My days as a non-member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are over. Today marks the end of a journey where I was constantly hunting down the Spirit wherever I could find it. Today marks the rare occasion where I have been given a second chance. Today is the beginning of a whole new life.
I have been rebaptised back into the church, and what a wonderful baptism it was. It was comedic, but most of all, It was of a spiritual nature that I’ve not felt for a long, long time. But this one is different. I walked out of the church building and instead of like before, where I felt hollow because I had to leave the Holy Ghost behind, I took him with me. But let’s start at the beginning of my day.
It started with me waking up and knowing what today was going to be. I began to be anxious because I wanted to have an intense spiritual experience at my baptism. I was so worried that I fasted and prayed that it would be so. You see, I had become used to the Light of Christ. I would feel the promptings, but when it came to intense spiritual experiences, I would have them as the Holy Ghost testified of what was true, and then it would leave. That was what I was expecting to happen. So I worried.
Then it came time to leave for church so I prayed some more before I walked out the door. Well, today was testimony meeting so it was going to be another interesting Sunday (last week was Stake Conference so fast Sunday was moved to today). But I felt very comfortable with the spirit I was feeling. I was in church, so I basked in the light of the Holy Ghost. My baptism was announced in priesthood and then in sacrament meeting. Testimonies were given but I felt this urgent need to get up and bear my testimony. I knew I wouldn’t be permitted to and I while I felt the need to stand up, I also felt myself being held back. Now was not the time, it will come. But I was surprised when a couple of members included me in their testimonies. I didn’t know I made that kind of difference; I’m just another sinner. But it was an acknowledgement of the difficult changes that I made and their respect for me because of it.
After church, I met with my Bishop one more time. I usually met with him weekly so this was the last meeting we would have for a while; the weekly meetings no longer being necessary. It was a wonderful send off and I could tell he was very pleased with my progress and the big step I was about to take.
Our meeting was over, time to go home and prepare. In my little apartment I felt a need to present myself clean to my Lord so I showered, put on a new change of clothing, packed my bag and then said another prayer, concerned again that I would please have a spiritual experience during my baptism. I then left and got to the stake center where immediately upon entering I felt that this was going to be one doozy of a baptism. Changed into my white clothing and stepped out into the forming crowd.
There were all kinds of folks that showed up. More friends than I anticipated but I still felt that this was going to be spiritually more than I expected. Opening song (I was now an emotional goner by this point), opening prayer, talks were excellent and then came the moment. Before my dad took me to the font, he stood there and thanked everyone there for being my friends and support. I was already emotional so this just sent me over the top. I was pleased he saw that I was surrounded by some special people who really made a difference in my life. These were folks who were there when I was angry and rude to when I got some humility. They were patient with me as I believe most of them knew that I was going through some tough times and some tough changes.
But the baptism was comedic. The first time, my elbow was up. The second time, I felt my dad pushing me down so I thought, “forget it, lay down.” So I did, I was under, and had a dickens of a time getting up. But who cares how graceful it wasn’t, it was done. Got dried off and had a minute to myself before I walked out of the dressing room. Did a quick reflection of what just happened; more like a disbelief that I actually got this far. But on to the next and final step: confirmation. I didn’t ask anyone to come up to the circle, so thus far it was my dad, the Stake President and my Bishop. Then I leaned over to the man conducting the service, by very best friend who has seen me through more changes than anyone else. I told him I wanted him and two other people. He called them up and the confirmation proceeded.
I shouldn’t have worried about having a spiritual experience.
As soon as my dad said “receive the Holy Ghost” I was immediately given a spiritual, sacred rush that was unmistakable. It was emotionally downhill from there. My Bishop bore his testimony, my Stake President bore his testimony, and then my friend bore his testimony. I was so moved that, at the end when as the elder who was giving the closing prayer was walking up, I had to get up (jump up I believe) and bear my own testimony. It was building up inside me all day so I had to get it out and I felt that this was the moment to do so.
What did I say? Well, this is what I remember. Said that about 9.5 years ago, I was so rebellious and had such an attitude that I lost everything that should have been precious and important to me. But now I have just gotten back what is, next to my children, the most important thing which is my church membership. I spoke about how as I looked back, I could see the hand of God and all the friends who have helped me along the way. To my friends, I say “thank you.” I then had to pause, I looked up and said “I love this church, I love this gospel, I love my Father in Heaven, I love Jesus Christ and I love the Atonement.” I thanked God and I closed.
After the closing prayer, all the people came up, and even lined up to congratulate me. It seemed like dozens and dozens of people took the time out of their schedule to share this moment with me. I believe there were about 50 people there. Regardless, by the time I was done, I had no more tears left to shed. The outpouring of love and support was awesome and comforting. More people than I realized watched me take this journey. And now they were welcoming me home.
For the first time, I left the church building not feeling hollow, but filled with the Holy Ghost. This journey, as dark and difficult it was, all the sudden became not only worth it, but consigned to be behind me and left to the realm of experience. I’m home. And as long as I strive to be worthy, I can now have the companionship of the Holy Ghost; a gift that is worth every pain, tear and cry to once again possess.