The Bear's Special Day
The long anticipated day finally came. The Bear turned 8 on January 3rd, which made him eligible to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Depending on the day and minute the Bear either was looking forward to it, or apprehensive about it.
DramaMama and I talked to him a lot about why we get baptized, and worked with him not to be worried or scared. He has been concerned about having to go all the way under the water.
One of the most special things about it for me is that I was able to be the one to baptize and confirm him.
When we arrived at the Kimball East Stake Center where the baptism was held, we both went and got changed into the white clothes you see us wearing in the picture. The Bear was feeling anxious, so we said a prayer together in the changing room. His feelings came and went, but when we were talking to our Bishop, The Bishop could tell that the Bear was a little stressed, so he and I went into a room in the Stake offices where we gave him a comfort blessing to help be calm.
DramaMama brought an activity book about baptism that helped keep him distracted. As this was a stake baptismal service, there were several other children being baptized today as well, several of which the Bear knew from church and school. That helped him relax a bit. For those unfamiliar with our church, I offer a few explanations: Our congregations are referred to as "wards", and several of these wards comprise a stake. So there were children from I think 8 different wards there today.
We all met in the chapel and had a short program, then the children from one ward at a time were dismissed to the Baptismal font room. Sometimes this was only one child, others a couple of them. Our ward was last, so we remained in the chapel where a video was presented about the Saviour. As it began, an elderly man in a suit was shown walking into a building, then overlooking the land of Jerusalem. As he turned around and faced the camera, I was immediately overcome with emotion, and basically lost it for several minutes. Who was the elderly gentleman? He was our former Prophet who passed away about a year ago. See my blog entry about it here.
Finally it was our turn to go into the room for the baptism. There was one other child from our ward there with us, and since she was a girl, the Bishop had them go first. The cool thing about this one was that the person baptizing her joined the church only a few years ago, and has since progressed and received the appropriate Priesthood authority to perform this sacred ordinance.
When they were finished, I took the Bear through the side door that gave us access to the font. He immediately became scared again. I stepped down into the font, but he stayed at the top and was crying. I went back up (3 steps) and gave him a long hug. The Bishop was standing right behind him offering soothing and comforting words.
Then we descended the stairs together and he was fine. We had practised several times so he knew what was going to happen. We got our hands and everything situated, and then I baptized him. He did get a little tense under the water, but he was fine after that. He kept saying things like, "I did it!", "and are you so proud of me?" Yes we were so proud of him. We knew that it was scary for him, but he did it anyway. He was a good little trooper.
He also commented that the water was a little cold. It was warm when the font was filled, but by the time it was our turn, it had cooled off a bit.
Then we went and changed back into our nice clothes. We apparently were taking too long, because a couple different people were dispatched to tell us to get a move on.
Once we were ready, we went back out, and I was able to confirm him a member of the church. This consists of a group of priesthood holders surrounding the newly baptized person, laying hands on their head (I placed my right hand on his head, then all of the others placed their right hand atop mine. Our left hands rested on the right shoulder of the person to our left), and the priesthood holder acting as voice does three things: 1) confirms them a member of the church, 2) directs them to receive the Holy Ghost, and 3) Pronounces a blessing as directed by the Spirit of the Lord.
This for me was a very sacred privilege. This was the third baptism I have performed, and the second confirmation. The first baptism was on my mission and was a young man that we taught. The second was my son James 7 years ago. I was also privileged to confirm him.
One of the most amazing things in all this is that the pronounced blessing is not planned out. Of course in the days leading up to the event, it is proper to ponder on what might be said, and sometimes inspiration comes then that will guide your blessing. As I pronounced the Bear's blessing today, I had thought about it some, but did not have any prepared text to say. I let the words come through inspiration, and many of the words I said, I hadn't even thought about. I was able to tell him some very special things, and at times was overcome with emotion. My dad stood to my right, and when I was choked up, he gently squeezed my shoulder.
By the end of the confirmation, I had tears running down my face, and as the group broke apart, I saw that many people in the room did too. I must tell you that the Bear is one special little kid, and I am privileged to be his dad.
Afterwards, I had a private moment with my dad in which both of us were teared up. He told me he was proud of me. That meant a lot. I told him that I learned from the best. And I did. My dad has been a shining example to me his whole life. I want to be like my dad. I only hope that someday the Bear will be able to say the same about me. I feel I have a long way to go to earn that.
We all went over to dad's house and had lunch. It was a very special day for all of us.