3 Nephi – Saints Rebaptized in the Americas
The prophet Nephi was preaching in the years preceding Christ’s visit to the Americas. He was an authorized servant of the Lord, as we read in Mormon’s abridgment. This is his description: “we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity” (3 Nephi 8:1.)
“Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins. Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water. Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins. And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away.” (3 Nephi 7:23-26.)
Sometime later, Jesus Christ visited the same people Nephi had baptized and preached to. However, once Christ appeared, the earlier, authoritative baptisms were redone. Here is the account of what Christ taught: “And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him. And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.” (3 Ne. 11: 19-26.)
Sometimes students ask why this is the case. Joseph Fielding Smith explained it this way: “When Christ appeared to the Nephites on this continent, he commanded them to be baptized, although they had been baptized previously for the remission of their sins… Then we read that the Savior commanded Nephi and the people to be baptized again, because He had organized a new the Church under the gospel… “For the same reason Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830 (that baptism was for the remission of sins), were again baptized on the day of the organization of the church… “They had to be in order to come into the Church by the door” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:336).