Baptismal covenant in Mosiah 18

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For part of Gospel Doctrine class, we discussed Mosiah 18. The instructor has someone read verses 8–9, then asked what baptismal covenants were listed therein. The class mentioned four:

  1. bear one another’s burdens
  2. mourn with those who mourn
  3. comfort those in need of comfort
  4. stand as witnesses of God

I raised my had and suggested these weren’t actually covenants we make at baptism.

Look at verse 10:

what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments . . .

Here we see Alma mentioning specific covenants: serving Christ and keeping the commandments. Alma didn’t use similar language when discussing the four items listed above.

Let’s look at verses 8 and 9 a little more closely.

As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light . . . and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death

This isn’t a complete sentence. It’s actually one long conjunctional phrase led by the word “as”. It could be rewritten as something similar to the following:

Since you want to come into the fold of God, to be called his people, to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those needing comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God

Conjunctions are used to join two parts of speech. The words as and since are both subordinating conjunctions, and they are used to show a cause/effect relationship between ideas. In this case, the cause of the relationship is what is listed above: all the items Alma listed as his people were willing to do.

So what is the effect part of the relationship? It’s in verse 10.

what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord

What is Alma saying exactly? Basically this: since you want to do all these things, why not get baptized?

You see, Alma isn’t listing off numerous baptismal covenants. He is listing characteristics we should have if we want to be baptized. Moroni did something similar in Moroni 6, when he listed certain characteristics we should have if we want to be baptized.

“Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins” (Moro. 6:2)

What we do covenant, however, as outlined in Mosiah 18:10, is to serve Christ and keep his commandments.

3 thoughts on “Baptismal covenant in Mosiah 18

  1. Kim, you point out that the covenant is to serve the Lord and “keep his commandments” The four items you list certainly fall within the general category of “commandments.” Now, there is precedent as part of some of the Old Testament covenant enactments and renewals to enumerate the law, to which the people will be obligated under covenant (Ex. 24:7, Josh. 8:35-35, Deut. 31:9-13).

    So, there is a sense in which this short list in Mosiah is consistent with that tradition, with the caveat that the real covenant is to obey “all” the commandments.

    But, that said, I cannot think of any of the major religious covenants throughout the scriptures (Abrahamic, Mosaic, or the New Covenant) which are limited to only a few stipulations or performances, such as “mourning with those who mourn.” Instead, the terms of the covenants have always been “I will be your God and ye shall be my people” and all inclusive directives such as “walk before me and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1).

    So, I guess what I am saying is that I agree with your analysis. And mostly because the four items do not seem broad enough to be consistent with God’s other major covenants.

  2. The four items you list certainly fall within the general category of “commandments.”

    No argument from me there. Granted, a lot of things can fall under “keep the commandments”. Actually, those four things can fall under “serve Christ” as well.

    Speaking of grammar, just try to wrap your hands around Alma 13: 4-9.

    Don’t get me started on the grammar of the Book of Mormon. I don’t think Joseph Smith included grammar when he “told the brethren [it] was the most correct of any book”. :)

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