September had come, and autumn was just around the corner. The leaves of the poplar and cottonwood trees had changed from green to golden yellow. The grass that grew beside the road had turned to rusty brown. And Malan had turned eight.
The day of Malan’s baptism finally arrived. He had learned about baptism in Primary and during family home evenings, and he had thought about the event for a long time. Using his own new copies of the scriptures, he and his dad had read about the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13–17). Now he could be a member of record of the Church, like his mom and dad and the bishop and the boys who passed the sacrament. If he always tried to do the right thing, his baptism would enable him to “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), and that’s where he and Dad decided they wanted the whole family to be. Malan closed his eyes and listened to the hum of the car’s tires on the pavement as the car carried them to the Parkland Ward meetinghouse.
In a few minutes he and his sister, Ginger, his mom, Aunt Marcia and Uncle Scott, his cousins Jenny and Coral, and his Grandma and Grandpa would be there. His dad was already there, running water into the font and making sure that the white clothes were ready.
It seemed to Malan that time was dragging. The streets of the city were crammed with cars, and every red light seemed to refuse to turn green. A lane ahead was blocked because a truck had tipped over and spilled its load of wood.
Malan peered anxiously out the car window. A man was frantically directing the traffic and casting unhappy glances at his overturned truck. Behind him, driving along the ditch, was a police car with its red and blue lights flashing.
“Don’t worry,” Malan’s mom said, turning around and giving his arm a comforting squeeze. “We’ll be there in time.”
Malan sighed with relief when they finally pulled up in front of the large red brick building. He was so eager to get inside that he almost forgot how important it was to walk quietly and be reverent in the Lord’s house.
He saw his dad, dressed all in white, coming to meet him. But something was wrong! Dad knelt down; his kind blue eyes were concerned. “You have a decision to make, Son,” his dad said, giving his shoulders a gentle squeeze. “I’ve run the water for a long time, and it appears that the hot water heater is broken. The water in the font is very cold. Do you want to be baptized in cold water or wait until next week?”
Malan stood for a long moment and wondered what to do. Behind him he could hear his Grandpa talking, and the excited voices of his small cousins. Through the chapel window he could see the yellow-clad branch of a tall poplar tree as it scratched gently against the pane.
“Were you baptized in a river, Dad?” he asked.
His dad smiled. “Yes, I was baptized in the Moose Jaw River.”
“Was it cold?”
“Only for a few moments.”
Malan lifted his chin and hoped that his dad wouldn’t notice his trembling body. “I want to be baptized today. I don’t mind if the water is cold.”
Malan was uneasy as he changed into his white clothing. And although he tried to sit quietly through his Grandpa’s prayer and his mother’s talk about Jesus, Malan’s legs insisted upon swinging and his stomach had a big knot in it.
Finally it was time! As Malan stepped into the icy water, his knees shook and he wanted to run back through the halls and out to the shelter of the car. Then his dad’s strong hands reached for his. “Are you ready?”
Malan nodded. He listened to the prayer, then pinched his nose as the icy water swept over his head. When he stood up, he gasped for air and splashed to the stairs of the font. As he moved toward the dressing room, his body shook and his teeth chattered, but he hardly noticed. Inside he was filled with a golden warmth, like the autumn leaves outside.