The challenge with writing the talk for my brother’s baptism was that there is, so much (of course!) that I want to teach him, and our window of opportunity – while ever opening – is still so very small.
Also, I wanted to be sure that I humbled myself before my mother, and honored her – focusing completely on what she did well as a mother, and saying nothing that would make her uncomfortable or think of hard times or difficult times or failure or anything negative. I wanted her to only hear positive things, only hear the love Heavenly Father has for her. I also wanted to address her specific issue of why we had “to get baptized again to be a mormon”.
Here, again, is the picture of me and my brother just before his baptism:
Kirk is my little brother, who is much taller than me. Sometimes I call him my “big little brother”. We are 20 months apart, and he was my best friend growing up. Our parents taught us about God, and instilled in us a love for Christ as we grew up. They were “goodly parents”.
However, we were not goodly children. Before we finished high school, we were scattered as much as the tribes of Israel, each of us enslaved in our own bondage.
Two years ago I found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through my ballroom dance teacher. Spending time at their house for my discussions with the missionaries brought back to me memories of my own family, and it made me hungry to rediscover them.
(Alma 36: 11b-24)
I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.
Almost as Alma’s father was, my mother was there when I returned from my years away. She was there with open arms that taught me of the kind of love our Heavenly Father has for each of us. He loves us individually and uniquely, and will make that known to use as much as we let Him.
My brother getting baptized today is his first step in letting Him.
We were both baptized when we were little, in another church. Kirk, always the comedian, sneezed under water… causing the preacher to drop him.
We always joked whether that baptism “took” or not, since he made such a show of it.
But what we understand now, with more pieces of the full gospel, is that any ordinance requires the proper authority and power for it to “take”. We have an understanding that this full gospel was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. We understand that what this restoration restored was the proper priesthood authority.
When the proper priesthood authority is performing an ordinance, such as baptism, it is called “exercising the keys” of that authorit
y, for it is by those keys – that authority – that we have a right to enter and may progress.
Let me tell you about Kirk and keys. When he was little, he always had these shorts that had a little hook on them. My mother says they were called “camp shorts”. He was not happy – no one was happy – we could not do anything or go anywhere – until he had a key on his shorts. My mother was always scrounging everywhere to collect old keys, so that he could hook them to his shorts. And really, these jangling keys were the only way we could keep up with him.
These silly keys he had to have were a type and shadow of what was to come, of the journey that begins today.
Kirk, there are not words to express what I feel at the realization that you will be restoring priesthood keys to our family.
It takes wisdom to sort through so much tradition to find the truth for yourself, and it takes humility to submit to being baptized again – this time by those who hold the proper keys – for it to “take”, even if you sneeze.
Baptism is one half of the first step in the process of living the gospel. It is a journey, and I will tell you that the Lord is expectantly waiting to pour His blessings over you… and He will – to the degree you seek His face. Today is only the beginning. You will get out of this as much as you put in. He will transform your life for the better to the degree you obey. While His gift is free, you must do the work to open it.
Baptism is your first covenant. You have worked hard through the repentance process, and this will continue. But already I see the fruit of this process, the evidence. One of the most profound for me to see is the softening of your heart toward me, the forgiveness you have offered, and our friendship which grows again. This is the healing of the atonement, and in no other way possible.
Since you have kept your end of the deal, through continued repentance, Heavenly Father will keep His end of the deal, which is remission of your sins. You will come out of those waters cleansed and washed clean, shinier than the yellow skin in which you were born.
Baptism is also the first step of becoming a member of the church, but it is only a step. We are a covenant people, always with more to learn and more to do as we progress along the way. Remember the dream with Jacob’s ladder, and keep climbing, one thing at a time, and then another – but always there is more. Looking for that “more” and developing it in you is work that only you can do. No one else can do it for you. But He will help you, and we will encourage you.
Mark 16:16 says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”, and both Matthew 3 and 2 Nephi 31 talk about how even Jesus, who knew no sin, was baptized – not just as an example to us, but so that His mortal body could be reunited with His spirit at resurrection, so that He could begin that journey home to His Father’s presence, that journey which you begin today.
I want to read from 1 Nephi 8 (v. 4-12):
4 But behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you; for behold, methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.
This is the joy that fills me this day.
For a year since I was baptized, I have gone to the Temple each week – not because I am good or noble, but in repentance and in some tiny way to make restitution for the destruction I caused our family while I was away. (Hold up stack of Temple cards) These are the names – only some of them – who now can partake of that fruit. Doing their work has been some very special experiences, which I hope to share with you someday.
This day, this day is a joy far greater, for you are here, humble and sincere, ready also to begin the journey yourself.
I want to read to you again the verses I shared in my testimony at your missionary discussion. It is 2 Nephi 4, starting in verse 16 (through 30):
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
y support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
I share this with you not just because it is also my testimony, but to give you a taste of how complete and precise is the atonement of Christ. The call from our Heavenly Father is always one of love, one of urging us toward repentance through the atonement so that we might become more like Him. This process never ends, and while still in this mortal life, that process applies to our everyday life – but also takes us through the Temple.
So while I celebrate with you this day, and while soon I will honor you as the priesthood leader in our family, always – always – the Holy Spirit will remind you of the Temple, prompting you forward in your progression.
Today is only the beginning – yet still, like our freshly united family, and even as you begin a new family, our Heavenly Father says, “Welcome Home.”