I have decided that the mission thus far has been a reverse model of baptism. In Phoenix, I was baptized by fire. All 120 degrees of it, emerging from the ashes renewed and cleansed. This week, I experienced baptism by water. Allow me to explain.
Darkness reigned in the heavens. This was an irregularity in and of itself, considering that the sun reigns basically uncontested and unobstructed most days in Arizona. Clouds had rolled in, clouds the likes of which Russel from the movie "Up" would describe with a "Yep, Cumulonimbus." Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle, deluge. Now let me paint, for you, the situation.
Arizona was not made for rain. Neither were white shirts and ties, or bikes, or hair gel. That being said, suffice it to say that riding down sidewalks on a bike wearing a white shirt and no rain jacket while cars careen down flooded roads is quite the experience. I thought I was wet. Then I started getting splashed by faster-moving traffic. Elder C. and I were dying laughing by the end! haha. When we finally got to a point at which we could peel off our mud-caked, water-saturated clothes and bags, we did an inventory of our belongings. The phone was drenched. The planner was splashed. The pass along cards had seen better days. The scriptures were totally and completely dry and safe. Praise be. Prayers are answered.
Baptism by water also came in the form of the baptism of "S", an investigator who I used to teach in The Paradise Foothills YSA ward in my last area (pre-split). It was perhaps the best baptismal service I've ever been to. He asked me to come back so that I could speak at his baptism. "T" is basically the most prepared person I've ever met. There was a tendency in that area for people to find us rather than us finding them. He walked into church and declared that he believed everything and had been taught the lessons multiple times--he needed only to be baptized. We quizzed him and taught him and made sure and--yes indeed-- he needed very little before being ready for baptism.
The Spirit was there so fully at his baptism. You could feel the power of the Spirit sealing the ordinance and approving what was done. He was so ready. While he changed, the attendees were invited to write down their testimonies for him, to be made into a little book that he can look back on and remember. My testimony centered on the importance of reading your scriptures daily and remembering what the Spirit has told you is true. The path to destruction lies in not doing the daily performances that God has asked us to do--not for His benefit, but for our own. Because there was no church this Sunday, we got permission to do the confirmation right then and there as well. I got to be in on that too, and may I just say that that was even more powerful. "T" is going to do some amazing things in his life and with his priesthood. I can't wait to see what becomes of him.
Being back in Phoenix briefly reminded me of all the insanity that goes on. Apparently one of our potentials committed suicide by jumping into a river. He said that while he was dead, he had a vision of being in hell and begging God for one more chance, after which he woke up in the hospital and came back to life. He's looking to change his life now. It's amazing how some people become prepared--a different baptism by water.
The reason we didn't have church this week was the temple dedication. The day before the dedication was when it rained (which, might I add, is the first time it has rained in months). The temple had streams of water coursing down every surface, immersing it in the flood from the heavens. The cultural celebration was completed in the swirling storm. The next day, the sun regained its splendor and the sky was clear and blue. The temple was prepared then to be dedicated--baptized by fire.
It was a glorious dedication. Doctrine laid down, prophecy fulfilled, more prophecy laid down. It's there if you look for it. It's just like the Spirit and each of us-- He speaks if you are listening. And if you are worthy. His role is to warn of spiritual and physical danger. But He speaks as you listen. I'm beginning to understand more how He speaks. In answer, rather than in initiation of conversation. In what you need to know, not what would be convenient for you to know. He's told me before I meet them who smokes and who doesn't, who needs more time and who can be pushed, what doors to go back to and which to leave and never return.
And I know he speaks to each of you. I just don't know what you hear. I'm beginning to realize that listening is the most important thing. I wonder how much He has tried to tell me before, when I wasn't listening.
I'm under water here, on a mission. Away from the noise and the flashing lights. It gives perspective and lends insight. It's a time to listen and learn. The other noises are fainter here, so it's easier to listen. And I think I'm beginning to see.
I invite you to do the same. Seek silence and safety. Seek water. Water to cleanse, water to be reborn, water to drive away the rest of the sound, water to whisper silently to you what needs to be heard. Seek water. Seek life. Seek baptism. And then seek fire.
The gospel is true. The Spirit is real. The Book of Mormon is true. How do I know? Because God told me so. And I know He will tell you, too.
I love you all. Press on.