“Why do we have to be completely under the water when we are baptized?” New Era, July 2011, 32
You may have attended a baptism where the person being baptized had to have the ordinance performed twice because he or she was not completely immersed in the water the first time. Because baptism is a saving ordinance, it is essential that it be performed exactly and correctly.
Baptism is a symbolic act. It “symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection, and can only be done by immersion” (Bible Dictionary, “Baptism”). Going under the water represents the death and burial of Jesus Christ, but it also represents the death of our natural selves (see Romans 6:3–6). Being brought up again from the water is symbolic of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and represents being reborn as His covenant disciples. The two witnesses who stand beside the baptismal font watch to ensure that the person being baptized is completely immersed, symbolic of being completely born again.
When we are baptized, we follow the pattern set by the Savior, who was baptized by immersion in the river Jordan (see Matthew 3:13–17). Heavenly Father desires for each of His children to be cleansed of their sins so that they may live with Him again. To be baptized by immersion, as Christ was, is an essential part of His divine plan.