Mormon Baptism

When I came out to Massachusetts for the first time to look for a place to live I had an interesting conversation with our real estate agent about baptism. He brought up the subject and was telling me about a baptism he had witnessed for a family member. The baptism was of a young baby and it was a communal baptism, he said about 5 babies were baptized at the same time. He didn’t mention the religion but he just mentioned that it didn’t seem right to him. He thought that baptism should be more personal. I told him I agreed with him and that in my church baptism was very personal.  I realized that the way we baptize in the Mormon (Latter-day Saint) Church is pretty unique.

The (not completely) unique things about baptism in our church is that first we do it by immersion. In other words, there is a large font of water and the whole body is submerged in water after a priesthood blessing. You may be thinking that it is pretty cruel to completely submerge a baby when they don’t know how to hold their breath which brings me to the next unique thing about baptism for Mormons, we don’t baptize small children. We start baptizing at the age of 8.

The reason we start baptism at the age of 8 is two-fold. First of all, we don’t believe that man is born with sin. The Atonement of Jesus Christ takes away the sin of Adam, we are each born pure and clean. Babies and small children don’t need baptism to take away sin, they don’t understand good and evil therefore cannot choose evil, therefore cannot sin. The second reason we wait until we are a little older to baptize is that for us baptism is more than just taking away sin it is our first real commitment to God. At baptism we literally take upon us the name of Jesus Christ so that from that time forward we are representatives of Jesus Christ and commit to act accordingly. That is a pretty big commitment, one that each person should make on their own and not their parents. We believe that by age 8 a person is able to understand the basic concepts of representing Jesus Christ and therefore is free to choose for themselves whether they will or will not be baptized.

I remember my baptism. I was born into a Mormon family and was baptized at 8. I remember my parents sitting down with me and explaining to me what baptism meant. I also met with my Bishop, the ecclesiastical leader over our congregation, on my own and he talked to me about baptism. He asked me if baptism was a step I wanted to take and I told him yes. My father baptized me (a family member or close friend that holds the priesthood is normally the one to perform the baptism, not the head of the congregation) and I remember the day quite clearly. My dad made sure the water in the font was warm (something I was concerned about) and many of my friends (both friends in my faith and out of it) and congregation members came to witness. After the baptism I was given the gift of the Holy Ghost by a priesthood blessing to help me to know how to follow Christ and make the right choices for the rest of my life. Afterward my mom served refreshments, banana bread with cream cheese frosting (my favorite), and we all celebrated the day.

Baptism is more than wiping away the past, it is looking forward to the future as a representative of Jesus Christ. It is mapping out the direction you want to take in life. It’s a choice I am glad I made and reflect on often. How do your ideas about baptism impact your life?

5 thoughts on “Mormon Baptism

  1. Hayley

    I loved being baptized at age 8. I knew exactly what I was doing and why. It was a really special time. I remember every detail about it. I’m grateful that I can renew the promises every Sunday by taking the sacrament ‘cos–let’s face it–I ain’t perfect.

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  2. Bertrand Russell

    I’d like to invite you to reflect for a moment on a possibility you’ve probably never seriously considered in your entire life…. The Mormon church is not true.

    I have no ill feelings toward the church, I think it is a marvelous organization. So let me explain my motivation…Have you ever heard of something called “cognitive dissonance”? Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance can also be reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. For example, let’s say you buy a Rolex watch. You paid a ton for it, but after a while you realize that it may not keep time quite as well as your old Timex. Nor is it as comfortable on your wrist. Cognitive dissonance emerges here, because you are of the opinion that the Rolex is superior, yet your memory tells you that you enjoyed the cheaper Timex better. Sometimes, we can’t acknowledge the truth. So we rationalize. Sometimes it takes someone else pointing out to us, “You sure do have to adjust the time on that thing a lot, don’t you?” Only then do we objectively reflect on the situation and see the truth. I’d like to be that friend for you, since I spent many, many years of cognitive dissonance in the church.

    I grew up in the Mormon church, attended seminary, served a mission for the church (including serving as AP), and graduated with honors from BYU. I believed the church was true because everybody important in my life told me it was true, and it felt good to believe that a caring, personal God was looking out for me and giving me purpose to my existence. When events in my life gave evidence that the church was true, I held them closely, as confirmation of what I had already accepted as truth. Any evidence that casted doubt on my beliefs I quickly rejected and tried to ignore. And yet, as a rational, sane human being I subconsciously had to acknowledge the myriad contradictions in the Mormon faith. For example, I experienced cognitive dissonance when I learned that Joseph Smith illegally practiced polygamy and publically denied it his entire life (including in the church owned newspaper Times and Seasons). I’ve held an original copy in my hands of the general conference report after JS death where Brigham Young announced for the first time the doctrine of polygamy. Cohesion is a basic test of truth. If a proposition has contradictory elements, then it cannot be true. Eventually I realized that all the problems disappeared with one simple assumption… the church is a man-made institution, however well intentioned it may be.

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    1. Lindsey

      I realize that growing up in the Church and having family that are also in the Church probably makes it sound like I have not had much testing my faith. My family will attest that people telling me what to believe (or telling me to do anything) gives me a pretty good reason to do the opposite. And, for part of my life growing up I did just that–the opposite of whatever people told me. I can tell you that over the course of my life (even though it hasn’t been that long) I have had many doubts and questions but I can also tell you that I have had my doubts and questions answered, not by my parents or family or husband but by God. I know that this Church is true and I know that because of my own experiences with God. No argument against it can take those experiences away or change their meaning. No dug up historical facts taken out of context or imperfections about members of the church can change that Jesus Christ is the head of this church. The people in the church have made mistakes but to be honest I don’t really get caught up in all the little details of everything that may or may not have happen over a hundred years ago when the church was young and and not completely established. Joseph Smith re-organized this church through divine intervention. I am a member of this church because of my relationship with God. Not everyone agrees and that is okay. The purpose of this blog is to help people understand Mormons a little better. Maybe people will want to know more and maybe not. My goal is help people see that faith is my driving motivation for everything I do in life and that faith makes me stronger.

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  3. Bertrand Russell

    Lindsey, thank you for your comments. A quick rebuttal…. I believe these issues are not irrelevant historical details taken out of context. From the standpoint of someone evaluating the truth of a religion, these points absolutely must be considered. Thats the thing about claiming to have an infallible, unchanging truth given to you from the Creator of the universe (a very bold claim)- any single contradiction in the doctrine invalidates the credibility. That doesn’t mean the people have to be perfect, but the doctrine must be. If the prophet can’t lead you astray, and the prophet says something is doctrine, and later it turns out its not true…where does that leave things? If something happened 200 years ago, it might make it easier for us to justify glossing it over, but does it really make it any less relevant? It isn’t just one issue, there are dozens others. If I included all them it would be overwhelming and you would just go into shutdown mode, trust me I’ve been there. Here’s one more really straight forward issue – look into the translation of the Book of Abraham. We have many of the original manuscripts, and their translation from Egyptian is nothing close to what JS said. These aren’t things dug up to make the Mormons look bad. These are things I was shocked to find when doing research in BYU special collections in the vaults where they keep old church documents.
    If you want to believe in the church that is just fine. Believe it or not I know you personally, and I think one day you’ll swallow the red pill (matrix reference), but til then I’ll quit ranting about my thoughts and just enjoy reading all your well-written posts.

    Cheers,
    Bertrand

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  4. Jason

    Strange thing.. I was baptized as an infant.. but later in my life as an adult there was this one church that i had attended that had offered up to me to be baptized (full body submerged in a tub of water) I felt the holy spirit leading me to participate, but I was disturbed from within myself.. and i battled the holy spirits urge.. for why would the holy spirit urge me to be baptized once again???

    after all.. I was indeed already baptized as an infant wasnt i?? or was i only mislead to believe my infant baptism was all that i had needed for my future remission of sins??? can an infant sin??

    needless to say.. i took the dive, i was baptised once again!, and this time it was by my own will, and not the will of my parents, i see infant baptism as wrong now.. but also as a kind gesture, gives the parents this false illusion that there child has some form of a “Gods mark” upon them.. a “signed and sealed” type of feeling for the parents attached to a vow to raise the child in the ways of the lord.. but how can the parents raise a child in the ways of the lord unless they had first taken the plung themselves??

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