I spent three months trying to write a talk to adequately convey how special my husband's baptism was. And I've spent the next six weeks trying to figure out how to blog about it. I feel I fell horribly short on both accounts. My sweetheart asked me to give the talk on Baptism. What a better way to describe the day, then to share my words:
I’ve thought about this day for so very long. I’ve pondered and prayed hard about what to say… How can I adequately express the true feelings of my heart as my husband enters the sacred waters of baptism? I pray that the Spirit can take over and will speak to you when my words are inferior.
The student in me attacks a topic such as Baptism with the basic questions, Who, What, When, Where, How & Why. Since I don’t have three hours to talk to you today, I thought I could narrow it down to Who, What, Why & How, and I should be able to cover all of the bases.
Who needs baptism? Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 states, “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.”
Who needs baptism? “All.” At the close of the Book of Mormon, as Moroni testifies, he pleads to all who will read or hear his words, “Yea come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him.” (Moroni 10: 32) How can we be made perfect? Christ counseled Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In order for us to become perfect, in order for us to come unto Christ and see the kingdom of our Father, we must be baptized. Nicodemus didn’t understand, he asks Christ, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Everyone has been commanded to Come Unto Christ, through His teachings, we know that in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, we must be baptized.
This leads us into “What”. We now know that everyone must be... But what is baptism?
Baptism is an ordinance. An ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. In a talk entitled “Ordinances and Covenants” Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander gave this definition, “In a very broad sense, everything ordained and established by God’s authority with the intent that it be applied in the lives of His children may be referred to as His ordinances. Consequently, the commandments, statutes, decrees, and requirements of God are properly defined as the ordinances of God. Understood in a somewhat narrower sense, ordinances are also solemn acts or ceremonies that have very specific sacred and holy purposes, significance, and meaning.”
He further explained, “Sacred ordinances and the divine authority to administer them did not begin with the Restoration of the gospel and the founding of the modern Church in 1830. The sacred ordinances of the gospel as requirements for salvation and exaltation were “instituted from before the foundation of the world.” They have always been an immutable part of the gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.”
So what is baptism? It is an ordinance performed by the proper authority that has a very sacred and holy purpose. What is that purpose?
Elder Neuenschwander explained, “Sacred gospel ordinances are the gateway to solemn covenants with God. Ordinances and covenants can hardly be understood apart from each other. By ordinances we enter into covenants, and by covenants we receive the ordinances.”
When we participate in the ordinance of baptism, it is to make a covenant. A covenant is an outward expression of our inward commitment. Or, a two way promise. We promise God that we will do something, and he promises us blessings in return.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma teaches the Nephites about the covenant they will make when they are baptized. He leads those he is teaching to the Waters of Mormon, and as he looked at the waters, he asks, “As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-“ (Mosiah 18:8-9)
So we covenant with God to mourn with those that mourn, comfort others, keep his commandments, and stand as witnesses of God. And we are promised eternal life.
How are we baptized? One of the best descriptions of how we are baptized, and the symbolism of the ordinance, can be found in the New Testament. Paul counseled the Romans, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6: 3-6)
The root of the word Baptism is Greek; it means to dip or immerse. We are immersed in the water by someone who has the authority of Jesus Christ or, the priesthood.
Typically we focus on the fact that we are “raised” by the glory of our Father. But I also like to think about the symbolism of being buried in the water. When we make the commitment to be baptized, our wicked self must die. We allow our sins to wash away and our wickedness to take place in that death. As we are brought up out of the water, we leave our sins and our wickedness behind. We are clean.
This leads us to why. Why must we be baptized? We know it is a commandment, Christ said in 3 Nephi 11, “ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”
So we are baptized because it is a commandment. We are baptized to be cleansed of our sins and to enter into the Kingdom of God.
President Hinckley related this story about President Joseph F. Smith… “Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith, who was the brother of the Prophet Joseph and was martyred with him in Carthage… At the age of 15 he was called on a mission to Hawaii...
Hawaii was not a tourist center then. It was populated by the native Hawaiians, who were, for the most part, poor but generous with what they had. He learned to speak their language and to love them. While serving there he experienced a remarkable dream. I quote from his narrative concerning this. Said he:
“I was very much oppressed [when I was] on a mission. I was almost naked and entirely friendless, except [for] the friendship of a poor, benighted … people. I felt as if I was so debased in my condition of poverty, lack of intelligence and knowledge, just a boy, that I hardly dared look a … man in the face.
“While in that condition I dreamed [one night] that I was on a journey, and I was impressed that I ought to hurry—hurry with all my might, for fear I might be too late. I rushed on my way as fast as I possibly could, and I was only conscious of having just a little bundle, a handkerchief with a small bundle wrapped in it. I did not realize … what it was, when I was hurrying as fast as I could; but finally I came to a wonderful mansion. … I thought I knew that was my destination. As I passed towards it, as fast as I could, I saw a notice [which read B-A-T-H], ‘Bath.’ I turned aside quickly and went into the bath and washed myself clean. I opened up this little bundle that I had, and there was [some] white, clean [clothing], a thing I had not seen for a long time, because the people I was with did not think very much of making things exceedingly clean. But my [clothing was] clean, and I put [it] on. Then I rushed to what appeared to be a great opening, or door. I knocked and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said: ‘Joseph, you are late.’ Yet I took confidence and [replied]:
“ ‘Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!’
We know that no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God, thus our Savior who loves us, and wants us to return to him, has commanded us to be baptized. When we are baptized, we are welcomed as a member of His church. President James E. Foust stated, “The baptismal gate opens the way for additional covenants and blessings through priesthood and temple blessings.” God is a God of order, a God of love. He desires to bless us, and pleads with us to come unto him. “The very fact that you have felt the Spirit and received the doctrine of Christ makes you someone special. For the Lord himself said of you, “Mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7.)”
So here you are, embarking on a new journey as a valued and trusted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord said, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” You have entered into that gate and are on a course that will take you back to his presence.
He has given you the precious gift of the Holy Ghost, which will keep your testimony untarnished and lead you into all truth if you follow its promptings. He has given you his church and kingdom upon the earth so you can be instructed more perfectly in the ways of the Lord. You have been given the help and companionship of priesthood leaders and fellow Saints so that you can learn and grow together and help each other “hold fast to the rod” that leads to eternal life.
And finally, he has put you into a world filled with great numbers of his other children. Children who “are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”
It is your example that will show them the way. It is the spirit that radiates from you that they will feel and thereby recognize the good and the true. It is through your efforts that this great experience of the gospel of Jesus Christ will come to these wonderful people. Like the city on the hill, your light burns brightly.
And so to you, the new member… your ship has arrived at a safe and peaceful harbor. And to you, the newest star in the firmament, we say welcome.
I testify that this gospel is true. That Christ is indeed our Savior; that we cannot enter into His kingdom except by baptism. That today, you are truly being baptized into His church. I know that He loves you, and He is so proud of you. The blessings and doors being opened up to you are innumerable. The Lord has promised that if we keep his commandments, He will “open up the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” I testify that our Savior lives; that through His holy prophets, he guides this church today. Of these things I bear witness, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.