My Talk from my Brother’s Baptism

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.

  12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

  13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

  14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

  15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

  16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

  17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

  18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

  19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

  20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

  21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

  22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

  23 But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.

  24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

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.

  5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.

  6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.

  7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.

  8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.

  9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.

  10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

  11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

  12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

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.

But –

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.

  17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

  18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

  19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

  20 My God hath been m
y support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

  21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

  22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

  23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

  24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

  25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

  26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

  27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

  28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

  29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

  30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

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.”

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


My Talk from my Brother’s Baptism — 1 Comment

  1. Amazing talk! I'm sure it was an amazing experience for Kirk and everyone in attendance. You continue to shine with love and the Light of Christ Emily. May you always have these wonderful feelings with you forever! *Gale*