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A couple short chapters but I love them. In the first chapter, Moroni talks about how the Lamanites are killing all the Christians. A couple of verses later, Moroni says, “Hey, I want to write this letter to the Lamanites, and hopefully it will do them good.” That, in and of itself, is quite the sermon on loving your enemy.
But instead of that topic, today I want to talk about the baptismal covenant and accompanying gift of the Holy Ghost. What does the baptismal covenant actually do and why did Joseph Smith say that you might as well baptize a bag of sand then baptize a man without giving him the Holy Ghost?
The Baptismal Covenant
Moroni 6:3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
Took upon them the name of Christ. Baptismal covenants. Taking a name. Covenant. What does that remind you of? When else in our lives do we take someone’s name and enter into a covenant?
I recognize in today’s world that not everyone takes their husband’s last name when they get married. This isn’t a commentary on that. It’s simply talking about some similarities to make a point. What other instances do we see in the scriptures that talk about marriage? Christ often called Himself the Bridegroom, correct?
So let’s talk a little bit about a marriage covenant and what it can teach us about our baptismal covenant.
When two people get married, a couple of things occur (traditionally). First off, the girl takes on the name of her husband and all that entails. In the worldly sense, when a girl takes on her husband’s last name, that could be for good or for bad. If you marry someone with the last name Bundy, people are going to ask if you’re related to Ted. If you marry someone with the last name Hinckley, you’re inevitably going to be asked if you’re related to Gordon. It’s part of taking on a new name. You become associated with that name.
The same occurs when you take on the name of Christ. When you let people know that you’re part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you become associated with that name and everything people have heard about, read about, or personally experienced with us. In some cases and opinions, that might be a bad thing. The same goes for being a Christian in general. You get to be associated with the Crusades, and you get to be associated with more positive movements.
This particular part of baptism is usually placed on our side of the responsibility. So in a covenant, you make promises and another person (in this case, Heavenly Father) makes promises. Taking upon us the name of Christ is usually placed on the side of our promises. It’s a responsibility. We now become representatives of Christ. When people experience who we are, for good or bad, it will become part of their association with Christ for a long time to come.
The second thing that occurs in a traditional marriage covenant is that the worldly possessions of both parties merge. In the case of my husband, he got some debt and I got some surplus…heh heh cha-ching…just kidding.
The funny thing about this in the baptismal setting is that Christ has infinite surplus, and I hate to break it to you but you have nothing but debt. We all have varying amounts of debt, but when you really look at the situation, the differences between us are all immensely minimal compared with…you know…infinite surplus.
So what does this mean? It means that all of your student loans, car debt, any debts have now been wiped clean immediately. It’s gone. No matter how much you deserved the debt or chose the debt or think about the debt, it’s not actually there following you around anymore. The feeling of that debt may haunt you a bit, but it’s not there anymore.
But that’s not the end of it. You are married to Christ, the Bridegroom. It means that if you went to the store and accumulated some more debt on the credit card, He can easily pay it off. Here’s the catch though. You have to show Him the debt for Him to pay it off. When you make a mistake, you have to repent. You may get feelings about that debt again, but it was not difficult for Christ to pay it off. It’s as simple as paying off a credit card with infinite amounts of money. You can’t beat this deal.
And it goes even further. If you need to go to the store for something, you can also ask for cash ahead of time. If you’re going out to serve somebody, if you’re waking up with a baby at night, if you’re picking up the slack again, if you’re at work all night to provide for a family, and you’re running low on anything at all, you simply call Him up, and He can give you what you need. If you’re on an errand for Him, and you don’t have what you need to fill that errand, all you have to do is call Him, pray. Pray for what you need to accomplish that errand. Power, courage, the right words, patience, faith, whatever it is. Ask for it. You’re in a covenant. You can ask. He wants us to ask. He loves you. He knows what He married, a gold digger with no real prospects. And yet, it doesn’t matter to Him. He wants us to ask, and He wants us to love Him back.
Now Moroni also spoke of the sacrament. Sometimes, in the midst of our day and trials and mundane tasks, we forget about that debt we accrued. We forgot to ask for what we needed ahead of time, and we had to put it on the credit card.
Christ has set up a recurring budget meeting with you every week on Sunday just in case this happens. This little budget meeting is a way that we can remember if there’s anything we need Him to pay off, and we can talk about anything we might need that coming week. It’s like making the marriage covenant all over again. Everything gets wiped clean.
The Holy Ghost
So if we’ve entered into this awesome covenant with Christ, why does Joseph Smith say it’s the covenant is useless with the gift of the Holy Ghost? Let’s read another verse.
Moroni 6:4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost…
As I grew up, I always thought it was the baptism part that somehow miraculously cleansed me, but read that verse again. After baptism they were cleansed by the Holy Ghost.
In the baptismal covenant, we promise to take His name and remember Him and follow His commandments. What was His part of the bargain? The companionship of the Holy Ghost. We may have made the covenant, but we have to make sure to pick up the gift! We have to actually receive the gift in the form of laying on of hands. The Holy Ghost cleanses us. The Holy Ghost, through the power of Christ’s atonement, pays our debts.
Now. When Conner and I were dating, he gave me a car to use. Now before you really start to think I married him for money, he got this car by trading it for a blender. It was spray painted black Ford Explorer with a million miles on it. He bought it with the intent of destroying it while off-roading with it. In the few years he had it, we changed the oil a maximum of two times. Much to his surprise and pleasure, the thing wouldn’t die. And I loved this car. It was a stick shift and my leg got a work out trying to push that clutch down whenever I drove. I was too afraid to touch some places in the car because it was so dirty, but I adored this car. It had a ton of personality, and he let me use it because I didn’t have one.
Though I got to drive it, it wasn’t mine. I only used it. It wasn’t promised to me. I had no right or real claim to it other than the fact that Conner told me I could use it.
Then Conner made the mistake of marrying me, and I suddenly very much found myself with every right to that car.
People have experiences with the Holy Ghost before they get baptized or before they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. But after you’ve made that covenant with Christ, the worldly assets merge. You have a right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Occasionally, we make the mistake of choosing a less reliable vehicle to drive around in but if we’re going to those weekly budget meetings, and we’re doing our best to stay on top of things, we have constant access to that car.
And it’s all totally unfair but it’s by choice.
Conner didn’t have to marry me. Our dating period was one of the most miserable periods of both of our lives, and I made it anything but easy to marry me. That’s a story for another time, but here’s the point I’m trying to make. Perhaps it wasn’t fair that Conner took me on in some aspects, but the fact remains that he chose to marry me. He loved me regardless of the price, and he wanted me to be with him forever.
Christ feels the same about each of us. He didn’t have to choose us. He wanted us.