What Makes It Count

Austin asked me the following in the comments section of another post:“Where & how specifically did your pastor (& all pastors and ministers of today’s Protestantism) get his/their authority to organize a church, to baptize, confer the Holy Ghost, to perform miracles in the name of Christ, to call and ordain other pastors and ministers, to guide and direct, to keep the doctrines pure?”

I think to answer your question I need to take a step back and explain better what Protestants think of the acts that preisthood holders perform. As far as baptism and communion go, we Protestants don’t think that there is anything magical or significant about the actual physical act. They are outward expressions of the inward condition of the heart. There is nothing significant about getting dunked under water by a special man. The only significance that matters is the condition of the person’s heart and the Holy Spirit’s acceptance of that intention. I fully believe that an atheist could baptize someone and it would “count” as long as the person being baptized view it as a sincere act of his devotion to Christ. There aren’t any special rules that HAVE to be followed no matter what. If they don’t go all the way under the water, it still counts. If they’re wearing mickey mouse socks, it still counts. If it’s done in a hot tub, it still counts. If a woman dunks you under water, it still counts. What’s important is the person’s heart.

I’d be interested to hear if LDS think that a baptism doesn’t count, if some minor violation of protocol wasn’t followed. Say a man doesn’t go all the way under, walks outside and gets hit by a car. Are you saying that Christ wouldn’t accept that baptism? What if the Priest who performed the function was just going through the motions and had secretly violated all of his covenants and abandoned the faith? Would Christ still accept it?

Pastors and church elders get their authority directly from the Holy Spirit. If they feel called to the position by the Spirit, they’re work can be judged by its fruit. The Holy Spirit does not need anyone to confer Himself on to other people. He is God and can fill anyone He wishes. No man can withhold Him from any other man. Those who are called to church leadership are held in check by the authority of the Bible. They are held accountable to what the scripture clearly teaches. If they violate that trust, they would have been better off having a mill stone tied to the neck and thrown in the water.

Mark 9
38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

We Protestants could be wrong about all of this. Perhaps there is a specific line of priesthood succession that must be followed. Perhaps there is a protocol that makes all of these things legitimate rather than just the condition of a man’s heart. I wonder, for what reason should I believe that the priesthood line comes from Joseph Smith? What reason or evidence can I investigate that he didn’t just make it up himself? At this point, if you convinced me that I am wrong about the priesthood, I would just join the Catholic or Orthodox church.

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10 thoughts on “What Makes It Count

  1. Great discussion.

    I’d be interested to hear if LDS think that a baptism doesn’t count, if some minor violation of protocol wasn’t followed.

    The vast majority of Saints would say unequivocally that it wouldn’t. As for your scenario (totaly legit of course), we’d say that if it wasn’t done right and God didn’t count it that there will come a time in the Millenium when the mistake will be fixed and that the person would not suffer any eternal negative consequences for the blunder, especially because of the persons true intent for baptism. So, yeah, we’re pretty anal about it. But if you are going to say it matters then you have to be don’t you? Also, this is why two men are charged to be witnesses at every baptism. They are instructed to ensure that it was done correctly: the dunking, the words, everything. They get in trouble if it doesn’t go correctly and they miss it. In theory any way.

    Mormon priesthood belief is very simple and yet somehow complex at the same time (sounds like religion to me 🙂 ). As you probably already know, it has to have originally been given by God or someone else who legitimately obtained it. A man’s personal priesthood can be revoked by God at any time on account of wickedness or by the appropriate Church leader. We believe that after the first generation or two of Christians that God intentionally took the entire priesthood from the earth. That’s why we think that going to the Catholics or Orthodox wouldn’t help you. There’s a line of authority connecting them but they ceased to have God’s priesthood a very long time ago. Joseph Smith got his priesthood from Peter, James, and John so he got it in the appropriate manner. Now why God took it away in the first place, that’s the complicated part.

  2. Would the person with the voided baptism be required to spend time in spirit prison? Wouldn’t any time not spent in paradise be a negative consequence?

    Even if I accept that God took the priesthood away, why should I believe that he gave it to Joseph Smith?

  3. But the Bible gives plenty of examples of basing faith on evidence (I Corinthians 15 and Acts 17) . Your answer basically just comes down to “because I want to”. If faith is “because I want to” then we are basically just talking about the difference between chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

  4. Dando,

    With regards to your question: “What if the Priest who performed the function was just going through the motions and had secretly violated all of his covenants and abandoned the faith? Would Christ still accept it?”

    The answer to that is yes, that would still be okay. Like Protestants, it’s really about the person getting baptized in that respect. For example, the missionary who baptized me was NOT living in accordance with the gospel, or the missionary rules. (I didn’t know that it was inappropriate at the time, but he was coming to my house in the middle of the night by himself in his regular clothes, and would go on dates and smoke sometimes, he had a cell phone… lots of stuff.) But I didn’t have to get baptized again, because I was baptized by someone who had the proper authority, even if he wasn’t living his life in such a way as to be worthy of it.

  5. Ha Ha. That is funny and well deserved revenge. Too bad you didn’t say something embarrassing like “I would always leave lipstick smears on the missionary whenever he came over”.

    If it really is about the person being baptized and not the person doing the baptism, then that reinforces the Protestant point of view in my mind.

  6. However, I will say that if they do it improperly–if the baptizee isn’t fully submerged, etc., then the baptism is like it didn’t happen. I have a friend who got baptized again when she was 18 (after being baptized when she was 8) because it was determined that it wasn’t done properly (or something).

    Also, I don’t know that spirit prison is necessarily bad–it’s where the spirit paradise missionaries find you. 🙂 So, lots of people in spirit paradise are there a lot, I think. lol

  7. Dando: You seem to know an awful lot about the church but you don’t have any idea about why I’d think Joseph Smith was given the priesthood? As you’d expect, there are lots of things: the Book of Mormon, the Temple and its rituals, the revelations in the D&C, and the list goes on. If it’s “by their fruits you shall know them” then I personally see a huge amount of things relating to the priesthood that Joseph restored that are true fruits. And it’s not like I don’t understand if you don’t see them but I’ve experienced them in my life and that’s all I can really base my decision on.

  8. Yes, I think what I was trying to show you was that nobody really finds the truthfulness of the LDS church in the restoration of the Priesthood. LDS typically believe in the necessity of the priesthood and believe that it was restored through Joseph Smith based on something outside of priesthood theology itself.

    If a person stops believing in the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon, or stops believing that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, they don’t go on believing that the ONLY True and authoritative priesthood is found in the LDS church.

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