LadyMo is back!
Last we met, I was telling the Elders of my decision to be baptized. It was the second hardest thing I had done that week. Telling the missionaries I decided to be baptized was not the difficult part, I think, but the fact that it came with a big ol’ slice of “I was wrong, you were right” humble pie. Ask anyone; humility is not my finest quality.
I asked Elder C to baptize and confirm me. It just made the most sense and I couldn’t imagine anyone else performing those ordinances. The sisters helped me plan my baptism. They asked me questions about who/what/where/when/how… and I was overwhelmed. I asked if it was possible to keep it as small and private and secret as possible. I didn’t want a whole hoopla, mostly because I wasn’t *excited and happy* so much as I was just doing what I knew I needed to do. A little bit like brussels sprouts. Yeah, my baptism was like brussels sprouts. Also, anyone know there is an “s” at the end of brussels? Thank you spell check!
The sisters said they would do their best, but that a lot of people would want to be there. We picked songs (Have I Done Any Good, God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again), and speakers (Sister C from the first ward I attended and Sister L, my professor). Natalie H and Sister R offered the opening and closing prayers. With Elder C baptizing and confirming me, these individuals represented the most important people in my conversion. If I had to invite people, I knew I needed these people there. They knew the best where I was coming from and, because of their testimonies, they knew where I could go.
Also, since I’m pretty anti-pants and anti-Michelin man, the sister did a great job of finding me the ugliest WWII nurse’s uniform for my baptism. As bad as that dress was (ask anyone, they’ll tell you), it was better than the jumper. Woof .
A week before my baptism, I had dinner at the H family’s home with the missionaries. I had to confront a lot of weird feelings in front of a lot of people (am I really doing this? am I really doing this for the right reason?). I explained to Elder C that while I wasn’t happy about my decision, I just kept hearing a voice tell me “I need you to show me you can do at least this much. This is just a baby step in putting your faith in me.” I knew that there was a world of blessings waiting for me on the other side of baptism, but I still felt like I was making a decision without fully understanding the piety of covenants I was about to make. I knew it was big, but I also knew that I didn’t know how big.
After dinner, the family gathered in the living room for a family prayer. Seeing everyone on his or her knees was shocking and overwhelming. I tried to hide in the kitchen to avoid it. I don’t know what it was that spooked me, but I could feel lung crushing pressure and an adrenaline overload. I didn’t want to be there. It felt like too much, too fast. Natalie pulled me out of the kitchen and stood with me while her daughter offered the prayer. She held my hand and held me up. She helped me be there, even if my body was trying to run away. I felt like this:
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. (JS-H 1:15)
It seems as though the adversary was, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? (JS-H 1:20)
I wish I could give a specific reason why it felt so strange to be there, but the image of the elders and the H family kneeling together in prayer has never left me.
For the rest of the week, I committed myself to reading as much and as often as I could. I felt like my baptismal day was going to be like one huge final exam and I needed to cram until I knew all the answers. Good thing it doesn’t work like that. Like Sister R told me one time in our safe little Relief Society room, if I waited to be baptized until I knew all the answers, I would die trying. But I tried anyway.
On the day of my baptism, January 29, I had tacos with my friend S and Natalie H. Let me tell you something, these tacos are evidence that God wants us happy. Back me up on this one, Nat? Over lunch, S asked Natalie a lot of questions about what Mormons believe. This was so helpful for me. Natalie knows the Articles of Faith inside and out and offered a back to basics overview of our faith with a side of the world’s greatest tacos. Sister L, formerly of Paris, called me to wish me a happy day and said, “CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE MORMON!”
And then we hit the road for some dunkin’.
When I arrived at the church, the sisters were ready to shuffle me into the changing room to get ready. I was a little bit late and we had no time to waste. I walked into the room where I would soon be baptized and saw a few rows of very empty chairs. I gave the sisters two thumbs up. It looked like it was going to just be the missionaries and for that, I was very excited.
In the changing room, I started to freak out. I asked Sister R to be in there with me just to talk to me. I asked her to just say anything. I was so nervous and I felt cold. My blood felt ice cold. When I was dressed and ready, I stood in the empty room waiting for the Elders. Sister R told me that we would start in the Relief Society room and come back to the font for the baptism. So I followed her into the Relief Society room and was greeted by nearly two full wards and about 16 missionaries. It was standing room only. There were so many people and I thought I was going to drop dead.
I sat in the front with Elder C and between prayers, speakers, and songs, he asked how I was doing and reminded me to relax and to keep breathing. My mind was blank except for two overwhelming thoughts: 1) there are so many people here, and 2) Elder C is barefoot and that is so silly. I reached the point of no return and knew that, no matter what, I was going to be baptized. I would go into the font angsty and I would come out Mormon.
At the baptismal font, Elder C and I had a quick pep talk. He stood on one side of the font and I stood on the other. The waters of Mormon splashed between us. It felt safe and strange, actually. We were behind walls and no one could see what we were doing. For as many people who were in the room, it felt like it was just the two of us in silly white clothes, a big bathtub, and the promise of eternal blessings. He asked how I was feeling and I told him I didn’t know if I could do this. He reminded me of Mosiah and reminded me that I was making the right decision. He quickly ran through the ordinance and told me what was going to happen. I wanted to vomit.
We got in the font and the room was packed. I was in a dress in a bathtub and it felt so unreal. Elder C is deaf and signed the whole ordinance and everyone in the room was glued to his hands. Everyone, even the bishop and Elder P who were witnessing, were transfixed. So transfixed, in fact, that after I was dunked, they forgot to actually witness. Sister R told me later that she was so nervous when they said we’d have to do it again: “I didn’t prepare her for a round two!!” Poor Elder C had to fingerspell my whole name all over again (first middle last = 28 letters). He got it right both times which, in itself, is a gift from God. And down we went again.
When I came back up after round two, I felt an all enveloping warmth and comfort. I was confident and I was sure and I was happy. I was soaking wet, but I was so happy.
After my baptism, everyone went back to wait in the Relief Society room while Elder C and I changed. It felt good to get out of the soaking wet WW II nurse’s dress and into dry, warm, colorful, LadyMo clothing.
Back in the Relief Society room, the bishop called the priesthood holders who were invited to confirm me. The Elders and Brother C stood around me; Elder C confirmed me and Elder P voice interpreted. I loved that they were both there for me to see and hear. I remember only a few things from my blessing, the content of which I would like to keep private for now; but mostly, I remember how I felt. Even though there were a flobbity gillion people in the room, I felt an abundance of peace and warmth and love. Actually, perhaps it was because there were a flobbity gillion people in the room that I felt those things. They came from all over Kansas and Missouri, some over 3 hours away, to fellowship me and to welcome me into this amazing church. I felt amazingly loved.
After Elder C confirmed me, I just stared at him and smiled. I asked him “What am I supposed to do now?” He told me, “you’re supposed to shake their hands now.” Everyone giggled. So, I shook.
By the end of the day, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I was happy and was confident in my decision. The entire room glowed and I knew I was where He intended me to be. Looking at who was in the room and thinking about the people who helped get me there; I knew He put them in my way for a reason. And I was so grateful for that.
I felt this:
He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make it otherwise. (JS-H 1:24)
For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it. (JS-H 1:25)
Dear readers, “TheLadyMo” isn’t just the story of my baptism. This is the story of becoming Mormon. As anyone on his or her faith journey knows, getting baptized or finally coming to understand God’s love for us is not the happy ending. Yes, it is happy, but it’s just not the end.
It’s like in Harry Potter (for you, Marie) when Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrive at Hogwarts for the very first time. His entire life, Harry struggled with knowing who he was or where he fit or if he was loved. He knew he was a part of something bigger than his life in the cupboard under the staircase, he just didn’t realize how big. The missionaries were my Hagrid, telling me I’m a wizard. The journey and the learning from the time Harry gets his first letter, to his first time in Diagon Alley, to his first train ride on the Hogwarts Express was all about finding out he was magical. Hagrid got Harry to the gates of Hogwarts; the missionaries got me to the gates of the Gospel. My baptism was like arriving at Hogwarts for the very first time. Like Harry, I didn’t know much. I was scared, but excited. I had to walk through the doors and learn things. I would have to wave my wand a few times, battle trolls in the bathroom, and depend on my friends to help me find my way in this magical Mormony world.
If you’ve been following me on my journey to Coming Out Mormon, consider this just the prologue.
So much love,