Thoughts From Last Night

I guess I could say that I’d prefer someone else baptize her, but that wouldn’t be true. I want to baptize her, and she wants me to baptize her, too. She’s been part of our family pretty much since she came to visit. No one else really knows her, except some of the old women. Still, all we have done is give her a ride to church every week and talk a little bit. Why did she agree to be baptized? I didn’t think she’d taken me seriously when I told her that I wanted to baptize her as soon as she believes that I won’t let her drown. No, there’s no one else that should do this if I don’t. Maybe Bishop. No, me. I just don’t think that baptizing visitors who are leaving soon is a very good idea. In fact, I think it’s almost uniformly a bad idea. I think it’s an even worse idea when that visitor is 82 years old. And when her knees don’t bend. She’s been visiting our ward for six weeks, but is leaving on Monday, and I have no idea what kind of support she really has at home in Oregon. She says she’s been going to church for over 60 years. Honestly, can a near-drowning experience as a young girl really be that traumatic? And if it really can be that traumatic, how is it possible that it only took six weeks and a few conversations to help her overcome something that no one else could accomplish in decades? Has she notified her sister yet? What about her daughters? There is no way that this is a good idea. It’s too convenient, and there must be another reason she has never been baptized. Is she really as mentally sharp as she seems? Am I going to be accused of manipulating the elderly when she tells all her friends back home that she got baptized into the Mormon church? I’ve done all I can to delay this as long as I have. Stupid missionaries–they don’t even realize how this kind of thing looks to people outside the Church. Why is that Elder taking so freaking long with the interview? It only took me 10 minutes to go through the questions with her the other night. She’s on a fixed income, and I’ll bet that paying tithing will be really hard for her. It’s easy for people who have paid tithing their whole lives and are now on fixed incomes to keep paying, because they have a testimony of the principle and the blessings. It’s something else to take a meager income with no experience and or depth of testimony and deplete it even more. I wonder if she’ll say she can’t pay it. I wonder if the Elder will approve her baptism even if she says she can’t pay it. I hope she tells the Elder that her grandson will be a prophet. That was hilarious the other night with the other Elders. Gah! Finally! I don’t even know her middle name…better ask her that before we go into the font. My wife has had a terrible day with the kids, and I have no idea if her talk is ready. Stupid missionaries, honestly. Why on Earth are we having a baptismal service at 5:30 PM on a Wednesday? Doesn’t anyone realize what a ridiculous burden this is on everyone who has to work? I haven’t had dinner, and my wife is stressed. Scott, shut up. It’s not about you. Don’t make it about you. Okay, great, her great-grandson made it to the service. Bummer that his mom didn’t come. That would have been nice. Seriously, Elder? Seriously?!? You didn’t bring an extra pair of garments for yourself? Or a towel? Seriously? No, I don’t think you should go ‘commando’ in your baptism jumpsuit. Le sigh. Whatever. Right! Middle name! Okay…Bethany Jane Shields…Bethany Jane Shields…Bethany Jane Shields…Holy crap, I haven’t baptized anyone since Finland. Do I still know the prayer? Yes, I know it. Wait…do I say ‘Amen’ at the end? Or no? It sounds stupid to say ‘Amen’ doesn’t it? I can”t remember. Maybe Kevin knows. Well, the talk is almost over. Oh man, I don’t even know if Beth’s knees can bend. She looks really nervous. Her hands are shaking, and mine are too. What if she really freaks out in the water? What if she has a heart attack? There are so many ways that this could terribly. This is such a bad idea. Why why why did I let myself get talked into this? I hate these clothes…my “white” shirt isn’t really white at all next to these pants. Should I be wearing socks? Scott! Shut up! It’s not about you! Okay…here goes nothing. We are setting an all-time record for slowest entry into the font. It would be a disaster if she slipped on the steps. It looks like her knees really don’t bend. Elder, you freaking idiot. You’re in a baptismal font, and you’re freaking commando. You are freaking kidding me. Okay, Scott…focus here. Elder Idiot isn’t important. Alright Beth, one more step into the font, and we’re here. That’s good, just a little bit further toward this end of the font. Okay. Okay. WHY DIDN’T WE PRACTICE THIS BEFORE?!? Awesome–my daughter picks this moment in time to throw a fit. Spectacular. Scott! Focus! Okay…deep breath. Elders, get your arms right up under her armpits. No, literally. I want you to have both of your arms completely under her for support. Good–like that. Now, Beth, I am going to say the baptismal prayer in a moment, and then we are going to lower you smoothly and comfortably into the water. Are you okay? Good. You’ll be under the water for just a second–nothing more, and we’ll all be here holding on to you. Can you see your great grandson there through the glass? He’s sitting right next to the glass so he can see you. Beth, you’re completely safe, and I promise that I’ll be holding onto you the whole time with both hands. Deep breath, Scott. Deep breath. Look at Beth–she’s 82 years old, and a braver person than you are. I feel so unfocused and distracted. Deep breath.

“Bethany Jane Shields, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ…”


  1. Rebeckila says:

    I hope Beth finds plenty of support back home. It really is hard for members to change wards soon after baptism, they’ve got to work hard to make connections with people who haven’t been following them on their journey to a testimony. Even knowing how important it is to reach out to those new people I find myself too uncomfortable trying to connect when they don’t respond nicely on my first try. :(

  2. Scott,
    You made me all teary eyed.

  3. Mommie Dearest says:

    Only Scott B could write something so snarkily poignant.

  4. I can’t find the words to describe how I felt as I read this. All I can say is that it really touched me and made me think of how often I let myself get in the way of something special.

    Thank you, Scott, for what this post made me ponder – and God bless the Bethany Jane Shields of this world.

  5. Kristine says:

    Lovely, Scott. A beautiful story, and I think you’ve captured the whorl that goes on in the heads of people who think too much, that can almost make us miss transcendence and grace. But only almost.

  6. Thanks for this, Scott.

  7. Beautiful, Scott. Stupor of thought, broken through in a moment of pure clarity.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    That was outstanding, Scott. I could really relate to that internal patter of thought. What a lovely experience.

  9. Mark Brown says:

    Very proud of you, Scott.

    Thanks for writing this up.

  10. Yes, baptize her, based on her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t baptize people based on our projections of whether they will be “good” Mormons afterwards. We need to get beyond the notions and trappings of Mormon culture.

  11. I was feeling your anxiety the whole way through reading your post. Then, I got to “having been commissioned…” I got choked up. Scott, thanks for sharing.

  12. Chris Gordon says:

    For what little my pat on the back is worth, you’ve got it. :)

    So much we could talk about, but I’m afraid any effort to comment would be as all over the place as your stream of consciousness.

  13. Sorry I couldn’t be there. I’ll have to live the experience through you. … Let’s make this the last time we do that!

  14. Yeah, this is a keeper.

  15. You had me at “commando”.

  16. Oh Scott, in the few minutes it took to read this, you moved me from curiosity, to stress, to wanting to shake you, to remembering how powerful that prayer is to me.

    It’s so good for Sis. Shields to take care of unfinished business, and so good to have a guy like you to help her with it. God bless.

  17. That was a seriously great story.

  18. Michelle AM says:

    Wow. I will be considering how often I let my thoughts and worries get in the way of the Lord’s grace and power… He can change lives in a variety of ways.

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    This is fantastic, and the stream-of-consciousness hits just the right note. Wonderful.

  20. Awesome.

  21. Scott B. says:

    Thanks all. Despite my writing’s tone, it really was a beautiful baptism and there was a wonderful spirit there–hopefully felt by all.

  22. Sounds like everything went well.

    Rarely a person desires baptism and is not physically able without serious risk. In Japan as missionary we taught a lady who had a tumor removed from her trachea. She breathed through a hole down in her chest, not her throat. She was very fragile and liable to get pneumonia. We did baptisms in the ocean then and her doctors told her that it could easily kill her.

    Our mission president had us baptize one of the sister missionaries by proxy for this lady. The prayer was very similar to that used in the temple …”for and in behalf of ….. who is living….” The new member stood on the shore and had the unique experience of watching her own baptism. I presume our mission president had permission from further up. He was a by-the-book sort of guy. I think it was an interesting solution to a rare problem.

  23. #22 – That’s a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.

  24. Loved this. Brought back memories from the mission and from baptizing my own kids. Thanks Scott.

  25. paragraphs?
    but thanks — cool story.

  26. (just kidding about the paragraphs — stream of consciousness was perfect for this, a fun way to document an amazing experience)

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