Death and Life

I wrote the following post in the wake of my son’s baptism, Easter weekend, two years ago.

I baptized my son yesterday. The coinciding of this event with the celebration of Easter was not deliberately planned. Isaac (my son) share his baptismal date with his cousin, so a time was selected that worked best for all the people involved. We met at a stake center in Spanish Fork, Utah, sang hymns and prayed together, witnessed collectively the performance of this sacred rite along with the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then we shared a delicious meal of smoked pulled pork sandwiches, baked lasagna, and homemade cinnamon rolls.

tomato_seedling_lgOn a more poetic level, the performance of this ordinance could scarcely achieve more appropriate timing than the spring weekend when we celebrate the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The baptismal rite itself is a symbolic recapitulation of the burial and subsequent resurgence back to life of the Savior. That the medium is water symbolically links the death of Messiah with the power to cleanse and underscores the notion that co-participation in His burial and resurrection transforms us into new, more refined, purer beings. Death brings new and renewed life (an axiom whose truth rings with a particular clarity in the ears of those acquainted with the process at work in the natural world). And the symbolic link between earth (the grave) and water (the font) can work in the other direction as well, reminding us of the cleansing, refining, life-giving power of soil.

This is why the pagan traditions incorporated into the more overtly religious trappings of the Easter season nevertheless carry real, profound meaning for those who believe in the redemptive, life-giving power of the Resurrection. All around us we see a natural world miraculously surging back to life. What once was dead now reemerges in vibrant color. The earth is renewed and replenished, with former signs of death now suggesting the perhaps neverending, indomitable power of life to carry forward, indeed to draw its very enduring vitality from death itself.

On a more intimate note, the past year has been a period of sometimes intense personal difficulty and trial for me. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that standing in the baptismal waters next to my son in the presence of my family was, well, a small moment of redemption for me. I have celebrated many Easters, baptized and been baptized, for the living and for the dead. Yet given what I believe—not just about the transformative power of the Resurrection and Atonement, but that redemption applies not just to the renewal of our spiritual health but to the renewal of our bodies and of the entire Earth, and having seen what I’ve seen and experienced what I’ve experienced in recent times—the privilege of baptizing my son and of witnessing on the most personal level the redemptive power of death and the grave has made this an Easter weekend quite unlike any other in my memory.


  1. Sometimes I forget about the symbolism attached to baptism. What a blessing for your son to have experienced it at such a special and poignant time. What a blessing as his father to have been able to perform that baptism at such a time. Easter was never a big holiday for my family, and so I love that in Mormonism it does carry the weight that it properly deserves. It is a time of both mouring (for His death) and rejoicing (that he lives). A beautiful time.

  2. Thanks for this, Brad. I am not much of a Christian at my deepest emotional level — the notion of absolution for sin isn’t one that moves me viscerally, maybe because I have an underdeveloped sense of guilt. And faith in the resurrection of the dead has never been a spiritual gift of mine. But forgiveness and relatedness to other humans moves me very much, and you’ve connected those together with the symbols of Easter. That enriches my understanding of the season, so thank you.

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