Gospel Principles 20: Baptism
This lesson is particularly salient for me, as my oldest son turned 8 this summer and is preparing for baptism. My husband and I are having Baptism Prep classes with him using scriptures, videos, and stories to help him understand the importance of the the covenant he is making. With his friends getting baptized throughout the year, we’ve learned that he didn’t always separate the baptism from the event of having friends and family who come visit and celebrate.
If I were teaching this lesson, I would start by talking about my son and our journey to prepare him for baptism. You may want to invite someone from your ward, a new convert, or mother of an 8 year old, or maybe even the child, to discuss this. They can include the reason why they chose to be baptized and what their baptism means to them.
We Must Be Baptized before We Can Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost
Because I am always looking our for people who feel marginalized, I will tell a story about a friend. When she was 8, she was baptized and her Primary experience had given her an expectation that she would feel a physical change with baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. She was expecting a burning in the bosom, or a strong spirit that she’d never felt before. When that didn’t happen, she didn’t understand what was wrong with her and felt different from other church members. So instead of baptism being a wonderful experience, it was a painful experience, where she felt alone and perhaps not worthy of God’s spirit. The devastating memory of that feeling remained with her through adulthood. So, I might tell this story with the purpose of helping those who are getting baptized (and who already have been) that baptism doesn’t necessarily mean a mystical experience, although some do have that.
Discuss the different ways we felt when we were baptized may help us be compassionate for those who don’t fit the prescribed mold. This may be a good time to discuss other barriers to baptism for women in the room and how these were overcome.
The Commandment to Be Baptized
We Make Covenants When We Are Baptized
This would be my focus, as most women are probably already baptized, the focus on our covenants helps remind us what our baptisms meant then and what they continue to mean to our eternal progress.
Have a volunteer read the following from the manual:
“Alma explained that we must want to be called the people of God. We must be willing to help and comfort each other. We must stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places. As we do these things and are baptized, God will forgive our sins. Alma told the people who believed his teachings about the gospel:
“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon. … And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, … 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?” (Mosiah 18:8, 10). The people clapped their hands for joy and said it was their desire to be baptized. Alma baptized them in the Waters of Mormon. (See Mosiah 18:7–17.)”
Notice that this story takes place to a group at the waters of Mormon. Take a minute and think to yourself the answer to this question: What do you think it is about baptism that makes it important to be done in among other people like friends, family, ward-members, etc.? (We will come back to this question)
Briefly list the following on the chalkboard, seeking participation for naming these items (you can refer them to scriptures to find the answers).
Alma taught that when we are baptized we make covenants with the Lord to:
- 1. Come into the fold of God.
- 2. Bear one another’s burdens.
- 3. Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places.
- 4. Serve God and keep His commandments.
When we are baptized and keep the covenants of baptism, the Lord promises to:
- 1. Forgive our sins (see Acts 2:38; D&C 49:13).
- 2. Pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us (see Mosiah 18:10).
- 3. Give us daily guidance and the help of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:38; D&C 20:77).
- 4. Let us come forth in the First Resurrection (see Mosiah 18:9).
- 5. Give us eternal life (see Mosiah 18:9).
Does it seem possible for someone to make these promises with God without baptism? Does thinking about that question change your answer about why we are baptized in the presence of our religious community?
How does baptism create solidarity among church members?
Baptism is an individual covenant with God: we make promises, and God promises blessings. That this crucial ordinance takes place in our religious communities with witnesses, family, and friends is not an insignificant part of the rite. As saints in Zion, it is our privilege to join together on our spiritual journeys and to support others as they come to Christ. Similar to a marriage, which publicly demonstrates to the community the commitment two people share, baptism is commitment, made in public, between God and His child.
Baptism Gives Us a New Beginning
So we know that the sacrament is our weekly time to renew our baptismal covenants. Can you give me some examples of the types of things you think about during the sacrament? Honestly, the stuff you really think about. (you might give the following story or a similar one as an ice breaker before people answer the question so they can transition from the funny or mundane to the serious and sacred)
Depending on the mood of the class, I might tell this story about my 8 year old when he was 3. My husband and I were teaching our 3 year old son the meaning of the sacrament and felt quite successful that he could identify the bread as, “Jesus’ body” and the water as “Jesus’ blood.” One day during the sacrament, he picks up a piece of bread, chews on it and announces loudly, “MMMMmmm, Jesus’s BODY!” We were so embarassed.
How many times can you say that the sacrament was the most spiritual part of your sacrament meeting? What can we do to make it that way?
Does it help you to think of the sacrament as a new beginning?
Have someone read: “The Apostle Paul said that after our baptism we should begin a new life: “We are buried with him by baptism; … even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).”
Please take a moment to think of a “take-away” you have from this lesson. It can be something someone said, something you’ve read from the manual, or a bit of inspiration you felt.
If there’s time, ask for volunteers to share their “take-away.”
My take-away is how I will approach the sacrament next week. Instead of going through my list of things I didn’t do, my weaknesses and failures, I’m going to think of the sacrament as a rebirth, a new beginning for the next week where I’m going to become the person God wants me to be.
Bear testimony and close.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.