Understanding Baptism By Immersion

Susa Young Gates

Susa Young Gates



Susa Young Gates was a formidable woman, and I look forward to the day I can visit and talk with her.  She spoke strongly about the responsibility mothers have of teaching their children the gospel. Being the first editor of the Young Woman’s Journal, she was free to speak her mind on pretty much any subject she desired. These are her thoughts on Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Remember: this is a message to our young women…


“The principle of baptism by immersion has always seemed so plain and so well sustained by Bible teachings, that it is only recently I have been made to understand that some people can be honest and still deny the necessity of baptism by immersion…We, as a people, have felt so safe and so secure on these points that we are a little over-confident, and it may happen to some of you girls, as it has happened to me, that the time will come when you will have to be able to prove why the doctrine of baptism of Jesusbaptism by immersion is essential and that it was taught by our Savior.”

She explains how so many religions have avoided the scripture that says, “Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.” Those who argue rationalize that he came up from the side or near unto the water. I quote this “sarcastic” story she feels constrained to repeat for us:

“A minister had been delivering a most eloquent sermon illustrative of the argument in behalf of Christ coming from the side of the water or ‘nigh unto it,’ and an old Dutchman had listened with a great deal of attention to the elaborate plea. At the conclusion the Dutchman sought out the divine and thus expressed himself:

“’I vas so glad to be here today and hear dese sermons; I vas so glad to hear dat our Savior did not go down into de vater, but only come nigh unto it. Yaw, dat vas goot. And den, maybe, it was goot too dat Jonah did not go into de vhale’s belly, but yoost nigh unto it. And Moses, he did not go up into de mount but nigh unto it. Oh, yah, dis vas very goot. But vait von leetle minute. Now, ven ve shall die and go away from dis vorld, den maybe ve shall not go into de Kingdom of Heaven, but yoost nigh unto it. I am not so zure aboud dis dings. I don’t vant to go nigh unto do kingdom; I vant to go right straight into it. Yah, das vas so.’”

Maybe some of you have been watching The Bible on TV. This show is turning into a very interesting phenomenon. First of all, there are 50 million viewers and it continues to grow. The ratings are completely crushing anything else that is on TV right now. Does that tell us that people are really interested in having something spiritual in their lives? But, as I watched the scene where Jesus was being baptized, I wondered about those congregations of people who belong to a church that merely sprinkles water over their head, or even foregoes that ordinance all together.

Susa continues. “Does it matter little? If it was necessary for Jesus and His apostles and disciples to receive this ordinance, and as Paul says, with ‘one baptism, one Lord,’ I don’t think you and I can attain to the same kingdom entered by them without going through the same initiatory ordinance…Do I think that baptism simply as an ordinance will save a man? Decidedly not. But on the other hand, if Christ says it is a necessary labor, I dare not leave it undone.”

Symbols have great meaning to the soul who must prove his allegiance. She states how some churches insist that “real religion is in the heart, and that outward symbols are but forms and shows. But they do not read the scriptures closely enough, or they would know that the forms must accompany the spiritual conversion, and that God requires all, even His Divine Son, to comply with these outward forms.”

In talking about infant baptism, she asks, “What does Christ say about little children? He gathers them to His bosom, and with one sweep of all their natures and needs, says with solemn simplicity, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ Don’t you think He would have baptized them if there was any need of that act?”

Then she begins the true subject of her message.

“Are you a young mother? Or are you a Sunday school teacher? If so, there is a very grave duty resting upon your shoulders in regard to the law of baptism. After sharing D&C 68:25-28, she says, “Young parents, do you teach your growing children these principles in all sincerity, or do you depend upon the Sunday schools to do your work for you?”

Continuing with D&C 46, starting at verse 11, we can learn about receiving gifts of the Spirit, specifically knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, to believe, and have knowledge; faith to heal or be healed; to discern, etc.

In D&C 130: 22-23, she says, “The last clause that I have quoted…is pregnant with meaning. ‘A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.’” She asks us to ask ourselves, “why it should leave us?”

mormon-beliefWe need to know and understand why baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are important for each one of us. It is a commandment. It is a covenant. It is the gateway and the guide for each of us to reach the Kingdom of God.

I met with a woman, asking her if she was interested in coming to any of our meetings. She said, “Oh, I was baptized all right, my parents forced me, but I haven’t had anything to do with your church in a long time.” This is such a sad commentary from a child never taught by her parents.

Susa concludes with words to live by. Our general meetings have centered on this one thought repeatedly.

“We are told that the Holy Ghost will lead us into all truth. I was warned in my patriarchal blessing to learn to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit. I am trying so hard to do that, but I have not succeeded as well as I most earnestly wish to, and yet I pass the warning on to you; listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.”


Information taken from “Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost”, Young Woman’s Journal, 4:72 (Nov. 1892)