Baptism, Buddha, and Eternal Bonds
My oldest child was baptized a year ago. It was a decision I struggled with the year leading up to the occasion. Having been “Mormon” in every sense of the cultural word my whole life, I very much identify as LDS and very much love my community there. And yet there are many teachings and practices that deeply trouble me. My concerns feel amplified as my children grow and I am more conscientious about what I teach them. I cannot easily ignore comments like the one from this past Sunday, warning to “beware of the false doctrine that says love is the most important thing and it doesn’t matter what religion you are.” I don’t believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church, but if I am going to stay in this organization and have my children participate, I need to find the strength to worship according to the dictates of my own conscience so they can learn to do the same.
Here is the talk I gave at her baptism, highlighting a core tenet for me – that we are all divine.
To begin, I’m going to tell you a story of a giant, clay statue of Buddha. It was made in Thailand hundreds of years ago, but needed to be moved. As you can imagine, it’s a tricky thing to move something so big and heavy and in the process it got cracked. When a monk went to examine the damage, he saw something glimmering through the crack. They removed the clay to reveal a statue made of pure gold.
Do you remember the activity we did one day where I gave you a play-doh people and you chipped away the clay to reveal candy? Do you remember the question I had for you? Are you clay or candy? Sometimes we might feel like or say we are clay, but that doesn’t change the truth of our divinity. We are pure gold!
There are a lot of symbols of baptism. One I hope you’ll remember is how the gospel can help us remove the clay so we remember our true nature.
In the Book of Mormon Alma goes through a transformation. He then teaches a group of people about Christ and asks if they want to be baptized. These are his words:
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.
When you get baptized you are making a covenant. Your Heavenly Parents will pour out their spirit. God will help you feel love through the spirit which may come in many different ways.
You promise to this community that you will help to chip away the clay and reveal our true nature. I see you do this already when you make sure everyone is included, when you “mourn” with the baby, give me a hug every morning, or help your siblings with their projects.
Alma talked about standing as a witness of God at all times. That doesn’t always look like going up to someone and saying, “You are a child of God!” or “You’re candy, not clay!” More often it’s mourning with those that mourn and bearing one another’s burdens, being a friend, showing forgiveness, being patient with people. Basically doing what Jesus would do.
When you think about this day I want you to remember three things.
- Your Heavenly Parents love you
- You are “candy”! Nothing can change that.
- As you become a disciple of Christ you can try every day to do what He would do and treat and remind others that they are “candy” too.
On my daughter’s wall hangs a quote by Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. She said,
“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.”
Jemison’s words pulsed through my mind recently after a particularly challenging run in with a Mormon “authority.” I captured my feelings in this poem:
I am bound to you.
You to me.
We to each other.
Tied together through our divinity
Cords of ancestry
Cords of stories.
But I am not bound to your ideas.
I am free to let go of limits
I am not bound to believe
In my smallness
I can walk away
From the abuse
Holding to one thing only:
We are connected.
Bound together forever.
While I do not yet know where my road will take me, I try to remember that I am candy – not clay – and I can choose how I participate in a system that might try to tell me otherwise. I can refuse to answer inappropriate temple recommend questions or decide not to do an interview at all. I can step away or advocate for change. I hope, above all else, that I can be a witness of the goodness within each of us and like my kids say at the end of a yoga session: There is light inside of me. There is light inside of you. Together we are one.