Laura was seven and one-half years old, and like everyone in her Primary class, she was eager to be baptized. Each child knew who was getting baptized next, because they all knew each other’s birthdays.
Except for Laura’s. Whenever someone in the class asked her, she would murmur, “July twenty-first,” with her mouth mostly closed. If anyone asked when she was getting baptized, she answered, “I don’t know,” in a mumbly voice. About then Sister Rice, the teacher, would come to her rescue by calling the class’s attention back to the lesson.
Laura had moved into the ward only a couple of months earlier. On her first day in Primary, her dad had whispered something to Sister Rice. Laura knew that he was explaining why she couldn’t be baptized on her birthday and asking Sister Rice to help her not feel uncomfortable about it in class. Sister Rice had tried, but Laura still felt bad.
Laura’s mom didn’t believe the Church was true, and she didn’t want Laura to be baptized. She had explained that she didn’t want her daughter to make such an important decision when she was only eight years old.
Only eight! Why was it that when Laura let her little brother use his watercolors on the kitchen table without covering it, her parents said that she was old enough to know better? And when she tried to give the dirty dog a bath in the bathtub, she was old enough to know that the bathroom would end up a disaster area? If she was old enough to know those things, wasn’t she old enough to know that she wanted to follow Jesus?
Laura loved her mom very much. And though she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to be baptized, Laura tried not to be upset. Actually, she tried to just not think about it. There was nothing she could do about it, anyway. She couldn’t help wishing, though. If only she could be baptized, she could wash away all her past mistakes, and the Holy Ghost would help her choose the right.
One week in Primary class, the lesson was about the sacrament. Sister Rice said that each time they took the bread and water, it was like making their baptism promises again. Every week they could promise again to follow Jesus. If they had done some things wrong, they could repent by feeling sorry, asking forgiveness from Heavenly Father and anyone they had hurt, deciding never to do that thing again, and making up for what they had done wrong. They could do this every time they made a mistake. That way they could stay as clean as when they were baptized. So repenting and taking the sacrament could help them act and feel as if they had just been baptized.
A few weeks later, the lesson was about the Holy Ghost. Some of the children thought the Holy Ghost helped only people who had been baptized and confirmed. Sister Rice told about some people in the Bible and Book of Mormon who had not been baptized but had been helped by the Holy Ghost because they were righteous. “After baptism and confirmation, the Holy Ghost stays with you always, as long as you are righteous,” Sister Rice told them. “Having Him with you always is the gift of the Holy Ghost. But righteous people who are not yet baptized can also have His influence in their lives as they try to do what’s right.”
Laura’s class studied different ways in which they could show that they were followers of Jesus. They learned about Ammon and his brothers teaching the people of King Lamoni and his father. These people were Lamanites. After they were converted to the gospel, they changed their name to Anti-Nephi-Lehies so that everyone would know that they were different from the other Lamanites, who did not follow the teachings of Jesus at that time.
Laura learned that long ago, when Jesus lived on the earth, the people who believed in Him called themselves Saints. She learned that Jesus Christ commanded that His church today should be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so that everyone would know that we follow Jesus. She also learned that when we really try to follow Him, other people can tell this without even knowing the name of our church. Laura thought about all this.
I guess there are a lot of things I can do even if I’m not baptized yet, she thought. I can still promise to follow Jesus. If I make a mistake, I can repent. I can pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him for help when I need it. I can act like a good member of Christ’s Church so that others will know what I believe, even if I’m not a baptized member. Maybe they will want to learn about Jesus, too.
That’s what Laura did. She tried very hard to keep all the commandments that she could. Later, when she was older, she was able to obey the commandment Jesus Christ gave in 2 Nephi 9:23: “And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name.”