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How To “Qualify” For Eternal Life

November 2, 2008

According to the LDS missionary manual “Preach My Gospel” (2004) we can “qualify” for eternal life by having faith in Christ, repenting, being baptized in water by someone having priesthood authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of someone having priesthood authority, and by enduring to the end (pp. 68-69).

The LDS manual states, “baptism by immersion is followed by baptism of the Spirit; the two are inseparable.” This teaching is derived from Book of Mormon passages such as 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.”

Does this teaching cohere with previous revelation?

When Peter gives the gospel to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-43, he proclaims salvation through faith alone and leaves out baptism. The Holy Spirit then falls on the Gentiles as they hear the gospel and believe. The sign gift of tongues is poured upon them as evidence to the Jews so they can see that the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit as well (Acts 10:45-46). After the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit, they are baptized with water (Acts 10:47-48).

Then why does the Book of Mormon say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes AFTER water baptism when clearly this wasn’t the case with the Gentiles in Acts 10?  Eph. 1:13 says the Holy Spirit is given to those who believe.

Jesus said, “John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:16). The theme of the New Testament is justification through faith alone. When the Judaizers started telling the Gentiles that they had to do a certain work (be circumcised) in order to be saved, Paul and Barnabas “had no small dissension and disputation with them” (Acts 15:2) and the apostles got together to consider the matter.

“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts. 15:7-9).

Peter is referring here to the conversion of the Gentiles in Acts 10 where they received the Holy Spirit before water baptism. Peter makes the point that God purified their hearts by faith.

So, how do we “qualify” for eternal life according to the Bible? Acts 13:48 says, “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

* * * * *

“He that sent me [John] to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33)

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” – Apostle Paul

(1 Corinthians 1:17; see also “the gospel” defined by Paul in I Cor. 15 – it does not include water baptism)

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Cor. 12:13).

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