Saturday, June 06, 2020

Benjamin's baptism

In an alternate reality we would have been physically surrounded by family today. My mom and dad were supposed to visit us this week. My sister Kelli had a plane ticket to come see us. Grandpa was talking about flying out as well. But, as we all know, coronavirus happened and we ended up being rather alone today.

Benjamin had his bishop's interview via video call a couple of weeks ago:

He looks bored only because he was not-so-patiently waiting—in his mullet of an outfit: business on the top, pyjamas on the bottom (mullets: business in the front, party in the back)—for the bishop to arrive. Fortunately, Daniel Tiger has taught us that "when you wait, you can play, sing, or imagine anything!" so Benjamin (who was a little annoyed that they had put his name as "Ben") began practicing doing tongue tricks, as one does.

He had his interview, and passed with flying colours (not that it's a scary interview), but then the bishop said that we weren't quite authorized to hold baptisms yet so they didn't know when Benjamin could be baptized but that the interview was "good" for a year so we had plenty of time to figure things out. And then the primary president emailed me just a few days before Benjamin's birthday to inform us that we had been cleared to hold baptisms, but that we could only have ten people present and we had to wear masks and sterilize everything and...and...and...

We could wait until restrictions relaxed further or we could go ahead with no guests present. Clearly we opted for the former and immediately started planning his baptism. We got the green light on Thursday and that's when we booked the church, so this was a real slapdash job, but I think it turned out well enough. It's actually pretty easy to plan a baptism when only your immediate family is present.

Well, not only us. The bishop and the primary president also attended. Here was one of the social-distancing chair arrangements we tried (though we didn't quite end up with this configuration):

I made a few new masks for our family because we learned that multiple layers of flannel is really hot in the summer (go figure) so we needed something a little more...breathable...because breathing is good. Now everyone has at least two masks to wear, which is nice because I like to wash them between uses and we find ourselves wearing them more and more. Like, we went to the park to take a walk outside of our neighbourhood the other day, so that used up six masks (Andrew stayed home to work; we mask in the park because there are always a lot of people on the trails and pretty much everyone masks up for it). And then Miriam uses a mask for her organ lesson. And Andrew uses a mask when he does the grocery shopping. And it's just nice to have a few on hand.

I made Alexander's mask out of some fabric I have been carting around since my PoCo days. For real. I have moved that fabric over the mountains, across the country multiple times, using it for this and that and, finally (not that it's gone; I still have some), using it to make a cute little baby face mask. With an A on it! Alexander was pretty happy about that.

He was very interested in the filling of the font and I could not keep him from hanging off the glass. Every time I turned around he'd be back hanging on the glass. So now is an appropriate time to link to the story of Deklan's baptism—when a little girl assumed there would be glass in front of the font but there was not and she performed a lovely swan dive into the font when she went to lean up against the not-present-glass. Luckily her father was baptizing Deklan so was in the font already and calmly fished her out.

You can see the mirror is fogging up, which means the water was nice and warm. The bishop told the story of his baptism—how there was an ice storm the night of his baptism so they ended up postponing it, but the font had already been filled, so they just let it chill all night and then baptized him in it the next morning.

I also got baptized in intolerably cold water. There had been a miscommunication about who was supposed to fill the font so when we arrived at the church for my baptism my parents were surprised to find the font empty. They turned on the water full-blast to fill the font as quickly as they could, but the hot water either wasn't working or wasn't working well, and that water was cold as cold could be!

I'm assuming it was just a finicky font. Our font in Durham was rather finicky as well. It took three hours to fill the font for Rachel's baptism because you could only turn the water on about as wide was your thumb, which is basically a dribble for a bathtub faucet. Turn the hot water on all the way, turn the cold water on a little bit, grab a good book, and then wait and wait and wait for the font to fill. It took forever so was shocked when I was told it would only take about 45 minutes to fill the font in our current building.

Forty-five minutes! Warm water! How luxurious!

The primary president set up a zoom meeting for friends and family to join and we had quite the virtual crowd supporting us. Here you can see Patrick (who got up before 8:00 in the morning to put on his business-top for us (I bet he's got shorts on the bottom though)), my parents, someone from primary, and my uncle Bruce (who looks like he's at the beach, but he's only pretending to be at the beach, unfortunately):


And here are a few other visitors—my best second-cousin Heather Adams (not to be confused with my second-best cousin), Austin and Rosie, some friends from primary, our friend Lindsey (from our Cairo days) with her boys, Uncle David and Aunt Ruth, my parents again, and our friend Amanda (from high school):

But that wasn't even all! My mom's cousin Lavon was there (Heather's mom), my sister Kelli, Grandpa, Benjamin's primary teachers—the Hamblins...I'm sure I'm missing others. It was wonderful to have so many people supporting us and I really hope that streaming these events (baptisms, funerals, etc) continues as church-sanctioned in the future because pandemics aren't the only time we're separated from loved ones. Technically you're not supposed to stream events like these, but with the pandemic going on we're trying some new things, I guess.

Our friends from Durham had their daughter baptized today as well (but in Utah) and thanks to being able to stream the service and, further, due to changes in missionary rules, their son, who is on a mission in England right now, was able to "attend" and give a message, which I think is so wonderful.

We don't have to miss out on things anymore due to distance. I mean, in-person gatherings are great but, honestly, the "virtual" gathering was just as real.

Here's Benjamin chatting to some of his guests:

Here are a few pictures I took of Andrew and Benjamin together before Benjamin's baptism:

We didn't really need to mask outside with only our family around, but for history's sake we masked anyway! Here they are without their masks:

Here's a picture Rachel snapped of us inside:

Here's our whole family, all wearing actual clothes at the same time for the first time in months (it seems like someone or other (usually Rachel) is always in their pyjamas):

And here we are, masks off (but our lovely photographer, the primary president, was more than six feet away with a mask on herself and we only took our masks off briefly and all these precautions feel a little insane...but here we are, living with them):

We didn't have any singing because of coronavirus (singing seems to spread the virus further, faster (not that any of us think we're sick but, like, you never know) so we just opened with a prayer, given by Rachel. Then Miriam gave a lovely talk on baptism and the gift of the holy ghost which she largely wrote by herself (but which I did help her with).
Hello everybody. As the most recent person in the family to be baptized, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the covenants we make at baptism today before Benjamin gets baptized. 
In the song “When I am Baptized,” it says, “I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain, and ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again. I want my life to be as clean as Earth right after rain, I want to be the best I can and live with God again.” 
The second verse explains that when we are baptized we are made clean before God, we know that we can be forgiven and improve ourselves constantly. This is a wonderful gift!
Baptism is like a rainbow.  
Red stands for how imperfect we are. Isaiah 1:18 says that our sins are “red like crimson” or “scarlet” but through the miracles of baptism, repentance, and the atonement, our imperfections can be washed away or forgiven until they are “as white as snow.” Jesus loves us enough to pay the price for our sins. He loves you enough to pay the price for your sins. 
Orange is for accountability. After you are baptized you get the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is also known as baptism by fire. The Holy Ghost helps us make good choices but ultimately we are responsible for our own actions. This is accountability. When you are faced with making a choice you can remember the orange light of a traffic light. Slow down, think about it, and yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, which “will show unto you all things what ye should do.” 
Yellow is a happy colour. In our baptism rainbow, yellow stands for goodness. One of Benjamin’s favourite scriptures is Galatians 5:22–23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Part of our baptismal covenants are to help bear one another’s burdens. When we serve others with the fruit of the Spirit, we—and they—feel happiness. We feel joy.  
Green stands for how we can grow and improve ourselves every day. In the song Faith, it says, “faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow.” There are so many ways to grow closer to our Heavenly Parents. President Hinckley said we need to “try a little harder to be a little better.” You can find ways to grow to be a little better every day. 
Blue stands for repentance and being washed clean of our sins. When we are baptized we are completely immersed in the water, which represents us being washed completely clean. It represents a new birth into a new life. Unfortunately, we won’t be perfect. We will make mistakes. Fortunately, we can repent and be forgiven. When we take the sacrament each week we renew our baptismal covenants and promise to keep trying. 
Purple stands for how we are all children of God. It is the colour of royalty. Elder Anderson said that although our “early situation may not be ideal,” our “spiritual DNA is perfect because [our] true identity is as a son or daughter of God.” Benjamin, always remember that you are a child of God. You are worthy of love and respect; you are entitled to the Lord’s goodness. But don’t forget that everyone you meet is also a child of God. 2 Nephi 26:33 says that all are invited “to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denith none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God…” Don’t forget who you are, and remember to treat everyone like a noble child of Heavenly Parents. 
All together represents the earth made clean with rain with sunlight shining through, just like how we are baptized and made clean with the light of Jesus Christ shining through. That creates our baptism rainbow. 
In our lives, we have storms and trials but we also have a light to look to for hope and guidance. That light is Jesus Christ. When the light and the storms and rain of our life combine, it creates a beautiful, colourful life for us to experience. 
I bear my testimony that I know that the gift of the Holy Ghost will truly help guide us through life and that when we are baptized we are made a blank slate and are made clean once more. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  
She had little pictures for each of the colours (a red heart, a traffic light (that obviously had an orange* light in the middle), a yellow smiley face, a green seedling, a blue raindrop, and a crown with purple jewels) and she held them up as she was speaking. Then she presented him with a rainbow to hang in his room.

The baptism itself went off without a hitch. The water was warm. And it was all just fine.

Rachel and I were witnesses so we know. This is another policy change that I was happy to have announced. In the past only priesthood holders could witness baptisms. Now any baptized member of the church can witness. It was neat to be able to participate and I think it was a rather timely change because without it we wouldn't have quite been able to pull of Benjamin's baptism (we would have had to invite at least one other priesthood holder to witness alongside the bishop) but as it is now, we could do it with just our family, which is pretty cool (and handy because...pandemic and subsequent restrictions on the size of social gatherings).

Rachel and I played our ukuleles (rather poorly) while we waited. I figured out some chords to go with my grandma's baptism song late last night so we only really practiced it this morning and clearly could have used some more practice. But it was fine. We're planning on recording it tomorrow.

Once Benjamin and Andrew were dry and dressed, they came out for Benjamin's confirmation, and after he was confirmed a member of the church and had the gift of the holy ghost conferred upon him, the bishop said a few words and the primary president presented him with a CTR towel (which I suppose we could have used to dry him off with, but we brought towels and this one was wrapped up so nicely with a bow and a poems and everything that we decided to just save it for later).

Then I said the closing prayer and we chatted with our virtual attendees for a few minutes and then packed up, cleaned up, sanitized everything, and left.

When Rachel and Miriam each turned eight we did a little photoshoot of them in their lovely white dress so we could send out invitations for the baptism and so forth. Benjamin didn't quite get that same treatment because we've been living in pandemic pandemonium, so we headed to the temple to take a few pictures of him to announce his baptism after the fact (rather than in order to invite people to it). Temples were closed worldwide not too long ago but they've since been reopening, ever so slowly. Our temple is open for sealings, by appointment only, and I know that the distribution center on sight is also open by appointment, so I figured that the temple grounds would be open at least (since they were open for strolls prior to all temples being closed) but they were not.

So that was a bit of a disappointment, but only adds to our bucket of coronavirus memories. We still stopped to take a few pictures of Benjamin with the temple behind him.

In order to get a clear shot, however...

 I had Andrew hoist him onto his shoulders:

And then we went home and took a few more pictures of him out in the yard. It was nice to at least get everyone out of the house for a little outing and drive.

I hope Benjamin's baptism day will be memorable for him. At any rate he's here to report that 8 is, unquestionably, great. Just look at that grin!

* You might be thinking to yourself, "But Nancy! The middle light is yellow!" Not so. Yellow isn't very visible, so it's really a rather orange-yellow (often called amber) so it can be seen easier. Lots of countries use an obviously orange light as opposed to an ambiguously orange light as they are here. This is unrelated but I have a hard time thinking of school buses as yellow as well. They are very clearly orange. I'm not willing to die on that hill, but I'll at least stand on it.


  1. Well, I think the lights are amber but the buses are yellow to me! And the baptism was lovely today. Everyone did their part well.

  2. What a cutie! I think the pictures of Benjamin covering Andrew's eyes are great!

  3. I'll have to pay more attention to those yellow/orange/amber lights in the future. I guess it's kind of like people saying they have red hair when some people's red hair is not really red, but orange-y to my eyes!

  4. ...and some people's darkening-blond hair is really beige (according to Zoë). :D :D