Just over a year ago I went to a Church of England baptismal service for some of my wife’s relatives. Though they were baptised in a glorified paddling pool (which made me very grateful we have formal fonts) there were two things about that experience which impressed me to the extent that I would like to see these practices adopted by the LDS Church in the UK. In order to do this there would need to be a policy change in the CHI in order to provide the flexibility to implement these suggestions, so I admit that it is probably unlikely. Nevertheless here are my thoughts.
This congregation included the baptisms as part of the general Worship service and I imagine it would have made a welcome change in any religious community where the patterns of worship are fairly fixed. Yet, I think that for LDS communities including baptisms as part of our sacrament meetings could work to demonstrate a number of important ideas. For example,
I would have this part of the service prior to the Sacrament so that they can be baptised, confirmed, sustained and then partake of the sacrament as a person newly committed to Christ. This may not work everywhere but it would be excellent, IMO, for congregations where there are only a few people baptised over a year and where the membership is not over 200 regular attendees. Not only would this be a wonderful way of integrating people into the ward but more than that I suspect that it would be an excellent opportunity to exemplify the ritual re-birth that we believe comes by the spirit of God through ordinances.
In addition to this I was deeply impressed by the liturgical refrain which involved the members of the congregation in the covenants that these individual candidates were entering. As part of sustaining our new members I would love to see the relevant parts of a scripture such as Mosiah 18:8-9 recited as part of accepting this person into the covenantal fellowship of a ward. In this Church of England congregation they collectively expressed their commitment to support and serve these new members in the efforts to come unto Christ. It was not that there was any special zeal with which these CofE saints expressed their commitment, for it was still possible to hear the murmur of monotony, but rather I sensed that for these new members it was extremely meaningful. I certainly felt inspired by this opportunity to express my commitment to support them spiritually.
I am aware that we symbolically enact a similar message through the practice of sustaining. Yet my concern is that we need to make this explicit to the uninitiated. I think this takes more than just explaining what raising arms to the square might mean, for this sign will not have had the time to assume the weight of meaning that may come at a later juncture. Therefore we need to express this commitment in a way that will be easily recognisable to these new Latter-day Saints.