My eight-year-old grandson recently made the decision to be baptized and confirmed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His birthday is in May, but he postponed his baptism in order for me to attend. He invited me to give a talk on baptism on his special day, and I am honored to accept his invitation. This is basically what I will say at his baptism tomorrow.
Many years ago when your mother was a small girl, I arranged for my children to receive piano lessons. My friend located a teacher who was giving group piano lessons. We enrolled our children in one of her groups, and we alternated weeks in taking the children to lessons. The children entertained themselves by singing Primary sons while we made the ten-mile drive to and from lessons.
One of their favorite songs to sing was “Baptism,” a song about the baptism of Jesus Christ. I do not know why I remember the children singing this song because I do not remember any of the other songs. This memory came back to me as I was pondering what I would say at this baptism.
The words to this song were written by Mabel Jones Gabbott (1910-2004) with music by Crawford Gates (1921). The words and music are copyrighted, so I will not include them. However, you can find them here.
This children’s song tells us that Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. Jesus was immersed in the water in order to be obedient to God’s law and to enter into the kingdom of God. When we are baptized we do so in order to show obedience to Heavenly Father and to become a member of His Church. Jesus went to John to be baptized because John held the priesthood of Aaron and had the authority to perform the ordinance. Your father holds this same priesthood authority and will perform the ordinance in the same manner as did John the Baptist with Jesus.
I know that your parents and your Primary teachers have taught you the importance of baptism. I know that they have spoken about this important decision and the covenant that you are about to make. However, I want to remind you of some of the requirements for becoming a member of the Lord’s Church.
The first requirement is that we must reach the age of accountability. Latter-day revelation says that we must be at least eight years old in order to be baptized. This means that we are capable of knowing good from evil and in choosing the right.
Another important requirement is a visit with the bishop to receive a recommendation for baptism and confirmation. The bishop asks some questions to determine if you are worthy of baptism and if you understand your decision and the consequences of it. He may even ask you to recite one or more of the Articles of Faith.
Just as there are requirements to meet before being baptized, there are certain responsibilities after baptism. Hundreds of years ago there was a prophet by the name of Abinadi who went to see wicked King Noah and his priests. His job was to call the king to repentance. Abinadi had the opportunity to teach the Ten Commandments and other gospel principles to the king and the priests. The priests did not like what Abinadi was saying, and they eventually convinced King Noah to burn Abinadi at the stake.
However, there was a young man named Alma among the priests, and he recognized that Abinadi was teaching the truth. He tried to save Abinadi by speaking up for him, but Alma was forced to flee in order to save his own life. He hid himself and started to write the words of Abinadi. We have those words in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ because Alma wrote them.
When Alma was finished writing, he started to teach the people even though he had to stay hidden from the king’s soldiers. Alma was hiding near “a fountain of pure water” in a “thicket of small trees” near the boundary of the kingdom. The people who wanted to be taught came to him there. Here are some of the words that Alma taught to the people before he would baptize them. (See Alma 18:8-10.)
8 … Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, 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;
9 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.
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
Now those words may be a little difficult for an eight-year-old child to understand, so let’s define them. Any person who desires to join the Church needs to be willing to do the following:
1. Help other people carry their burdens: This may be as simple as helping a sibling with chores.
2. Mourn with others: This means to be sad when something bad happens to others. It may mean attending funerals, such as the funerals of Uncle Lynn and Larry.
3. Comfort those who need comforting: This means to be friendly to those who are lonely, to give a hug to someone who is sad, or to cheer someone up.
4. Stand as a witness of God all the time, wherever you go, until you die: This means that you are willing to let people know that you are a member of the Lord’s Church and that you will share the gospel with others.
From this we know that baptism means more than being immersed in water. It means that we will keep God’s commandments, share His gospel, and do the things that He would do. In other words, we will follow the Savior and become like Him. These are some of the promises that we make when we are baptized.
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