In the Book of Mosiah, we read:
“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.” – Mosiah 21:33-34
The People of Limhi wanted to covenant with God and form a church, but they recognized that they didn’t have the authority to do so. When Ammon arrived from Zarahemla, they asked him to baptize them, but he also said that he was an unworthy servant – lacking the authority to baptize them.
So the people had to wait.
I suppose this teaches us a little bit about the people of the Book of Mormon – they understood the need for authority. Authority is a central concept in Christ’s Gospel and in the Mormon Church. It is a true principle – meaning that it is an eternal principle. The Nephites understood and abided by it.
The authority to baptize and form a church doesn’t come from a school or any institution made by men. We can learn more about authority in the Bible. Paul taught:
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” – Colossians 1:18
Christ is the head of the church, and He was from the beginning. He created the world. He is the firstborn son of God. He was the “firstborn from the dead,” meaning that He was the first to overcome death and be resurrected. He made it possible for us to be able to do the same.
We only have access to this power – the Powers of Heaven – through Him.
The Lord has blessed us with His Priesthood – His Power and His Authority. This power isn’t some kind of free-for all. The Powers of Heaven, which is also the Power of the Priesthood, is operated on principles of righteousness – as modeled by the Savior Himself. Therefore, if we want to have access to Christ’s authority and power in our lives, then we must be righteous.
I suppose I could go on and on about this – I’m sure someone could write a book about authority and the power of the priesthood. But for now, I just want to say that it is a true and necessary thing. And it is something that the people of Limhi, who had humbled themselves, desired. They wanted to join the church. They wanted fellowship with God. They wanted to show their commitment through covenanting with Him. Yet they recognized that they, humans, fallen men and women, weren’t capable of making the terms of such an agreement. It needs to come from God, and there needs to be one with the Authority of God in order to proceed with covenants such as baptism.