An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Baptism

Our granddaughter, Kit, will be baptized in January and our daughter, Lolly, is shopping for a baptismal dress. “Don’t they use white jumpsuits anymore?” I asked. Lolly shook her head. “Girls wear an elaborate, white confirmation-type dress to the baptismal service, then change into a jumpsuit for the actual baptism. The baptismal dress is saved as an heirloom and is never worn again.”

Lolly hates shopping and especially hates making a major investment for a dress to be worn once. Since she inherited my sewing skills, she has little choice. I hope this new baptism custom does not extend to every ward. It could be a budget wrecker.

I was baptized before jumpsuits were standard. My mother saved the white organdy dress I had worn for a first grade program for the occasion. Modesty must not have been an issue back then. All the Mormon baptisms in Provo were performed in one building. Dad was working, so Mother left my younger brother with a neighbor and took me. No family or ward members attended. I recall trying to make myself listen to the man speaking about the importance of our commitment, but was too excited to concentrate. Fear that my toe would bob out of the water and I’d have to be re-dipped consumed me. Regardless of the lack of ceremony, my baptism took. I was an active Mormon for most of my life.

Our children were baptized in white jump suits and we tried to make the occasion memorable. Grandparents were able to attend for some of our kids. Lolly’s October birthday allowed an out-of-doors baptism in a pond in our rural community. The pond water must have been spiritual since Lolly is currently the only practicing Mormon in our family.

When our oldest grandchild, Hebe, was baptized two years ago, we attended along with aunts, uncles and cousins. Lolly hosted a family dinner and activities afterward. Fortunately, their ward has not yet gone the route of white confirmation-style suits for boys.

Our oldest son, Wort, had a second baptism when he joined Mars Hill Church a few years ago. Protestants regard baptism as a symbol demonstrating a person’s commitment to Christ and a Christian lifestyle rather than as a saving ordinance. Nevertheless, mainstream Christian churches do not recognize LDS baptisms because of differences in key doctrine. Possibly recalling his sister’s dip in the pond, Wort chose to be baptized in Puget Sound. He did not invite us to attend.

When I attended Mars Hill Church two weeks ago, the meeting ended with a baptism. Curtains at the front of the sanctuary parted revealing a baptismal font.  A young woman was immersed by two men. Her name was not read, but the congregation applauded her commitment.

Different faiths have different methods of making commitments. Personally, I can’t believe in a God who cares more about the form of commitment than about the way a person lives up to it.

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