Wednesday, March 21, 2012

baptism talk

This year I'm teaching the kids that are 7-8 year in our Primary. On Saturday, I gave my first talk at one of their baptisms. The student getting baptized was one of my most reverent, responsible, kind, and honest girls in my class and I was so honored that she would ask me to speak. Instead of doing the standard "this is what baptism is" talk (I knew from our talks and lessons in class that she already knew these things) I decided to talk a little bit more about how being baptized makes you an official member of the church and as such ties you to everyone else in the history of the world who is also a member of the church. I took my iPad and Braed made me a little slide show of photos of the people I talked about, which I displayed during the talk on one of those picture easel things. You know: Relief Society style. Anyway, here's the talk, pictures added for your viewing pleasure:

When we are baptized we become members of Jesus Christ’s church and commit to follow him. Our sins are forgiven and, if we continue to keep the commandments, we qualify for entrance into the celestial kingdom. We remember and renew these covenants when we take the Sacrament each Sunday. 

When we are baptized we are adopted into Jesus’s family: we take his name upon us. This doesn’t mean that your name will change, but it means that now your name is a part of Jesus’s family tree. It is important that you strive to honor this new family in your actions and choices. That may seem overwhelming when you think about striving to be perfect, like Jesus was, but even though perfection is not possible—that’s why we have the gift of the Atonement that lets us repent when we make mistakes—you have examples all around you of what it means to be Christ-like. You are following in the footsteps of Jesus and countless other people as you make the choice to be baptized today.

Jesus was baptized by immersion by his cousin, John the Baptist. Jesus was perfect and did not need to be baptized to become clean, but he did it to be an example to us of what we need to do. After prophesying that Jesus Christ would be baptized, the prophet Nephi asked, “And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (2 Ne. 31:5). Heavenly Father was very pleased with Jesus’s choice, just as he is pleased with your choice to be baptized today.

After Jesus and his apostles died, the authority to baptize was lost from the earth. This authority was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist. He appeared to them as an angel and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood. Then they went into a nearby river and Oliver baptized Joseph, then Joseph baptized Oliver. This was the new beginning of baptism by immersion with the proper authority.

Emma Smith was the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She was the first general president of the Relief Society and organized the very first church hymn book. She was baptized by Oliver Cowdery on June 28, 1830. She was also one of the witnesses of the golden plates. She reported that she felt them through a cloth, traced the pages through the cloth with her fingers, heard the metallic sound they made as she moved them, and felt their weight. In D&C 25 Emma Smith is called “an elect lady whom I [meaning the Lord] have called.” Emma is one of your church ancestors, someone who your baptism into the church today links you to.

Eliza R. Snow was the second general president of the Relief Society and helped establish the first Young Women and Primary organizations in the church. The Prophet Brigham Young called her a Priestess, Prophetess, and Presidentess. She was without a doubt one of the most influential people in the early church. She is another great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother to us in the church.

Eliza moved to Ohio with her family when she was two, and met the Prophet Joseph Smith there when she was twenty-seven years old. She was baptized a member of the church a few years later. She taught her younger brother about the church and he was baptized. His name was Lorenzo Snow and he later became the fifth President of the Church. Because Eliza had made the choice to be baptized, she was able to teach other people about the gospel and influence those around her for good.

President Thomas S. Monson, our current prophet, was baptized when he was eight. He remembers his baptism this way: “I recall the time I approached baptism, when I was eight years of age. My mother talked with me about repentance and about the meaning of baptism; and then, on a Saturday in September of 1935, she took me on a streetcar to the Tabernacle baptistery… At the time it was not as customary as it is now for fathers to baptize their children, since the ordinance was generally performed on a Saturday morning or afternoon, and many fathers were working at their daily professions or trades. I dressed in white and was baptized. I remember that day as though it were yesterday and the happiness I felt at having had this ordinance performed.” (Tabernacle Memories, Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, April 2007) President Monson is a great example we have today of someone who made the choice early in his life to be baptized and it has influenced all the righteous choices he has made since then.

I was baptized 17 years ago this month. I remember being dressed in a white dress and my hair was curled. I sat on the front row of the Relief Society room (that was where our font was) while my primary teacher gave a talk about baptism. She gave me a blue ribbon with a key on it and explained to me that baptism was the first key to start me on the path to eternal life. I wore that key around my neck until the ribbon wore out. When it was time for the ceremony my dad led me into the water. I don’t remember if it was hot or cold, just that I felt safe with my dad there and that I felt that what I was doing was right. After I changed out of my wet clothes I re-entered the room and sang a musical number with my brothers and some friends from Primary. My piano teacher accompanied us as we sang, “I Like to Look For Rainbows.” That song has held a special place in my heart ever since: whenever I hear it, it reminds me of my baptism.

The choice you are making today to be baptized is a great one. And the best part is that you are not alone. Not only do you have a family with great parents that support you and can help guide you in the gospel, but you also have the examples of many, many others in the scriptures, in church history, in our ward, and in this very room to show you what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to take Christ’s name upon you. You can always look to these people for guidance, as well as to Heavenly Father through prayer, throughout your life. If you honor your covenants, and strive to do what's right, you will be blessed.

I was surprised how many people came up to me afterwards (and at church the next day) to tell me how much they appreciated me including so many women. Braeden and I read an article a while ago about how when women are equally represented in a group, they are seen as being over-represented. For a group to be perceived as equal women usually make up only a third of a group, with men making up the other two-thirds. Isn't that fascinating? I mean, sad, but also fascinating. Anyway, I felt like this was a perfect case study. Men and women were equally represented in my talk—3 men (Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, President Monson) and 3 women (Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and me)—but everyone commented on how great it was that I included so many women. (Side note: was it slightly pompus of me to include myself along with all these great, church-famous people? Maybe. But whatchagonnadoboutit?)

I don't mean to point fingers at my audience and say that they are clueless mysogonists, because I don't believe that to be true one bit. What I am saying is that, surprising no one, we have a drastic under-representation of women in our church. We do not need to be in Relief Society or Young Women's to talk about women.


Anonymous said...

Great talk! I hope you don't mind if I used some! :) Thanks a bunch!

Anonymous said...

We are roman catholic and have a daughter whom we adopted when she was 13,just before her 14th birthday.We baptized her by immersion,then to symbolize her new life and her purity and innocence,after the baptism,we dressed her in the traditional white,poofy,knee length dress with a matching bonnet,lace anklets and white shoes.we did a cloth diaper and rubber pants under the dress to add to her purity and then brought her out and she was presented to the congregation.We had a party for her after wards and everyone thought she looked very pure and infant like.