Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baptism by Fire

Baptism for many members of the church takes place shortly after the eighth birthday. Mine was 34 years ago. Many children were baptized that day. I don't remember just how many there were, just that it seemed to be a lot. This feeling is confirmed by how full the chapel was, where the services before and after the ordinance were held. I remember feeling the spirit and that my father was the man who performed my baptism. I am told my grandfather Gibson attended, which was rather unusual since his relationship with the church was strained for a good part of my life. I did not do well recording the events of that day. I think the earliest entries into my first journal are a few years after this experience. It would be nice to look back on this very meaningful event with greater clarity.

Eleven years later and a few months after I arrived in Japan, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate at a baptismal service. The sister who entered the waters of baptism that day described her feelings and the blessings she felt as she came out of the water "clean" from her past life. I considered her words and the testimony she bore that day. It was certainly a blessing to her that she was going to remember those feelings for the rest of her life. I've worked diligently to bring back to my mind the events surrounding my baptism. I longed to remember my experience in light of what she expressed was hers.
Joseph Smith said: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not
done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by
water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that
is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499).
Although the day we become members of the church and the day we gain a remission of our sins through immersion in the waters of baptism is very important, more important is our confirmation and blessing associated with receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. There are two examples of the visible manifestation of the Holy Ghost in the scriptures - the New Testament. The first was at our Savior's baptism:
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo,
the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a
dove, and lighting upon him” (Matthew 3:16)
The other example is the day of Pentecost. The Apostles had no doubt been ordained, but the Lord had now left them. They wondered what to do. They remembered He told them to stay in Jerusalem, and so they obeyed. And then it happened.

They were in a house, and there was “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty
wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:2–4).

I sat in church today thinking about this Baptism by Fire, the event in which we are cleansed fully and we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I sat thinking about the single event in our lives that is Baptism by water. Most people who are baptised into the Church experience that only once. An event of such significance an event that prepares us for the greater gift. My thoughts wondered to the Baptism by Fire. This event, though great is also very personal. Many people witnessed my baptism by water. Most were not in attendance for me. Many were baptized that day. At the very least, members of the church are baptised before two witnesses. Baptism by Fire, however, is a very personal experience seldom shared with others.

Baptism by Fire. Filled by the Holy Ghost. Our sins and the past life consumed by the fire of the spirit. We confirm our commitment to the Lord and our faith through baptism. We make promises and begin our new lives as disciples of the Savior. Through our Lord's great atonement this cleansing is made possible. And through that atonement and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we continue to gain access to the cleansing power.

Is Baptism by Fire a one-time event? That is the question I pondered today as I partook of the sacrament. Are we left to wander in the sins of this world? The wonder that is the gospel, the joy that is the redeeming power of the Atonement and the cleansing power of baptism by fire do not and should not be a single, once in a life experience. This is the blessing that is the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the blessing that is the Lord's Sacrament. This is the blessing that presents us with an opportunity of a new beginning every week.

I felt joy today for the first time in quite a while. It is an exuberance I have not felt for months. With this joy came the realization I am not alone. I am not left to my own devices. Oh, how great the plan of our Redeemer! The grand scale of my Heavenly Father's love and the love I feel radiating from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His grandest of all sacrifices, we gain access to the sweetness that is forgiveness and the cleansing power of Bapitsm by Fire.

No, it is not a one-time, fix it and leave it plan. Our human frailties leave us in the grips of the bitter fruit. We are not lost if we but pull ourselves back to the love of our Savior. The grand scope of the Atoning sacrifice is enough. All the Lord requires of us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We can regain that which we may lose. The darkness is fleeting in the great warm glow of the Savior's atoning sacrifice.

If you find yourself wandering without direction, feeling down-trodden and the weight of the world on your shoulders, you can find peace and comfort. If you are vexed by your weaknesses, turn to the Savior and He will help you overcome. We do not have to go through this life alone. Come unto the Savior.

Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,
Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.
He’ll safely guide you unto that haven
Where all who trust him may rest.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll ever heed you,
Though in the darkness you’ve gone astray.
His love will find you and gently lead you
From darkest night into day.

Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you,
If you in meekness plead for his love.
Oh, know you not that angels are near you
From brightest mansions above?

Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation,
From ev’ry land and isle of the sea.
Unto the high and lowly in station,
Ever he calls, “Come to me.”

Text and music: Orson Pratt Huish, 1851–1932
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