My wife recently asked me to write down my memories my baptism for a book she is compiling for our kids. In the process, I realized I had never posted on this website about my childhood baptism nor the great spiritual experience I had at that time. Here goes:
My family moved from Maryland to Georgia the summer of 1984 when I was seven years old. We lived out in the country, many miles from any city, about half way between the towns of Dahlonega and Dawsonville, in the mountain of northern Georgia. There were not a lot of members of the Church in this area, in fact there was no LDS Church ward, though there was a small branch. Close to half of the members of the branch were relatives of mine on my mother’s side. For meeting facilities, the church rented a warehouse in the area, and because it wasn’t an LDS Church building, it had no baptismal font. A couple of months after we moved there, I turned 8, and in early October, on a Sunday afternoon we headed to the LDS Church building in Gainesville, GA, which did have a font, for the baptismal service. There were two other children from our branch that were baptized with me that day.
I remember being told by the Branch President that when I was baptized that I would be making a covenant or promise to Heavenly Father to obey His commandments. I was surprised when, during the actual ordinance, I wasn’t asked to verbally make that promise. I have since learned that the meeting with the branch president was that verbal commitment and the outward ordinance was then consummated when my dad, an authorized priesthood holder, said the baptismal prayer and put me under the water and raised me out again. Still, that desire to verbally hear the covenant being made at the time of baptism is perhaps why I like the baptismal prayer Alma used in the Book of Mormon:
“I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.” (Mosiah 18:13-14).
After the baptism, my dad laid his hands on my head and bestowed the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The great blessings of that gift were not immediately apparent to me, but slowly, over the years, I have gained more and more appreciation for the gift of the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead. Still, at the time my dad confirmed me a member of the Church, I felt great joy, in fact, I could not stop smiling for many minutes after the ordinance of the laying on of hands.
My dad used this moment as a teaching opportunity, and taught me that the joy I felt was from the Spirit of God and was a testament that I had made the right choice to be baptized and to commit my life to serving Christ. I have always remembered how happy I felt at that moment, and the lessons taught me by my father and confirmed by the Holy Spirit when I received those saving ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.