Historical Context and Background of D&C 22

Early D&C 22 Copy
Early Copy D&C 22
Source: JosephSmithPapers.org

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

The Book of Mormon taught the need for authorized baptism of accountable, covenanting believers. Section 20 added to it, further specifying the method and criteria for baptism. However, when some “very moral and no doubt as good people as you could find anywhere . . . came, saying they believed in the Book of Mormon, and that they had been baptized into the Baptist Church,” Joseph did not know what to tell them. He asked the Lord and received section 22.[1]

Sixteenth-century reformers were pejoratively called Anabaptists (“rebaptizers”) when they followed the Biblical practice of immersing accountable believers, including people already baptized as infants. The American Baptist leader Francis Wayland defended this practice. “We consider ourselves not to baptize again,” he wrote, “but to baptize those who have never submitted to this ordinance.”[2]

Section 22 makes the same case. The Lord declares that “old covenants” are “done away” because he has restored “a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning” (D&C 22:1). So even a man baptized an hundred times would not have entered the “straight gate” by obeying an irrelevant law, by “dead works” (vv. 2–3). The Lord gave the new covenant because of these dead works.

Oliver Cowdery preached that until the Lord restored authorized baptism, “the ordinances of the gospel have not been regularly administered since the days of the Apostles.”[3] His teaching was understood by converts who flocked to the restored covenant. It was unpopular to others.[4]

[1] Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, November 2, 1873, 16:293–94. Also see “History, circa June 1839–circa 1841 [Draft 2],” p. 38, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 23, 2020.

[2] Francis Wayland, Notes and Principles on the Practices of Baptist Churches (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman, 1857), 98.

[3] “The Golden Bible,” Painesville Telegraph, November 16, 1830, [3].

[4] “Mormonism,” Painesville (OH) Telegraph, February 15, 1831, [1]; Thomas Campbell, “The Mormon Challenge,” Painesville Telegraph, February 15, 1831, [2].

Additional Context, by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

The revelation in section 22 was given shortly after the organization of the Church. The earliest dated copy of the revelation, a manuscript in the handwriting of William E. McLellin, recorded the revelation as being given on April 16, 1830 (McLellin, Copies of Revelations, 7, JSP). In a discourse given in 1872, Elder Orson Pratt, gave the following context for its reception, “This is the reason why the Lord commanded this people—the Latter-day Saints—to re-baptize all persons who come to them professing to have been baptized before. In the early days of this Church there were certain persons, belonging to the Baptist denomination, very moral and no doubt as good people as you could find anywhere, who came, saying they believed in the Book of Mormon, and that they had been baptized into the Baptist Church, and they wished to come into our Church. The Prophet Joseph had not, at that time, particularly inquired in relation to this matter, but he did inquire, and received a revelation from the Lord (Journal of Discourses, 2 Nov. 1873, 16:293).

When Church Historian John Whitmer copied the revelation, he gave it the following heading: “A Revelation given to Joseph the Seer. Some were anxious to join the Church without rebaptism and Joseph enquired of the Lord and he received as follows” (Revelation Book 1, p. 32, JSP).