Q. I am a non member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but looking into it. What is the belief Mormons have on becoming a member of the church: do you have to repent before you are baptized?
Yes, you do. The fourth article of faith states, “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Note that repentance is listed before baptism, although repentance must also be an ongoing, life-long process. Baptism itself is a sign that we have repented. It is a covenant that signifies that we have turned our lives around to become disciples of Christ.
Individuals investigating the Church are taught by full-time missionaries the commandments God sets forth for his people. With that knowledge, they can begin a life of obedience to these commandments, which begins with repentance. When investigators repent and make changes to their lives, they show that they are ready to enter into the baptismal covenant with the Lord.
In Doctrine & Covenants 20:37 we read,
“And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.”
For further reference, see also the conversion of people in the Book of Mormon as described in Moroni 6.
The missionaries play a very important role in this entire process. Not only are they teachers, but they are guides in helping people to repent. Repentance involves more than changing one’s actions: an individual must plead with God in prayer for forgiveness and strength. The missionaries help with that as well: by directing, encouraging and supporting.
I would like to encourage anyone who needs help with repentance to contact the missionaries serving in your area.