What does Baptism Entail?

Q. I’m christened Roman Catholic, my son has just joined a Mormon group, he said that he is to be baptized in 14 days. What does this entail and what are their views on me being a Catholic?

Guest author Jared responds:

What a great question! My grandpa is also a christened Roman Catholic, and several years ago he was in the exact same situation as you when a few of his children (my mother included) decided to be baptized. Before I go into that, though, let me first focus on the preparation leading up to baptism, and what is to be expected concerning the baptism itself.

Preparing for Baptism

Before someone can be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (“The LDS Church” or “The Mormon Church”) there are some common events that occur:  meeting with the missionaries, praying for guidance, worshiping with the local church, and a baptismal interview.

From the time the missionaries are introduced to someone who expresses interest in the Church, the missionaries will usually meet with the person a few times per week, sharing lessons about our beliefs concerning God, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the history and organization of the church, God’s plan for us, the commandments, and what we must do to return to our Father in Heaven after this life. During each lesson the missionaries stress the importance of prayer and continually challenge the person receiving the lessons to ask our Heavenly Father in earnest, personal prayer if the things they’re being taught are true. The person receiving the lessons will be invited to attend church on Sundays where they’ll have the opportunity to meet the local church leaders and worship with us in our Sunday services. Once someone decides to be baptized into the LDS church, they continue to meet with the missionaries to help them continue to gain knowledge, grow in their faith, repent, and prepare to become a member of the Church.

Just before a person gets baptized, they have a baptismal interview. This is a one-on-one meeting with someone who has been ordained to give these interviews (for your son it will likely be a full-time missionary other than those who taught him the lessons). This isn’t like a job interview or an interrogation looking for faults. The purpose of this interview is simply to ensure that the person is really ready to be baptized – that they have prayed and received personal confirmation from the spirit that the things taught to them by the missionaries are true, that they understand and are obeying the commandments, and that they have repented of past transgressions.

What to Expect at the Baptism Service

The baptism service will begin with a prayer. A few people may have been asked beforehand to say a few words or share their musical talents by singing a religious song or playing an instrument. Then the actual baptism will take place.

The baptism itself will be very simple. Clad entirely in white to represent the cleansing through repentance and baptism, your son and the person performing the baptism (probably one of the missionaries who taught your son, or a local church leader or friend) will enter the baptismal font (a small pool of water usually around 3 feet deep). The person who baptizes your son will take him by the wrist and raise his right hand while he says the following prayer: “<Your son’s name>, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” Your son will then lean back and be fully submerged in the water for a moment, then brought back out of the water. This act symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the beginning of a new life, and the washing away of past sins.

There will then be a few minutes of waiting and quiet conversation while your son changes into dry clothes before he comes back and rejoins everyone. Someone (probably a local church leader and possibly even your son) may say a few final remarks, then there will most likely be a song and prayer to close the service.

The final step of baptism is to receive a blessing by the laying on of hands (those giving the blessing put their hands on the head of the person receiving it), confirming the individual a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and commanding him/her to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This “confirmation” often takes place during Sunday worship services soon after the baptism, but it’s not uncommon for it to be performed immediately after the baptism as part of the baptism service.

The Baptism Service and You

Anyone (regardless of religious affiliation) who would come to witness and support those in their decision to be baptized are heartily welcomed! This is especially true for family and close friends of the individuals being baptized. As I mentioned, My grandfather, like yourself, is a christened Catholic and he’s attended the baptisms of several of his children and grandchildren into our faith; additionally, whenever he comes to town to visit he always attends Sunday worship services with us. He is not interested at this time in being baptized himself, but he enjoys attending church with us and always feels welcome.

I sincerely hope that if you are able to attend your son’s baptism, that you do! It would give you an opportunity to support your son in this important event in his life, to witness for yourself what he’s embarking on, and to meet his church leaders and friends. If you are able to attend, I challenge you to keep an open mind and be conscious of your feelings during the service; you may be surprised at the peace you feel as your son begins this new chapter in his life.

If you have any further questions about your son’s decision, don’t hesitate to ask. If you would prefer a more direct question and answer opportunity, feel free to contact the full-time missionaries in your area; when I served as a full-time missionary I loved the opportunity to answer questions of the family and friends of those whom I taught, and I’m confident those in your area would feel the same.

Missionaries Knock On Your Door: What to Expect

You have probably already met a couple of LDS missionaries.  They’re the young men in dark suits and bicycle helmets, or the young ladies wearing skirts; they all have black name tags.  Maybe it was at your front door (or your back door, if you live in Wisconsin), or it could have been on the street, or a gas station, or at a friend’s house.  They waste no time searching for people to declare the gospel to.

Odds are, you didn’t hear their message.  Maybe you were in the middle of repairing your truck, or you were in a bad mood from a long day at the office, or you thought they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Could be you were curious of what they had to say, but didn’t want to let on.  Mostly, you didn’t know what to expect.

It’s understandable.  I hate being blindsided by unexpected surprises; not knowing what’s coming or how to control it.  Missionaries approaching you out of the blue is the epitome of being caught unaware.  My hope with this article is 1) to teach you what you can reasonably expect from these young men and women and 2) to give you some ideas of how to act the next time they arrive.

The Greeting

A missionary’s purpose is to share a vital message with you; it’s so important that they dedicate two years of their lives on their own dimes to come present it to you and your neighbors.  When they are new to being a missionary, they learn quickly how important trust is.  In order for their message to change lives, it must first be heard; for the message to be heard requires a person’s trust.  Establishing trust within 15 seconds at a complete stranger’s doorstep is a truly daunting feat!

From my own experience, I can testify that most missionaries are trustworthy.  They are typically honest, clean, kind, and very respectful of other’s beliefs.  It’s difficult to establish all of this in the first few moments of introduction, but they will try.  They will shake your hand,  introduce themselves as representatives of the LDS Church, give their names with a smile, and ask to be invited inside for a discussion.  The hope is that you will see or feel in them some spark of goodness that will persuade you to give them just one fair hearing.  Sometimes it happens, often it doesn’t.

Imagine that you are at this moment of decision: consider your options.  If you are like me, your gut will tell you to avoid the hassle, avoid the awkwardness of meeting new people and turn them away.  But, if you had a few minutes to weigh the consequences, your sense of adventure might say, “What the heck!  They’re no threat; I’ll listen to ’em.  I can TiVo American Gladiators tonight.”

I hope that wherever you are, you will decide right now to invite them in next time.  Give them a chance.  If not, at least be civil.  A polite “No, thank you” is exactly as effective as a tirade of verbal abuse at keeping them from returning, so save your energy.

Let’s assume you invite them in.  Once inside, they won’t usually dive right into a religious discussion.  They will chat politely about your family, your job, hobbies, etc.  They will also be glad to answer questions you have about their backgrounds.  Ask them where they are from, what they plan to study in college, how long they have been missionaries, etc.  Again, they hope to establish a good relationship of trust with you.  This isn’t merely a gimmick; they really are interested in you because they hope eventually to become your friends.  If there’s one thing Mormon missionaries believe in (besides their message), it’s that everyone is a potential friend.  There are people I met on doorsteps as a missionary that I grew to love and I still keep in contact with.

Their Presentation

At some point, the missionaries will change the topic to religion and begin the presentation they arrived on their missions to give.  They may request to begin with a prayer in order to invite the Holy Spirit.  Because they are guests in your house, they will allow you to decide who should say the prayer and it’s just fine to pick one of them or to say it yourself.  Do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

Many people assume that the message they have to share will basically mirror a typical sermon from their local pastor, about Jesus suffering on the cross and how we can be saved if we believe in Him.  This is central to our beliefs and essential to understand; it will take a prominent role in the lesson, but the missionaries will go deeper into what makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique.  The message is not only that Jesus saves, but that Jesus speaks.

The lesson is known as the Restoration of the Gospel.  Just as this is the first thing the missionaries teach, it was the first thing we published on this website two years ago.  Go read it! With more familiarity on the topic beforehand, you will have better comments and questions.  You’ll also be better able to listen to the whispering from the Holy Spirit during the meeting.

During the presentation, the missionaries will take turns discussing each topic.  It may sound somewhat rehearsed (because they do rehearse it; the rehearsals help them cover the essential points within a reasonable time-frame; their visit will probably last no longer than 20 minutes unless you invite them to stay longer), but I hope you will recognize that the missionaries really believe it.  They are committed to it.  You can also help them out of rehearsal mode by showing interest and asking them questions along the way.

Future Visits

The missionaries will end their talk by asking you to read from the Book of Mormon, ponder over the message, and pray to God about it.  They really don’t expect you to believe them at their word (you are still essentially strangers after all), but they have full confidence that Heavenly Father will confirm the truth through the Holy Ghost.  They will want to follow-up and see how He answers you, so they will request a return appointment, usually within a week.

My advice is to take their commitments seriously: read, ponder and pray all week.  Asking God if their message is true can do no harm, and it will do plenty of good.  Also, get their phone number so you can contact them if you need to reschedule or if you have questions or concerns that just can’t wait.

They have several more lessons, so they hope you will keep inviting them back after each visit.  Each subsequent lesson will resemble this first one except a bit longer (maybe up to an hour), they might bring along someone from the local congregation, and every visit you’ll move steadily from complete strangers to solid friends.  In fact, I’d wager it won’t be long before you’re asking them to come for dinner.

I’d like to open the comment section to stories of when the Elders or Sisters came to your house for the first time.  What was the experience like?  What did you learn from it?  Have they been back since?  If you don’t have a story to share, invite the missionaries over by clicking here!

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon–An Apostle’s Testimony

The addresses delivered at the most recent general conference (a world-wide meeting of church leaders and members) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were fantastic, as Jan pointed out in her most recent post.

Today, I want to share with you a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the 12 apostles. His testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is powerful. I invite all to listen to this address, “Safety for the Soul”, and ponder what is taught and then study the Book of Mormon for yourself (you can get a free copy by following this link).   If you do so with a sincere heart and pray to know, with intent to act, if the book is from God, God will tell you in your heart and mind by the Holy Ghost that it is from Him.   The validity of Joseph Smith as one of God’s prophet goes hand in hand with knowing that the Book of Mormon is from God–if the book is from God, the man by whom God brought forth the book must also be of God.  Enjoy.

(I have embedded the talk from YouTube and included a link as well if you want the video to load faster.)

Safety for the Soul, Part 1

Safety for the Soul, Part 2

Humanitarian Aid

Q.  What kind of humanitarian work has your church been involved in? Are there statistics or outstanding stories to share?

Excellent question.  Thank you for asking it!  I can think of very few topics that better assert our “Christian-ness” than humanitarian aid.  The Church has been involved in serving others, no matter their religion or nationality, for a long time.  Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society for women in order to “provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor.”  Brigham Young sent agricultural ambassadors to the Native Americans to improve their crop yields.  During and after the first and second World Wars, the Church sent food, medical supplies and clothing to the ravaged nations.  (“Doing Good and Being Good.” Harold C. Brown.  Women’s Conference, BYU 1997) These kinds of efforts continue today — on an even grander scale.

In 1995, the General Welfare Committee of the Church established an organization known as Latter-day Saint Charities, a non-governmental organization (NGO) like the Red Cross or AfriCare or Catholic Charities.  Latter-day Saint Charties has worked all over the world to help people become self-reliant, healthy and take care of basic needs.  You can check out their current list of projects here.  Click around, you’ll be amazed at how far reaching it is.

I want to point out a couple of notable things here:

  • The goal of this organization is to help, yes, but to help with the long-term in mind.  They don’t bring in barrels of water, they help the people dig a well.  Rather than giving money to unemployed people, they pay for job certification or skill acquisition.  “In Guatemala, for example, LDS Charities contracted with an electrician to train and certify more than two dozen Guatemalans in electrical work.  All twenty-five or so young men who took the course got jobs” (Brown).  The goal is self-sufficiency.  That is when aid is really meaningful.
  • Every penny donated to LDS Charities goes towards the projects themselves.  There is no overhead, no administrative costs or salaries.  When you donate to LDS charities, you are directly helping the poor people in the world (not paying electric bills in a high-rise administrative office).
  • All of this service is carried out by volunteers.  Couple missionaries (the older variety) scout out, set up and see through the projects.  Some specialized missionaries – health care professionals, agricultural experts, etc. — are called to serve in their professional capacity for 18 months.  This is why there are no salaries involved in the donations.  Other volunteers assemble as-needed, as in the case of natural disasters.

helping handsThe common anecdote told goes something like this:  In the aftermath of a hurricane, a young lady is being interviewed by a TV reporter and he asks her who she has seen getting involved in the cleanup.  She responds: “There were two groups here right away–the Mormons and the LDS church.”


There are thousands of stories, here is just one.

Spreading News of the Restored Gospel

man-with-megaphoneLatter-day Saints know that the gospel has been restored through a prophet.  It is a knowledge that uplifts and gives life and meaning to everything we do.  It is powerful and comforting to know Heavenly Father has again opened access to heaven and reaffirmed that Jesus is the Christ, His Son. With that knowledge comes a desire to share it with everyone.

Here is our dilemma:  Who will believe us?  How do we share it?

Most of us are hesitant.  We have spent time building good, strong relationships with our neighbors and coworkers, and there is the fear that if we broach the topic of religion, if we invite our friends to a church meeting or to a missionary lesson that our friendships will dry up.

Since Mormonism is such an integral part of our lives we’re worried that a rejected invitation equals a rejected friendship.

I’d like to ask you, our non-Mormon readers, to imagine yourselves in a scenario.  You are talking to a trusted Mormon friend and somehow the LDS Church comes up.  You talk for a few minutes about it pleasantly, but not in much depth.  Then your friend invites you to learn more, maybe saying something like this:

We’re having the missionaries over for dinner on Wednesday.  It’s their job to teach people about the Church, and I’d love for you to learn more.  Will you come over for dinner and a short lesson?

What would you be thinking and feeling?  What would you say?  Be honest.