Does baptism wash away our sins or not?

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Shortly after Paul was baptised, Ananais instructed him to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.” (Acts 22:16)

In the Seminary teacher’s manual, it states: “baptism does not actually wash our sins away.” (p. 163)

So which is it? Does baptism wash away our sins or doesn’t it?

14 thoughts on “Does baptism wash away our sins or not?

  1. I think my favorite scripture on this topic is from Moroni 8

    25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;

    26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

    This verse shows that baptism is the first fruit of repentance and that when we are baptized we are showing God our willingness to follow his commandments. It is our willingness to repent and follow Christ into the waters of baptism as a symbol of that which actually leads to the remission of sins. Thus, the actual act of baptism does not remove sins, but the covenant and promise we make with God by proper authority does.

  2. Maybe Paul was being figurative and the Seminary manual is being literal. Wouldn’t be the first time for either.

  3. Ananias didn’t say baptism washes away sins. He made two separate parallel statements joined by a conjunction.

  4. “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins”
    I agree with Left Field. If you say “Go, call your mother, and eat your pizza” no one thinks that calling your mother means you have eaten pizza. So the interesting part of this is that the person being baptized is still the subject, not the object. The person is washing away their own sins. It doesn’t say be baptized and have your sins washed away. So if the question is how does one wash away ones sins? That is the real question to me.

      1. I think it is the decision to actually be baptized. When you perform the ritual it isn’t actual ritual that does anything, it is the internal covenant inside you that makes the spiritual result happen. Like with the sacrament, I don’t think that the water actually causes a physical reaction in my brain to make me always remember Jesus, but I am doing a physical ritual that represents something spiritual that is up to me personally to make that covenant.

  5. The remission of sins comes by the baptism by fire.

    2 Nephi 31:17 For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

    You don’t get the baptism by fire unless and until you repent of all your sins and call upon the name of the Lord. Please note verse 41 particularly.

    Helaman 5:40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?

    41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

    42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.

    43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

    44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

    45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.

    It requires perfect faith.

    2 Nephi 9:23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

    As the example from Helaman 5 shows, when you have this faith, you shall be baptized by fire.

    If you don’t have this faith, you are not a member of the Lord’s church.

    Moroni 7:39 If ye have not faith in him then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of his church.

    Neither do you have hope nor charity, since this faith is how you gain both hope and charity.

    Moroni 10:20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.

    Moreover, this is how the Holy Ghost is received.

    D&C 20:41 And to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures;

    43 And to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost.

    Without which nobody is qualified to teach:

    D&C 42:14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.

    Neither are they qualified to serve the Lord in his vineyard:

    D&C 4:5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

    Because it is in receiving the Holy Ghost that one obtains charity.

    Moroni 8:26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

    Moreover, it is how men actually obtain the priesthood and become the sons of God:

    Moses 6:66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;

    67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.

    68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.

    This also constitutes the record, or witness, or testimony, of the Father and the Son. Please note that Adam had to be told what was done to him, as is the case with all who receive these things. While he definitely felt that he had been made alive, quickened in the inner man, or born again by fire from heaven, he did not comprehend the significance of it – in other words, he “knew it not,” which is the case with all who receive it initially: we have to be taught the meaning of what we have received.

    Moreover, the example mentioned in Helaman 5 is the way it is always received.

    3 Nephi 9:20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

    The Lamanites in Helaman 5 did not understand what was done to them, but they certainly felt when they were filled as with fire and that (specific) joy which is indescribable and full of glory.

    Lastly (for this post is way too long) receiving the Holy Ghost is wherein we take upon us the name of Christ.

    Alma 34:38 38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

    Without the baptism by fire, we have not taken upon us the name of Christ; that puts us in the class that Mormon describes thusly:

    Mormon 8:38 38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?

    Now, it would be extremely unfair of me to leave it like this. How then to we receive the baptism by fire?

    Simple: we repent of all our sins and cry mightily unto God in the name of the Son, believing that we shall receive, and it shall be done unto us.

    Alma 22 12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.

    13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.

    14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.

    15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

    16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

    17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:

    18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.

    If you believe these things, do them, or else you are still condemned.

    D&C 84:54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

    55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

    56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

    57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—

    58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.


    D&C 29:1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;

    2 Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.

  6. In the interest of full disclosure–and to provide the context that Kim always seems to leave out seemingly to create confusion and controversy–here is the full content from the manual relative to that quote, along with a more complete citation so others know which manual to look at:

    Make sure students understand that while the covenant of baptism symbolizes that we can become clean from sin, baptism does not actually wash our sins away. Baptism is a time when we commit to become clean and walk in a newness of life, a time when we prepare to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is through the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost that we are actually cleansed from sin. The following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, may be helpful:

    “Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say in speaking figuratively, but when we receive the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Spirit of God that erases carnality and brings us into a state of righteousness. We become clean when we actually receive the fellowship and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is then that sin and dross and evil are burned out of our souls as though by fire” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 290; see also 2 Nephi 31:17; Moroni 6:4; 8:25–26.)

    New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 161–63

  7. I think baptism washes away sins symbolicly. It is up to the idividual to then change his behavior. So yes it does and it doesn’t.

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