I’ve been a member of the church nearly all my life and am baffled at how often incorrect doctrine and concepts are taught, certainly not intentionally, but occurring nonetheless. And it happens almost every time I attend a baptism. So can we please get one thing straight?
A newly baptized person is not necessarily “the cleanest person in the room.” I’m confident that the people who speak this phrase, Bishopric members included, simply aren’t thinking about what they are saying when they say it. But every time I hear it, I sit in my chair and cringe, biting my lip trying to stop myself from blurting out “So I guess that whole thing about taking the sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants is just a rouse to get our fannies in a pew on Sunday so the ward clerk can turn in a high attendance count and secure a larger ward budget?”
How can we expect members, especially those who are newly baptized, to fully understand and appreciate the wonderful blessing of partaking of the Sacrament when from day one they are led to believe that the only really clean and righteous people are those whose hair is still dripping wet?
The incredible opportunity we have each week to partake of the sacrament is, at it’s very core, foundational in the gospel. It wouldn’t do us much good to get baptized for a remission of our sins, (especially at the age of eight when technically, you wouldn’t have been held accountable for any sins up to that point anyway) if that was the only time in our lives when we could be called “clean.” What difference would it make to get baptized one day back in 1976 if I’m going to end up unclean the rest of my life regardless of it? Or is it that the sacrament only works partially? It renews your covenants, but it doesn’t renew them all the way? It makes you clean again, but not really clean?
Participating in the ordinance of the sacrament is one of the most precious blessings we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each week, if we prepare properly and attend Sacrament Meeting with a broken heart and contrite, repentant spirit, we can be made clean again as we lift bread and water to our lips that have been blessed and sanctified (consecrated; made holy) for the very purpose of renewing our baptismal covenant and demonstrating that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remember him and keep His commandments so that His spirit can be with us.
With an understanding of this divine principle, we should all understand that at any baptismal service, all Sacrament-taking members in attendance should be just as clean as the person who has just been baptized.
Of course, there are many (and I’m sure all of us have been guilty of it more than once) who take the sacrament simply because it’s passing by. The tray of bread is in front of our face, we put a piece in our mouth and chew, and don’t give a thought as to why we’re taking it. It’s very easy to lose sight of the reason and purpose of what we’re doing and merely go through the motions.
But I know there are plenty of people on any given Sunday who are taking the Sacrament with full purpose of heart, having repented, contemplating on the things they may have done wrong during week and sincerely seeking the power of the atonement to make them clean yet again. I’ve even managed to do that myself on occasion.
And is it too far-fetched to suggest that the very people who are the ones you can count on to actually take the extra time out of their hectic lives to attend the baptism of someone they may not have ever even met before, driving the extra “lap” back to the church building, maybe skipping out on other more recreational or self-serving things they could doing, so that they could witness and show support to someone making those sacred covenants, might actually be some of the very people who take those covenants serious enough that they did take the Sacrament with full of purpose of heart and are also really clean? I don’t think that’s too big of a stretch.
Let’s not diminish the power and glory of the atonement, nor the miraculous cleansing power of baptism and the sacrament (which all are inexorably entwined in correct doctrine and righteous practice) by implying that the cleanest person in the room can only be the one whose clothing is sticking to their still dampened skin.