Voices from the Exponent Backlist: Planning a Child’s Baptism
Last year about this time, I began planning my almost-eight-year-old’s baptism. I’m a huge fan of religious rituals that welcome children into the community–I love a Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, a Roman Catholic infant baptism, a Mormon baby blessing, etc. I think these rituals build our children and build our communities.
But, I didn’t want my son to feel like his choice to be baptized made him better than anyone else. We have family and friends who have chosen to not be affiliated with the Church, and he had questions about that. Why was his choice to be baptized a good one? Why were other peoples’ choices not to be Mormon just as valid? Difficult conversations, those were (and will continue to be). However, they helped me frame how I wanted his baptism…as a gift from his community to show their love and the love of our Heavenly Parents’ love. After all, the covenants we make at baptism are simple and beautiful: we become members of our community, we take on the name of Christ, and we promise to keep the commandments, including helping each other and serving God.
On our backlist, one of our permabloggers has a friend whose child is getting baptized. She asked for help finding a reading that would be meaningful to her, as someone with beliefs that differ from her mainstream Mormon family, that would also be comfortable for those in attendance. Here are some suggestions from our backlist:
Libby: I gave the Holy Ghost talk for B’s baptism and focused it on what the gift will mean for her. It ended up being very personal and meaningful, and I was able to say a lot of things that in another context I might not have been able to.
Jana: I would probably use the lyrics of one of the sweet primary songs as a springboard for discussing love (a parents’ love and a heavenly parents’ love).
Brooke: I really felt that when M was preparing to get baptized 5 years ago, I was also doing a lot of mental gymnastics. And I was continually questioning his choice–literally asking him why he wanted to do it, etc. His answers were so innocent (and superficial)–and reminded me how young he was and how little he knew–that I felt better about it. The whole thing wasn’t so heavy on my mind anymore.
TopHat: When my daughter was 4 she came to me crying because they had been learning the “I like to look for rainbows…” song in Primary for the program and she was upset about it. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I don’t want my sins washed away!” which is from the second verse. I don’t think she quite understood what “sin” was, but I also felt that she was worried that a part of her would be gone. I told her, “You are 4. You have no sins and so you don’t need them washed away.” I’ve been to baptisms where a huge part of the “baptism” talk is about being “clean” and sins “washed away” from children not capable of making any sin. While my daughter won’t be 8 for a couple more years, I want to make sure that the focus of her baptism is her desire to be good and kind like Jesus and not sins she’s never committed. I think the desire to “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” is beautiful and is what baptism should be focused on.
For those that would like more gender inclusive ritual/baptism experiences, perhaps these stories from our Mormon feminist friend Lorie will be inspiring: “I participated in all of my children’s church rituals. We blessed our children at home and so my husband and I and all of the grandparents stood in the circle. My husband did the official blessing, and I added a mother’s blessing. The baptisms were a bit more difficult, as they were public events. I arranged with my bishop and stake president to stand next to the font when my children were baptized and then stood with my husband as he confirmed them. My then 3-year-old daughter got away from her handlers during my son’s confirmation. She ran up to the front and placed her hands on my husband’s hands as he did the confirmation.”
EmilyCC: I was worried about my oldest’s actual baptismal day (I was surprised at the sudden and difficult feelings of sadness I experienced on my baby’s blessing day because I felt like I had no good place in her blessing), but I was surprised how much peace I felt and a spiritual presence throughout the day.
I sent invites to our close friends in the ward (not the whole ward) because our ward only announces baptisms in Primary and to our close friends (Mormon, post-Mormon and never-Mormon). I sent invites to a handful of school friends and to his teacher.
My son’s teacher and principal came to the baptism, which still chokes me up a bit. His teacher was honored to be asked and brought her best friend, the principal, with her. While many of our ward friends weren’t able to make it, I am still touched by so many of my post-Mormon friends who made the effort (and the drive!) to attend.
I felt fortunate that my bishop and my son’s Primary president are good friends of our’s. I knew they would give lovely talks at the baptism. We did make sure that we coordinated our baptism date with our bishop’s schedule. If someone has a specific bishopric member they’d prefer to preside and speak at the baptism, I would recommend asking him and coordinating schedules.
I’m not sure if Primary presidents are required to speak in other wards. I’ve been to some friends’ baptisms where they haven’t, but anyone who know me knows that I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to have a woman leader in the program! So she did a brief talk on being a child of God.
My kids’ grandparents all live nearby, so we had each grandma give the baptism and Holy Ghost talks. My dad baptized my son, and my spouse did his confirmation.
I had to think for a while about how I would participate. It is hard for me as someone who has baptized children of other faiths to not be able to baptize or bless my child. I decided that I would bear my testimony in the program and put myself after his confirmation.
I pondered what I would say the week before and used 1 Corinthians 13 to study as I thought about this part of the program. I bore my testimony of the spiritual gifts that I have witnessed my son display. I bore my testimony of the Church and the love of God for all God’s children. I bore my testimony of the power of community and quoted Mosiah 18:8-10.
In the past, we had a Primary president who would pass out notecards to all the people at the baptism and have them write a note to the child–whatever they wanted to write about. I had people do this for my son while he and my dad changed. Small children drew pictures, family and friends wrote lovely notes to him. We didn’t give any direction and they are beautiful. My son loves that little notebook, and a year later, I often find it near him on his bed after he’s fallen asleep at night.
Because we had so many non-members and people from far away coming, we provided lunch. I wanted to provide lunch though I know some wards look down on that. We had a Mormon-owned sub shop cater because they do hokey and completely adorable subs in the shape of the number 8. I got a Costco cake with a rainbow on it for dessert (“I Like to Look for Rainbows”) and as a nod to LGBT inclusiveness. (I actually wanted to do a whole awesome rainbow-themed baptism, but my spouse thought it might be too in-your-face for some of our more conservative family members and friends. He was probably right.)
My spouse went on Pinterest and designed the program (see the picture above). We had lengthy discussions about how we would do this baptism and a lot of thought and prayer went into this special day. I felt peaceful and I felt the Spirit on that day. I hope my son did, too.
What meaningful rituals, readings, or ideas have you done or seen done at baptisms?