Baptism: Two Scriptural Types

There are two places in scripture that link baptism to previous events or rituals. Even though you can probably go your entire life attending Gospel Doctrine and never hear of these links, that doesn’t diminish their value. Let’s take a look.

Noah’s Flood

Peter taught that there was a link between baptism and Noah’s flood.

1 Peter 3:18-21
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 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. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Peter doesn’t go with the obvious immersion link (the earth was immersed so we must be immersed too). It’s a bit difficult to decipher in the King James version, so here’s a modern translation:

Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now that you’ve read the modern version, you can go back and the King James version now makes more sense. Peter teaches that baptism by water doesn’t save us by a removal of dirt, but as a pledge or commitment to God. Was Noah saved because he was a master shipbuilder, or because he had enough faith to do what God asked?

Hebrews 11:7
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Looking at the voyage of the Brother of Jared, we can see how Noah and his family were saved:

Ether 6:7
And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

Ether 2:24
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth. And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?

Just as Noah prepared the ark out of faith, we enter the waters of baptism out of faith. Building the ark didn’t save Noah in and of itself, but the ark was part of God’s process to save Noah. Noah had to continue to call on God for deliverance from the waves of the flood. Ultimately it was God that saved Noah (and the Brother of Jared), because the ark by itself wasn’t capable of delivering them.

Baptism itself doesn’t save us, it’s our heartfelt and faithful decision to join God’s winning team that saves us. Just a God delivered the righteous from the wicked in Noah’s time, the resurrection of Jesus will save us from the wicked in eternity. Peter is teaching the same witness doctrine that we’ve covered in previous posts – baptism by water is a witness that we are joining God’s team.

The next post will cover more on the link to the resurrection of Christ.


You’re probably asking yourself, how can baptism be linked to circumcision?

Colossians 2:11-14
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Paul teaches that baptism is the circumcision of Christ. Think about the parallels. Circumcision was required to become part of Israel, baptism is required to be part of Christ’s church. Plenty of people who were circumcised in the flesh failed to follow God. There was no promise that getting circumcised guaranteed salvation, or even forgiveness of sins. Which is why God wanted circumcised hearts.

Deuteronomy 30:6
6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

Notice here that the Lord circumcises the heart. Man may circumcise the flesh, but God circumcises the heart. Just like with baptism: man can baptize by water, but only God can baptize by fire. God never promised eternal life for being circumcised in the flesh, but he does promise it for being circumcised in the heart. Notice how this verse links uncircumcised hearts to resisting the Holy Ghost.

Acts 7:51
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

If a circumcised heart is the equivalent to baptism by the Holy Ghost, it makes sense to describe the uncircumcised in heart as resisting the Holy Ghost.

2 Nephi 9:33
Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.

If the uncircumcised of heart will be smitten by a knowledge of their iniquities, the circumcised of heart will not be smitten, because they have been forgiven of their iniquities. Just as circumcision in the flesh did not promise a remission of sins, neither does baptism by water. But circumcision in the heart does bring forgiveness of sins, just as baptism by fire does.

With these two concepts reinforcing what we’ve already covered, we now have a foundation to cover Baptism for the Dead in the next post.


Baptism: Remission of Sins

You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 5:499)

Let the weight of that bold phrase sink in. Baptism by water is good for nothing without the baptism by fire (or the Holy Ghost). Nothing! That might strike some as a heretical teaching if you’ve been taught that our sins are washed away immediately when we are baptized. A remission of sins has to be good for something, right? But Joseph Smith says otherwise.

One challenge we have is how the word baptism is used. Sometimes baptism is only referring to baptism by water. Other times, it  refers to both the baptism by water and the baptism by fire combined. Here are two examples where baptism is used by itself, but then further explanation shows it is referring to both halves combined:

D&C 33:11
Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

3 Nephi 12:1
Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

When Christ says “if ye shall believe in me and be baptized,” we need to determine whether he is only referring to baptism by water or both halves – water and fire. (Spoiler alert – he means both)

D&C 39:6
And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

John 3:5
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John the Baptism suggested his baptism was incomplete and required the second half:

Matthew 3:11
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire

The key point to take away is that when we see a statement like “repent and be baptized”, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to think this only means baptism by water. It refers to both baptisms, because baptism by water without baptism by fire is good for nothing. That leads to the core topic for this post – the remission of sins. If you’ve been taught that remission of sins comes at the time of baptism by water, prepare to have your precepts challenged.

Remission of Sins

2 Nephi 31:13
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

Here Nephi teaches the two baptisms, water and fire. He then goes on to teach:

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

According to Nephi, the remission of sins comes by fire and the Holy Ghost, not by water!  The Doctrine and Covenants also says the remission of sins comes by baptism by water and fire.

D&C 19
31 And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

The resurrected Christ gets more specific:

3 Nephi 12
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.

The remission of sins comes with the visitation of fire and the Holy Ghost. Not before. In fact, many of the scriptures lump the remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit together, like two sides of the same coin. Talking about one is implicitly talking about the other.

D&C 55
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant William, yea, even the Lord of the whole earth, thou art called and chosen; and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;

Analyzing this, if you are baptized without an eye single to his glory, you shall not have a remission of sins. Just getting wet doesn’t remit your sins. You must do it with an eye single to his glory so you can receive the Holy Spirit and receive a remission of your sins. The remission of sins is linked to the reception of the Holy Spirit.

D&C 53
3 Take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word, and the reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;

Notice in the last verse that baptism by water isn’t even mentioned! It’s all about reception of the Holy Spirit. Christ himself linked remission of sins to the Holy Ghost:

3 Nephi 20
2 Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.

A remission of sins is what happens when you are filled with the Holy Ghost, not when you are baptized by water. There are several verses that use the phrase “baptized by water for the remission of sins”. Those would seem to contradict all these other scriptures.

D&C 84
64 Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.

If we read this verse literally, then we must say that baptism by water not only grants the remission of sins, but also grants the Holy Ghost. We instinctively know it isn’t saying you receive the Holy Ghost when you get wet. We need to apply that same interpretation to the remission of sins part of the phrase also. Here are a few more verses:

D&C 84
74 Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father’s kingdom where my Father and I am.

D&C 13:1
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

Baptism by water is for, or opens the door to, reception of the Holy Ghost, which causes the remission of sins. Even though the scriptures say “baptism for the remission of sins”, nowhere do scriptures say that remission happens as a result of the baptism by water. Baptism by water leads to the baptism by fire and remission of sins. Baptism by water can unlock the door that leads to baptism by fire and the consequent remission of sins.

Baptism of Repentance

The baptism by water is the baptism of repentance, not of forgiveness.

Mark 1:4
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

D&C 107
20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

Acts 13:24
When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Acts 19:4
John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Referring back to the previous post, baptism is a witness that we have chosen to repent and obey God’s commandments. Baptism by water is our effort. We choose when it happens, where it happens, and by whom it happens.

We have several verses that link repentance with remission of sins.

Luke 24:47
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

3 Nephi 7
16 Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds—went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

23 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.

D&C 55:2
And then thou shalt be ordained by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., to be an elder unto this church, to preach repentance and remission of sins by way of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

D&C 19:31
And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

Baptism by water is how we witness our willingness to repent, and baptism by fire is how God witnesses that he has accepted that repentance.

One more aspect to consider. Priests in the Aaronic priesthood have authority to baptize. But they also are restricted to only outward ordinances.

D&C 107:10, 13-14
High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate … in administering spiritual things
The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, … and has power in administering outward ordinances.

Administering a public witness to follow Christ is an outward ordinance. A remission of sins, however, is not an outward ordinance. That is something internal and deeply spiritual. According to D&C 107, an Aaronic priesthood holder cannot administer spiritual things. If baptism by water caused an immediate remission of sins, that would be a spiritual ordinance that could not be done by a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. In fact, that is something so special that Christ reserves for himself exclusively.

D&C 33
15 And whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them.

3 Nephi 12:1
1 …Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

3 Nephi 9:20
…whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost

Nephi goes even further, declaring that the Lord will use no servants at the gate. While we know man administers the baptism by water, the gate that separates the true followers from the rest is baptism by fire. We might be able to fool our fellow man, but we can’t fool God.

2 Nephi 31:17
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

2 Nephi 9:41
The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

Another reason why Christ reserves this to himself is because of how the remission of sins is made available.

JST Matthew 26
24 For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins.

D&C 21:9
Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.

Moroni 10
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

D&C 27
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

Matthew 26:28
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The baptism by fire is Christ’s response. He chooses when and where, and it is always by him. Christ dispenses the remission of sins, not a human priesthood holder, because Christ paid the price and Christ knows our hearts. He knows if we truly believe on his name, hearken to his voice, and have truly repented of our sins. Even though mortal men can put their hands on a person’s head and confirm them a member, Christ still bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost according to his will.

Remission of sins apart from baptism

Baptism by water is the repentance part. Baptism by fire is the remission of sins part. Let’s take a look at the references to remission of sins completely detached from baptism. King Benjamin gives a discourse that spans several chapters. I’ll just highlight a few verses:

Mosiah 4
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

Nowhere in his discourse does he mention baptism! All this remitting of sins comes from the Spirit of the Lord coming upon them, not from a watery ordinance. In fact, the first use of the words baptize and baptism don’t happen in the book of Mosiah until Chapter 18 — years after king Benjamin’s discourse!

Joseph Smith received a remission of his sins before Moroni had even visited him, years before the visit of John the Baptist!

D&C 20:5-6
After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;

Cornelius and his household received the Holy Ghost before baptism. In fact, it was seeing them receive the Holy Ghost that finally convinced Peter to baptize them and any other Gentiles:

Acts 10:44-48
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Enos had a different experience, receiving his remission of sins much later in life:

Enos 1:2
2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

Presumably Enos was baptized much earlier in life (his father had taught him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord) but he did not receive a remission of his sins until much later.

We have other scriptures that indicate a remission of sins is the result of repentance, not an ordinance. It’s likely that all these people had already been baptized by water at some point in their life, yet the teaching is that repentance, not an ordinance, leads to a remission of sins.

Alma 12
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

Helaman 13
13 And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.

Alma 38
8 And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul.

Now for the really sobering part. Look at the order of events that we are under commandment in the latter days to obey:

D&C 20:37
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

This is an intriguing commandment. This states that not only do we need to repent of all our sins before baptism, but we need to manifest by our works that we have received enough of the Spirit of Christ to receive a remission of our sins BEFORE baptism! I suspect very few people in the modern church have achieved that level of repentance at the time of their baptism. I didn’t. This wasn’t just something new that Joseph foisted on the church, even the Nephites had this same criteria.

3 Nephi 7:25
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.

The Nephites were being baptized with water as a witness that they had ALREADY received a remission of their sins!


That was a lot of scriptural references to simply say: baptism by water does not in an of itself deliver a remission of sins. That concept is part of our culture, with beautiful metaphors about washing away our sins and coming out of the water clean. We can even take one or two scriptures out of context to reinforce that concept. But when looking at the totality of the scriptures we have covered here, we need to be more circumspect. If we obey the commandment in D&C 20:37 and delay baptism by water until the point we are qualified to receive the baptism by fire, we can receive a remission of sins at baptism because both baptisms happen at the same time. But the baptism of water does not cleanse our sins, it’s the baptism by fire. Because ultimately, it’s Christ and his blood that washes us clean:

JST Revelation 1:6
And unto him who loved us, be glory; who washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.

Baptism: Covenant or Witness?

Someone recently asked me what I was planning to write about in the near future. I honestly didn’t know. I tend to jump from one topic to another. There is no master plan. But sometimes I will have multiple people bring up the same topic within a short period of time, and the Spirit will say, “Voilà!” That’s how I “chose” to write about baptism now.

Many of the things we’ve been taught about baptism from Primary onward aren’t supported by scripture. In fact, many of them conflict with the scriptures. This series will go through several aspects of baptism and see what the scriptures say. The first aspect we’ll cover is whether baptism is a covenant.

At Church it’s common to talk about our baptismal covenants. Where do the scriptures talk about baptism as a covenant? Nowhere. The scriptures instead talk about baptism being a witness of a covenant that we have already entered into. Let’s see:

Mosiah 18:10
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Here Alma is clear that being baptized (hasn’t yet happened) is a witness that they have (already) entered into a covenant with him. Do you think I’m wresting the verb tenses? Let’s see what happens a few chapters later.

Mosiah 21:31-35
Yea, they did mourn for their departure, for they knew not whither they had fled. Now they would have gladly joined with them, for they themselves had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. And now since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant…Therefore they did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord. Now they were desirous to become even as Alma and his brethren, who had fled into the wilderness. They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless they did prolong the time; and an account of their baptism shall be given hereafter.

This group had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandment, yet had not been baptized. Ammon wouldn’t perform the ordinance for them. They had to wait until a servant could perform their baptisms. But they looked forward to that future baptism as a chance to witness and testify that they were willing to serve God. They had no expectation of entering into a covenant at baptism, they had already done that.

With that perspective in mind, read this verse in a new light:

Alma 7
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

Again, the baptism is not the covenant to keep his commandments, it is the witness of that covenant. This pattern repeats through the scriptures:

D&C 20:37
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

2 Nephi 31:13-14
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, …thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying, After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.

3 Nephi 7
25 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.

The first erroneous teaching we need to get out of our heads is that baptism is a covenant. The scriptures are consistent in declaring baptism by water to be a witness of a covenant previously entered into. That begs the next question.

What is the covenant?

The scriptures aren’t as specific on the details of this covenant. It appears to be a simple but sincere decision to turn to Christ. Let’s revisit the relevant parts of the scriptures we’ve already covered.

Mosiah 18:10
… ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

Mosiah 21:31-35
they themselves had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. …king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments…They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts.

Alma 7:15
enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments.

D&C 20:37
and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

2 Nephi 31:13-14
ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, …and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandment.

The scriptures do not give instructions on how to enter into this covenant. Limhi and his people entered into their covenant without an authorized servant present to administer baptism, so it appears this is a covenant we can enter into without baptism. Whether we can enter into ourselves, without an authorized officiator, is unclear. Perhaps it is as simple as a personal declaration to accept Christ and commit to obey his commandments. It is troublesome that we don’t have more detail and that these details aren’t being taught. What impact might this have on the baptism we have already received?

Interestingly, the scriptures are unambiguous that we do need someone with authority to administer the witness of this covenant.

Alma 4
4 And they began to establish the church more fully; yea, and many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the church of God; yea, they were baptized by the hand of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father Alma.

Mosiah 21:33
And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant.

3 Nephi 12: 1
And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

D&C 68:8
Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 20:73
The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


From all these scriptures we can conclude that baptism is not a covenant. It is an ordinance that must be administered by authorized servants to witness that a person has already entered into a covenant to serve God. While some will lump the covenant and the witness together, the scriptures don’t do that. And in the case of Limhi and his people, months or years passed between them making the covenant and when they could finally witness that covenant through baptism by proper authority.

In the next post, we’ll cover remission of sins.

Why has God ceased to be a God of miracles?

When true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ walk the earth among people of faith, miracles happen. The scriptures are quite clear that these men work signs, wonders, and miracles among the people. Let’s review some of the signs of true servants of Jesus.

Acts 5:12, 15-16
12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people…Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

Think about this. Peter didn’t even have to touch the people he healed, merely his shadow passing over sick persons would heal them. And they were healed every one. That doesn’t mean they took months to recuperate, or were buoyed in their spirits for a short while before succumbing to their illness. They were healed. Every one. And it wasn’t just one or two people, it was multitudes of sick people.

Paul, despite not having been with Jesus during his ministry, also turns it up to 11 with his miracles. Just having a piece of cloth that had touched Paul was enough to heal the sick and cast out devils.

Acts 19:11-12
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

Acts 9 and Acts 20 record Peter and Paul individually raising the dead. Both of these apostles performed the same miracles that Jesus performed during his ministry. Now perhaps those were extremely rare circumstances. What about common everyday healing?

Acts 3:2-9
And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

Acts 14:8-10
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

In both these cases, Peter and Paul healed crippled men. They immediately jumped up and walked. No physical therapy necessary. Maybe  Peter and Paul were the exceptions. Maybe God never expected all his servants to do those things. What about the twelve disciples that were called among the Nephites?

4 Nephi 1:5
And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Well, they don’t appear to be any different from Peter and Paul. It wasn’t just the apostles. Prophets worked miracles too.

Helaman 16:4
For behold, Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come—

3 Nephi 7:19-20
And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people. And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

We know Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead also. And even Steven and Philip from the New Testament got into the miracle act:

Acts 6:8
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 8:6, 13
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did…Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

It’s interesting to note the effect these miracles have on the non-believers:

4 Nephi 1:29, 31
And again, there was another church which denied the Christ; and they did persecute the true church of Christ, because of their humility and their belief in Christ; and they did despise them because of the many miracles which were wrought among them…Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word.

3 Nephi 7:20
And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

Even though performing miracles brings persecution, Jesus commands his servants to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils. Performing healings and other miracles isn’t an option for these servants – it’s a commandment!

Matthew 10:5-10
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying…go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Mark 16:15-18
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

The Lord repeated these same commandments through Joseph Smith.

D&C 84: 64-72
Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. And these signs shall follow them that believe—In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

D&C 124:97-100
Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say. And these signs shall follow him—he shall heal the sick, he shall cast out devils, and shall be delivered from those who would administer unto him deadly poison; And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings. And what if I will that he should raise the dead, let him not withhold his voice.

Now we have a conundrum. The commandment was issued, but we don’t have the same results as the ancient saints. We don’t have paraplegics leaping out of their wheelchairs and running around the temple immediately upon being touched by an apostle. Diabetics don’t throw away their insulin after attending General Conference. We don’t have people being raised from the dead. The only good news is that we don’t have people trying to kill us because of our many miracles. The scriptures tell us why this is, but it isn’t a pretty answer.

Moroni 7:37
It is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.

2 Nephi 27:23
For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

2 Nephi 26:13
And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.

If we don’t have miracles, it’s because we don’t have true faith. We may have faith in a some correct principles mingled with some precepts of men, favorite false doctrines, and trust in the arm of flesh, but we can conclude we do not have true faith in the true God. If we did, we’d have the miracles the scriptures talk about. Because we don’t have the fruit, we know something is amiss. Before we look to blame certain individuals, we need to remember that it is our collective iniquity that causes this situation.

Mormon 1:13
But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.

Ether 12:12
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

3 Nephi 19:35
And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not have the signs of them that believe. Individuals do have miraculous healings in their lives on occasion, and that is truly praiseworthy. But collectively the LDS do not appear to have them at any higher rate than other Christians. Nor do we have the miraculous healings at the hands of the apostles we have been promised. As a collective body, we don’t have the fruit. Therefore, as a collective body, we must not be doing what God says.

God has promised us miracles, literal miracles! But there are conditions.

D&C 35:8-9
For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. And whoso shall ask it in my name in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.

D&C 82:10
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

3 Nephi 8:1
…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—

The Lord has promised us that if we have true faith, we will have these miracles. Because God cannot lie, and we do not have the results of the promise he has made, we must conclude that we are not asking in true faith. We are not doing what he has told us to do. We still have unresolved iniquity.

Mormon 9:18-20
And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles. And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

The first step is admitting we have a problem.




Data mining the Doctrine and Covenants

A few years ago I was sitting in Gospel Doctrine class talking to a ward member. I don’t remember how we got onto the topic, but we were looking in the Doctrine and Covenants at the Chronological Order of Contents, just before D&C Section 1.

D&C Chronological Order

We noticed how few revelations were received after Kirtland. I remember the other person saying, “I wonder why that is.” I wondered too. The traditional story is that Joseph received further light and knowledge right up until the end – but the canonized data doesn’t support that. That curiosity drove me to do a lot of research, and continues to drive me to this day.

One problem with the table above is that there is no scale. It’s tough to really understand how the revelations are distributed through time. Here it is in a graph. (I didn’t include Sections 136 and 138 because they were outside the time period I was concerned with).

1981 D&C

When viewed this way, you can see a concentration of revelatory activity in the early years of the church, with a burst in 1831. By 1834 this flow of revelation had slowed to a slow trickle compared to previous years. Specifically, there were 6 times more revelations per year in the six years before January 1835 than in the 10 years after January 1835. In 1838 Joseph wrote what became the 9th Article of Faith that said that God “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” The data shows that God hasn’t done that yet.

This data is actually overly optimistic. Not all of these sections in the D&C were revelations.  Section 135 was written after Joseph’s death as a type of eulogy. Sections 129-131 weren’t even written by Joseph, but were someone else’s writings of what they heard Joseph say in conversation. Joseph didn’t review these for accuracy. In a court of law this would be considered “hearsay” and inadmissible. I removed some of these from the data but realized it was highly subjective as to what stayed and what was removed. Then the thought hit me: use the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants!

The 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was prepared by Joseph shortly before his death. The first copies returned from the printer about two months after his death. This would give us a very good indication of what Joseph considered to be the essential revelations up until a few months before his death. In the current version, the last published revelation before his death was in 1843, so there was plenty of time between that last revelation and when Joseph sent the 1844 version off the printer. Here’s what that 1844 version looks like:

1844 D&C

D&C ratesWow! Only 6% of the revelations came in the 10 years after 1834. 94% came within the first 6 years. This is a staggering disparity. The first six years averaged 17 revelations per year, while the remaining decade averaged less than one revelation per year! What was only a 6:1 ratio between the early years and the later years in the 1981 edition explodes to a 26:1 ratio with the 1844 D&C.

The slow trickle depicted in the 1981 edition becomes almost nothing in Joseph’s 1844 compilation. If you’re familiar with Watcher’s or Searcher’s blogs, you know that in April 1834 the Lord stated that the church had broken the covenant (Section 104) and by December declared the church to be under condemnation. Joseph’s final compilation of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1844 supports this condemnation and that the church did not come out from under it during the next 10 years.

Side note:
With only one canonized section received after 1847, the flow of further light and knowledge as measured by canonized scripture has effectively stopped completely. That averages 0.006 revelations per year for the last 171 years. The revelatory rate between 1829-1834 was 1,500 times higher than since the death of Joseph!

October 1918 was the last canonized revelation. Next month we will mark 100 years with no new published revelations. That’s a sobering thought.

Revelation Rate


The first question that comes to mind is what are these five revelations after 1835 that Joseph did choose to include? Those are probably significant.

Section 112
The command for the Twelve to go abroad among the nations. This was received less than two months after Joseph said “God has revealed to me that something new must be done for the salvation of His Church.”

Section 119
The revelation on tithing.

Section 124
This revelation was packed full of critical information. The commandment to build the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House and the consequences if it wasn’t done on time. Confirmation that the fulness of the priesthood had been lost and needed to be restored. Anything more or less than the Book of Mormon and the published revelations comes of evil and will be attended with cursings. Commandment to publish the new translation of the Bible. Calling of Hyrum to be a prophet, seer, and revelator.

Sections 127 and 128
Not a revelation, but letters from Joseph explaining baptism for the dead.

There were also two revelations from 1834 that weren’t in the 1835 edition but Joseph added to the 1844 edition: Sections 103 and 105. These deal with organizing Zion’s camp and disbanding it.

Those are some significant topics. What are the revelations that are now canonized but weren’t chosen by Joseph Smith in 1844? Why wouldn’t Joseph canonize them but Brigham would? Here they are with a brief description:

Section 2
This was already recorded in Joseph Smith History, but added as a section in 1876. No new information.

Section 13
This too was already in the Joseph Smith History, but added as a section in 1876. No new information.

Section 85
Received in November 1832, this section sets forth some rules for living under the law of consecration and contains the well-known “one mighty and strong” prophecy. By 1835 the church had broken the covenant and was no longer living the law of consecration, possibly explaining why Joseph didn’t include it in either the 1835 or 1844 editions. It was added in 1876.

Section 87
The prophecy on war received in December 1832. It was added in 1876.

Section 108
A revelation for Lyman Sherman in December 1835. Added in 1876.

Section 109 and 110
Section 110 remained unknown to the church until 1852. What’s interesting is that Joseph also chose not to put Section 109, the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, into the 1844 edition either. There was no scriptural record of the Kirtland Temple events left by Joseph. These sections were added in 1876.

Section 111
Dealing with Joseph’s trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Added in 1876.

Section 113
Answers to questions about Isaiah. Added in 1876.

Section 114
Instructions for David Patten. Added in 1876.

Section 115
Commandment in 1838 to build the Far West Temple. This had been abandoned over five years before the 1844 edition was compiled. Added in 1876.

Section 116
One verse about Adam-ondi-Ahman. This area had also been abandoned years before 1844. Added in 1876.

Section 117
Commandments to William Marks and Newel Whitney to leave Kirtland and move to Missouri in 1838. The Saints had abandoned Missouri by 1844. Added in 1876.

Section 118
Command for the Twelve to depart from the Far West temple site to preach in Europe. Added in 1876.

Section 120
One verse about disposition of tithes. Added in 1876.

Sections 121-123
Excerpts from a letter written from Liberty Jail. Added in 1876.

Section 125
The will of the Lord concerning the saints in Iowa. Added in 1876.

Section 126
Three verses for Brigham Young. Added in 1876.

Sections 129-131
These were remarks made by Joseph and recorded by various people. There are inconsistencies between versions that someone resolved before canonization 30 years after the fact. There is no indication that Joseph reviewed these or that they accurately capture what he said. Added in 1876.

Section 132
The problematic revelation on celestial polygamy. Discovered in 1852. Added in 1876.

Section 135
Announcing the death of Joseph Smith. Not a revelation. Added in 1876.

Section 137
Received in 1836, this record of a vision about those who die without a knowledge of the gospel was not added until 1981.

What does it all mean?

I don’t have any definite conclusions about the sections that were added after Joseph’s death. Some were incredibly significant, like Section 110, but likely were intentionally held back. Some repeated information Joseph had already published (Sections 2 and 13). Several contained hearsay of conversations, not revelations. There doesn’t appear to be one consistent reason for Joseph not publishing these in 1844. (If you have a theory, please share it.)

What we can definitely conclude is that the church has never again experienced a revelatory period like it did from 1829 to 1834. Sadly, the revelatory doldrums the church experienced from 1835 to 1844 look like a Category 5 hurricane compared to what the church has experienced over the nearly 175 years since Joseph’s death.

Something changed after 1834. And it changed even more after 1844. We should all ponder why that is.



Birth of Christ (Possible) Timeline

Just as we have a lot of false traditions about the timeline surrounding the death of Christ, we have the same problem with the birth of Christ. News flash: it wasn’t December 25! The scriptures don’t give us enough detail to pin down exact dates, but we can determine the approximate months and then use the seven feasts incorporated into the Law of Moses as a guide. This timeline is more speculative than the timeline for the death of Christ, so feel free to take this with a few grains of salt. I have read other proposed timelines that support different dates and their arguments are possible. I currently think this one fits best with the scriptures.

Zechariah and Gabriel – Pentecost

Luke 1:5, 8-10
There was in the days of Herod, king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia, and his wife, being of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth…

And while he executed the priest’s office before God, in the order of his priesthood, according to the law (his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord), The whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

During the time of King David, the priests of the family of Aaron were divided up into twenty-four courses. (See 1 Chronicles 24:1-18). Each course would serve for eight days in the temple, overlapping on the sabbath so there were twice as many priests for sabbath services. The schedule started at the beginning of the year, about two weeks before Passover. During the three major feasts of the year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) all the priests would work in the temple, pausing the normal rotation for that week. The course of Abia was the 8th course, which meant they began work on the ninth sabbath and worked through the tenth sabbath of the year (shifted back one week because of everyone working during Passover), and then repeated again ~24 weeks later (plus time for the fall feasts). These verses in Luke narrow down the range of time for the visit of Gabriel to two weeks during the year: Week 9 (~early June) or week 35 (~early December). Because of the lunar calendar, the exact dates would vary from year to year but this gets us close enough for now.

If you remember from the Passion Timeline, Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks and one day after the feast of Firstfruits, which is the day after the first sabbath after Passover. The Passover lamb is killed on the 14th day of the year, at the end of the second week. This appears to put Pentecost (one of the three feast mandating attendance in Jerusalem) either during Zechariah’s temple service schedule or right next to it, depending on the year. Because “the whole multitude of the people were praying without”, it’s possible that it was the day of Pentecost when Gabriel tells Zechariah about the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist. Nine months after this would place the birth of John the Baptist in the spring.

Luke 1:23-25
And as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days, his wife Elizabeth conceived and hid herself five months.

Mary and Gabriel – Hannukah

Luke 1:26-27, 36
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Six months after the announcement to Zechariah, we have the announcement to Mary. Six months after Pentecost puts us into December, which is the time of Hannukah, or the festival of lights. If there ever were a symbolic time to announce the coming of the Light of the World into the world, the festival of lights would be it.

Mary and Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-40, 56
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

Mary would have stayed with Elizabeth during Mary’s first trimester and Elizabeth’s third trimester. This timeline would have her returning to Nazareth in the early spring just before Passover, with Elizabeth close to giving birth. Shortly after Mary’s return is probably when Joseph discovered that Mary was with child.

The Birth of John the Baptist – Passover

The tradition of the Jews at Passover is to set a place at the table for Elijah when he comes. The angel Gabriel said that John would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah. The JST version of the Bible reveals an even stronger linkage between John the Baptist and Elijah. If you’re unfamiliar with this, read Searcher’s explanation here. While I can’t prove this with scripture, it seems probable that John was born on the night of Passover when all the Jews were waiting for the return of Elijah. Prophecy was fulfilled but missed by those who were going through the motions of watching for it.

The Birth of Jesus – The Feast of Tabernacles

Six months after this puts us into the fall. This is the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the Jews would spend a week living in a temporary shelter called a sukkah, or tabernacle. Here’s what the modern-day Feast of Tabernacles looks like:


The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three annual feasts that all males were required to come up to Jerusalem for. It’s also in the fall, when farmers would have money from their harvest. This would be a logical time for the Romans to conduct their census and collect taxes.

Luke 2:1-7
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now let’s look at the Greek. The word “inn” is κατάλυμα (kataluma). This doesn’t mean “Holiday Inn”, but guest room. This same word is used in Mark 14:14 to mean guestchamber, which was the room Jesus used for the Last Supper.

And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

Women, especially when pregnant, were not required to stay in the sukkah during the Feast of Tabernacles. But this time the guestchamber at their relatives’ house was already full, so Mary appears to have slept in the sukkah with Joseph, and that is where she gave birth to Jesus. (It’s possible that the Greek word translated into “manger” was actually an attempt to describe these tabernacles and time and tradition have turned it into a stable and feeding trough.) Symbolically, Jesus assumed a tabernacle of flesh in a tabernacle of wood during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Interestingly, the first and eighth day of Feast of Tabernacles are days of rest. If Jesus was born on the first day of the Feast, he would have been circumcised on the eighth day of the feast, both days being holy days. I can’t prove it, but it would fit the pattern.

The fall feasts symbolize the coming of the Lord, both his first and second coming. While we can’t pin down an exact date for Christ’s birth, scripturally the Feast of Tabernacles in September/October seems to fit.

What about April 6?

Those of us raised in the LDS tradition have been taught that April 6 was the day that Christ was born. There are several problems with this theory. The first is that it wasn’t taught until the 1900s when James Talmage wrote about it. If this was a revealed truth, we should have a record of Joseph teaching it. We don’t.

Secondly, the basis for Talmage’s April 6 date is the opening line in D&C Section 20.

The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—

Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers project, we now know a lot more about this phrase than Brother Talmage knew. We now know that John Whitmer, Joseph’s scribe at the time, wrote those first few lines as an introduction – they did not come from Joseph. Also, John Whitmer used that fancy date terminology several times in other writings, like this:

“It is now June the twelfth, one thousand eight hundred and thirty one years, since the coming of our Lord and Savior in the flesh.”

If we apply the same logic to this writing of John Whitmer as we apply to D&C 20:1, then Jesus must have been born on June 12 as well as on April 6! We can therefore assume the April 6 wording was used in the same manner as the June 12 wording, just a fancy 19th century way of stating the date. Trying to interpret that to identify the date of birth of Jesus is a stretch.

A final reason we can discount the April 6 date is that it does not line up with the scriptural record. If Jesus were born on April 6, and John the Baptist is 6 months older than Jesus, then Gabriel must have appeared to Zechariah about fifteen months earlier in January. But we know from the priestly courses that Zechariah didn’t work in the temple in January. We also know this doesn’t line up with the prophetic symbolism of the feasts of the Law of Moses. God instituted these feasts to point toward and symbolize Christ. We ignore them at our own peril.

Final Thoughts

In the grand scheme of things, knowing the date of Christ’s birth probably doesn’t matter much. Far more important is the process we use for accepting data. If we believe something simply because we’ve been taught it for a long time, or been told to respect those doing the teaching, and we never question it, we have a problem. But if we follow the example of the Bereans, we’ll be fine.

Acts 17:10-12
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.


Passion Timeline: Reconstructed

Now that we’ve corrected some of the erroneous traditions and reviewed the spring feasts, we’re ready to recreate the timeline based on the scriptures.

Determining Crucifixion and Resurrection Days

We have several facts from the scriptures we can use to pin down these days of the week. We know from Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1 that by Sunday morning at sunrise Christ had already been resurrected and left the tomb. That marks the very latest that Jesus could have been resurrected.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus died shortly after 3:00PM (the ninth hour). We also know that after Jesus died, Joseph had to visit Pilate, Pilate then summoned the centurion to confirm Jesus was dead, then Pilate released the body to Joseph who then had to take the body from the cross to the garden and perform a quick preparation of the body before sealing up the tomb before sunset.

We know from Matthew 12:40 that Jesus would spend three days and three nights in the tomb. Using those data points we can construct the first part of the timeline. Using the evening entombment, three days and three nights in the tomb, and a Sunday morning resurrection, we get this:

Timeline 3-4

A Sunday morning resurrection breaks Jesus’ own prophecy of three nights in the tomb. The scriptures don’t say Jesus was resurrected in the morning, only that by morning when the disciples showed up Jesus had already risen. In order to fulfill prophecy, he had to have arisen Saturday at sunset. Here’s what a scripturally correct timeline looks like:

Timeline 3-3

In this model, Wednesday afternoon the Passover lambs would have been sacrificed and eaten that night after sunset. Wednesday night and Thursday day would have been a holy day or high sabbath in which no work was done. Friday would have been a regular day to prepare for the weekly sabbath on Saturday.

Now that we have the day of Passover pinned down, let’s back up and follow the scriptures through the last week of Jesus’ life to see how everything fits together.

Six days before Passover


John 12:1
Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

Luke 19:29-32
And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem for the last time. During this last week he will travel into Jerusalem during the days but stay in Bethany at night. Arriving on the day before the weekly sabbath, Jesus sends two disciples to find and bring a colt which had never been ridden. (This will be important soon).

Five days before Passover


On the fourteenth day of the month the Passover lamb is killed shortly before sunset. On the tenth day of the month the Passover lamb is selected. This weekly sabbath day happens to be the tenth day of the month, the day the Passover lamb is selected.

John 12:12
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Mark 11:7-11
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Luke 19:35-38
And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Now a savvy reader may object to this happening on a Saturday. Jesus was riding an animal on the sabbath. The law of Moses specifically states that animals are to do no work on the sabbath.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

Has Jesus just broken the sabbath? This incident shows not only how well Jesus knows the law of Moses, but also that this event did happen on a sabbath. Remember that when Jesus sent the two disciples to get the colt, he specified that it would be a colt “whereon yet never man sat”. That colt had never worked in its life. The law of the sabbath states that there are six days of work followed by a sabbath. Had that colt ever worked a day it would have been required to obey the sabbath and Jesus would have violated the sabbath by riding it. Because that colt had never worked, it had not yet met the requirement to have a sabbath day. Jesus could ride that colt on the sabbath day to fulfill the prophecy while obeying the sabbath laws. If this didn’t happen on a sabbath, there would have been no need for the colt to have never been ridden before. (That’s the kind of expert lawyer I want as my advocate with the Father!)

At the same time the Passover lambs were being brought into Jerusalem for the people the select, Jesus, The Passover Lamb, was being brought into Jerusalem. Not only was he acclaimed by the people, but also selected by the voice of his Father:

John 12:27-33
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was directly linked to the choosing of the Passover lamb.

Four days before Passover


Mark 11:12-19
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.

Three days before Passover


Mark 11:20-23
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Once Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, he has a busy day. The scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees all try to find fault with him.

Mark 11:27-33
And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

This coincides with the inspection of the Passover lamb. While the Jews were inspecting their lambs, looking for any blemish, Jesus was in the temple being inspected by the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees as they tried to find fault in him. Here are the key tests:

  • Pharisees: Rendering unto Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26)
  • Sadducees: Marriage and the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-39)
  • Scribes: What is the primary commandment? (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 20:40)

After this inspection, Jesus delivers prophecies and sermons for his disciples:

Destruction of the Temple: Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6
The Last Days: Matthew 24:3-14, Mark 13:3-13, Luke 21:7-19
The Abomination of Desolation: Matthew 24:14-31, Mark 13:14-27, Luke 21:20-28
Faithful Servants: Matthew 24:45-51, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 21:34-36
Parable of Wise Virgins: Matthew 25:1-13

After this busy day, Jesus then returns to Bethany where he is anointed in preparation for his death and burial.

Matthew 26:1-13
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Two days before Passover


Tuesday night is when the Last supper occurs. We’ve covered that in a previous post, so we won’t rehash it here.

One day before Passover


During the night Jesus is tried and then delivered unto Pilate in the morning. This is the final inspection of the Passover lamb, and He is declared to be without blemish.

John 19:4-7
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

By 9:00am, he is hanging on the cross. By 3:00pm, when it is time to sacrifice the Passover lambs, Jesus gives up the ghost. He is hastily buried before sundown and the start of the Passover holy day.



There is no manner of work to be done this holy day. Despite that, having already eaten their Passover dinner, the scribes and Pharisees don’t appear to worry about defiling themselves any more and go unto Pilate:

Matthew 27:62-66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

This is the first night and day in the tomb.

First day after Passover


With the Passover holy day over, Friday is available to do work before the weekly sabbath. Mary Magdalene and Mary use this day to buy the things they will need to anoint the body of Jesus on Sunday morning.

Mark 16:1
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

This is the second night and day in the tomb.

Second day after Passover


This is now the weekly sabbath. The scriptures tell us that after preparing the spices, they rested on the weekly sabbath.

Luke 23:56
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

(Note how this sequence would have been impossible with the Friday-Sunday tradition. Jesus would have been buried at sunset on Friday, meaning the sabbath would have started right then, yet somehow these women were able to buy spices after the sabbath in Mark and before the sabbath in Luke!)

Third day after Passover


At sunset on Saturday evening, Jesus has completed three days and three nights in the tomb and was resurrected. It is now the beginning of the day after the weekly sabbath after Passover, which means it is the day of the Firstfruits.

Leviticus 23:9-11
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

While the priests at the temple were harvesting the firstfuits of the barley harvest from the field and preparing them overnight for the firstfruit offering in the temple in the morning, Jesus THE Firstfruit, had risen from the tomb and was preparing himself to show himself unto the Father:

1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

2 Nephi 2:8-9
The Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God.

By Sunday morning, when Christ meets Mary at the tomb, he indicates that he was just about to fulfill the feast of the Firstfruits by presenting himself before his Father:

John 20:17
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

We don’t know what Jesus had been doing for approximately twelve hours between his resurrection and his conversation with Mary, but it all fits in with the symbolic feasts that the Jews were commemorating at the same time.

3 Nephi 15:17-18
Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil; For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled.

Jesus not only fulfilled the atonement and sacrifice portions of the law, he also fulfilled all the symbolic portions of the spring feasts including the Firstfruits.

Moses 6:63
And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me.

All things, even the feasts of the Jews.


Timeline 3-3

With this new timeline, we can see how beautifully the last few days of Jesus’ life fulfilled the Old Testament foreshadowing of the Messiah. The feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits were instituted to witness of Christ. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish was fulfilled completely and accurately. Just as the Jews 2,000 years ago missed the connection between Jesus and these feasts, many Christians today miss these same connections.

Having now seen these connections, it should cause us to wonder just how many other aspects of the Old Testament are we ignorant of? If these spring feasts and their rituals were a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice for us, how much are the fall feasts a foreshadowing of his Second Coming? What are we missing? How many false traditions are we carrying that prevent us from seeing just how intricate all these things of God are?

“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.” Happy hunting!


In the comments, Nathan brought up the timeline of what was happening in the Americas while Christ was dead. I hadn’t even thought of linking the two. Assuming an 8-hour time difference between Jerusalem and the Americas, the sun would have just been rising in the Americas when Jesus died on the cross.

Helaman 14:20
20 But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.

We know there were three days of darkness and in the morning of the fourth day the darkness dispersed.

3 Nephi 10:9
And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away.

Christ’s resurrection at 7:00 PM in Jerusalem would be 11:00 in the morning in the Americas! Americas

The Biblical and Book of Mormon accounts line up perfectly! The Book of Mormon also disproves the Friday-Sunday timeline – there would only be two days of darkness in the Americas. This is an amazing second witness.

Passion Timeline: The Spring Feasts

Paul tells us that the feasts of the law of Moses were a shadow or preview of things to come (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:16–17). Specifically, the spring feasts foreshadowed Christ’s his atoning sacrifice and the fall feasts first and second comings. In this post, we’ll discuss the spring feasts. Once we have this knowledge, we’ll be ready to start building a proper timeline.

Passover & Unleavened Bread

We’re likely already familiar with some of the symbolism of this event. A sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood saves the lives of the believers.

The lamb was selected on the 10th day of the month of Aviv (or Nisan using the Babylonian names). Because Israel used a lunar calendar, the beginning of Aviv varies from year to year, but it is during March or April (which is why the dates of Passover and Easter change every year).

Exodus 12
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

With every household needing its own sacrificial lamb, this would be a major endeavor to bring in enough lambs for the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember that every male in Israel was commanded to come up to Jerusalem for three feasts each year, one of them being Passover. That’s a lot of lambs.

From the tenth day to the fourteenth day, the lamb would stay at the house with the family where it could be inspected to ensure it was without blemish.

On the fourteenth day, final preparations began. All leaven needed to be purged from the house by sunset. The lamb needed to be certified to be without blemish and then sacrificed before sunset and placed into an oven to cook in time for the Passover meal that night. Josephus tells us the lambs were killed in the late afternoon.

War 6.9.3 422-427
So these high priests did so upon the arrival of their feast which is called the Passover. On this day they slay their sacrifices from the ninth hour [3 PM] until the eleventh [5 PM].

Once the sun set, the 15th day began and the Passover meal was eaten. No leavened bread was allowed for the next week. The day of Passover was a holy day, or a high sabbath. This didn’t necessarily fall on on Saturday. It was a separate sabbath from the weekly sabbath.

Exodus 12
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.


At the same time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread is going on, we also have the Firstfruits. This is when the spring crop of barley was ready to be harvested. Before anyone can eat of the new grain, a firstfruits offering must be made. This is to be made after the first weekly Sabbath after Passover. Depending on the year, that could be anywhere from one to seven days later.

Leviticus 23
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

Because Firstfruits happens after Passover, the Passover meal is required to use grain from the previous season for its unleavened bread.

Because of Israel’s lunar calendar, the calendar can quickly get out of sync with the seasons unless something is done to correct it. Israel used the ripening of the spring barley. If the lunar cycle was causing the calendar to creep too early into spring, the barley wouldn’t be ready to harvest and an additional month was added to the calendar. After this additional month, the barley would be ready to harvest and the Passover could begin.


It is from the Firstfruits, not Passover, that the counting of weeks begins to determine the 50 days until Pentecost. Firstfruits is always the day after the weekly Sabbath, whereas Passover can fall on any day of the week. Linking the date to Firstfruits ensures that Pentecost is always on the first day of the week, or Sunday.

Leviticus 23
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

There is a popular idea that Pentecost commemorates the day God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. There is no scriptural basis for this—nowhere in the scriptures are these two events linked. But it was one of the three feasts that all Israeli men were commanded to journey to Jerusalem to attend, so it appears to have had a larger significance than what our current scriptures indicate.

Next Steps

The next post will show how the final days of Christ’s life fulfilled the events of these spring feasts. We’ll use a close reading of the scriptures combined with our knowledge of these spring feasts to build a scripturally accurate timeline of the last week of Christ’s life.



Passion Timeline: Passover & The Last Supper

One factor that confuses many people about the Passion timeline is the Last Supper and its relationship with the Passover meal, or seder. The modern LDS church teaches that that the Last Supper was the Passover seder. Here are two chapter headings from the relevant chapters in the New Testament:

Matthew 26
Jesus is anointed—He keeps the Passover and institutes the sacrament—He suffers in Gethsemane, is betrayed by Judas, and is taken before Caiaphas—Peter denies that he knows Jesus.

Mark 14
Jesus is anointed with oil—He eats the Passover, institutes the sacrament, suffers in Gethsemane, and is betrayed by Judas—Jesus is falsely accused, and Peter denies that he knows Him.

The problem is that the scriptures make it clear that the Last Supper and the Passover meal were not on the same evening. Once you have accepted the falsehood that they are on the same evening, you have to start performing mental gymnastics to force all the other scriptural details to fit into your false tradition. It’s so much easier when you just believe what the scriptures say instead of the chapter headings!

Let’s start with a scriptural overview of Passover. Take note of the phrases in bold, they’ll be critical later on.

Exodus 12
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.

Keep in mind that the Hewbrew word shabbat (sabbath) does not mean seventh, it means to cease, as in to cease from labor. These other holy days like the first day of Passover can also be called sabbath days because no work is to be done. It does not mean they happened on a Saturday. Which means you usually have two sabbaths, or holy days, in one week during Passover—the first day of Passover and then the weekly sabbath.

Bread at the Last Supper

Luke 22 tells us that the feast of unleavened bread was approaching. In both verses 1 and 7 it uses the Greek word ἀζύμων (azymoon) for unleavened bread. Yet in verse 19 Jesus takes ἄρτον (arton), or leavened bread, and administers the sacrament. If the Passover had already begun and this was the Passover meal, Jesus and all his disciples would have been violating the commandments by having leavened bread. Imagine how foolish Jesus would have felt to have lived a perfect life right up to the end and then thrown it all away by eating the wrong type of bread for his last meal!

Matthew does the same thing in Matthew 26:17 and 26:26. He uses ἀζύμων (azymoon) to the describe unleavened bread but ἄρτον to describe the bread they ate at the Last Supper. Not to be left out, Mark does it also in Mark 14:1 and 14:22. If the Last Supper was the Passover seder, we have three witnesses that Jesus sinned, he was not without blemish when sacrificed, and we are all doomed.

No Manner of Work

When Jesus identified Judas as the one who would betray him and Judas left, some of the disciples thought Jesus had told Judas to go buy things to prepare for the feast.

John 13
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

As they were preparing to head to the Garden, Jesus again suggests they go buy stuff:

Luke 22
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

If the Last Supper was the Passover meal, there wouldn’t be a need to buy anything for the feast…they had just finished eating it! More importantly, the Law of Moses required that no manner of work be done on the first day of Passover. If Jesus told the apostles to buy something that night, he would be telling them to sin. I suspect that the disciples would have been shocked by Jesus telling them to violate the Passover sabbath, but they don’t seem to give it any thought here. Furthermore, if they are eating the Passover meal, no merchants would be open to sell food or swords. Everyone else would be eating their Passover meal at home and doing no manner of work.

Scribes and Pharisees

If the Last Supper was the Passover meal, not only was Jesus confused, so were the scribes and pharisees!

John 18
8 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Here it is the morning after the Last Supper. The scribes and Pharisees should have already eaten the Passover meal, yet during the trial they are worried about defiling themselves before they could eat the Passover! Throughout the last day of Christ’s life, the Jews were focused on preparing for a meal that they supposedly had already eaten the night before.

For brevity, I’ll just list some of the references that show the Passover meal had not occurred yet.

John 19
13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Mark 15
42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathæa, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

Luke 23
52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

Everyone involved here, from the disciples to the scribes and Pharisees, knew the crucifixion and burial had to be completed before sunset when Passover, and its high sabbath, began.


It’s important that we understand that the Last Supper occurred 24 hours before the Passover meal. Not only is this important in understanding the timeline of the crucifixion and resurrection, but also to understand the significance of the three spring feasts that were linked to Christ’s Passion: the feast of Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, and the feast of first fruits. These are intimately integrated into the last week of Christ’s life, and we’ll explore them next.

Passion Timeline: The Sign of Jonah

It’s sad how our false traditions cause us to not believe God. We become so convinced that our tradition is correct that even when God speaks the truth plainly and clearly, we set at naught God’s word and trust in our own understanding. We refuse to evaluate the evidence God provides us or question our assumptions. The timing of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is a prime example of how we ignore scriptural evidence in order to preserve the traditions we have inherited.

Our tradition tells us that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on Sunday morning. But that is impossible if we believe what Jesus said about his own death and resurrection. Not only do we have to disbelieve Jesus to believe our tradition, we also have to disbelieve basic arithmetic!

Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees just one sign about himself, and told them there would be no other. This one sign was the Sign of Jonah (Jonas is the Greek version of Jonah).

Matthew 12
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus makes it very clear, 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. We have two other references to this sign in the New Testament:

Matthew 16
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

Luke 11
29 ¶ And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Jesus said he would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Let’s see how our tradition holds up to that sign.

Mark says that Christ gave up the ghost shortly after the ninth hour (3:00 PM). Matthew writes that evening was approaching when Nicodemus went to petition Pilate to be able to take Christ’s body. It was a mad dash to get Jesus’ body into the tomb before sunset. If we use the scriptural account that the tomb was sealed up basically at sunset, this is what we have:

Jonas 1

Not even close to 3 days and 3 nights. Now some modern apologists argue that any part of a day counted as a full day, so just one minute in the tomb on Friday afternoon would count as a full day. Let’s pretend that’s true:

Jonas 2

That gets us closer. Let’s apply the same logic to Sunday morning and assume that Christ wasn’t resurrected until one minute after sunrise.

Jonas 3With those leaps of logic, we can finally get to Christ being in the tomb for three “days”. But it is absolutely, positively IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to spend three nights in the heart of the earth with the timeline we have inherited! There are only two nights between Friday and Sunday, no matter how much you try to fudge it. Yet three nights was the one sign that Jesus gave of himself.

Isn’t is amazing how our traditions can blind us to simple truths? We can’t even count to three when we are blinded by tradition! We’ve even been warned about this:

D&C 123:7-8
…the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity. It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell.

In the next posts I will document other false traditions we have about the last days of Jesus’ life and get us to a much more accurate understanding this timeline.