Saturday was my oldest child’s baptism. He asked me to talk about baptism at his baptismal program. I decided to share the talk here.
In Matthew in the New Testament, Jesus said “Be ye perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.”
In Greek, the word translated here as perfect (τέλειος) means “whole” or “complete.”
When the New Testament was written, people believed that everything around us was made up of 4 elements: earth, water, wind, & fire. To be complete one needed to be part of all of those elements. Every person was part of earth, because we are made “of the dust of the earth.”
The word “Spirit” in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin is the same word as “wind” or “breath.”
When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus in the book of John, he told Nicodemus that to enter into the kingdom of heaven, a man must be “born of water and of the spirit” (or wind). In baptism, you are born of water. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, you are born of the spirit and you can seek to receive the baptism of fire. This doesn’t mean you immerse yourself in fire, but that you feel a burning in your bosom, or a warm, special feeling from the spirit. So when you were physically born you were born of earth. At baptism you are born of water. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, you are born of the spirit and with the baptism of fire, born of fire.
These things are all about symbolism. You have several different aspects of your life: your spiritual life, mental life, physical life, social life, & so on. You can and should strive to be complete in these areas. Baptism is a major step towards being complete in your spiritual life. You are spiritually reborn.
Symbolism should help channel our thoughts and actions. The symbolism is only as helpful as you make it. We have our agency and you are the one who decides how much it will help you change your life.
Baptism has a lot of symbolism associated with it. One of the symbols of baptism is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Easter weekend we are celebrating this very thing; we celebrate Jesus laying down his mortal/unglorified body for a perfected/glorified one. Similarly, you can try to leave behind (or bury) the selfish/unkind aspects of yourself and with this rebirth strive to be loving, kind, and faithful. Another symbol of baptism is a washing away, or cleansing of those ‘natural’ aspects of yourself and from the water you emerge clean.
While this symbolism is important, let’s not forget what it is you are covenanting to do. With baptism you become a member of the church. What do you promise to do? You can read about it in Mosiah 18.
You promise to mourn with those who mourn. This means that you are empathetic, that you feel others’ sorrow with them. One of the most powerful aids which one who is suffering can receive is to know that they are not alone in their sorrows.
You promise to comfort those who need comfort. So many people in this world need comfort.
You promise to stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places. President Uchtdorf recently quoted Saint Francis of Assisi when he said “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”
You promise to bear others burdens. As you do this, we learn from King Benjamin that you are not only serving others, but you are also serving God.
Mormonism isn’t about people doing things on their own. It is one of the few Christian faiths that believes that not only can we not be alone, but we must be bound/sealed to each other for exaltation. Joining the church is like joining a family. It is becoming a part of this body of Christ, striving to act as He would in serving & loving, mourning and comforting. If this is your desire, then come, be born again; join the family of Christ and become his child. Be part of his seed and place your feet upon the mountains and publish the gospel of peace. As you strive to do this, as you strive to serve and love others, I can promise that your life will be more full, more complete, and more perfect.