People often ask me what baptism is like for members of the Mormon faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). Well, it’s cool! I only know how to write what I know, so this is what it looked like for our family this weekend:
Sunday was already a special day as Christians everywhere began the celebration of The Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Palm Sunday, seven days before his resurrection, Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem.
It also happened to coincide with the day our sweet Paige was baptized.
As is the Christian custom and belief, baptism is the first step toward living with our Heavenly Father again. In the Mormon faith, there is no infant baptism as we believe babies are all born clean, pure, and without sin. By age 8, our opportunities for naughtiness increase :). Children are capable of knowing right from wrong and are able to take responsibility for their own actions, thus the need for baptism.
We have been talking about baptism for many months now, preparing Paige. It is very important to us that she knows what baptism is all about, what covenants (promises) are, what it means to “take upon us the name of Christ.”
It is amazing what a little child can understand, how close they are to spiritual matters, how soft their hearts are. There was no holding her back – she practically danced her way to church.
Earlier in the week, on her 8th birthday (my baby is eight, an unfathomable topic), the thing she most wanted was her own set of scriptures. She was very particular about the style: compact, black, snap-shut case, and her name scripted on the cover.
She did not specify a duct-tape scripture case, but that’s what she got Nelson, of course, made it for her, and she was pleased as punch. (Get your orders in now!)
As the big baptism day approached she was so excited, she could hardly sleep.
Finally, the big day arrived. My parents had flown in from Scotsdale, AZ, my twin brother drove up from New York City, and our dear Makechnie cousins arrived from Needham, MA. Yes, baptism is something so important that family members travel from far and wide.
The program is simple. Paige had made assignments weeks earlier. Grandma Heather gave an opening prayer. Brynne (10) led the music (so darling.) Brother Nelson (13) gave a short talk on what baptism means. He talked about sins feeling like heavy rocks, but because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent (say we’re sorry, try to make things right, pray for forgiveness, and try not to do it again), and that heavy load disappears.
Hearing my boy bear his testimony and share what he believes at such a young age made me teary; I caught a glimpse of the good man and missionary he can become.
Then it was time for the baptism. Paige wore a simple white dress, representing “clean” and the “washing away of all sins.”
In the Mormon faith we are baptized by “full immersion” as Jesus was. It is a sacred ceremony, but all are invited to attend and witness, whether you are a member of the church or not. Gregor performed the baptism as he did for all our children.
When Paige came out of the water she had a big smile on her face. As I helped her get changed and back into her other white dress I told her I was very proud of her and asked if she was happy. She nodded and gave me a big (wet) hug.
While she was getting changed, Paige’s cousins played the violin and the cello (awesome!) When Paige was dressed and we were seated again, her cousin Hailey (15) gave a short talk on what it means to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Wow. The talk was wonderful and I felt so grateful that my girls have such strong female role models; girls who know they are daughters of God, who have such a strong sense of self and faith.
The baptism was followed by a confirmation as Paige received “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Hailey reminded Paige that the Holy Ghost would be a comforter in her life. It would guide her as she goes through life, making important decisions, and help her recognize right and wrong.
Paige listened so earnestly and the feeling of love was strong. She was confirmed an official member of church by her Grandfather Nelson, followed by handshakes and hugs.
The “cousin choir” sang a closing song and then Cope gave a beautiful closing prayer. As Grandpa Art said, we were “brimming with joy.”
After the baptism Paige sat next to me during sacrament meeting. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “I am perfectly clean now with no sins. I’m not carrying anything heavy.”
I smiled down at her, knowing how she felt. But the greatest thing I wanted her to understand is that baptism is just the first step. There will be times she feels heavy. She will make mistakes like we all do – and it is okay. There will be heartache and missteps. Like all of us, she will feel badly. She will feel guilt. And, like all of us must do to progress, she will try to do better. That that’s what this life is all about.
When I sat down to write this post I put aside the worry and second guessing my word choices. I tried to just write what was in my heart and then go back and edit. But after, I didn’t want to go back and “fix” and make this all sound politically correct or “right.” What’s in my heart feels right, so I will leave it largely unchanged and unedited.
I am often hesitant to share my faith so publicly, for fear of criticism or misunderstanding, but you know, Jack Canfield wrote, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The more real and honest we are with each other, the more we do understand. The more open I am, I find that my fears are unwarranted; many many people not of my faith asked how Paige’s baptism went. They want to know. We are curious cats. Pepper me with questions if you like. My blog is as open book as it gets!
As I tucked Paige into bed last night she asked her usual questions and some unusual ones too…”would you still love me if…” I assured her I would love her forever. I think she’s also testing me. Now that she’s all “good” and hasn’t had time to smash the car or smack her sister, will I still love her if she messes up?
She smashed her nose to one side. “Would you love me if I looked like this?” “Would you love me if I did this…” The scenarios ranged from the innocent to the more macabre, “if I killed a squirrel…”
I assured her that there was nothing she could do to make me not love her (though perhaps I might not always like everything!) Times my love by an infinite number and that’s how much I believe God loves her and each of us individually. That love is not conditional. It is always there, waiting for us to receive it.
The scriptures say that this life is the time for “men to prepare to meet God.” Baptism is that first step. We’re so proud of you, Paige.