What I Told My Daughter on the Day of Her Baptism

A few months ago, my daughter was baptized. I’ve known since I was nine years old that I would struggle with having no part in the baptism ceremonies of my children. As we prepared for the baptism, I looked for different ways in which I could play a part. My request to conduct the ceremony was denied and I decided not to escalate the issue. I spoke with Exponent blogger Caroline at the Exponent II retreat in September and her advice guided me toward what my soul hungered for: to make the baptism a space where my husband and I were both acknowledged as spiritual leaders in our family. I wrote myself into the program, speaking at the very end. The following are my remarks.

Today I want to talk to you a little about courage. In our family, we’ve talked about how words come from older words and how words change over time to mean different things. I’m going to tell you a little bit about where the word courage comes from and how it has changed. We think of courage as about doing big, scary things that get lots of attention. But if you look at the history of the word, it means something a little different. Courage comes from an old French word “corage” which means “heart” or “innermost feelings.” It comes from the Latin word “cor” which meant  inner strength.” The original meaning of the word “courage” was “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.”

We named you Cora for several reasons. The first is that we loved your great-grandmother, Cora Gertrude, and wanted to honor her. The second is because of what your name means. In French, the word heart is coeur. In Spanish, the word is corazon. I just told you that the Latin word cor means “innermost strength or heart.” Coeur, corazon, cor–do you all of those sound like “Cora” to you? Your name comes from the same words that built the word “courage” and your name can remind you every day that you have a strong, compassionate heart.

Today, you were baptized. Fulfilling the promises you made at baptism takes courage. When we’re baptized, we promise to take upon us the name Christ, always remember Him, keep His commandments, and stand as a witness of God. Scripture tells us that we also promise to bear one another’s burdens and mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Showing love to others takes a special kind of courage. It’s hard to love people you don’t always like, or mourn with people who have made choices you don’t agree with. That’s when you have to think about corage–about using your whole heart. That kind of courage requires speaking from your heart.

We have help from God in this work. Psalms 31:24 tells us, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”

I have a present for you. There are two necklaces here. The first necklace is for you. You can wear it to remind yourself that you have a strong heart. I have watched you for more than eight years, and I know that you have a strong heart. You are a kind, generous person. But sometimes you might need reminding, so this necklace will help with that.

The second necklace has a hole in it. Can you see it? The hole is in the shape of a heart. When you were born, my former Young Women’s leader sent me a card saying, “Having a child means to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” Do you know what that means? It means that when someone has a child, they love that child so much that it feels like a piece of them, one of the very deepest parts of them, is inside that child. So I’m going to wear this necklace, because this piece of my heart, the one that is missing right here, is carried by you. And I’m going to wear this necklace to remind you of that. I want it to remind you that your dad and I love you so much that you carry a part of our hearts around all the time.

You might face some hard things in your life and so today I’m giving you a mother’s blessing to remind you of what you should do when you face those hard things. First, I bless you to remember that you are courageous. You are Cora of the Big Heart, and you are strong and good. You have your name and your necklace to remind you of that.

Second, I bless you to remember the necklace I wear and remember that you carry some of my heart. If you ever need it, I’ll lend you some of my courage. And listen: it’s not just my heart you carry with you. It’s Dad’s too. And who else? Your grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and all the other people in this room. We all love you and are here for you. And who else? You carry a piece of Jesus’ heart as well. He loves you even more than I do, which is hard for me to imagine. And who else? Our Heavenly Parents–our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They love you most of all, and they’ve given you the best gift of all today–the gift of the Holy Ghost–so that they can share their hearts–their courage and inner strength–with you. So if you ever need some extra courage, you can call on the Holy Ghost to lend you a piece of the hearts of your Heavenly Parents.

With all those hearts to carry with you, I know you can face any challenge, any hard thing in your life, with courage, love, compassion, faith, hope, and charity. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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15 Responses

  1. Kirsten says:

    Margaret, this is so beautiful…

  2. Diane Villafane says:

    How very beautiful these words are. 😀

  3. M says:

    Sat here in my car crying with gratitude for this post. My daughter will be baptised early next year and my heart has been sore with how to reconcile my invisibility as a mother in this, and other, significant ordinances in her life.

    Thank you for such a gracious and beautiful example.

    • margaretoh says:

      M, this means so much to me. I’m so glad my thoughts could give you a little bit of light. I hope you feel wisdom and grace as you move forward with your daughter’s baptism.

  4. Liz says:

    This made me all teary. What a gorgeous gift you’ve given her (your words and the necklace).

  5. Ashley says:

    So lovely that I am weeping as I read this. It’s given me much to think about as I contemplate blessing my daughter. Thank you.

  6. Andrea R-M says:

    Oh, Margaret, this is so beautiful and so empowering.

  7. Heather says:

    This is inspired and gorgeous.

  8. Kris says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  9. Marta says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  10. Spunky says:

    This is divine! I can’t bring myself to have my youngest daughter baptised yet. Your post has given me some courage should we choose to allow her to be baptised. Thank you.

  11. margaretoh says:

    Thanks for your too-generous words, everyone. I hesitated for a while sharing this essay because it was so close to my soul, but it makes me really happy to hear that it has given women some ideas baptisms and blessings.

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