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TOM - Why wasn't Christ baptized in his youth? We know that his cousin John was. So why not Christ also? Why did he wait until he was 30? Was John the only one with the authority? Were there no other baptisms taking place by other priests? At what point did the ordinance of baptism lose steam in the Old Testament for it not to be a "thing" anymore come the days of John and Jesus?
JOEL - Baptism was introduced on the earth during the days of Adam (see Moses 6:64-68) and has continued, except for as you suggest, periods of almost complete apostasy. The Dead Sea Scrolls mention that groups of Israelites were performing baptisms hundreds of years before the time of Christ.
We have scriptures that speak of baptism in connection with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. (Moses 6:47-68;
JST, Genesis 17:3-7;
1 Corinthians 10:1-4.)
The fact that Jesus Christ was not criticized by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes in sanctioning baptism is evidence the practice must have then been current (a "thing"), for these groups were very quick to denounce Christ whenever he deviated from their customs and practices.
John's authority to baptize came to him automatically, being a direct descendant of Aaron. At 8 days old John was circumcised according to the Law of Moses and his father Zacharias gave him a blessing that he shall "be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;" (Luke 1:76)
At the time he was preaching in the vicinity of Jesus, John was known as the one, and only one, who had the authority to perform baptisms and so it was to him that all the people went to for the ordinance (Mark 1:4-5), including Jesus (Matt 3: 13). And of course, according to his father's blessing, John was foreordained to be the forerunner of Jesus and be involved in the beginning of His ministry (See also Mal 3:1,
Isaiah 40: 3-5,
D&C 84: 28);
another reason why it was important for John to be the one to baptize Jesus.
The Jews at that time, who understood and practiced the law of baptism (JST Matt 9: 18-21), understood it as symbolic of having one's sins washed away (Psalm 51: 2-3, Dead Sea scrolls) . The scriptures don't say why He was not baptized sooner, but I think we can assume the sinless Jesus did not need to be baptized to wash away nonexistent sins. Both he and his parents were probably aware of this (Luke 2:40) and therefore did not have Him participate in the ordinance when he was younger. Jesus later did it for another reason, to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt 3:15) and to be an example to others who were to follow Him and His Gospel(John 3:3-5).
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