Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Baptism

My oldest son's baptism was last Saturday and it was a wonderful experience. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we baptize our children at the age of eight, since it has been revealed that the age of eight is when a child becomes "accountable" for their actions. Children who are younger than that need not repent nor be baptized; should they die before turning eight, they would be taken directly home to that God who gave them life. It is a beautiful doctrine outlined in Moroni Chapter 8 in The Book of Mormon. In verse eight of that chapter, it reads:

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin...

So it is that at the age of eight, we baptize our children. Before this happens, a child is interviewed by the leader of the local congregation of the church, called a bishop. He sits with the child and asks him or her questions about baptism, generally to determine if the child understands what it is that he or she is about to do. The following is an excerpt from the entry on baptism on the website:

Faith in Jesus Christ and repentance prepare you for baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ taught by example that everyone must be baptized of water and of the Spirit (the Holy Ghost) for the remission, or forgiveness, of sins. Through baptism by one who holds priesthood authority and through receiving the Holy Ghost, you can be spiritually reborn.

When you have repented, and are baptized and confirmed by one with the priesthood authority given by God, you receive a remission of your sins (Acts 2:38). You make a covenant, or promise, with God to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, to follow Him, and to keep His commandments. In return, He promises to forgive your sins and let you return to live with Him, provided you keep your covenants. You are briefly immersed in water, as Jesus Christ was baptized. Baptism by immersion is a sacred symbol of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it represents the end of your old life and the beginning of a new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We must be baptized to become members of the restored Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints —- and to eventually enter the kingdom of heaven. This ordinance is a law of God and must be performed by His authority.

My son, during the interview, knew all of this, and I'm certain the bishop was very surprised that he was able to rattle off all the answers (not just one or two!) without any difficulty. In fact, afterwards the bishop told me that he had never before interviewed a child so well prepared to be baptized. It might've been something he tells everybody, but if you knew my son, it wouldn't surprise you at all. It was a "proud dad" moment.

In any case, the day of the baptism, we went over a little early to the building where the baptism was to be held. As a priesthood holder in the church and as his father, it was my privilege to baptize him. The ordinance itself is done with the participants dressed in all white (unless impractical to do so -- there's no hard-and-fast rules about that), and I had white clothes available to wear. My son, however, didn't, so he borrowed a white "jumpsuit" to be baptized in.

We had a brief prayer meeting beforehand, then went in to the chapel of the church building we were in and sat down with the three other children who were being baptized -- all dressed in white. The service was pretty straightforward. We began with a song and a prayer, and had a few talks on the topic of baptism and the Holy Ghost.

Between talks, my wife and daughter had been asked to sing a song. Standing up by the pulpit, I was nervous that my daughter would get scared, but she sang beautifully, as did my wife. The two of them were so beautiful up there, sharing their talents and singing a hymn about baptism. I was so proud of them.

When all that was done, my son and I went to the baptismal font where we watched the other three children being baptized first (we were scheduled last). Then it was our turn. We went into the water, I held him in the usual pose, said the baptismal prayer, and then I dunked him (in the most reverent way possible, of course). It was a beautiful and simple ordinance.

He came out of the water all smiles, and after looking to the two witnesses (thanks dad-in-law and brother-in-law!) who were watching to ensure that he had gone all the way under, I pulled the plug in the baptismal font to drain the water, we got out, and we changed into dry clothes.

Once we were changed back into our church clothes, we went back to the chapel where everybody was singing children's church songs while waiting for us to arrive. Once we were there, each of the four children had the opportunity to be confirmed a member of the church. As before, we were last, but that was fine.

Again, it was my privilege to confirm him a member of the church and to bestow upon him the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This is done by "the laying on of hands" -- priesthood holders who are participating place their hands on the head of the person who is being confirmed. I was also able to pronounce a blessing on him at that time.

Throughout, my son was well-behaved, understood what he was doing, and was excited about it. It's wonderful to see him progress in his life, and even though it's scary that he's now responsible for his own sins, it is good that he is willing to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized. I hope as he continues to mature that he will develop a steadfast desire to keep the commandments and follow that example.

What a great experience!

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