I regularly hear members and leaders refer to baptism as a covenant, which is a formal promise made by a coventantor to a covenantee before witnesses. Yet at a baptismal ceremony, the person being baptized makes no promises nor do they signal by saying, “yes” or by body gestures to keep any promises stated to them. This would not be a covenant by any meaning of modern covenant law. How is this a covenant?
Thank you for asking this question pertaining to covenants, and let’s begin with what a covenant is according to God. A covenant is, “A sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience.”
In our baptismal interview (a formal interview) the bishop, bishopric member, or a missionary (who is authorized) will at some point ask the following question (or something like it), “When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?” The individual receiving the interview will have the opportunity then to say yes or no.
The following are some of the promises we receive when we are faithful to our baptismal covenant, “Those who keep the covenants they made at baptism are blessed by the Lord for their faithfulness. Some of the blessings include the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the remission of sins, and the privilege of being spiritually reborn. If they continue faithfully, they are promised eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:19–20).”
So, let’s then review what we have from the provided quotes. First, we know that the baptismal covenant is a sacred agreement between us and God. God has set the conditions. God has set the promises when we obey. God has also set the consequences should we disobey this covenant. Let’s review the conditions and promises:
The Conditions of the Baptismal Covenant:
1) Keep the commandments
2) Always remember Christ (serve Christ to the end)
3) Take upon us his name
The Promises of the Baptismal Covenant:
1) Constant companionship of the Holy Ghost
2) Remission of our sins through the Atonement of Christ
3) We are spiritual reborn, or spiritually begotten
4) Eternal life through Christ
Second, in order for a person to be baptized they must receive a formal baptismal interview by one who has been authorized by the priesthood keys to give the interview. In this interview the individual has the opportunity to say yes or no to baptism. This is one aspect that satisfies a person saying “yes” to the covenant.
Third, after a person has received their formal interview they then set a date for baptism in front of family and friends by which there are witnesses to the covenant. The individual being baptized then makes the final body gesture of acceptance of the covenant when they hear the baptismal covenant prayer and then are immersed in the water.
Finally, as an individual keeps this covenant they will receive promised blessings from a sacred agreement between them and God. We also receive the consequences of dishonoring our covenant that we agreed to with a formal “yes” and a body gesture of being immersed in the water after we hear the baptismal prayer.
In light of this, by modern day and God’s terms it is a covenant. A person doesn’t need to say “yes” at the ceremony in order for the covenant to be seen as a covenant. The covenant needs to meet God’s requirements, not mans (or any modern time’s definition). God is not subject to any definition of a covenant according to any modern time. The covenant simply needs to meet God’s requirements, not mans definition for it to be binding on earth and in heaven; although, with baptism it meets both. Ergo, the baptismal covenant does in fact meet a modern covenant of law, unless of course a person wants to deny the given conditions, promises, the formal interview, and the body gesture of going into the water before witnesses. Then you might have a point.