Sacrament does not renew the baptismal covenant

In our elders quorum class on Sunday, we were discussing ordinances. At one point, we came to the ordinance of the Sacrament, and someone read the following from the manual.

The ordinance of the sacrament reminds us of the promises we made when we were baptized. We renew our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember our Savior’s life and His sacrifice. We remember our promise to follow Him. When taken worthily, the sacrament is a source of spiritual strength. It helps us develop greater power to keep the commandments. With sincere repentance it helps cleanse us of the sins we commit after baptism.

I disagree with two points in that paragraph: the idea that the Sacrament has cleansing properties and the idea that we renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.

First, beyond baptism of water and fire, the only spiritual cleansing available is through sincere repentance.

Second, the baptism and sacrament covenants are different. Consider the covenant elements listed in Mosiah 18:

  • Desire to come into the fold of God
  • Desire to be called his people
  • Willing to bear one another’s burdens
  • Willing to mourn with those who mourn
  • Willing to comfort those who need comfort
  • Willing to stand as witnesses of God at all times, in all things, and in all places
  • Serve God
  • Keep God’s commandments

Also consider the covenant that King Benjamin’s people made (Mosiah 5). Arguably not a baptismal covenant per se, but they did want to start new new lives, which is one purpose of baptism:

  • Do God’s will
  • Be obedient to God’s commandments

Now compare the sacramental covenant (D&C 20):

  • Take upon us the name of Jesus
  • Always remember Jesus
  • Keep Jesus’s commandments

It seems the only similarity between the two covenants is keeping the commandments. I think it is misguided to say that the sacramental covenant is a renewal of the baptismal covenant. In fact, I think it is this line of thinking that leads to the idea that the sacrament has a cleansing effect on us. I also think this line of thinking undervalues the other parts of the baptismal covenant.

42 thoughts on “Sacrament does not renew the baptismal covenant”

  1. I think you’re overlooking some other parallels.

    Take the name of Jesus / Be called his people
    Always remember him / Stand as witnesses at all times
    Always have his spirit (sec. 20) / Pour out his spirit more abundantly (Mosiah 18:10)
    Remission of sins in sacrament (Matt 26:28) / Remission of sins in baptism (AofF 4)

    1. I will concede on you first parallel, but I think the second is a stretch.

      I agree that what God promises as far as his Spirit goes is the same, but I was referring to what we covenant.

      I also think the last one is a stretch. Matt 26:28 clearly refers to the blood being redemptive, not the wine.

  2. The :Lord’s supper used to not be framed this way. After the end of Re-baptism, however, it became so.

      1. Rebaptism was baptism “for the renewal of covenants.” After that wasn’t available, that action shifted to the Lord’s Supper.

        1. Oh, there is no argument from me regarding it shifting to the Lord’s Supper; it is taught everywhere. I just think that shift was incorrect.

  3. I think there is clear connection with baptism and sacrament. Baptism is followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost. In sacrament we promise to do things that allow us to feel the Spirit and the Spirit is promised to us. Holy Ghost is the mean that cleanses us.

      1. No, it’s not. I see this so, that with renewing of covenant is meant that the effect of sacrament ordinance is same than baptism. And I think that the Holy Ghost is the key here.

        1. Sure, the effect is the same in that we partake in the two ordinances to show our commitment to their respective covenants. I do not think they are the same absolutely.

  4. Choose to obey and keep your covenants, beginning with your baptismal covenant. Renew these covenants weekly by worthily partaking of the sacrament. (May 2006 Ensign, To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency, Robert D. Hales)

    I am pretty sure this isn’t the first or the last time we will hear this doctrine from the pulpit.

  5. Focus on the ordinances and covenants. If there are any of the essential ordinances yet to be performed in your life, intently prepare to receive each of them. Then we need to establish the discipline to live faithful to our covenants, fully using the weekly gift of the sacrament. Many of us are not being regularly changed by its cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance. (2012 April General Conference, Converted to His Gospel through His Church, Sat. Morning Session – Donald L. Hallstrom)

    Thought you might find this interesting as well.

  6. Tyler, I fully realize it has been taught from the pulpit. I quoted from a church publication after all.

    It’s still wrong. Or at the very least, unsupported by scripture.

    1. Maybe it’s supported by modern revelation to 15 living prophets, seers and revelators. There’s plenty of things “we believe” that aren’t really supported by the scriptures. The church usually encourages us to write headquarters if we come across errors in manuals or have suggestions for improvement. You might consider taking your position to church headquarters and being an instrument of change.

        1. You mean in the sense of “Thus sayeth the Lord…”? Probably not. However, since the handbooks and manuals are reviewed pretty well for inaccuracies, I assume that the relationship between the ordinances of sacrament and baptism, and their associated covenants, has been reviewed thousands of times. And if it wasn’t “doctrine” I would hope someone would have corrected it instead of perpetuating the error. As for covenants and how to define them, I believe Handbook 2, Section 2.1.2 discusses ordinances and refers to baptism and sacrament and how they relate to one another, citing related scripture. Section 2.1.3 addresses covenants and says God gives the conditions for the covenant. And who best to say what those conditions are? Fifteen prophets, seers and revelators.

          1. The handbooks and manuals are reviewed by the Correlation Committee, which may or may not include the 15 prophets, seers, and revelators you brought up.

            On that note, prophets, seers, and revelators have said all sorts of things that are now false (men living on the moon, First Nations being descended from only Lehi’s family, black people never holding the priesthood, and so on).

            Did you read the scriptures in 2.1.2 of the handbook? They have nothing to do with the sacrament renewing baptismal covenants.

  7. Kim,

    I am curious what it would take for you to believe something that is preached by current general authorities and prophets in General Conference?

    1. What Kim is trying to say is that even though the general authorities are not as smart as he is, he does listen to them, but only if they are right. In this case, they are preaching doctrine that is not supported by scripture. They would do well do read Kim’s blog.

  8. Kim, I appreciate your thoughts on baptism and the sacrament. I agree that the relationship is not entirely clear between the two ordinances. Also, I agree that the relationship of the remission of sins to the sacrament is not entirely straightforward, either. Still a lot to figure out.

    Still, as I have pondered on Mosiah 18, I actually do see the basic components of the sacrament covenant represented. Here is how I see it:

    Mosiah 18:8-9 seem to be an exposition on what the baptismal covenant means. Then, verse 10 is an actual statement of the covenant. To me, Alma seems to be saying, “look, if you feel like doing these kinds of things [verses 8-9] then what problem do you have with entering into the covenant [verse 10]”.

    So verses 8-9 are a little more free-form because Alma is trying to explain what the covenant means and why they are already desiring it. Here is my detailed breakdown with the sacrament prayer above in bold and Alma below in italics (hopefully these are properly parsed):

    willing to take upon them the name of thy Son
    as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people,

    and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them
    Yea, 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

    that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.
    that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

    Now we arrive at Mosiah 18:10, which seems to be the statement of the covenant. “Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against …” Okay, here comes the covenant, very succinctly:

    willing to take upon them the name of thy Son
    … being baptized in the name of the Lord as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him

    [King Benjamin makes explicit the connection between the two: "I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant" (Mosiah 5:7–8).]

    and always remember him
    that ye will serve him

    [We think of the word 'remember' in terms of a mere mental recollection, but in Hebrew, at least, it always involved taking appropriate action (see April 2007 Marlin K. Jensen, Hel 5:14, and http://skipmoen.com/2010/01/24/prophetic-profits/). I think in this case “serve him” is quite nearly a synonym for “to remember” him.]

    and keep his commandments which he has given them;
    and keep his commandments

    that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.
    that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

    Finally, when he actually does the baptising, Alma alludes to the fundamental parts of the covenant:

    Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant [willing to take upon them the name of thy Son] to serve him [always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them] until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you [that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.];

  9. I actually agree with you on the point of verse 10 being the actual covenant; I have even argued this from time to time.

    I think, however, that you are projecting too much onto these verses. I think that if we try hard enough, we could massage any scripture to justify our belief regarding something.

    willing to take upon them the name of thy Son
    … being baptized in the name of the Lord as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him

    I think this is a weak parallel. I see no connection to the part of the verse you quoted and taking upon us Jesus’s name.

    and always remember him
    that ye will serve him

    I think this connection might be slightly stronger, but still significantly weak. I do not think you added explanation about remembering being an action word is accurate. From what I can tell from Hebrew–English dictionaries I have consulted, zakar is not an action word, but simply means to recall or bring something into remembrance.

    For the sake of argument, however, let‘s assume you’re right, that zakar does mean something more proactive and that zakar was actually the word remember was translated from in verse 10. If that’s the case, how do we know that what we are being prompted to remember is serving him?

    Naturally, I think the parallels work in your final two examples, but again I think your final paragraph is more projecting and maybe stretches the parallel too far.

  10. So, I’m a bit late chiming in. I have followed your blog for a couple of months now and appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.

    For what it’s worth, I kinda like the idea of the Sacrament renewing our Baptismal covenants. I will point out, that I do agree with your comment that the Sacrament does not wash away sins. I’d go a step further and argue that even repentance does not have that effect. What repentance does do, is open our hearts to Christ’s Grace, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which is the Baptism of Fire. The process of realigning ourselves with Divine Law includes partaking of the Sacrament. (In fact, the wording of many scriptures suggests that Baptism itself does not wash away sin, but is a symbolic entry to a life-long path of continued repentance and cleansing.)

    I think the power of the Sacrament is not so much from some metaphysical or supernatural intervention, as much as from the power of the ritual on personal spiritual experience. I think that is true of most of our ordinances. The exact form of the ordinance is much less important than the personal experience it facilitates. In this way, partaking of the Sacrament with an intent to assess one’s life, continue repentance, and recommit to keeping covenants, is an essential renewal of our choice to follow Christ.

    As far as the Sacrament prayer actually mirroring the wording of the Baptismal covenant, I have two thoughts. First, I’m not so sure that Alma’s explanation of the Baptismal covenant is either comprehensive or definitive. Christ did not describe baptism that way in the Old Testament, New Testament, 3 Nephi, nor in modern-day revelation. That’s not to say Alma misrepresents the covenant, but I don’t take his wording to be doctrinally binding.

    Second, I’ve heard (and personally believe) that through the Sacrament, we can renew all of our covenants. This would include Priesthood and Temple covenants as well. Again, this renewal is not because of any particular wording, but through individual intent.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to think through these ideas.

  11. I see your point, but I still have a few questions. I’m wondering why you think we take the sacrament if it’s not for the misconceptions you’ve pointed out. Also, why are you pointing them out? My first thoughts to your argument is that it all amounts to the same thing. Are you worried that the repentance process is being devalued or replaced by sacrament or baptism?
    Definitely an interesting argument. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I can’t speak to everyone else, but I take the sacrament to recommit to take upon myself Jesus’s name, to always remember him, and to keep his commandments.

      I pointed out the misconceptions because I think it is important to point out misconceptions. When I come across this I mistakenly believe, I try to change what I believe to match the new knowledge.

      We are always learning and always receiving new knowledge, line upon line, precept upon precept, and it behooves each of us to do whatever we must with new knowledge we receive. Hopefully, any knowledge we receive helps us improve who we are and better helps us return to God.

      Yes, I very much worry that repentance (and baptism by fire) are devalued by baptism and that baptism is being given super powers that it does not have.

    1. Yes, it has, Carl. In fact, I admitted as such in earlier comments. My point, however, was not that it was never taught. My point is that what is taught has no scriptural foundation, or if there does happen to be scriptural basis, it is weak.

      1. I don’t personally have a horse in this race. But I will say that Mormons (including Mormon leaders) don’t tend to have a strong affection for biblical scholarship. There are many more interpretations where this one came from that are based on a misunderstanding of the original context. I think it’s good to understand the original context of scripture, but I don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary. Any interpretation that provides benefit to the seeker is fine by me. I see scripture more as a springboard for revelation than as a static set-in-stone thing that cannot be changed once received. To the extent scriptures and their interpretations are useful and helpful to us in our present challenges, great. To the extent they are not, I think they should be ignored or discarded.

        1. I should add that I see no harm in this interpretation. I agree that rebaptism would be nice to have. But I also think that it doesn’t hurt for us to think of the sacrament as an opportunity to renew all our covenants.

        2. I agree that biblical scholarship is lacking in the church. Especially the Old Testament. I guess that is to be expected when people see reading Isaiah as a chore instead of an opportunity to search for truth. I get the impression that people have a tendency to simply read the scriptures and do very little to search, study, or ponder them.

          When I was Gospel Doctrine teacher, very few class members came to class having read and studied the class material previously.

          When I teach my seminary class, I do not teach them gospel principles; instead, I teach them how to find gospel principles in the scriptures.

  12. There is no baptismal covenant in the scriptures. Baptism is a public witness of a private covenant of obedience which is borne by the Spirit to the soul of each individual who repents from all their sins and calls upon the name of the Lord for a remission of them. The actual covenant is unique to each individual.

    In Mosiah 18:10, we see a description of the content of this individual covenant. It is, however, not the covenant itself.

    “Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, 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, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

    The sacrament, however, does serve as a reminder of this covenant, with its attendant promise of the Spirit for so doing.

    To take upon oneself the name of Christ means to receive the Holy Ghost (Alma 34:38), which comes only through the baptism by fire.

    1. “In Mosiah 18:10, we see a description of the content of this individual covenant. It is, however, not the covenant itself.”

      I’m not sure I follow the difference. Can you elaborate?

      1. Upon repenting with all his heart, mind, and strength, one individual enters into a covenant with God “to be obedient to the teachings of the prophets”, as stated by the Spirit into his heart.

        Another individual, upon repentance, enters into a covenant with God “to follow Christ and plant seeds of faith whithersoever you go”, again as stated by the Spirit into her heart.

        These are examples of actual covenants people enter into with God when they receive the remission of their sins and are subsequently cleansed by fire from heaven.

        “That ye will serve him and obey his commandments”, as rendered by Alma, is a description of the essence of the covenants made, but is not the actual covenant which was made.

        Being baptized is a public witness that the person has already entered into their own personal covenant with God, whatever form that covenant actually takes, which is between God and the person. If the person has not entered into a covenant with God through repentance from all his sins and exercising mighty faith unto prayer to be forgiven them, his baptism is of none effect, and he shall not receive the Holy Ghost, even though the outward forms have been obeyed, and this state of affairs will continue until he repents and calls upon God with all his might to be redeemed.

        1. I have to disagree. I think the scriptures are very clear that we make specific covenants when we are baptised.

          For example, Jesus (2 Ne. 31:7) and Helam (Mosiah 18:10) both covenanted to keep God‘s commandments. Alma 7:15 also indicates this part of the covenant. Likewise, both Mosiah 18:10 and Moroni 6:3 have serving God as a component of the covenant.

          And those are just the scriptures off the top of my head.

          1. Let us examine each of those citations and see if they support your view.

            2 Ne. 31:7

            “But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.”

            There was no covenant in baptism for Christ: it was a public witness of the covenant he’d already entered into, the substance of which was that he would serve him and keep his commandments.

            Mosiah 18:10

            “Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, 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, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

            There was no covenant in these persons baptism; baptism was a public witness of the covenant they’d already entered into, the substance of which was that they would serve him and keep his commandments.

            Alma 7:15

            ” 15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth abeset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.”

            He is in plain English telling them to enter into this covenant and then be baptized as a public witness of having entered into it.

            Moroni 6:3

            ” 3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.”

            Unless they took upon them the name of Christ and had a determination to serve him to the end – that is, unless they had entered into the covenant – they were not received unto baptism.

            But let’s go farther:

            D&C 20:37

            ” 37 And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.”

            According to the law of the Church, you are to have entered into this covenant to serve him to the end AND have received a remission of sins before you are permitted to be baptized. Again, the determination (or covenant) to serve Christ to the end is the prerequisite for baptism, not the purpose of baptism: baptism is the public witness of this private covenant.

            That we do not obey this law is why there are tares among the wheat.

          2. Okay, I see what you are saying now. I have to agree with you. In fact, I brought up a similar point in a recent Sacrament talk of mine. I specifically said, “I would go so far as to say it is mostly symbolic, having little, if any, practical value.”

            That being said, I think it is still accurate to refer to such covenants as baptismal covenants because we use baptism to show God (and arguably the church) that we are serious about the covenant(s) we make. They are called baptismal covenants because of how inextricably connected they are to the ordinance, even if the ordinance isn’t really about making such a covenant.

            On that note, though, if there is no actual baptismal covenant, strictly speaking, then I think it makes the case of the renewing of the baptismal covenant at Sacrament that much more tenuous.

          3. On the other hand, my interpretation was that if there is no Baptismal Covenant, strictly speaking, it becomes that much more understandable that the Sacrament could serve to renew all covenants.

            Again, I believe that we too easily pass over the potential power of “Ritual.” Outward expression coupled with inward intention creates spiritual reality.

          4. Kevin,

            I absolutely agree we pass over ritual too much in the church. I think saying things like baptism washes away our sins and the sacrament renews our baptismal covenant and washes us clean again all contribute to that. I think it takes away from the real symbolism and ritual of the ordinances.

            Think about, for example, how much of the ritual was lost when the church switched from a communal cup to individual cups.

  13. First, beyond baptism of water and fire, the only spiritual cleansing available is through sincere repentance.

    When you state it this way it sounds like our works will save us.

    Isn’t it the Atonement of Jesus Christ that saves us?

    As we partake of the Sacrament we witness that we are willing to take his name upon us. We only witness only our willingness. Clearly the sacrament looks to a future day when we do take His name upon us. Baptism is another way we take Jesus’s name upon us. These two ordinances are clearly linked.

    In fact. I would think all ordinances are linked. They all point us to Jesus Christ. The ultimate source of light, and life. If we are to be forgiven or perfected or what ever coming unto Christ is the way. Both baptism and the sacrament are means to this end.

    1. “When you state it this way it sounds like our works will save us.”

      I disagree. Note that I said that the spiritual cleansing is available to us, implying that someone else provides it. This, of course, is in line with your comment about the Atonement saving us.

  14. Thank you for your thoughts Kim. I’m teaching about the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to teens in Sunday School this week and have been giving some thought to the idea that the Sacrament is renewal of Baptismal Covenants. I cannot find any but circumstantial scriptural links between the two. This doctrine is pervasive in the Modern Church regardless of scriptural support. Let’s ignore canon shall we? Most people don’t even realize that baptism of water without baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is but half a baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Savior says, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5.]” Joseph Smith Jr http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=d859b00367c45110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=da135f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    What is knowledge?

    D&C 131:6 It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.
    D&C 93:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

    Knowledge is receiving the Second Comforter. Even Jesus Christ. Not a topic of current lessons anywhere I am sure. So sad.

    http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1839/27Jun39.html

    Anyway, please keep up the provocative thinking and questioning. There is no doubt that correlation has destroyed the thinking of this people. We are two generations in. I weep for the future lack of knowledge as we just read our Ensigns and listen to conference without any scriptural roots and at the same time have that canon of belief on the altar as if we actually read them.

    Say Hi to Mary for me.

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