The Baptism


“I’ll never understand why Dad had to accept a teaching position in this town,” muttered eight-year-old Ann angrily to herself. “They certainly must need teachers in places that have grass and trees and paved roads instead of dirt ones that turn into muddy rivers whenever it rains. If we hadn’t moved, I could have been baptized in a pretty place with carpeting on the floor and a white tile font.” Memories of her old stake center and meetinghouse crowded her mind. Angrily she pushed them back. Today of all days she didn’t want to cry.

“Honey, you’ll have to get your own breakfast this morning,” her mother called from behind the old sewing machine. Mother was busy transforming snowy linen into the dress Ann would wear for her baptism later that day.

Mom’s working hard to have something nice for me to wear, Ann thought, but who besides the sagebrush is going to see it? Her cousins had told her all about their baptisms, and Ann knew hers wasn’t going to be anything like theirs.

Ann walked dejectedly across the gravel-filled yard to water the four struggling fruit trees behind the house, then started to pull out some of the tumbleweeds so that the prettier golden orange poppies would have a better chance to grow. A welcome breeze carried the sound of the rustling cottonwoods by the irrigation ditch, reminding her of the rushing streams in the canyons.

“So that’s where you are, Pumpkin,” Ann’s father said when he found her. “We’ve been looking all over for you. It’s time to get ready. If you don’t hurry, we’ll leave without you,” he teased. He looked at her more closely. “You do want to go, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, only …” Ann’s voice faded. That was just it—inside she just wasn’t sure anymore. Ever since she could remember, she had looked forward to being baptized—but not in a pond in the middle of the desert! Her mother had tried to make her feel better by telling her about the people in the Book of Mormon who had been baptized in the wilderness. But it had only helped for a little while. Now the day was here, and she still didn’t have that warm, excited feeling she longed for.

Ann threw her arms around her father’s neck. “Oh, Dad! I wanted it to be so beautiful, and it isn’t going to be. And oh … you just don’t understand.”

Her father held her tight and brushed the hair back from her hot forehead. “Maybe it’s you who doesn’t understand, sweetie.” He swept his arm in a half circle toward the desert. “All this doesn’t matter. Today is a very important day in your life. By getting baptized, you show that you truly want to become a member of the Lord’s church and that you want to keep His commandments. That’s an important step to take, and we are very proud of you. It will be all right, you’ll see. You’d better go inside now and put your baptismal dress on. Your mother must be wondering what’s keeping you.”

From the backseat of the moving car, Ann watched the sagebrush turn into silver gray clumps. It was not long before Dad pulled off the two-lane highway onto a dirt road leading to the pond. The slow-moving waters were fed by a natural spring. Old poplars clustered around the pond as if to protect it from the harsh sun.

Ann’s bare toes sought the cool shadows of the trees as she waited. Finally her name was called.

Dad smiled at her, this time without the usual mischievous twinkle in his eyes. A sob that wouldn’t go away caught in Ann’s throat. She looked around at her family and realized that she’d been so selfishly concerned about her surroundings that her family’s love for her had gone by almost completely unnoticed. She had almost forgotten the real significance of this day. How grateful she was now for a chance to change.

Slowly she stepped toward the edge of the pond. Her father was there, waiting. As he tenderly lowered her into the water, the rays of the sun seemed to turn the water into liquid gold.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer