Well folks, I was baptized around 11:30 am on 2/19/11! This really was a memorable day for so many reasons.
Being the procrastinator that I am, I was about 10 minutes late to the service. Traffic was somewhat bad getting into NYC, which was a little weird for early Saturday morning. Elder Hermosa called me around 10:50am to see where I was, and I told him that I just wanted to scare them into thinking I wasn’t coming.
When I finally got there, I was pretty surprised at the number of people from the ward that were there. I expected maybe 10 people or so, but perhaps around 35 people showed up. I changed into the dreaded jumpsuit, and the service began with a prayer, hymn, and a talk by the Elder’s Quorum President. The bishop conducted the service. After the EQ President spoke, I went into the baptismal font with Elder Hermosa. I then heard the words that I’ve been waiting to hear for some time-“Jason Johnson, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen”. After I was immersed, I felt SO happy and peaceful. But then I had a dilemma…
The jumpsuit was of course soaked, and so were my underclothes. I didn’t bring any extra, nor was there a towel to dry off. I did what I could, but unfortunately, when I put my regular clothes back on, my pants became visibly wet. I could hear the pianist playing music, perhaps waiting for me to come back out, but I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I just thought “whatever”, and walked out from the changing room laughing. Everyone was pretty good about it.
The service concluded with another talk by a ward missionary, the bishop speaking, and the EQ President welcoming me to the ward and the EQ (since this is a YSA ward, there aren’t any other priesthood quorums, so I will be a member of the EQ). I then gave my testimony, and said the closing prayer.
Although I had to work for the rest of the day, I felt completely different after the baptism. I kept smiling at random moments, picturing the baptism, thinking about it, etc. I know that I made a special covenant with God today, and took the name of Jesus Christ upon myself, covenanting to follow Him and His example. I know that this is the Lord’s Church, with Jesus Christ at its head, and that I made this decision only after receiving a confirming witness from the Holy Ghost. Although I was pretty knowledgeable of the restored Gospel before meeting with Elders Hermosa and Lima, I thank them for helping me along the way, encouraging me to read scripture and pray to God to know whether the things we discussed and I read are true.
The next day, Sunday 2/20/11, I received the Holy Ghost and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was originally supposed to be confirmed on 2/27/11, since the YSA ward I attend was not meeting on the 20th because there was a YSA conference that weekend and there would be a combined Sacrament Meeting at another ward, however the missionaries let me know that it was actually decided that I would be confirmed at the family ward on the 20th.
The bishop announced that I was baptized the day before and called me forward to receive the ordinance. The missionaries, my bishop, his second counselor, and the family ward bishop surrounded me and laid hands on me. Elder Lima then said the words of the ordinance. It was so simple and beautiful, just like how the Biblical ordinance of receiving the Holy Ghost was (by the laying on of hands). I almost felt like crying because I have waited so long to hear the words that I am confirmed a member of the Lord’s Church.
Being an LDS critic in the past, I know I am prepared for the various “issues” that LDS critics may bring up, since I used to do the same. I know that throughout all of my criticisms, God was guiding me towards His Church. As I mentioned in my testimony after my baptism, this was not an easy decision for me to make, coming from a very active Catholic background. However it is because of that confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that I made that decision, in addition to all of the research and Biblical study that I did, much of it coming from a critic perspective. I know that there are apostles and prophets on this earth today, just like there were in the ancient Church (Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 4:11-12). I know that Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church. I know that the gospel has indeed been restored, as predicted in the Bible (Revelation 14:6). The Book of Mormon is scripture, and there are multiple evidences for its authenticity, despite what critics may claim. The priesthood of God has indeed been restored on the earth, and truly has the power, through Jesus Christ, to bless, heal, comfort, provide saving ordinances, and bring together people in Christ.
I know that this is only the beginning of my eternal journey to live with God and become like Him, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.