“Seven, six, five, four, three two, one—eight!” Carrie lifted her finger from her zoo-animal calendar and once more silently counted down the days before she’d be baptized. Today was Sunday, and in just seven more days she’d be eight years old and ready for baptism.
Today was really, really important, too, though, and maybe just a little bit scary because today she would have her baptism interview with the branch president. President Stevenson wasn’t unfriendly, but Carrie was worried he’d give her a test about the Articles of Faith or the Ten Commandments or something.
“Carrie,” Mom called, “it’s time to get up. Remember, your interview is right after sacrament meeting.”
Carrie slipped out of bed and onto her knees. During her prayer, a warm feeling came over her that everything would be OK. She remembered that it was the sort of calm feeling that Sister Cowan, her CTR-A teacher, had taught her could come to her through the Holy Ghost.
“Get out of my way,” Nathan growled later as he shoved past Carrie into the bathroom.
Wow! she thought, I hope he’s not going to be a real grump all day.
But Nathan was still scowling as he, Carrie, and Mom and Dad left for church.
“Good morning, Carrie. Big day coming up next week, right?” Carrie felt a familiar arm around her shoulder as Sister Cowan gave her a hug. “Your interview with President Stevenson is today, isn’t it? You’re really ready for baptism—I know you are.”
Sister Cowan always made Carrie feel special. But that warm feeling disappeared as “Nathan the Grump” came toward her.
Just then President Stevenson came out of the chapel. “I’ll be seeing you right after church, won’t I, Carrie?” he said with a big, warm smile.
Carrie nodded and smiled back. Maybe our visit will be OK, she thought.
Then President Stevenson smiled at Nathan. When Nathan didn’t smile back—as she had predicted, he was being a dedicated grump today—the branch president simply said, “Nathan, remember?”
Miracles really do happen, Carrie thought as Nathan’s face started to crinkle, then break into a full-fledged smile!
“I remember.” Nathan’s smile grew and lasted as he ambled off down the hall.
Did I see a miracle? Carrie wondered. And what did Nathan “remember”?
During sacrament meeting, Carrie glanced over at Judy, a Merrie Miss. Carrie thought that she always looked sort of sad. But now, as Judy looked up from her hymnbook, she broke into a smile! Following Judy’s gaze, Carrie saw President Stevenson smiling at Judy from the stand.
How can he make “Nathan the Grump” and “Sad Judy” smile when nobody else can? Carrie asked herself.
Soon the closing prayer had been given and everyone was milling around the foyer, visiting with each other.
“Carrie.” She felt a light hand on her shoulder. “Are you ready for our interview?”
Nodding, she followed the branch president to his office.
“I’m really glad we can visit today about your baptism,” President Stevenson told her. “Would it be OK if we started with a prayer?”
When he finished the prayer, he opened his scriptures and asked, “Do you remember when the Prophet Abinadi tried to teach King Noah about God? The only one in the king’s court who believed Abinadi was Alma. Upon his conversion, he gathered others and taught them the gospel. He said that for people to be ready for baptism, they should ‘mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.’”*
As they talked about all that Alma had written, Carrie felt glad that Sister Cowan had discussed it all in her class.
When President Stevenson asked Carrie if she would be willing to do all that Alma said, she answered yes and really meant it.
“The next verses talk about a covenant between the people being baptized and God. Do you know what a covenant is?” President Stevenson asked.
Covenant? Oh no! This is the test, and I can’t remember what it is! “Well, uh, not really,” was all she could mumble.
“That’s OK, Carrie. Lots of people don’t really know. A covenant is an agreement, or promise, between two people. They agree, or covenant, that as long as one of them does what’s been agreed upon, the other is bound to do what he promised. Alma spoke of baptism as a covenant between us and God. If we agree to be baptized and always remember the Savior and keep His commandments, He agrees to send His spirit to always be with us. Do you understand this?”
“I guess so, sort of.”
The branch president smiled. “Maybe it’ll be easier to understand if you and I make a simple agreement, OK? Here’s our agreement: Whenever I see you, whether it’s here at church or someplace else, I promise that I will smile at you, even if I’m not feeling happy. But if I do that, then you have to promise that you’ll smile back at me, even if you’re not feeling like smiling. Do you think we can make that agreement?”
“OK. I can do that.”
“Good. Now, as a symbol of our agreement to smile, let’s shake hands.” Her small hand was smothered by his, but it felt warm and firm, not scary.
“Now just as our handshake was a symbol of our agreement, your baptism will be a symbol of the covenant—a very sacred agreement—that you are making with God. He’ll send you His Spirit if you take the name of Jesus Christ upon you by being baptized and remembering Him and obeying His commandments. The sacrament prayers will help you remember this sacred covenant that you are making with Heavenly Father. Do you understand better now?”
“Yes, President Stevenson.” Carrie beamed.
“I think that you’re prepared for your baptism, Carrie. Tell your parents I’d like to talk with them about arrangements for your baptismal service.”
She got up to leave, then turned back with a grin. “President Stevenson, have you made the smile agreement with the other kids who have been baptized?”
“Yes, I have. Everyone—even adults—who have been baptized in our branch since I’ve been branch president have made the same agreement with me. I think it helps everyone understand better what a covenant is, and every time we smile at each other, we remember just how sacred our baptism covenant is—their smiles show that they are happy to have made their covenants with Heavenly Father. Don’t you think so?”
Remembering Nathan and Judy, Carrie thought so too. She smiled as she hurried to find her parents.