I’ve had this question for a long time. Was the flood a form of baptism for the earth? And if so, is there any scriptural and/or modern day revelation that suggests so?
Yes, you are correct, John, the flood was a baptism for the earth. The Lord has provided us with both a scripture reference and modern day revelation to testify of this.
First, it is mentioned in 1 Peter 3:20-21:
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
This doctrine was also taught by Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Latter-day Saints look upon the earth as a living organism, one which is gloriously filling ‘the measure of its creation.’ They look upon the flood as a baptism of the earth, symbolizing a cleansing of the impurities of the past, and the beginning of a new life. This has been repeatedly taught by the leaders of the Church. The deluge was an immersion of the earth in water.” He writes that the removal of earth’s wicked inhabitants in the Flood represents that which occurs in our own baptism for the remission of sins. Evidences and Reconciliations (1960), 127–28; see also Doctrines of Salvation, 2:320–21.
This brings up the question: If the earth needed a baptism of water, does it also require a baptism of fire? The answer to that is also yes.
“The destruction of the disobedient at Noah’s time anticipates the devastation of the wicked at the time of Christ’s coming in glory, when the earth will receive its baptism by fire. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “In the days of Noah, God destroyed the world by a flood, and He has promised to destroy it by fire in the last days.” The prophet Enoch saw in vision Noah’s ark, seeing “that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand; but upon the residue of the wicked the floods came and swallowed them up” (Moses 7:43).” The Flood and the Tower of Babel
Further, in Doctrines of Salvation, (pages 320-322 emphasis in original), Joseph Fielding Smith taught this principle and shared quotes from other leaders to support it as well:
FLOOD WAS BAPTISM OF EARTH. Now a word as to the reason for the flood. It was the baptism of the earth, and that had to be by immersion. If the water did not cover the entire earth, then it was not baptized, for the baptism of the Lord is not pouring or sprinkling. These forms are strictly man made and not part of the gospel ordinances.
BRIGHAM YOUNG’S TEACHINGS ABOUT FLOOD. I will give a few quotations from the teachings of the leading brethren of the Church. President Brigham Young said of the earth: “It has already been baptized. You who have read the Bible must know that that is Bible doctrine. What does it matter if it is not in the same words that I use, it is not the less true that it was baptized for the remission of sins. The Lord said: ‘I will deluge (or immerse) the earth in water for the remission of the sins of the people’; or if you will allow me to express myself in a familiar style, to kill all the vermin that were nitting, and breeding, and polluting its body; it was cleansed of its filthiness; and soaked in the water, as long as some of our people ought to soak. The Lord baptized the earth for the remission of sins, and it has been once cleansed from the filthiness that has gone out of it, which was in the inhabitants who dwelt upon its face.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 274)
“Brothers and sisters, I wish you to continue in your ways of well doing; I desire that your minds may be opened more and more to see and understand things as they are. This earth, in its present condition and situation is not a fit habitation for the sanctified; but it abides the law of its creation, has been baptized by water, will be baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost, and by and by will be prepared for the faithful to dwell upon.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 83)
“The earth, the Lord says, abides its creation; it has been baptized with water, and will, in the future, be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, to be prepared to go into the celestial presence of God, with all things that dwell upon it which have, like the earth, abided the law of their creation.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 252)
ORSON PRATT’S TEACHINGS ABOUT FLOOD. Elder Orson Pratt taught: “Another great change happened nearly 2,000 years after the earth was made. It was baptized by water. A great flow of water came, the great deep was broken up, the windows of heaven were opened from on high, and the waters prevailed upon the face of the earth, sweeping away all wickedness and transgression–a similitude of baptism for the remission of sins. God requires the children of men to be baptized. What for? for the remission of sins. So he required our globe to be baptized by a flow of water, and all of its sins were washed away, not one sin remaining.”(Journal of Discourses, vol. 21, p. 323)
“The heavens and the earth were thus polluted, that is, the material heavens, and everything connected with our globe all fell when man fell, and became subject to death when man became subject to it. Both man and the earth are redeemed from the original sin without ordinances; but soon we find new sins committed by the fallen sons of Ada, and the earth became corrupted before the Lord by their transgressions. It needs redeeming ordinances for these second transgressions. The Lord ordained baptism or immersion of the earth in water as a justifying ordinance.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 291)
TEACHINGS OF PRESIDENTS TAYLOR AND PENROSE ABOUT FLOOD. President John Taylor said: “The earth, as a part of the creation of God, has fulfilled and will fulfil the measure of its creation. It has been baptized by water, it will be baptized by fire; it will be purified and become celestial, and be a fit place for celestial bodies to inhabit.” (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, pp. 408-409)
President Charles W. Penrose has left us this: “Thus the inhabitants of the earth with the few exceptions that are beyond the power of redemption will eventually be saved. And the globe on which they passed their probation, having kept the law of its being, will come into remembrance before its Maker. It will die like its products. But it will be quickened again and resurrected in the celestial glory. It has been born of the water, it will also be born of the Spirit purified by fire from all the corruptions that once defiled it, developed into its perfections as one of the family of worlds fitted for the Creator’s presence, all its latent light awakened into scintillating action, it will move up into its place among the orbs governed by celestial time, and shining ‘like a sea of glass mingled with fire,’ every tint and color of the heavenly bow radiating from its surface, the ransomed of the Lord will dwell upon it.” (Journal of The Contributor, vol. 2, p. 364)