It is with feelings of no ordinary kind, that we address you on the present occasion, relative to the administration of the ordinance of baptism. Whereas, two fatal accidents have lately occurred, in connexion with this ordinance, one at Crewe, in Cheshire, and the other near to Sheffield, whereby two individuals have been drowned. We, therefore, strenuously urge upon the attention of the elders and priests of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that they use every precaution in attending to the all-importantn ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins, and be not over anxious, so as to endanger themselves or the candidate, in any way whatever. Remember, that as the servants of the Lord, we are under great responsibility how we administer, and should exercise our judgments in all matters pertaining to our duty and calling, and not do anything that will bring the cause of God into disrepute, or endanger the lives of our fellow-men: the Lord does not require such things at our hands. The apostle Paul, in speaking of the ordinances and gifts, says, “Let all things be done decently, and in order; “ therefore, the candidate should be properly clothed, on such accasions, for the sake of decency and convenience in administering the ordinance. We sincerely hope that the Saints will take warning by the late lamentable accidents, and let a word to the wise be sufficient, neglecting nothing with regard to the fitness of time, place, or appearance.
As these are the first occurrences of the kind that ever came to our knowledge, we feel that they call forth this admonition from the presidencey, for the good of the public, to contradict the statements that are in circulation concerning the church, namely, that we are so zealous and anxious to gain members, that we would endanger the lives of individuals in administering the ordinance, and we feel to say, in the name of the church, that no such feelings exist in the minds of any member of the same, who has come to a knowledge of the importance of the ordinance.
And on another subject we wish furthermore to add, that we, as a church, believe that all legal contracts of marriage, made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and be fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe, that one man should have but one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents, and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or to be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust.
We believe that all persons who exercise control over their fellow-beings, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. (Book of Doctrine and Covenants, page 251, par. 4.) And as it is rumoured in the public prints, that Mrs. Cartwright (the individual unfortunately drowned at Crewe) was forced to be baptized by her husband (though it is satisfactorily proved to the contrary); yet, if such were the case, we declare, in the name of the church, that any influence whatever, thus exercised, is contrary to the faith of the church, and will not be countenanced by the presidency in anywise.
We wish these doctrines to be taught by all that are in the ministry, that the people may know our faith respecting them, and also to correct the public mind in respect to the church; and we hope, that the Saints will hearken to this counsel for their own good, and for the prosperity of the cause of God.