism is of no more validity than the authority of the man who administers the ordinance.


Baptism symbolizes our belief in the atonement, the burial and the resurrection of Christ.

Being immersed in water depicts the burial of our sins, and being washed clean from our iniquities.

Immersion is a token of the burial of our old way of life of sin, ignorance, and error–coming forth to a life with Christ and His gospel of truth and righteousness.

Baptism represents our bodily death and burial–and the hope we have in a restoration and resurrection.[10] When Jesus said we must be “born again,” He illustrated baptism as a new way of life and new beginning.

Baptism was exemplified in the baptism of the earth at the time of Noah. It shall have a baptism of the Holy Ghost and receive a celestial reward–and so shall man if he is also obedient.

Baptism by water depicts washing of sin–baptism of fire depicts purification.

Baptism is a gateway–through the waters of baptism we enter Christ’s Church; we also become a member of His kingdom and are made candidates to His celestial glory.

Baptism is a law and commandment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we are baptized, we are obedient to His laws and commandments–therefore, we qualify for His eternal blessings. According to Alma the reasons for baptism were to:

(1)       “…show unto God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and

(2)       enter into a covenant with him,

(3)       to keep his commandments, and

(4)       witness it unto him…”

Alma 7:15

Re-baptism was for the same purpose and for the same reasons, except that it was again necessary. [12]                           THE RIVER JORDAN

Baptism and re-baptism were practiced in ancient times for the remission of sins and the renewal of covenants. Many of these baptisms took place in the River Jordan.  [13]



The scriptures are not always as clear and as revealing as we would like them to be. And although the mode, means, and doctrine of baptism is none too clear, the doctrine of re-baptism is even less apparent. Nevertheless, there are references which indicate that this doctrine was practiced anciently.

Toward the sunset of Christianity, in the meridian of time, the Apostle John was given a revelation to the few remaining churches in Asia. The Lord mentions each church by name and then admonishes each of them for their failings. To the church at Ephesus the Lord said:

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Revelations 2:2-5)

The Lord exhorts them to “repent” and then “do the first works.” The “first work” that follows repentance is baptism; therefore, if the Saints were being commanded to again do the first works of baptism, it would be re-baptism. [14] The church at Ephesus had fallen so spiritually low that some of those who were supposed to be apostles were liars, and they had left the first love which was Christ. They were almost to lose their candlestick, or chief apostle, because of their failings. For this reason the Lord exhorted them to repent and be re-baptized.

The Apostle Paul also had occasion to direct some of the early Saints to be re-baptized. It is written that

…while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he 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. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

Although the question of authority in the first baptism has been a preponderant issue, this could also have been a re-baptism with members of the true Church. It is recorded that Paul found these “disciples”, which indicates that they were members of the Church, and they also said that they had been baptized by “John” which may have inference to John the Baptist. [15] These disciples were questioned about receiving the Holy Ghost since they “believed,” meaning that they had accepted the Gospel. Therefore, since these “disciples” of Christ had already “believed” in the Gospel and were probably baptized by “John” the Baptist, they were re-baptized because they had not yet received the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, they were re-baptized under the direction of Paul the Apostle, and by doing so they did receive the “Holy Ghost”, and they “spake in tongues, and prophesied”–a rich reward for complying with the doctrine of re-baptism.

The Book of Mormon also contains specific references to re-baptism. Nephi, it is written, baptized many believers and “ordained men unto this ministry,” and “there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance.” (A.D. 32: see 3 Nephi 7:26) However, a few years later, after the destruction of his nation, it is written that Nephi again “went down into the water and was baptized.” (3 Nephi 19:11) Thus Nephi complied with the principle of re-baptism; and being a leader among his people, he established the precedent for that practice and they followed his example. Nephi proceeded to baptize the others and “it came to pass when they were ALL baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them.” (3 Nephi 19:13)

Alma also participated in the principle of re-baptism. After he received the authority and had been converted, then he preached the principles of faith, repentance, and baptism, and baptized a “goodly number” of the believers. Then on a later occasion, while baptizing a man by the name of Helam, he became so influenced with the beauty and blessings of baptism, that [16] he also was “buried” in the waters of baptism. Alma, therefore, certainly experienced a re-baptism, and he “came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.” (Mos. 18:13-14)

At the final eclipse of the great Nephite empire, the nation had grown cold in the principles of righteousness. The last plea for a return to the gospel was being made by Moroni who wrote:

And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it. (Moroni 6:1)

The “elders, priests, and teachers” were of course members and offices of the Church of Jesus Christ, and yet they were baptized. To become members of the Church and hold the offices of elders and priests, they must be baptized; therefore, these members were again baptized after they had repented by bringing forth the “fruit” of repentance.

Thus the doctrine of re-baptism, like the doctrine of baptism for the dead, has a few substantiating scriptural references. Even one is enough to establish it as a doctrine and practice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [18]






The first re-baptisms in this dispensation were performed under the direction and with the approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  [19]



The first baptisms into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were re-baptisms. Although Joseph Smith and others had been baptized before the organization of the Church, they were again baptized when they became members of the newly formed Church.

When John the Baptist appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he conferred upon him the Priesthood of Aaron and commanded the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to go and be baptized. The Prophet Joseph wrote:

…he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. (P.of G.P., J.S. 2:70)

This was in May of 1829. Then, nearly a year later, it is written that

…Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Des. News, March 30, 1935, p. 6)

  1. H. Roberts felt that the number of those “that had been baptized up to the 6th of April, 1830, must have been but nine.” (D.H.C. 1:77) These were all being baptized a second time for entrance into the Church.

After the organization of the Church, other re-baptisms occurred–one of the most notable [20] cases being that of Fredrick G. Williams. Williams was converted to the Church and baptized in 1830, but during the great period of apostasy in 1837, he lost confidence and activity in the Church. He, like many others, did not leave the Church, nor was he tried for his membership; nevertheless, he was re-baptized. Joseph Smith mentioned the re-baptism of F. G. Williams in the History of the Church.

I attended meeting. Elder Erastus Snow preached, after which I addressed the congregation, and particularly the Elders, on the principles of wisdom, etc. President Rigdon preached in the afternoon, and several were confirmed among whom was Frederick G. Williams, who had recently been re-baptized. (Aug. 5, 1838, D.H.C. 3:55)

Many other Saints, whose faith had been weakened during these trying times, were also re-baptized. These re-baptisms were not uncommon, and four years later another entry into Church history mentions re-baptism:

Baptisms for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font (of the Nauvoo Temple), and those coming into the Church and those re-baptized may be baptized in the river. (H. of C. 4:586)

There were many of the Saints re-baptized, even though they had never been tried, disfellowshipped, or excommunicated from the Church. The primary purpose of this ordinance was to remit sins and renew covenants. They wished to start afresh–to begin again with an outward evidence of their effort to keep the commandments of God.  [21]

In renewing covenants, the Saints did not consider the first covenants invalid. Re-baptism was a means and evidence of a double effort to reaffirm their intentions toward their duty to God and the Church. Such an ordinance was an outward token of an inward faith and desire to keep God’s laws and commandments.

…The proposition was joyfully and very generally accepted by the saints. This procedure, however, must not be regarded as casting any doubt upon the validity of their original baptisms, or repudiation of it as a sacrament. It was only to make more solemn the renewal of covenants’ with God. (C.H.C., B. H. Roberts, 2:286-287)

After Nauvoo had been ravished and sacked by the enemies of Mormonism, the Saints attempted to gather their meager belongings and seek refuge in the West. Under such sorely trying circumstances where death, sickness, and hunger were aggravated by heavy snow and freezing weather, the faith of the Saints was again tried. Like the Israelites of old, they complained and grumbled while their dispositions were on a perpetual edge. To many saints these trials and tribulations were more than just a “little difficult,” and a great deal of weakness was manifest. Re-baptism was again to have a major impact upon the doctrine and history of the Mormon people. [22]



Mormon pioneers and emigrants, as they entered the Great Salt Lake Valley, were instructed to renew their covenants with the Church by re-baptism.  [23]



When the Saints reached the Great Salt Lake Valley, a new life seemed to open up for the Mormons. The land and its seclusion presented grand hopes and rich prospects for the future. Here they were free from the reach of mobs, injustices, and tyrants. They acquired new fares, new communities and new freedoms. These conditions offered them another chance to live their religion unmolested. However, in taming the desert, building settlements, and defending themselves from the Indians, they would of necessity depend on each other more than ever before. Failures, weakness, or apostasy could spell out disaster to their very existence. Under such circumstances, they wanted to start afresh once more.

On this day the Twelve were re-baptized. Why? Because the Church, having broken old ties in the East was, in a way, experiencing a new birth. Because, owing to conditions of life on the plains, regular Church routine could not always be observed. For this reason for non-observance of certain regulations were made by the people and accepted by their leaders. But now those who stood at the head of the Church wanted a gesture of support to themselves and a sign that willing obedience would be given to the rules of the Church. This was affected by re-baptism. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, August 6, 1847)

The principle of re-baptism was again becoming a popular practice in the history of the Mormon people.[24] The purpose of re-baptism, as before mentioned, was not just for the individuals who had lost their records. Although many records were lost, the purpose of re-baptism at this time was for a renewal of covenants and remission of sins.

Re-baptism began with the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of Twelve Apostle. From this re-baptism of the Church leaders, it proceeded throughout the rest of the Church.

President Young must have taken quite seriously such irregularities of the camp of the pioneers as we have already noted in a former chapter, for he now proposed to them a solemn renewal of their covenants to righteousness, a new avowal of their acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ by baptism, President Young himself to set the example. This was first proposed to the Twelve and their immediate associates, then to the camp….(C.H.C. 2:287)

Bancroft’s History of Utah gives the number of Satins in the valleys at this time at 400. On the 8th of August he records the re-baptisms to be almost that number.

The battalion brethren moved their wagons and formed a corral between the forks of City Creek. Brigham exhorted the brethren to be re-baptized, himself setting the example, and reconfirming the Elders. On the 8th of August three hundred were immersed, the services commencing at six o’clock in the morning. (History of Utah, 1840-86, Bancroft, p. 265.)[25]

The historian Bancroft accounted for nearly everyone of an eligible age that was re-baptized. This is an evidence that the rule for re-baptism was established for everyone who was to come into the valley. These first pioneers set the example for all others to follow.

Friday, August 6, 1847 — The Apostles in G.S.L. Valley renewed their covenants by baptism, and the rest of the company soon after followed their example. (Church Chronology; Andrew Jensen, p. 34)

The authorities decided that all that came to the valleys should renew their covenants by baptism. So all the Bushman family were re-baptized, and the saints did enjoy a rest from their enemies for ten years…. (John Bushman Diary, MSS 1935, p. 11)

The re-baptism program continued with every immigrant, regardless of their position or office in the Church. An evidence of this procedure is the testimonial of Apostles Parley Pratt and John Taylor, who entered the valley four months after the first group of settlers.

Having repented of our sins and renewed our covenants, President John Taylor and myself administered the ordinances of baptism, etc., to each other and to our families, according to the example set by the President and pioneers who had done the same on entering the valley.

These solemnities took place with us and most of our families, November 28, 1847. (Autobiography of P. P. Pratt, p. 360)[26]

Re-baptism was recognized as a “requirement,” and there were also manifestations of Divine approval:

After the arrival of the several divisions of the Company that left Winter Quarters in June, they were called upon to repent and renew their covenants in baptism, Elders Taylor and Pratt setting the example. The Saints very generally responded to this requirement and the Spirit of God rested upon them in great power. (Life of John Taylor, by Roberts, p. 193)

Others have mentioned the requirement of re-baptism for all who came into the valleys. It became an accepted rule for the immigrants.

After the arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, and subsequently for a considerable period, all those who entered the valley were baptized anew at the request of President Brigham Young, who, with the council of the Twelve, set the example to the people who were gathering from all parts of the world. (Doc. of Sal., 2:333)

They teach re-baptism here in Utah as a doctrine. The authorities in the church here in Utah have taught it and insisted that everyone who came here should be baptized, and have baptized them the third time since coming here. It did not make any difference whether or not they belonged to the church when they came here, they were re-baptized when they came here. (Temple Lot Case, p. 341; Joseph C. Kingsbury)  [27] Wilford Woodruff relates a humorous incident that occurred during these days of re-baptisms. In questioning one young man, he said:

“In all the trials incident to the pilgrimage and pioneer life, have you ever sworn nor used bad language?”

“No, sir,” was the prompt reply.

“Have you never broke the Sabbath Day?”

“No, sir,” came the quick response.

“Have you never cheated your neighbor in trade?”

“No, sir,” thundered the unrepentant man. “Then, for heaven’s sake, go off and do something. You are the only perfect man I ever saw, and hope never to see another in this life.” (Life of Wilford Woodruff, p. 373)

The practice of re-baptism, upon entering the Great Salt Lake Valley, was taught for many years. Eighteen years after the first re-baptisms in the valley, it was still being taught. In 1865 Apostle Orson Pratt said:

That seems to be a kind of standing ordinance for all Latter-day Saints who emigrate here, from the First Presidency down: all are re-baptized and set out anew by renewing their covenants. (Orson Pratt, J.D. 18:160)

Thomas B. Marsh came back into the Church in 1857, and was re-baptized while on his journey to the Salt Lake Valley. However, when he arrived in the Valley, he was requested to be re-baptized again.

When he came to Florence, he applied to Brother Cunningham, who was then presid-[28]ing there, for baptism. Brother Cunningham at first refused to baptize him, probably thinking that it would be better for him to wait till he came to this place; but he afterwards gave his consent to Brother Marsh’s being baptized. Brother Marsh now wishes to be received into full fellowship, and to be again baptized here. (B. Young, J.D., p. 209)

Re-baptism were not confined to the Salt Lake Valley. Oliver B. Huntington, who served as a missionary in England during the year of 1847, was also administering this ordinance in that country.

Sunday 21, 1847…. In the afternoon I preached to the Saints upon such as I thought best touched their present case. I omitted evening meeting there and all repaired to the water for baptism and re-baptism. I re-baptized six. We then repaired to the house of Wm. Stuart and I confirmed them. (O. B. Huntington Diary, p. 117)

In another entry, by Elder Huntington, he gives some evidence that re-baptism was being practiced in England months, perhaps even years, before the Saints ever entered the Salt Lake Valley.

The Saints wore more lively there than I could have expected, they being visited very seldom by any of the Elders. They were ready, many, for re-baptism but I could not attend to it then, and thought it best to let them consider upon it and the more get ready to go at once. Now it was almost a general thing through England [29] that the Saints were being re-baptized, for they had many and mostly become old and cold and it required a renewal of covenants and fresh works together with mere faith and diligence, to give the work new impetus and revive the dropping spirits of the Saints and the work generally. (Huntington Diary, Feb. 7, 1847, p. 114)

This little known principle of re-baptism was much more popular in the early days of the Church than has been generally recognized. Its history played a great part in the Church for many years before the Salt Lake Valley was settled. This principle was believed and practiced for a number of reasons, but the foremost reason for re-baptism was to renew covenants, have sins remitted and to start afresh in serving God and obeying the laws of His Gospel.[30]




In 1856, by the direction of Brigham Young, all of the Saints were required to begin a reformation which was inaugurated with everyone being baptized again.  [31]



During the years of 1856 and 1857, a spiritual movement began in the Church and was to become known as the “reformation.” It had been nearly ten years since the Saints entered these valleys, and many of them had become lax and inactive. While they were so busily engaged in building homes and irrigation canals and in cultivating the land, the Saints were neglecting, to a great extent, the duties of their religion.

President Brigham Young sensed a need to reform and re-activate Israel to the work of the Lord. It was then that he called upon his counselor, Jedediah Grant, to establish the theme of “Live Your Religion.” On September 13, 1856, Jedediah proceeded to a 4-day conference in Kaysville and began his assignment, with emphasis on “reforming” the saints.

In 1854 Jedediah M. Grant was called to be the second counselor to President Young in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1856-57, under the direction of President Young, he became the leader in the religious movement known as the Reformation. According to the counsel of President Young “the Twelve were baptized.” “This,” writes Apostle Woodruff, “we considered a privilege and a duty. As we had come in a glorious valley to locate and build up Zion, we felt like renewing our covenants before the Lord and each other. We soon repaired to the water, and President Young went down into the water and baptized all his brethren of the [32] Twelve present. Brother Heber C. Kimball baptized and confirmed President Brigham Young.”

Two days later, on Sunday, August 8th, Brother Woodruff wrote: “The whole camp of Israel renewed their covenants before the Lord by baptism. There were 224 baptized this morning, making 284 re-baptized during the last three-days.”

When, in the year 1856, as mentioned earlier, Jedediah M. Grant was chosen by President Young to head the religious movement known as the Reformation, he embarked upon an enterprise which he took most seriously and which proved to be the last major project of his incessantly active life. To this new calling he gave his might, mind and strength. “His zeal hardly had bounds,” we are told. (Jedediah M. Grant, p. 130, 138)

At this Kaysville conference, Pres. Grant delivered a soul-stirring oration which was to sweep over the entire church. Every ward, branch, and mission felt the effect of the messages of this conference. President Grant said he “felt like re-baptizing the Saints over again.” On the third day of this conference:

Upon calling for a vote as to whether they were willing to renew their covenants, it was given unanimously… and nearly 500 Saints were immersed under the direction of President Grant, aided by Bishop Taylor, Elders Clements, Allred, Curtis, Weinel, Wm. Booth, Jr., Payne, and Dinsdale. Pres. Grant baptized upwards of 80 with his own hands. The Spirit of God was poured out to a great degree, and peace and happiness charac-[33]terized the whole assembly. (Des. News, Sept. 1856, p. 228)

From Kaysville, Pres. Grant and his assistants proceeded to Farmington. Again the power and influence of this “reform” movement was taught and felt. By this time the influence was at its highest point, persuading the saints to better living:

…and concluded by praying that all those who did not feel to do right might have their way opened to leave the people and territory of Utah, and that those who did not come forward and do their first works, (i.e., renew religious obligations by baptism), let them be unto you as heathen men and publicans, and not numbered among the saints. (Des. News, Sept. 24, 1856)

The baptisms were helpful in reforming the people; however, it also helped to separate those who had no faith in re-baptism or reform from those who were more valiant and obedient to the Gospel.

Elder Woodruff records his belief that the Reformation had a great effect for good upon the lives and the conduct of the people. It also had a tendency to separate those who were insincere and untrustworthy. It was a judgment upon the Saints that they themselves pronounced in their willingness or unwillingness to be in harmony with the spirit of the times. (Life of W. Woodruff, p. 375)

Some felt a power and influence unlike any since the days of the Prophet Joseph.  [34]

Elder Hunt said that when Brs. Grant and Grover were speaking, he felt as though Brs. Joseph and Hyrum were in our midst, and that the Spirit of Joseph was with Br. Grant, and that was the reason we quaked in his presence. (Minutes in Farmington, Sept. 16,17,18, 1856. Des. News, p. 237)

From Kaysville and Farmington, Pres. Grant continued his “reformation” at a conference in Centerville. Here, however, the re-baptisms were not done in haste or without due consideration for the qualification of the people. Pres. Grant, like John the Baptist, said they must show evidence and works required for the ordinance; and if they did not, “he forbid their coming to the water as candidates for the administration of that ordinance.” Apparently, there were some reasons for hesitation and

Pres. Grant said that he had considered the matter, and deemed it best to postpone baptism for the present, that the people may have time to prepare their minds, that they may be benefited by the administration of that sacred ordinance. (Des. News, 1856, p. 248)

At the conclusion of the conference, however, the Saints were willing to comply with the ordinance, and the work of re-baptism was performed.

Continuing to Jordan Mill, on October 15, President Grant again proposed the ordinance of re-baptism at that conference.

Elder D. D. Hunt bore testimony to the truths advanced by the brethren, and [35] called upon the people to manifest their feelings respecting the reformation, and whether they wished to renew their covenants. The Saints manifested by their vote, their unanimous desire for reformation. (1856 Des. News, p. 266)

Thus, the wave of reform had begun and this so-called “Reformation” was beginning to spread throughout the Church. These re-baptisms were not without divine approval, as spiritual gifts and powers attested to this fact.

Patriarch J. Young Prophesied that the Spirit of the Lord should rest upon the congregation, and that they should speak in tongues and prophecy.

And after the baptisms:

The congregation seemed to be lighted up with the Holy Ghost; they prophesied, spoke in tongues, had the interpretation thereof, and the blessings of the Almighty God rested upon them. (Des. News, 1856, p. 266)

The Lord seemed pleased with the reformation and the work of re-baptism, as was evidenced by the spiritual events that transpired at many of the meetings.

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 1856: “Adjourned till tomorrow at ten a.m. and joint session met in committee of the whole on the state of the Reformation and passed on unanimous Resolution to repent of and forsake our sins and be re-baptized for their remission and in conformity therewith, went to dinner then repaired to the Font filled [36] it with water and some fifty-five were baptized… all being filled with the spirit of the meeting, lasted till dark. The power and testimony of the Elders of Israel exceeded anything that I have seen in many a day. It was truly a pentecost. (Hosea Stout Diary, Vol. 2:613)

However, not everyone was willing to accept the idea of the reformation to be baptized. Some opposed the authorities for the idea of re-baptizing, and didn’t believe it was necessary. One such unbeliever was Matthew Gaunt, who strenuously objected to such procedures and soon it was

Motioned that Matthew Gaunt and wife be cut off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for unbelief and reviling against the authorities. Carried unanimously. (Des. News, 1856, p. 266)

There were others who opposed the doctrine of re-baptism, and on one occasion

Elder Woodruff speaks of a tongue lashing which he received from one of his brethren who did not take kindly to the spirit and methods of the times. The man did not care to have his conduct brought into question. He had repented and been baptized once and the repetition of repentance was not in harmony with his feelings, and he resisted the call made upon him by his brethren, who did not hesitate and who were not easily brushed aside in their purpose and determination to bring about a reformation.  (Life of W. Woodruff, p. 376)  [37]

At the conclusion of each conference, the whole ward or branch would proceed to the river or baptismal font to be baptized. Many church records and private diaries record these incidents.

On Monday the 2nd of March 1857, I with all the Presidents and teachers in the Ward were baptized by Bishop Rawleigh and confirmed at the water’s edge . . . The whole ward was re-baptized and confirmed in the school house . . . . I was scribe to record their genealogies and re-baptisms. (Huntington Diary, Vol. 2:110)

As previously mentioned, from the year 1847 there was a requirement upon all who entered the valleys to be re-baptized. Now, when the reformation of 1856 began, they were all required to be re-baptized again.

All the members of the church that came into Utah were instructed to be baptized under Brigham Young . . . . After this, the church had another reformation, and under that we were baptized the second time and were baptized for the same thing. (Temple Lot Case, p. 341)

During the reformation, Brigham Young sent a letter to Apostle Orson Pratt, president of the European Mission, and instructed Apostle Pratt to commence a reformation in that part of the world, also.

Be humble, and seek unto the Lord as children; put away your vain philosophies and strip yourself for the Kingdom. Preach Christ, and him crucified–preach life and salvation unto the Elders; the Saints [38] first, and then unto the people. Begin at home in the office–purify and regenerate them; get the fulness of the Spirit, and the power of the Highest to rest down upon you and then go forth to the people, and let a reformation be stirred up among the Saints; fire up each other, and then all the Saints; let all participate, and when they have sufficiently cleansed the inside of the platter, let them cleanse the outside, and renew their covenants in the waters of baptism, and abide in the truth, and be alive in the Church and Kingdom of God. (Letter of Brigham Young to Orson Pratt in England, Mill. Star, 19:97)

Obligingly, Orson Pratt opened up the reformation in the nation of England.

February 4, 1857–A reformation meeting was held in No. 42 Islington, Liverpool, England, and on the following day the presiding brethren of the British Mission, including Apostles Orson Pratt and Ezra T. Benson, renewed their covenants by baptism. This was followed by a general renewal of covenants throughout the mission. (Church Chronology, p. 58)

Within a month the spirit of this reformation, and its subsequent re-baptisms, spread into other nearby countries.

March 12, 1857–Reformation meetings were held at Swansea, Wales, after which the presiding Elders, and subsequently all the Saints in that mission, renewed their covenants by baptism. (Church Chron., p. 58)  [39] The object of the reformation was to cause the Saints to live the Gospel better than ever before. It stirred up a repentance and anxiety among the Mormon people that had never occurred before or since. President Jedediah Grant literally exhausted himself so much from his labors in this reformation, that it brought him to an early grave.

Jedediah’s message was heeded; people by the hundreds flocked to him for re-baptism, but in the strenuous life he led–many times attending three meetings during the same afternoon and evening–he exhausted his physical strength and collapsed. A brief and severe illness, from which he never recovered, attacked him and on December 1st, 1856, he died. (Jedediah M. Grant, p. 139)

The reformation continued for many years throughout the Church. If for some reason an individual or a ward had lost the Spirit of the Lord, they were admonished to re-enter the waters of baptism. The reformation was a preparation for events that were soon to come.

There was a spirit of trouble brewing; a growing opposition throughout the United States toward the Saints was felt by the leaders, who were impressed by the spirit of reform. It was important that the people should be so upright and chaste in their lives that the Lord should have no occasion to punish them for their shortcomings. (Life of W. Woodruff, p. 372)

The Mormons needed a spiritual preparation because they were soon to require the helping hand of the Lord. The armies of the United [40] States were to come upon them, and therefore they needed to be a righteous people–a “mighty nation” under God, depending upon His protection.[42]




One of the sacred principles of the restoration was the United Order. The Saints were required to be re-baptized before entering into that law of the Gospel.  [43]



In the same year the Church was organized, the Lord by revelation indicated that there must be a temporal as well as a spiritual unity of His people. By October of 1831 some of the Saints were leaving Kirtland, Ohio, to establish a United Order at Independence, Missouri.

Mobs and persecution soon drove the Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois. However, the United Order was never again to be established there or in Missouri. Even after the Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, it required nearly thirty years of preparation for them to again live this order.

In the year 1874 the United Order was again restored into the practice of the Church. It was necessary to re-establish that pertinent part of the Gospel, and to begin afresh by living those higher laws. Re-baptism became the means and evidence for the dedication, renewing of covenants, and the consecrating of a pure heart to the Lord. The United Order was a spiritual law, and the Saints were re-baptized before entering into that sacred principle.

These instructions were directed from the First Presidency of the Church to all who would enter into the United Order:

On January 2, he (John Bushman) was baptized into the United Order by Wm. H. Winn and confirmed by Israel Evans, same day. This was the instructions from the Church Authorities, that all renew their covenants and work in the United Order. (John Bushman Diary, p. 31)[44]

Many records, journals, and diaries tell the experiences of the Saints who entered into the United Order, and most of these records relate to their baptism as they entered that order.

December 26, 1875–Attended Sunday School at 10 a.m. Ward meeting at 2 p.m. Bishop L. J. Nuttall occupied the time in explanation of the course to be pursued in the United Order.

December 30, 1875–This afternoon Mary, Fanney and myself were baptized for the remission of sin and renewal of our covenants and for the observance of the rules of the United Order, under the direction of L. John Nuttall, who administered the Ordinance of Baptism. (Diary of J. H. Standifird)

Even the wording of the baptismal ceremony mentioned the observance of the rules and spirit of the United Order.

Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize thee for the remission of thy sins, for the renewal of the covenant with God and thy brethren and for the observance of the rules that have been said in thy hearing, in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. (Ceremony of baptism into the United Order; obtained this copy from among the papers of Apostle C. C. Rich, Sept. 4, 1886. The copy from which the above was taken is in the handwriting of George Q. Cannon.) (Unpublished Diary of Milando Pratt)[45]

By 1885, again through persecution, the Saints were trammeled and their possessions confiscated. Again the United Order began to crumble before them. With the gradual dissolution of this system, the practice of re-baptism also faded away with that order.[46]




Nearly all Saints who were to be married were encouraged to be re-baptized so that they could enter the House of the Lord and the marriage covenant clean and holy.  [47]



It was a common practice for couples who were to be married, to be re-baptized before participating in the wedding ceremony. This was done in both monogamous and plural marriages. Since the marriage ceremony was one of the most solemn and sacred ordinances, it was to be entered into with a clean soul. Men and women entered into eternal covenants and began a new and more responsible way of life. Re-baptism was a principle advocated for the purpose of helping couples begin this sacred step with the best possible assurance that it would be successful. How blessed were couples about to be married to be re-baptized for the remission of sins: They could then, with a clear conscience, walk in white and purity to enter the most sacred of buildings and ordinances of God–the beginning of their journey together for eternity.

Edward Wood, who became president of the Cardston Temple, took his bride-to-be and they were both re-baptized before their wedding.

To show their willingness to serve the Lord and to rededicate their lives for His service, they were re-baptized in the “Tabernacle Font.” (Journal of Edward Wood, Aug. 30, 1892)

Another journal mentions this usual rule of re-baptism before entering into marriage.

September 17th 1886–As it was customary to get baptized to prepare for my temple [48] ordinances, before going to the temple so as to be free from all evil and wrong… I arranged with Brother Leatham, who has charge of baptisms on the Temple Block, to be baptized. . .

I had already made arrangements to get Ida’s recommend to be baptized and at 2 p.m. . . . . I took Ida to the Old Endowment House and after a word of prayer and a few remarks by Brother Leatham, he baptized us and confirmed us for the renewal of our covenants. (Diary of John M. Whitaker, Book 3, p. 16.)

Undoubtedly George and Alice Richards would never forget the re-baptism they had at the time they were married. Their re-baptism would probably be more clearly remembered than the marriage ceremony:

They were married March 9, 1882, in the endowment house in Salt Lake City with the groom’s father performing the ceremony. He gave the bride a five-dollar gold piece and said he hoped Alice would make George a good wife.

It was customary in those days to be re-baptized before being married. This young couple adhered to that practice, though one foot of ice in big creek had to be broken in order to do so. (Life of George F. Richards, p. 8)

Thus the principle of re-baptism was closely associated with other sacred ordinances of the Gospel, such as marriage and the United Order. By renewing covenants, having sins remitted, and starting afresh with new deter-[49]mination to keep God’s commandments, men and women found re-baptism a beautiful and rewarding experience in the Gospel plan.[50]






Some of the early and unusual re-baptisms occurred in the Nauvoo Temple when Saints were re-baptized for health purposes.[51]



One of the requests for re-baptism was for healing of the sick. Strange as this may appear, history has proved this practice to be very beneficial in many of the cases where it has been performed. One of the first accounts of baptism for the sick is recorded by the Prophet Joseph. He baptized his wife Emma for her illness.

Tues. 4, 1842, Emma is very sick again. I attended with her all the day, being somewhat poorly myself.

Wed. 5. My dear Emma was worse. Many fears were entertained that she would not recover. She was baptized twice in the river, which evidently did her much good. She grew worse again at night, and continued very sick indeed. I was unwell, and much troubled on account of Emma’s sickness. (History of Church, J. Smith, Vol. 5; p. 167-168)

Emma had been baptized in Coalville in 1830. This re-baptism was 12 years later. Even previous to this account, the baptisms for healing were quite common. They were performed in the Nauvoo Temple, along with other baptisms.

Baptisms for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font, and those coming into the Church and those re-baptized may be baptized in the river. (D.H.C. 4:586)

However, these baptism for the sick were not restricted to the temples, as the case of [52] Emma illustrates. Others were baptized in streams and rivers. Another similar example comes from the life of Lorenzo Snow:

Upon arriving at Pisgah, Lorenzo and members of his family remained for a season. “At this place,” Lorenzo said, “I was taken seriously and dangerously ill with a burning fever, which so affected my brain that I was delirious many days, lying at the point of death. While in this condition, Elder Phineas Richards, the father of Apostle F. D. Richards, assisted by other kind brethren, took me from my bed, wrapped in a sheet placed me in a carriage, drove to a stream of water, and baptized me in the name of the Lord, for my recovery. The fever immediately abated, and through the kind unwearied nursing and attention by my faithful, loving wives, and my dear sister, E.R.S. Smith, aided and sanctified through the power and blessing of God, I was delivered from suffering and restored to health. The sickness was the result of extreme hardships and exposures consequent on the journey. (Life of L. Snow, 1846, Romney, p. 80-81)

Two other examples may serve to illustrate the beneficial powers of this ordinance.

  1. D. Richards, who had been sick for several months, was baptized, anointed, and confirmed; immediately after which he was restored to health.

Mrs. Richards was taken by her brother from a sick bed to a lake from the surface of which ice more than a foot thick [53] had been removed, and there baptized, whereupon she immediately recovered. Similar cases might be given by the score. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 337)

Baptism for the sick was never an established order for healing the sick, because the Lord had already established administration by the laying on of hands and the use of olive oil for such healings. Baptism was a means of remitting sins; and if the devil was afflicting someone with sickness, it may have been through their weakness or sins that he could accomplish it. Nevertheless, these baptisms were a means of controlling or abating the afflictions of the Saints, even though it had its limitations.

I spoke of baptism for health in my examination in chief: it was never considered a prominent feature or any doctrine of the original church, any mere than it is of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was never considered essential in either church. It was simply taught as a doctrine that was beneficial; I never heard an elder or anybody else preach it in either church. I never heard it taught as a present duty, but I have heard it advocated as beneficial, and in that sense it was practiced. (Jason Briggs, Temple Lot Case, p. 404)

One of the latest records of baptism for health is found in the year of 1884:

Sunday, November 16th, 1884–This morning reconfirmed Elder L. Harris who has been baptized for his health. (Diary of Elder J. H. Standifird)[54]

This would indicate that re-baptisms, for health purposes, were practiced for at least 42 years. It is doubtful if they continued for very many years after that time.  [56]



The most important purpose and benefit of re-baptism was for the remission of sins. President Brigham Young encouraged and practiced the principle of re-baptism from the infancy of the Church until the year of his death.[57]



Contrary to many opinions, re-baptism was not primarily practiced for the re-affirming of lost records, renewing covenants, entering into the United Order, entering the Salt Lake Valley, or as a preparation for marriage. The first and foremost purpose of re-baptism was to remit sins. After sins had been remitted, then he became more qualified to enter into marriage, United Order, the temple, or whatever else was considered a sacred trust of the Lord.

Note how well the impression of “remission of sins” was implanted into the minds of the Saints by the testimony of Joseph Kingsbury:

I was baptized first in 1832, and I was baptized the next time when I came out here to Utah. I was baptized first for the remission of sins. Was baptized the second time for the same thing. I came out here in 1847 and was re-baptized then. When I came out here I was baptized again renewing my covenants and also for the remission of sins that I might have committed in taking this long and tedious journey through all these mountains and canyons. (Joseph C. Kingsbury, Temple Lot Case, p. 340)

Brigham Young was perhaps the foremost promoter of re-baptisms. He emphasized this ordinance to many of the Saints for a remission of their sins.

My counsel to them today is, as it has been on former occasions to all who have [58] come into these valleys, Go and be baptized for the remission of sins, repenting of all your wanderings from the path of righteousness, believing firmly in the name of Jesus Christ, that all your sins will be washed away. If any of you inquire what is the necessity of your being baptized, as you have not committed any sins, I answer, it is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.

I have heard some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the Elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good Elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel. (Brigham Young, J.D. 2:8, 9)

Once while one of John D. Lee’s wives became aggravated by a bishop, she said some things which provoked the bishop to hold trial against her. The bishop pronounced a verdict that she would have to be re-baptized. It was in the month of February and there was ice on the water. John D. Lee said to the bishop:

I demand baptism at your hands, seeing that you are so inconsiderate as to require a woman to be immersed when the water is full of snow and ice and that too for defending the rights of her husband. You should pay a little of (the) penalty for making such a decision and [59] perhaps if your backsides get wet in ice water, you will be more careful how you decide again. The majority of the people said, “Stick him to it, Emma; it is but just.” But the bishop made an excuse to go to Kannara and got out of it. (Mormon Chronicles, by Juanita Brooks, Vol. 2:102)

The remission of sins was the theme for re-baptism. The purpose was to prepare the candidate for a fresh, clean start, and help prevent him from being again overcome by sin.

This is a representation of the feelings of some who have crossed the plains this season. My advice to you is, go and be baptized for the remission of sins, and start afresh, that temptation may not overcome you again; pause and reflect, that you be not overcome by the evil one unawares. (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:324)

This basis was strongly impressed upon the minds of the Saints. An excellent example is the testimony of Joseph Noble, who through unjust inquiries in court, made reference to the remission of sins by re-baptism:

I was not here in Utah very long before I was baptized the second time; we went right to baptizing the members the second time as quick as they got here; baptized for remission of sins, follies, wickedness, and I do not know what all …. I have been re-baptized for my nonsense a good many times; am going through again as soon as I get through with you fellows, for I know I will need it when I get through–need it badly. I will feel kind of relieved, you know, and after I have [60] gone through it will not harm me any.

I will be re-baptized for the remission of my sins; perhaps I have committed so many during the taking of my testimony, that I will feel the necessity of it, and it would not be amiss, I think, if a pair of us were re-baptized. I will first attend to re-baptism for my own imperfections and let the rest of you fellows attend to yours or go to Tophet. It is my idea now that I shall be re-baptized when I get through with the taking of my testimony. (Joseph B. Noble, Temple Lot Case, p. 369)

Some of the most noted examples of baptism occurred among the elders and authorities themselves. Some of the most noteworthy cases are for those sins not severe enough for excommunication, but worthy of another baptism. One example was Elder Zeta Pulsipher.

Elder Zera Pulsipher transcended the bounds of the Priesthood in the ordinance of sealing, for which he was cited to appear before the First Presidency of the Church, April 12, 1862. It was there voted that he be re-baptized, reconfirmed and ordained to the office of a High Priest, or go into the ranks of the Seventies. (Church Chronology, Introductory XIII)

Another similar example, though more serious in nature, is recorded in the journal of Abraham Cannon:

Nov. 27th, 1889 (at Fillmore) –two young unmarried people have committed fornication. Bro. Kelly (1st counselor in Stake [61] Pres.) was told that on asking forgiveness, they should be permitted to receive re-baptism and not be cut off; but where persons thus sin who have received their endowments, they must be excommunicated. (Abraham Cannon Journal, p. 197)

These are not isolated cases. Re-baptism was the decision in the case of Apostle Orson Pratt when accused of “neglect of duty.” His re-baptism was the verdict of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1843.

In the afternoon, I attended a council of the Twelve at President Young’s. There were present: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Willard Richards and Brother Hyrum Smith.

. . . This Council was called to re-consider the case of Orson Pratt, who had previously been cut off from the quorum of the Twelve for the neglect of duty; and Amasa Lyman had been ordained an Apostle in his place. I told the Council that as there was not a quorum present when Orson Pratt’s case came up before them, that he was still a member, that he had not been cut off legally, and I would find some other place for Amasa Lyman to which the Council agreed. President Young said there were but three present when Amasa was ordained. I told them that was legal when no more could be had. * * *

At three o’clock, Council adjourned to my house, and at four I baptized Orson Pratt and his wife, Sarah Marinda, and Lidia Granger in the Mississippi River, and [62] confirmed them in the Church, ordaining Orson Pratt to his former office and standing in the Quorum of the Twelve. (History of Joseph Smith, Mill. Star, Vol. 20:423)

Neglect of duty was the sin of Martin Harris which resulted in his re-baptism. When he heard the doctrine, he opposed it, and declared that he would not submit to it until the Lord had revealed it to him.

Brother Harris was taught the necessity of being re-baptized. He said that was new doctrine to him. Revelations 2nd Chapter was explained, that those who had lost their first love and had fallen into evils and snares, were called on to “repent and do their first works,” and that re-baptism was a part of the gospel. He claimed that he had not been cut off from the Church, but said if that was required of him it would be manifest to him by the Spirit. Soon after his arrival in Utah he applied for baptism, saying that the Spirit had made known to him that it was his duty to renew his covenant before the Lord. (Life of Martin Harris, Mill. Star 44:87)

There were rules and principles which guided the performance of re-baptism–for that ordinance was only a part of the requirement in obtaining a remission of sins. Pres. Heber C. Kimball declared:

When Brother Brigham predicts that certain things will happen if the people persist in a certain course, that prediction will be fulfilled, except the people [63] make a retraction and an atonement sufficient to satisfy the demands of justice; for that is what God requires. When that is done, the sins of the people will be remitted. I speak of this, that you may understand that your re-baptisms must be agreeable to the order laid down. It is not simply a man’s saying, “Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you for the renewal of your covenant and remission of your sins,” but you must be subject to your brethren and fulfill the law of God.

Supposing you have sinned against your brethren, or in some way offended them, will your sins be remitted, unless you go and make the proper acknowledgments? No, they will not. You have got to pay the debt; and sin cannot be remitted until you confess it and make satisfaction to the party aggrieved. (Heber C. Kimball J.D. 5:202)

So re-baptism for the remission of sins was one of the main purposes of this doctrine. However, it was not the baptism alone which attested to the remission of sins, but also the performance of all the rest of the first works–namely, repentance, faith, and restoration.  [64]



Temple records up to 1896 show thousands of re-baptisms for renewal of covenants and for health reasons. After this date, re-baptism was gradually discontinued.  [65]



By 1897 re-baptism was a popular principle, but a decision was made that it should be discontinued. It had become a controversial subject, and at the October Conference of that year, Apostle George Q. Cannon announced:

We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1897, p. 68)

It is strange that in a period of about 70 years, re-baptism became too popular and too excessively used; and then for the next 70 years it was perhaps too restricted, because it was done away entirely.

By 1898 other testimonials indicated that the practice of re-baptism had come to an end.

Mr. Van Cott: “Just what was your point with Apostle Cowley about that ordinance of re-baptism?”

Mr. Lundstrom: “It was in regard to the discontinuance of re-baptizing, which previously had been customary when cases came up and re-baptizing was requested by parties; and at that time we received instructions not to re-baptize any more. (Reed Smoot Case, 2:159)

By the turn of the century, re-baptism was buried in the annals of history. In later years there were attempts to gently skip over [66] the references to this practice. As an example, from the Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young said in 1874:

At this time came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends. (J.D. 18:241)

When Apostle John A. Widtsoe re-quoted it in 1925, he omitted the part about re-baptism and wrote:

At this time came a revelation that we could be baptized for our dear friends… (Discourses of Brigham Young, by Widtsoe, p. 707)

Re-baptism became an important doctrine in Church history–having its inception with the Prophet Joseph Smith. Hundreds gave testimonials of the blessings attending the participants.

In summary, it was practiced for the following reasons:

  1. Entrance or re-entrance into the Church
  2. Establishing dates for lost records
  3. Renewing of covenants
  4. Entering the United Order
  5. Entering marriage
  6. Accepting of Church positions as bishops, stake presidents, and the Apostleship
  7. Healing of the sick
  8. Remission of sins
  9. And others, such as preparatory to missions, etc. [67]

It is interesting to note that the principle of re-baptism was in the heart of Brigham Young even before it was taught to him. When he found out he could be re-baptized, he also learned that principle came by revelation.

I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home, Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time, came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends. (Brigham Young, J.D. 18:241)

Two years before Brigham Young died, he was again re-baptized. It is said that this was the seventh time Brigham Young had been baptized.

Sat. 17, 1875–Pres. Brigham Young, his counselors and others renewed their covenants by baptism at Ephraim, Sanpete Co. This. example was subsequently followed by the Saints generally. (Church Chronology, p. 94)


A heavenly influence must have attended those persons who were baptized and re-baptized when outward spiritual manifestations were present. On occasion, after re-baptism, the gifts and powers of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and other powers of the Holy Ghost were manifest. Perhaps the young do not fully appreciate the remission of sins by baptism as would a grown adult. How many sins after eight years [68] of age do we commit that are greater than those before that age? Nearly everyone would probably be glad to be re-baptized for a remission of their sins. During the days of President Brigham Young, re-baptism was demanded in many cases for transcending the rights of the priesthood, swearing, neglect of duty, and to renew Church activity. However, today it is all but forgotten and is the privilege of a very rare few. Perhaps we ought to reflect upon this principle as advocated by President Young:

In the first place, if you were re-baptized for the remission of sins, peradventure you may receive again the Spirit of the Gospel in its glory, light and beauty; but if your hearts are so engrossed in the things of this world, that you do not know whether you want to be re-baptized or not, you had better shut yourselves up in some canyon or closet, to repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord, until you get His spirit. (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:324)

The purpose of re-baptism was to help the sinner to again obtain the spirit the Gospel. It had a very broad application, and there were but few sins which could not be remitted by this ordinance. Since the days of re-baptism, the Saints have generally drifted, or have been compelled into an increased state of worldly materialism. Israel wanders again–over two-thirds of the Church have rambled into inactivity. Probably re-baptism would be a worthy principle to revive and another “Reformation” instituted.  [69]

In the near future when the Saints will be required to redeem Zion, build the New Jerusalem, establish the Kingdom of God, and to become an ensign of safety to all the world, there is little doubt that there will be a requirement for a re-baptism of both water and the spirit!



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