The Baptisms of Latter-day Prophets

By Michael D. Taylor

Michael D. Taylor, “The Baptisms of Latter-day Prophets,” Religious Educator 3, no. 3 (2002): 61–64.

The Baptisms of Latter-day Prophets

Michael D. Taylor

Michael D. Taylor, M.D., was an anesthesiologist at Provo (Utah) Surgical Center when this was published.

As Jesus began His three-year ministry in Palestine, His first priority was to seek baptism at the hands of an authorized servant of God, one who held the proper priesthood to perform this sacred ordinance. He sought out His cousin, John the Baptist, and was baptized by immersion in the River Jordan. Likewise, when the Savior appeared to and taught the Nephites on the American continent, one of the first instructions He gave them was the necessity of and the proper mode of baptism. The importance of this crucial ordinance has been emphasized in our dispensation, with the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery being instructed in this ordinance by John the Baptist himself.

All our latter-day prophets have followed the Savior’s example by being baptized by immersion by one holding the priesthood of God. Our first five prophets were baptized as young men in their twenties or thirties as converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our last ten prophets were baptized as children.[1] The table that follows shows the date of each prophet’s baptism, his place of baptism, his age when he was baptized, and the name of the person who performed the ordinance.

Interestingly, only one of our prophets (Gordon B. Hinckley) was baptized in an indoor baptismal font. The other fourteen were baptized in open bodies of water or makeshift fonts. Two prophets (Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow) were baptized in rivers, two (Brigham Young and Harold B. Lee) in ponds, six (John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, and Joseph Fielding Smith) in streams or creeks, one (Heber J. Grant) in a wagon box, one (Spencer W. Kimball) in a tub and then later in a canal, one (Ezra Taft Benson) in a canal, one (Howard W. Hunter) in a swimming pool, and one (Gordon B. Hinckley) in a baptismal font in a chapel.

I can find no records that specifically state where Joseph Fielding Smith was baptized. However, he was baptized on a warm July day in 1884 by his father, Joseph F. Smith, and we can assume he was baptized in City Creek, a commonly used baptismal area of that day and the place where Joseph F. Smith himself was baptized.

Wilford Woodruff’s baptism must have been memorable for several reasons. He was baptized in an icy stream on 31 December 1833 in Richland, New York. He recorded the following in his journal concerning his baptism: “The snow was about three feet deep, the day was cold, and the water was mixed with ice and snow, yet I did not feel the cold!”[2] Wilford was baptized just two days after first hearing the gospel preached.

Interestingly, I have not been able to determine who baptized Heber J. Grant.

Notes


[1] I am indebted to the following article for some of the baptismal information: William Hartley, “Our Prophets’ Places of Baptism,” Friend, August 1997, 42–43.

[2] Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), 35.