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The baptism of Jesus Christ is full of rich symbolism and meaning. It’s a significant event in the New Testament because His baptism marks the beginning of his ministry and is a sign that He is the Father’s “beloved son” (Matthew 3:17). However, many readers have asked why Jesus had to be baptized at all, and why it was in the River Jordan.
While the New Testament provides some clues about the meaning and purpose of baptism, this video explains how the Book of Mormon sheds even further light on this sacred ordinance. Alma taught at the Waters of Mormon that baptism serves “as a witness before [God] 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” (Mosiah 18:10). Nephi, son of Nephi, also confirmed that baptism acts “as a witness and a testimony before God” (3 Nephi 7:25). In other words, Baptism is an outward sign of our commitment to Heavenly Father. It puts believers on the covenant path. To learn more about how the Book of Mormon teaches about baptism, read this KnoWhy.
One fascinating thing about Jesus Christ’s baptism, is that there is rich symbolism in the place he was baptized. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist (to learn about the symbolism on the river Jordan, check out this article by PhD. Taylor Halverson). Lehi in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 10:9) and the Gospel of John (John 1:28) both identify the specific location of baptism along the Jordan River as Bethabara (or Bethany).
This video explains that the name Bethabara means “house of the crossing” and may remind readers of the story of the Israelites crossing over into the Promised Land through the River Jordan. In fact, the name Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua.
Russell M. Nelson has said of this beautiful symbolism:
Could it be that Christ chose this location for His baptism in the River Jordan as a silent commemoration of the crossing of the faithful Israelites under Joshua’s direction so many years before (see Josh. 3), as well as a symbol that baptism is a spiritual crossing into the kingdom of God?1
Watch the video to learn even more about Bethabara's symbolism, such as the connection to Elijah, and the significance of Jesus’ baptism near the Dead Sea.