A Convert’s Survival Guide: What to Expect AFTER your Baptism

Usually the Sunday following your baptism, in which you were immersed in water, your confirmation follows.  It is done during sacrament meeting, before the sacrament ordinance. Confirmation can also be done immediately following the baptism. The confirmation is sometimes called baptism by fire, or the gift of the Holy Ghost:

For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:17).

With the gift of the Holy Ghost, we receive the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. It becomes our lifelong guide that will lead us back to Heavenly Father. It will help us stay on the straight and narrow path, know right from wrong, guide us through tough decisions and provide peace and comfort in all that we do. When Nephi realized that many did not know what to do after their conversion and baptism, he said the “words of Christ,” as communicated by the Holy Ghost, would guide them:

If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32:5)

Confirmation is done by someone with the Melchizedek Priesthood Authority, under the direction of the bishopric or branch presidency.

The actual ordinance goes as follows:

  • One or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders participate in this ordinance.
  • The Priesthood holders encircle you while you sit down in a chair facing the congregation.
  • They place their hands lightly on the person’s head.
  • Then the person who performs the ordinance:
    1. Calls you by your full name.
    2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
    3. Confirms you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    4. Bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost by saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”
    5. Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs. (one to two minutes)
    6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

After the ordinance is completed, you stand up and begin shaking hands with everyone in the circle. Don’t forget to take a look at the congregation. They are the people who will be there for you and help you through everything. They sincerely care for you and your family and…

…are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9)

Congratulations, you are now a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Oh Bishop, My Bishop!

I admit, when I first started going to Church I wanted to call the Bishop the Warden instead. I wanted to do so only because the Church was called a Ward. It seemed fit that the Warden would be in charge of the Ward. It took me two months to get that out of my system and I’m happy to report that I never once slipped up…at least I don’t think I did.

I don’t know if my Bishop will ever know how much I admire and appreciate him. Not because he holds a prestigious title, that he presides over Sacrament or is in the highest office of the Aaronic priesthood. The reason why I appreciate him is because he is just a man. He is a man who is kind, caring, humble, sincere and the first one to admit his faults.

If I did not know him and saw him walking down the street, I would know he was a righteous man, obedient to the Lord. He is a man that has the Spirit with him, always.

I know how hard his calling can be and he does it with a smile and with all his heart. He is one of the many men in my ward that I look up to as an example of what I want to become. He is a man that has his spiritual affairs in order.

Last Sunday for Church, I caught him in his office and met with him briefly about arranging to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood since I was Sustained in the last Stake conference. When he saw me, he smiled. He shook my hand and was genuinely happy to see me. We sat in his office for a second and I told him of my plans and how I wanted my best friend to ordain me.

Afterwards, he told me how he was proud of me and put his arm around my shoulder. “How are you doing?” he asked me. “I’m trying as best as I can.” I replied. “The best you can is good enough and that is between you and the Lord.” Like many times before, he spoke about how he is not perfect, has his faults and he tries his best as well. He also spoke of the wonderful gift of the atonement and how he relies on it in his life. At that moment I felt the Spirit bring me Peace and Comfort. It washed away my feelings of inadequacies.

His kindness and humble attitude strengthened my testimony. He made my day. He made my week. Even though I thought something horrible happend less than three hours ago when a Deacon forgot to pass us the bread for Sacrament, I felt safe and set for another week.

He is just a man, but he is my Bishop. And I wish I could find a way to thank him for that.

Sustained

Sunday was Stake Conference. We got to sleep in an extra hour because it started at noon. The entire building was full and we ending up sitting in the back. Shortly after the first hymn and the invocation they began to read the names of members who were to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. My name was read from the short list and I felt exceedingly great joy as I stood there and was sustained by the entire Stake.

It has been a whirlwind: receiving the Aaronic Priesthood and learning, serving and growing in that capacity and now being able to be a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. And now more than ever, I will strive to be humble and obedient. As a husband and father, I understand the many responsibilities and blessings that come with the Melchizedek Priesthood: the ability to greater serve my family and others with blessings for direction, healing and comfort.

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. (D&C 121:36)

Though he may not know it, a home teacher of mine set a great example in my early membership as I asked him on the spot to offer a blessing for my children. I watched him bless my children for the coming school year. I am glad to be able to be able to do as he once did.

And once again I have put my friends on the spot in asking them to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood by the laying on of hands. I also see the importance of remaining worthy-as my home teacher was able to exercise his priesthood at a moments notice and as my friends are able to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood in such short notice as well.

The Women of the Church

Last Sunday during Elders Quorum, we had a lesson on Chapter 20, The Women of the Church, out of the Book Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball.

Within this lesson we discussed the important roles the women in the Church have and how they are equal to us in our roles. What the late Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote pretty much sums it up:

“The place of woman in the Church is to walk beside the man, not in front of him nor behind him. In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel…was devised by the Lord for men and women alike”

We discussed the roles of men and women in the eternal sense: Women having the huge responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood. However, it is stressed that “the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11).

A brother mentioned the large role the Relief Society plays in the Church. He said “Without the Women, we would just be a bunch of men in a Church.” He also pointed out how the Relief runs the Humanitarian Aide that the Church has been recently recognized for during the Hurricane Katrina / New Orleans disaster.

The motto of the Relief Society is “Charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:46, 1 Corinthians 13:8) and they seem to be sticking close to their motto.

One last thing that left a deep impression on me and I hope it will with you too – A passage from the lesson chapter:

Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to.

An Amazing Sabbath Day

This weekend was an amazingly spiritual one. Having the Aaronic Priesthood, I was blessed to participate in the sacrament ordinance and perform the blessing of the bread.

What is said during baptism, blessing of bread, blessing of water are the only three ordinances that must be said word for word in the church. Anticipating this day, I have been studying the sacrament bread blessing prayer and sacrament water blessing prayer for over two months and had it down to a science.

Of course when I was driving to church and walking down the hall to the Bishop’s office for a quick meeting, I ACTUALLY FORGOT THE WORDS! “It figures” I thought. However, having faith that I would be able to perform this ordinance by the grace of Heavenly Father, I did not fear.

Before discussing what is done for the blessing of the bread with the Bishop, we knelt down and he said a wonderful prayer: That I may be able to officiate successfully, have clear thought and speak clearly and precisely. This eased my tensions further.

After the meeting, I must’ve drank from the water fountain at least ten times, trying to thwart off a dry mouth. When my mouth is dry, my speech suffers. It didn’t work. I had a card that the ward mission leader gave me when I was conferred to the Aaronic Priesthood. It was titled “Suggestions for ordinance work” and it had the list of blessings and prayers in it. I read off the bread prayer over and over. It made me feel a little bit better.

Sitting up in the stand during sacrament meeting was going fine. The church was unusually crowded that day. The entire church was filled. So much that I could not see my family anywhere; they were in the lobby. “More people to witness me messing up and saying the prayer twice” I thought.

And then I found out why it was so crowded-there was a baby being blessed and there were a lot of people in town visiting. When the Bishop asked that the people participating in the blessing to come forward, two full middle rows stood up! It was revealed to me later that day that 320 people attended sacrament meeting.

The second hymn started and my heart started to beat faster. Nervousness set in. We all stood up in unison. We approached the table and uncovered the bread. I began breaking the bread…I got the end piece again! Those things are harder to break apart. While breaking the bread, I had the epiphany to make it the pieces slightly smaller so we could have enough for the entire congregation and so I would not have to prepare and bless the bread TWICE. I successfully got two trays done, the other three priest handled the rest.

I finished first and stood there reverently. The other priest continued breaking the bread until they were done. The hymn was finished and the sister playing the organ concluded the song. Panic set in!

Having been on the end of the line and wanting to avoid running into the priest next to me, I carefully moved back until I was clear and then proceeded forward and to the middle of the line. They raised the cloth up and held it for me. I proceeded to kneel down on my left knee and slide out the microphone tray.

The little light turned red-the mic was hot! “Here we go, you’ll do fine.” I said to myself. Now the microphone tray has a tiny microphone in it and has the bread prayer and water prayer so you can read it while speaking. In my opinion, it wasn’t designed very well. Having to put your mouth right at the microphone, you cannot really read the prayer very well. The words are too close.

All of the sudden, peace and calm came over me. I began to speak:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (D&C 20:77)

It was a miracle! I made it through and I think I didn’t mess up. I looked to my right at the Bishop for approval that I said it correctly.

He nodded his head “yes.” I had made it. I was even more relieved when I found out there was enough bread and the Teachers and Deacons began their way back to the sacrament table.

Later that afternoon, I was interviewed by my Bishop for receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. It was an amazing Sabbath Day.

The 177th Semiannual General Conference

This weekend was the The 177th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But this was my first General Conference.

It reminded me of when I was younger and my father used to watch Robert Schuller on TV. I could barely stand being in the same room with this program on. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to watch television for two hours at a time and hear men preach, but this was different. I found it really enjoyable and have taken away a lot from it.

I was also worried about not going to church for the first time since I began attending. It turned out to be just as fulfilling.

Things that stuck out to me this weekend:

  • The way Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin began to shake half way through his powerful message.
  • The general priesthood meeting that I attended at my Stake Center with my friend Joey.
  • Sunday’s session with Gordon B. Hinckley speaking about the church as a large family scattered across the Earth with more than 13,000,000 members in 176 nations and territories.
  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  • They sang “I am a Child of God.” (One of my favorites!)
  • Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve speaking about personal revelation.
  • Elder Daniel K. Judd, First Counselor of the Sunday School General Presidency speaking about how it is possible to “feed a horse without nourishing him”…”Grain is more nourishing than hay, and hay more nourishing than straw.” And how vital it is to focus on the fundamental doctrines in our gospel.
  • Elder Octaviano Tenorio of the Seventy and his experiences, knowledge and faith about the Plan of Salvation when speaking about his children and his later father.  And, the comfort he receives from the Plan of Salvation.

While I was invited by my Bishop to actually go to Salt Lake City for the General Conference, I could not go due to financial reasons. Something that I am regretting. I am hoping to have the same opportunity to go to Salt Lake City next April – I am going to go no matter what.

It is amazing to see again and again how organized this great church is. I can clearly see how this church is true by the fruit it bears.

Our duties to the Church: Home Teaching

As an investigator attending Elder’s Quorum. I often heard about assignments called “Home Teaching.” It seemed a bit different and I did not quite understand what it was about. I began looking into what is entailed in home teaching and I came across an article: Confessions of a Halfhearted Home Teacher

As a new member and Aaronic Priesthood holder in the Church, I have found Doctrine and Covenants, Chapter 20 (D&C:20) to be very useful in instilling an enthusiastic urge in performing the duties that I have. Two verses that really stick out me are:

The priests duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties. (D&C 20:46-47)

Another two verses that jump out at me are:

And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty. (D&C 20:54-55)

I have been blessed with being able to perform most of my duties in my short time that I’ve been a member. Specifically: baptize, administer the sacrament (passing and preparing – I am privileged to bless sacrament in two weeks!), and home teaching. Taking part in these ordinances gives me a tremendous feeling of joy!

This evening, I had the opportunity to meet with the family I was assigned to “home teach” with my new companion. It was a wonderful experience. I was a bit anxious to go to my first home teaching but it went great. I got to meet and learn about a new family that just moved in to my ward and more about my home teaching companion. I had the chance to teach a gospel principal and hopefully leave an impression on the family for the month.

As we were walking to the house of the family we were to home teach, I let my companion know that I have never done it before. He explained to me how the purpose of home teaching is to get to know the family, letting the family get to know you and get them comfortable for asking for any type of help when needed. This reminded me of the scripture in the Book of Mormon that greatly impressed me when I was investigating the church. This verse is about Alma preaching to people in the wilderness:

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light (Mosiah 18:8)

“…willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” What a powerful concept that I observe in this church every day.

As I saw for myself, home teaching is an important component to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It teaches something to the families and also teaches the teacher. It lets us get to know each other, it allows us strengthen each other and it allows us to “watch over the church” just as this verse in Doctrine and Covenants says:

The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them. (D&C 20:53)

I cannot wait to do it again.