What has been the most important moment in your life so far? You could probably come up with several answers if you thought about it. But few events are as important as being baptized.
Baptism is a saving ordinance, meaning we must be baptized to return to our Heavenly Father and live with our families forever. What’s more, it’s only after being baptized that you can receive the other saving ordinances such as receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, receiving your endowment, or being sealed to your spouse in the temple.
So for a 16- or 17-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holder to perform this first of all saving ordinances, it can be both a humbling responsibility and a privilege, as several youth in the Billings Montana Stake will testify.
“It was a great opportunity to strengthen my testimony,” says Daniel Kirkpatrick, who baptized his friend Jeron Fosjord after helping the missionaries teach him. “It helped me appreciate the priesthood more because it wasn’t my dad performing the ordinance. It wasn’t one of the older adults or even my older brother. It was me. I had the priesthood, and I could use it.”
Daniel, a priest in the Pioneer Park Ward, was struck by the eternal consequences of performing Jeron’s baptism. “Jeron is going to be a missionary some day. He’ll affect others, and they’ll affect others. It was a sobering thought, a wake-up call, that what I was doing will have eternal echoes.”
When the day finally came, naturally Dan was nervous about performing an ordinance in front of other people. “I was a little scared,” he says. “I probably asked Jeron his middle name a thousand times to make sure I got it right.” It didn’t help that the font hadn’t filled all the way.
“The water didn’t even reach our knees,” Dan says.
He got the name right, but the water was so low that it took him four tries before Jeron was completely submerged. “I just about drowned him one time because as he was coming up I saw that he hadn’t gone all the way under, so I panicked and pushed him down again.”
After the third try, they went ahead with the talks and musical number while the font filled some more. By Dan’s fourth and final try, the water was up to their waists. “It was easy then,” he says.
Despite it being a “rough first time,” Dan loved the experience: “It was awesome.” Not only did it strengthen his testimony and help him appreciate the priesthood more, the experience excited him about serving a mission.
“I’ve felt the fears and tasted the successes of a full-time mission,” he says. “I’m excited to get out there and serve.”
Cole Negebauer, a priest in the Shiloh Ward, knows all about being nervous to perform such a sacred ordinance. When he was asked to baptize his younger sister, Corie, he had been a member for only three years. His own baptism and the baptism of his parents and younger brother were still fresh in his mind, and he remembered how important it was to him.
So when it came time to baptize his sister, he was more than a little nervous about doing it right. The baptismal prayer isn’t a long prayer, but like the sacrament prayer, it must be said word for word. “I prayed about it a lot. I prayed that I’d not be nervous and that I’d be able to remember the words.”
It helped. But like Dan, Cole was in for a surprise when his family arrived at the church the day of the baptism. “It was packed,” he says. “We had to move into the chapel.”
When the important moment came, though, as Cole recited the words “having been commissioned of Jesus Christ,” he learned that when you’re acting worthily in the name of the Lord, you’re not alone. “I felt calm. I could feel the Holy Ghost there with me. It felt right. I knew I was doing something Heavenly Father wanted me to do.”
To Cole, blessing the sacrament and baptizing are important, but there’s more to holding the priesthood than that. Holding the priesthood means living right and being an example so he can perform those ordinances worthily.
“Some of my friends at school don’t understand why I don’t do some of the things they do, like watching R-rated movies or drinking and stuff like that. It’s hard to explain the priesthood. But they know I won’t do those things. Some think it’s cool. Some think it’s weird. But everybody knows.”
Honoring the priesthood has helped Cole prepare for his mission. Through Cole’s example and friendship, one friend and his two brothers were baptized. Another friend is playing basketball every week with some of the young men in the ward.
“I’m glad I have the priesthood and can use it more than just every Sunday,” he says. “It has strengthened my testimony. It’s given me confidence to do what’s right.”
Baptism is a blessing not only for the person being baptized but in many ways for the person baptizing as well.
“I was really flattered,” says Aaron Getz of being asked to baptize a neighbor in the Monad Ward. “I was honored. It was a real spiritual booster in my life at that time.”
Now a returned missionary, Aaron says the experience helped him in many ways. “I had to do a self-check to make sure I was really worthy. And then I wanted to stay worthy after. It became a constant reminder when I was faced with decisions or temptation.”
These priesthood holders were blessed as they fulfilled their duty as priests “to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament” (D&C 20:46). The baptisms were experiences they’ll never forget. Not only were they sharing in one of the most important events their family members or friends will ever have, but they themselves were growing as they acted in the name of the Lord and with His authority.