This week in Sunday school we studied the prophet John The Baptist, and how he fulfilled his unique mission to prepare the people for Jesus Christ – through repentance and baptism.
“Repentance is not the backup plan; it IS the plan!” – Elder Neil L. Andersen
At the conclusion of the class, our teacher invited us to think of our own baptism, write it down, and share with our loved ones. Here is mine.
January 25, 1975
Turning eight years old as a Latter-day Saint means reaching the age of accountability, and usually eligible for baptism. As a core tenet of our faith, I had been prepared and looking forward to this day as long as I could remember.
“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.” – Article of Faith 4
As an accomplished seamstress, my mother made a beautiful white baptismal dress for the special event.
Fun fact: This dress has become a family heirloom, handed down through the decades for each daughter and granddaughter’s baptism.
As an ordained High Priest in the Melchizedek priesthood – and my father figure at the time – Grandpa “Red” Christensen was worthy to perform the ordinance. We used the font at our nearby chapel. In attendance as I recall were our two faithful home-teachers acting as witnesses, my Primary teacher, and my family; consisting of Mom, younger sister & brother, Grandma June, 14-yr-old Uncle Dallis (more like my big brother, since we were just 6 years apart), and Great-Grandma Carrie – all the way from Bear River City!
The water was warm as I walked carefully down the big steps into the font. I was tiny, and it was deep! But, Grandpa was waiting there in his white jumpsuit with a smile and held me tightly so I wouldn’t float away.
While Grandpa said the prayer, I was nervously trying to remember how to hold my breath, pinch my nose, and bend my knees just like we had practiced! What if I forgot, and choked or even drowned? Oh no! Had anyone ever drowned being baptized!? Suddenly, it was time! Breathe, Pinch, Bend!… under, up, I did it! I waded back through the water and walked up the stairs where Mom was waiting to wrap me up in a big towel hug.
The ladies room felt like an icebox as I carefully peeled off my wet layers. But, before I could finish changing, Grandma rushed in to say the witnesses just realized Grandpa had held up the wrong arm when he said the prayer. It is very important every detail of a sacred ordinance is performed exactly correct, so, I needed to be baptized again.
Perhaps I was not too eager to take my warm dry things off and put my cold dripping wet baptismal dress back on. So, Mom sweetened the deal – offering a positive perspective;
“Just think, Holly! How many people get to be baptized TWICE on the same day? You’ll be double blessed forever now, and have such a great story to tell!”
Thankfully, the water felt just as warm the second time, and Grandpa was waiting there for me again. With a twinkle in his eye, he took my hand and whispered conspiratorially “Hey gal, I guess we get to do this again! You okay with that?” I grinned and nodded. This time, I wasn’t nervous. I knew what to expect, and was confident I would not drown. I was able to listen carefully to each word of the baptismal prayer pronounced in Grandpa’s clear, authoritative voice. Then, he lowered me down under the water, and back out again, while I remembered to breathe, pinch, bend, like a pro! Woosh! Up I emerged from the water, blinking at the light like a newborn babe, and feeling so much love and joy! I’d just made my very own special promise with Jesus, a sacred covenant – performed by the Holy Priesthood of God – to be His witness; to always remember Him, to keep His Commandments, to repent when I sin, and to be a full participating member of His Church. In return, He promised to wash my sins away as I continue to repent, to open the gate so I can walk on the path toward receiving God’s greatest reward of exaltation, and to always have His spirit with me.
Afterward, our family went to the Spaghetti Factory Restaurant at Trolley Square for dinner in celebration of my covenant. (It’s still in business, all these years later).
The next day was Sunday – when the second critical half of my baptismal ordinance was performed during the main meeting – receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Grandpa Red pronounced the blessing, with other Melchizedek priesthood holders standing in the circle laying their hands gently on my head. I was pronounced an official member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and then Grandpa said “Receive the Holy Ghost.” I felt a powerful sensation – like a warm hug flowing from the top of my head down, and all around me. I cannot remember the personalized blessing Grandpa gave to me after that, but I’ll never forget that feeling of pure love, joy, and peace! ❤
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
It’s hard to believe so many decades have passed (and I think I might actually be older right now than my Grandma June was that day!). But, what remains most indelible is how I felt coming up out of the water [the second time], and when I received the Holy Ghost. Those same powerful feelings have returned over and over throughout my life to guide, warn, protect and comfort me. This is the most priceless gift of my life, and something my heart yearns for everyone to receive.
Dear Grandpa, I’m missing you so much today! And my dear sweet Grandmas! It’s good to know you’re my angels, never far away.