Tomorrow is my other birthday, my born-again birthday, the anniversary of my baptism 44 years ago. I was 11 days shy of my ninth birthday when my parents, my siblings and I were baptized. I have some clear memories of that event and some not-so-clear ones.
In our branch's building (now a stake center), the baptismal font was in the hallway outside the cultural hall. I think our baptismal service was held in the chapel (because I think I remember being confirmed there).
At the time, I had no idea how unusual it must have been to have a baptism of an entire family of six. We were introduced to the gospel by a family up the street. I went to school with one of their nine children, and he invited me to a Primary Halloween activity. (I chickened out on the activity when I realized my store-bought costume sans mask looked completely dorky next to his uber-cool pirate get up.) Fortunately for us, my friend invited me again, and I became a regular Primary attender. His sister invited my sister, and eventually his folks invited the six of us to join the 11 of them for a family night.
My mother, to be polite, invited the parents only to a quiet dinner at our home. They ate in the dining room (we kids were banished), and Brother and Sister S. invited my parents to hear the missionary lessons. My parents accepted. (Twice before my folks had been tracted out, but the missionaries did not return either time; we were far from any chapel, and maybe the elders didn’t have enough miles on their car to make the long trip to see us a second time.)
Over the next few months we took the lessons from Elder Kelly and Elder Gledhill (and once in a while a stake missionary or another full time elder on a split). Those were the flannel board discussion days; the lesson I remember was one in which Christ is show as the cornerstone with apostles, prophets, etc. added on. The flannel board display was contructed so that when the cornerstone was removed, the rest of the pieces fell off the board, as well.
I smile when I think about what the missionaries must have thought when – after several months of lessons -- my folks told them we were going away on vacation, driving from Pittsburgh to Idaho to see my dad’s parents and that we would call when we got back. They must have thought they had lost us forever. (I would have thought that as a missionary, for sure.) But we read the Book of Mormon in the car across the country.
We did return, and plans were made for the baptism. I remember practicing how to hold onto Elder Kelly and how to plug my nose at the same time. I remember asking the missionary in my baptismal interview what the O in David O. McKay stood for (he didn’t know; he said it probably didn’t stand for anything). I remember our baptismal night, though I don’t really remember standing in the water and actually being baptized, though I remember blue tile in the baptismal font (was it really blue?) and the excitement in the dressing room as each baptism was performed. I have a vague memory of being confirmed – surrounded by men with their hands on my wet hair.
As a boy I was thrilled to have been baptized. I loved being a member of the church then, and I do now. I had what I considered then (and still do) to be significant spiritual witnesses of gospel truth. I spoke freely about our family’s baptism with people I knew. Our family began immediately to be involved; Dad helped with scouts and became an assistant clerk; Mom taught Junior Sunday School. We prepared to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple (which we were about ten and a half months later, with special permission to go early).
Happy (re-)birthday to me.