Seven years ago today, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember vividly the day I made that decision, because it happened the first time I ever attended Church.
The first time I went to Sacrament Meeting is a day I'll always remember. It was a cold Sunday in January and I had just turned 16. Before the meeting even started, I felt a difference the moment I walked inside the building. The peace I felt was immediate. It sank deep into my heart, and I felt like God was genuinely close to me for the first time in my life.
That feeling continued throughout the rest of the meeting. As the speakers gave their talks and bore their testimonies, I could feel God speaking to me through the words they said. I'd never experienced anything like it before.
I had been searching all my life for the place where God truly was, and I had never been able to find him. I had come home at last, and I didn't want to leave. I didn't want that feeling of closeness to go away, but I didn't know what to do to make it stay. When the meeting ended, I confess I panicked and almost started to cry. I never wanted it to end. I prayed to God and begged him to tell me what I had to do to stay with him.
Sitting in Sunday School with a Book of Mormon in my lap, I flipped open to a random page and read got an immediate answer.
Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.
Alma 32: 16
Eventually, I fell through the cracks. For about 2 months I didn't go to Church anymore. When Easter Sunday came around I realized I had made a terrible mistake. I went back to Church and committed myself to staying. I would finish what I started. I would be baptized, and no power in heaven or on earth was going to stop me.
Special arrangements were made with the Philadelphia Mission president at the time for me to be taught by the branch mission leader and his wife. By the end of the summer I was ready to be baptized.
My baptism was on a Saturday morning. I was incredibly nervous. I knew I was prepared. But was I ready? Was I ready to promise God to follow him forever? Was I ready to promise to be like Jesus? Was I ready to live up to what God expected of me? Could I really be what he wanted me to be?
I didn't have perfect certainty when I stepped into the baptismal font. I don't know that anyone who is baptized ever does. But when I went under, all of those doubts stayed in the water. That was what the Lord was telling me in Alma 32: 16. There's no way to know what's going to happen in the future. You can't see all the different ways you could screw up. But you can trust the Lord to help you, and trust that he really will forgive you if you do mess up.
Baptism isn't about knowing everything. It isn't even about knowing enough. It's about trusting, even though you don't know everything, and you can't see the future.
That decision has carried me through the rest of my life. When I decided to stay active in the Church as a new convert, when I moved 2000 miles away to go to BYU, when I left BYU to serve a mission, the entire time I lived in Brazil, when I was sealed to my sweetheart for time and all eternity--that trust is what ties all of these experiences together. In each one, I had to trust God to help me with everything I didn't know, and everything I couldn't see coming. My ability to do that has made all of the difference in my life.
I know that God our Father lives. I know that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to save us from sin and death. Jesus gave us the perfect example of what we have to do to live with our Father in Heaven again. An essential part of that example is being baptized. I know that baptism is what we have to do to be saved. I know baptism washes away our sins, and keeping our covenants helps us to become like Jesus. If we remain faithful throughout our lives and repent of our sins always, we will live with our Father and his Son again.
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's true Church. He restored it to the earth through a living prophet, Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. We have a living prophet on the earth today in Thomas S. Monson. I leave you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.