Monday, March 30, 2015

Finally a Member

I am officially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And oh, what a joy it is to say that. I decided to be baptized in September of 2014, about seven months ago. For various reasons, I had to wait to be baptized.

I fasted to know when I should be baptized about two weeks ago, and received this inspired date. Even though it wasn't a long preparation time, I faced a lot of difficulties. Some very very important people to me, I learned, did not support my decision and would not be able to attend. My missionary, Sister A, got transferred out of my area. I received attacks from the adversary, thoughts of despair about not getting baptized on December 17 (a previous date I'd set for baptism, after a very intense spiritual experience). I was very upset that Sister O and Sister A, my most influential companionship, would not be in attendance. I felt like Heavenly Father was punishing me for not listening when He told me December 17. Sister A and Sister O both assured me that that's not how Heavenly Father works. I realized that these negative feelings were being sent by the adversary to drag me "down to the gulf of misery and endless wo" (Helaman 5:12). But I knew how long I'd waited for this, and I knew that Heavenly Father was telling me that this is what I needed to do, despite these worldly distractions. He steadied me. He is a foundation "whereon if men are built they cannot fall" (Helaman 5:12). 

After a lot of patience and diligence, we made it to March 28. It was surreal. I arrived at the church, and Sister D2 (our new missionary) braided my hair. Sister O facetimed me so we could talk and she could watch my baptism (she's been around since I first decided to be baptized last September, she knows the whole road). I got dressed and anxiously awaited the program. When friends, members of my heavenly family, began arriving we got straight to taking pictures with everyone. Sister A got permission to Skype in so she could "be" at my baptism, too. That was such a joy, to see her face and hear her voice after what felt like such a long time (two weeks kind of is a long time considering I very rarely go more than two days without seeing the missionaries). I was so happy that she got to share this special time with me. 

Our opening hymn was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," my favorite hymn, and one that I grew up singing in my Methodist church. It was like going home, and that song is a prayer I have often. As soon as we started singing, I just cried. I felt so incredibly blessed and so loved. My baptism wasn't announced in church meetings, so everyone there was personally invited. This room was filled with people who knew my journey and knew how long this road had been. It was so special to have these people supporting me and rejoicing with me for this gift of baptism that allows us to return to our Heavenly Father. 

The first talk was given by a dear friend in my ward, who is also a convert and received negative feedback from others when she decided to be baptized. She has such a sweet spirit and I always feel so loved when I spend time with her. I'm so grateful that this friend spoke at my baptism. 

Next we moved on to the actual ordinance. That was incredible. There aren't words to describe that experience. I was baptized by the husband of the couple who first taught me about the gospel. He's really been with me from the beginning (he also gave me my first priesthood blessing, when I was fasting about baptism last fall). That was such a special experience. 

The second talk was given by another dear friend, who I met in Institute the first week of last semester. I am so grateful for her. Following her, I stood and told my story and gave my testimony, per request of the bishop

I thought I was done crying, and I was excited to sing our closing hymn, "How Firm a Foundation." Unfortunately, I cried again, more happy tears. 

After the closing prayer, I took the iPad and iPhone with Sister A and Sister O on Skype/facetime. It was so sweet to be able to talk to my missionaries as I finally experienced this. I had been sad about not having them, but I was grateful to talk to them and feel loved by all four of my sister missionaries. Before I hung up with Sister O, she said "March 28 was your date." And I knew that was true. The concerns that I'd had about missing my date faded away, because I knew that March 28 was the right date.

I know that baptism into the Lord's Church is the way we can return to Him. I know that baptism is not a destination, but the beginning of a beautiful journey. I am so grateful for the time I had to wait for this, because it has taught me so many lessons. I am grateful for the missionaries who taught me and loved me enough to wait with me, and for the rest of my ward who supported me as I learned. I'm grateful for baptism itself, that is a vital step in my mortal journey, one step on the path of returning to my heavenly family. 

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