Melissa’s Baptism


Sarah Thompson was hurrying to gather the dirty clothes so she could get the laundry finished before her husband, Ted, got home from work. She opened Melissa’s bedroom door and hurriedly picked up a shirt, blue jeans, and socks. When she turned to leave, she realized that she wasn’t alone in the room.

“Why, Melissa, I thought you were outside playing with the rest of the children. What’s the matter, dear?”

Melissa had obviously been crying, and it took a while for her to get out the words: “I—I don’t want to get baptized on Saturday.”

Sister Thompson quickly joined her daughter on the bed and took her in her arms. “Melissa, dear, it’s all right. But you’ve been talking about your baptism for months, and you could hardly wait for your eighth birthday. Why have you changed your mind?”

“I’m scared.”

Sister Thomspon smiled. “Melissa, you’ve been to baptisms before. What is there to be afraid of? Besides, your friends Ann and Sarah will be baptized on Saturday too. Won’t they help to give you courage?”

“But they’re different from me,” Melissa said in a soft, unsteady voice. “They’ll have their fathers there to baptize them.”

Sister Thompson knew that Melissa’s nonmember father couldn’t baptize their daughter, but she had thought that Melissa was pleased that their home teacher had promised to do it. “I thought you liked Brother Adamson, dear,” she said. “He’s such a special man.”

“I love Brother Adamson,” Melissa sobbed, “but it’s not the same. He’s not father.”

“Oh, Melissa …” Sister Thompson tried to comfort her daughter. She loved her husband very much, but at the same time her own heart was breaking. She thought of all the times she had wanted to share special spiritual experiences with her husband but had been unable to. Now the fact that he was not a member of the Church was hurting their child. Maybe she had made the wrong decision when she had listened to the missionaries and had decided to be baptized. Yet she had received a strong testimony of the truth of their message, and she had been sure that Ted would soon realize how true and good the gospel was. But that had been three years ago, and he still showed no sign of ever wanting to become a member of the Church.

“Melissa,” Sister Thompson began again gently, “do you enjoy going to Primary?”

“Oh, yes! I love the stories, and my teacher, Sister Westover, is so nice.” Melissa had stopped crying.

“Do you believe those stories?” Sister Thompson continued.

“Yes, of course I do,” Melissa answered confidently. “I know that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet.”

“How can you show that you know it is true?” her mother urged.

Melissa realized what her mother was trying to tell her, and she knew that she would be baptized on Saturday. But without her father to share the experience—it just seemed kind of frightening. Melissa smiled at her mother and said, “Maybe daddy will come to see me get baptized on Saturday. I’m going to ask him just as soon as he gets home.” Melissa went outside the house to wait for her father to come home from work.

Sister Thompson remained sitting on the bed, deep in thought. Ted hasn’t attended a Church meeting yet. He has gone with us to several church social activities, but nothing about the gospel has really interested him. She hoped that Melissa wasn’t in for another disappointment.

Melissa saw her father coming and ran to meet him. Ted Thompson took his daughter in his arms, and gave her a big hug. “What’s my little one so excited about today?” he asked with a smile.

“Oh, Daddy! I’m getting baptized on Saturday, don’t you remember?”

Mr. Thompson suddenly grew serious, “Yes, your mother told me about it.”

Melissa hurried on, not noticing her father’s concerned look. “Father will you come and see me—will you, please? Everybody else’s father will be there. You’ll come, won’t you?” Melissa pleaded.

Mr. Thompson was unprepared for her question, and he didn’t know what to say. Finally he said, “We’ll see. We’ll see. It’s still a long time until Saturday.”

Melissa was disappointed, but she decided that a “we’ll see” was better than a “no.” She gave her father a final hug and ran to play with her friends.

Saturday was a beautiful, clear day, and Melissa thought that it was a perfect day for her baptism. She hadn’t talked to her father about coming with her since that day she met him in front of the house. But he hadn’t said anything, so she assumed he would be there.

That afternoon Melissa took a long, hot bath, and her mother helped her get dressed in her prettiest Sunday dress. Hanging on the door was the lovely white baptismal dress Sister Thompson had made for Melissa. When they were ready to go, Sister Thompson said, “We’d better hurry, dear, or we’ll be late.”

“I’ll get daddy,” Melissa replied. But when she found him Melissa saw that her father was still in his work clothes, reading the newspaper. “Daddy, aren’t you ready for the baptism? We’re going to be late!”

Mr. Thompson looked at his daughter’s anxious face and said, “Melissa, dear, I can’t go to your baptism. I’d feel out of place. I just don’t belong there. Please don’t be angry with me.”

Melissa was out of the house and running before he had even finished. Sister Thompson saw the tears in her daughter’s eyes, and for the second time that week she wondered if she had made a mistake in joining the Church.

There was great excitement in the girls’ dressing room as Ann, Sarah, and Melissa changed clothes for their baptism.

“I’m so excited!” Sarah exclaimed. “Daddy gave me my very own Book of Mormon. It has my name on it and everything!”

“That’s really nice,” said Ann. “My whole family’s going over to my grandma and grandpa’s after the baptism. Grandma promised to help me start on my Book of Remembrance.”

Sarah and Ann noticed that Melissa was very quiet. “What are you going to do afterward, Melissa?” Sarah asked.

“Well, I’m not sure.” Melissa knew that they would just be going home, but she added, “Mother and father are probably going to surprise me.”

Melissa slipped her white dress off its hanger, and as she began to pull it over her head, she noticed a piece of paper pinned inside. She unpinned it and saw that it was in her father’s handwriting! “My dear Melissa,” she read, “I’m sorry that I won’t be there with you today. I want you to know that I am very proud of you. You have made a very important decision in your life. I only hope that I can have enough courage to make that same decision some day. Please remember that I love you very much. Daddy.”

Melissa wiped the tears from her eyes as she finished dressing. When Brother Adamson helped her down the the steps of the baptismal font, Melissa had the most radiant smile that her mother had ever seen. Sister Thompson knew then that she hadn’t made a mistake three years before when she, too, had entered that same baptismal font.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch