Today was a great day, a true treasure.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we baptize our children when they have reached the age of accountability--in other words, they should be old enough to have a firm grasp on the difference between right and wrong, and understand the commitment they are making to God when they are baptized. My third child and oldest son has reached this age and was baptized today.
It's a sweet and tender thing to take a child this age--only eight years old--and see him make a conscious choice to devote his life to following Jesus Christ. His faith is so simple and pure--he still takes most of what I say at face value, without question--yet he is also beginning to mature and peek into the deeper layers of life that escape the notice of younger children.
The baptismal service was beautiful. Grandmothers gave the opening and closing prayers. Aunts played the piano and led the singing. My daughter, his big sister, gave a brief, well-prepared message about being baptized. A beloved grandfather gave a thoughtful talk about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and the lifelong quest we have to hone and perfect the skill of listening to His guidance and direction.
In the middle of it all was a musical number, which I foolishly thought would be nice to have performed by our immediate family. So my wife and I and our six children stood in front of the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and started to sing "Families Can Be Together Forever" and my eyes started running like a faucet halfway into the first line and never stopped. My contribution to the song was a complete, mushy mess. Thankfully, the older kids kept the tune going along as my wife and I were having a hard time holding a steady note.
Since there is a lay priesthood (no professional clergy) in our church, I was able to baptize my son. Distributing the priesthood authority to perform ordinances to the fathers of the church is truly a wonderful thing--a miracle--that puts into the hands of a common man like me the responsibility and privilege of representing the Savior in blessing God's children. What a wonderful, hands-on tutorial about how to be a father!
As we changed back into dry clothes, we chatted about the experience. My son said how happy he felt and what a great day this was. I explained that the happy, warm, good feelings that confirmed his decision to be baptized came from the Holy Ghost. My emotions were still at surface level, and I told him through more tears how much these special days mean in my life--how days like today were the happiest times I have ever had.
When we finished changing, my father and brother and brothers-in-law joined me in a circle to confirm my son a member of the church of Jesus Christ, and to bestow upon him the gift of the Holy Ghost. What a wonderful privilege it was to convey this most precious gift upon a pure child, newly baptized and such an open book for the precious truths that can only be taught by the Lord's Spirit.
My wife was asked to say a few words, and shared her feelings--through tears--about what a wonderful step this is in our son's life and what a happy day it was.
After the service, our family gathered at our home for refreshments. Our son was beaming. I was beaming. My wife was beaming. Grandparents and aunts and uncles were happy. Some had driven four hours or more to be there, and had a long journey ahead of them. Some had extended their vacations to be there, delaying the 10-hour drive home far into the night in order to attend. Some had come after being up all night long at a doctor's office. Some had dressed their children in their Sunday best on a sunny, Saturday afternoon, and driven across town to attend a meeting when there were a million other things to do. Some had brought goodies to share. All had rearranged their busy schedules and taken time out of their hectic lives to come and celebrate with us.
This, truly, was family--the full, splendid meaning of the sacred word demonstrated, with every positive facet of familial love on display. My wife and I finished the day with an overwhelming sense of fullness. The gratitude we feel for these loved ones--who shower us with support, who give to us their precious time, and who come to celebrate this seminal moment with us, all the while with huge smiles on their faces and genuine joy in sharing life with us--is beyond what I can write. I can only attempt to sum it up by restating the hopeful words of the song I blubbered through earlier today:
I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them
Through all eternity.
Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan.
I always want to be
With my own family
And the Lord has shown me how I can.
On days like today, it's obvious that anything less than forever just wouldn't be enough.