Joseph’s Baptism

(Based on an experience of Joseph H. Orullian that took place in Aleppo, Syria, in 1909)
And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old (D&C 68:27).

The morning sun cast gentle shadows across the courtyard as Joseph pumped water from the well into his bucket. “I’ll take my buckets up to the reservoir first,” he said. “Then I’ll return for yours.”

“I want to empty my own bucket,” five-year-old Beatrice protested.

Joseph shook his head. “It’s too heavy for you to carry up the steps. You’ll spill it.”

“No, I won’t,” she answered, standing as tall as she could.

“All right. But please be careful. If we spill, it will take us longer to fill the reservoir deep enough for my baptism today.”

“I know. I’ll be careful.”

The two started toward one of the houses. There were several other Armenian families living in the courtyard, their homes joined together by thick stone walls. Near one of the walls, stone steps led up to a flat rooftop and a reservoir that fed the courtyard’s fountain. Joseph started up the steps.

“Joseph! Listen! Do you hear the bells?”

“It’s the goats,” Joseph said. “I thought it was about time for the milkman to arrive.”

“Go tell Mother,” Beatrice said. “I’m sure she’ll send you for the milk. She always does.”

Joseph tried not to think about how much he liked fresh goat’s milk. “You go this time,” he said.

“But you love to go.”

“I know, but I can get the milk another day. Today I want to be baptized.”

Beatrice nodded. “I’ll hurry,” she said.

When she was gone, Joseph climbed the rest of the way to the reservoir and emptied his buckets. The water barely covered the bottom of the basin.

“I’ll never finish in time,” he grumbled. But then he remembered something that made him wish he had not complained. His grandfather had been killed by wicked men because he would not deny his belief in Jesus Christ. Joseph was proud of his grandfather, and he knew that filling the reservoir was a very small sacrifice compared to what his grandfather had done. “It will be hard to fill the reservoir,” he told himself. “But like Grandfather, I also believe in Jesus Christ. And I want to be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. I can do this.”

With renewed determination, Joseph retrieved Beatrice’s bucket, emptied it, then hauled all three buckets back to the well.

Soon after he finished refilling the third bucket, Beatrice returned. “Mother says we can have milk at lunch,” she said.

Joseph almost replied, “I wish I could have some now,” but instead he wiped the sweat from his forehead and started back to the reservoir. Beatrice followed. Back and forth they went until the midday sun shone bright above their heads and their legs felt as heavy as stone pillars.

“Let’s stop for lunch,” Joseph said.

Joseph and Beatrice set down their buckets and headed back to their one-room home. Mother met them at the door. “You two must be hungry,” she said with a tired smile.

“Yes, Mother,” said Beatrice, “but we’re halfway finished.”

Almost halfway,” Joseph muttered.

“It sounds like you’ve been working hard,” Mother said. She led them to a shady spot near the cooking quarters.

“My arms hurt,” Beatrice complained. “And my hands are sore.”

Joseph looked at his hands. He wasn’t surprised to see blisters forming on the palms. “Beatrice said we could have some milk,” he said.

Mother laughed. “I knew cheese and watermelon wouldn’t satisfy you today,” she said, handing him a full cup.

“I’ve been imagining this moment all morning.” Joseph lifted the cup to his lips and took a long drink.

After lunch, Joseph and Beatrice returned to the well. Again and again they filled their buckets, climbed the steps, poured the water into the reservoir, and trudged back to the well.

Finally, just before the sun began to set behind the western hills, Mother called, “Joseph? Is the reservoir filled?”

“Yes, Mother, we’ve just finished!”

“I knew you could do it,” Mother replied.

Beatrice turned over her bucket and sat on it. “I wish I was old enough to be baptized,” she said.

“I can hardly believe it’s my turn,” Joseph answered. He walked to the edge of the reservoir and dipped his hand into the water. Tiny waves rippled outward. “I’m about to be baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he thought.

“Joseph?” It was Mother again. “Elder Booth will be here soon. Hurry down so you can get ready.”

“Coming,” he said.

Joseph walked to the steps, then turned and looked at his sister. “Thanks for helping me. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“You’re welcome,” Beatrice said. “And you can help me when I turn eight!”

[Age of Accountability]

President Boyd K. Packer

“Only when a child reaches [the] age of accountability, set by the Lord at eight years of age, … is their baptism essential. Before that age, they are innocent.” President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Children,” Ensign, May 2002, 8.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Brad Teare

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen is a member of the Perry Third Ward, Willard Utah Stake.