Monday, February 3, 2014

Learning from the Innocents: Or, the Beauty of Youth Baptisms for the Dead

I was performing baptisms in the temple a while ago for youth and new converts, and it hit me DEEPLY and profoundly how beautiful the concept of such work is to those who still are fully (or close to fully) "innocent" and "pure". In particular, as two new converts, one young man and one young woman, entered the font (each for the first time in their lives), there was almost a glow of anticipation that was awe-inspiring. (There also was an adult convert doctor who had been a member for a few years but never done temple baptisms, whose wife's face simply glowed as she stood on the steps and watched him be baptized.) One of the women had been baptized into the Church just the past weekend, and another woman was the still-recent convert who had introduced her to the Church. The young man's family recently had returned to activity, and the young woman's family still wasn't fully active (and, technically, neither was she).

It's moments like that when it hits me how much I really don't care, fundamentally, about nuance and intellectual distinction. Of course, I do care about the ability to understand nuance and to make intellectual distinctions, especially as a coping mechanism and as a way to understand and accept myself and others. However, at the most fundamental level, there is a beauty and grandeur and mind-blowing simplicity about "pure Mormonism" that still reaches up and grabs me by the throat and brings tears to my eyes in moments like that - when you see people whose lives have changed SO much or are so hard in very real ways dressed in white trying to do something for those they love in such an innocent, simple way.

The young woman I mentioned lost her father to cancer six years ago, and it literally tore apart her family in many ways. She was 12 years old when it happened (with siblings ranging from 4-18), and she hasn't been active in the church since then - due mostly to the extra pressure exerted on her mother to deal with the death of her husband and her children's father (including the need to work long hours to support the family) and being the only members in a town 25 miles from the church and in a different state. Work for the dead means something powerful and wonderful to this young woman, since her father was not a member of the Church but was a very good man who supported his wife in her attendance and beliefs. She doesn't care about fine detail; she just wants to show how much she loves other people and how much she wants to help them in some way - any way she feels she can. Temple work is truly cosmic for her. She was visibly excited and nervous and in awe the whole time we were traveling to the temple, and she said to us afterward that when she finally got dressed and went into the font room:

"A sense of peace hit me, and I knew God is aware of me and loves me".

I love baptisms for the dead. I love the symbolism and the over-arching theological meaning. I love how I feel like I've been standing in holy water when I leave the font. I love how clean and pure and simple the whole thing is - when I let go of my need to think and simply allow myself to experience and just BE - when all that matters is that I AM.

I can parse the wording of verses and statements and talks and try to understand concepts as well as possible on an intellectual level, but, for me, it all pales in comparison to seeing the faces of the innocents as they enter a baptismal font and as they leave.

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