when our eldest son Ethan turned 8 back in Nov, he decided that he wanted to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. naturally as his parents, we were very pleased with and encouraged this decision, since we try to consistently teach all of our children the importance of living the gospel and obeying all of God’s commandments, including being baptized as members of His church. Ethan faced some opposition to his decision early on, but today, when his decision was finally fulfilled as the sacred ordinances of baptism and confirmation were performed, his whole family was in attendance to support him and the choice he made.
many people not of our faith wonder why we don’t baptize babies and instead wait until our children are at least 8 yrs of age before they can be baptized. Latter-Day Saints believe that babies and little children are innocent and without blame in the eyes of God, and that baptizing those that are without sin is a mockery (Moroni 8:9); it isn’t until children reach 8 yrs old that they are able to distinguish right from wrong (assuming they’ve been taught to make that distinction), a milestone which is also generally recognized even by secular developmental psychologists and within the LDS church is frequently referred to as “the age of accountability,” meaning that children are now old enough, and have been sufficiently instructed, to be held accountable for their own choices and actions.
other people wonder why we baptize by immersion (putting the individual being baptized completely under water) instead of just sprinkling the person’s head w/a bit of water. we believe that to truly follow the example set by Jesus Christ, whose followers we profess to be, we must be baptized as He was (see Mark 1:10, which refers to Jesus “straightway coming up out of the water” [emphasis mine]).
sometimes explaining gospel principles to children in a way that they can understand can be challenging, but I believe that the Lord helped me find the right words to say to Ethan (and to the other children who were there) – as part of the baptism service I gave a short talk about baptism, which I share here w/you now (I have to write everything out b/c I always get very nervous speaking in front of a group of people, esp when there are many people there whom I don’t know):
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(Matthew 3:13-17, KJV)
Ethan, this is a very special day for you. We’re very happy that you’ve made the decision to be baptized, and we know the Lord is pleased w/your decision as well.
Do you know what it means to be a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows and learns from someone else. The word “disciple” comes from the same very old word as “discipline,” which basically means “to stay within certain boundaries.” It’s like making sure we colour inside the lines, only w/our words and actions instead of w/crayons. By being baptized, you’re making a special promise to Heavenly Father and Jesus that you’ll colour inside the lines called the gospel, and in return, They promise you many blessings for being obedient.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never have any problems or you’ll never make any mistakes. If you’re playing a game like soccer or dodgeball, sometimes you might step out of bounds, or if you’re colouring a picture, you might accidentally go outside the lines. Some mistakes we need help to put right, but most of our mistakes we can put right ourselves by praying for forgiveness for the thing we did that was wrong, making it up to anyone who might have been hurt by what we did, and trying very hard not to make that same mistake again. Every week when we take the Sacrament, we renew the promise we make at baptism to follow Jesus and His teachings.
Being baptized today is the first major step you take to show that you want to follow Jesus’ example. Even tho’ Jesus is perfect and didn’t need baptism to cleanse Him from sin, He was baptized to set the example for us. When we are baptized as Jesus was, we are immersed in water, which means we’re put all the way under the water – this represents being buried, and any sins we’ve had are now dead, which is why we bury them; and coming up out of the water again represents being resurrected, or being brought back to life, as followers of Jesus Christ.
D&C 18:22 tells us “And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” I know that as you try to be obedient, to keep the commandments, and to follow Jesus’ example, you’ll be happy even when life is hard, and you’ll be blessed for living a righteous life.