Wednesday, November 18, 2015

66 - Elias's Journey to Baptism

"And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church," (D&C 20:37).

It all began in a humble home in Africa. Elias was always a good boy and has always believed in the goodness of God.

It was hard in Liberia. Family meant everything to Elias. But families aren't forever... His brother died most tragically and he helped bury him. He gained many insights in this time of grieving from the elders of his country, old souls with much experience. But with a body to match the soul, soon all of his elder friends had passed on as well.

This was too much for him. He needed to leave. He needed a fresh start.

So he traveled to America, landing in the same state his step aunt had a few years earlier. In Philadelphia, things were very different. But there was still a lot of death seen there. He needed to find a church.

His step aunt, who he calls his sister, told him to check out the Mormon Church. She had become a member and kept telling him the good things it had done for her and would do for him. But Elias was Catholic. So he went and found a Catholic church.

He went to mass. He shook the father's hand. He told the father that he wanted to join this church. He pointed him to a room, telling him to go and fill out a form.

He did so, and the lady that retrieved his form from him said something very strange.

"You need to pray hard."

What? Elias was confused. But, he still went to church.

After a few weeks he began to realize that he was not accepted here in this church. This church was not good. So he left. And he left the state as well.

He heard that Williston, North Dakota had work. So off he went, and he was greeted on 4th of July with fireworks. Was this what it was like every night? He could hardly believe the noise!

He remembered the words of his Sister. He would go check out the Mormon church.

He found it and walked in. He found... that is was... good. They believed all of the same things! They worshiped the same Christ! This church was very good, and very warm.

Some Elders approached him, but these elders were different from the elders in Africa. These Elders were young, and they had suits and black badges, and were very very white. The Elders talked to him, and they told him about how there were Sisters who could teach him. Elias was intrigued. He was excited about this church.

The Sisters called him and told him the appropriate time to attend service. 

Elias had his friend take him and that Sunday the 19th to church, where he met the Sisters. He was invited to stay for classes. In one class they were bearing testimonies. He felt like he should get up and speak, but he wasn't sure if he was allowed. 

As if reading his mind, the Sister next to him told him he could get up. So he did, and poured out his heart, telling his desire to join this church. 

The Sisters looked at each other. He was ready to be baptized.

The Sisters came over that night and taught him about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they decided he should be baptized on August 15th. He was so excited! 

Elias was so excited that he didn't even want to be taught in the same room as his friends because he wanted to be focused.  He wanted to be taught everything so he could answer questions if people asked him.

So the Sisters continued to meet with him, teaching him, about the word of wisdom, the temple, family history, many many things. And members of the church would always come with them. And members would be always so kind and willing to give him rides whenever they were needed. Elias was so impressed with the people in this church.

He was invited over for dinner once. What a nice family. The Sisters talked a lot about the temple after dinner.

The one of the Sisters that were teaching him for so long was getting transferred. It was sad, but he understood. 

"God knew from the beginning that you would not see the end," he told her faithfully.

But the new Sister was a good teacher too. The Sisters saw him every day the week of his baptism. They needed to finish teaching him the lessons!

But finally, 13 lessons later, it was the big day. All of his friends from church showed up. His heart was so touched. One of this Sisters, the sister that stayed, sang a beautiful song. It set the right mood for the baptism.

In their white suits, they went into the font. The brother doing the baptism was nervous. He had only been a member for two years. He had never performed a baptism before. But he uttered strongly the words of the baptismal prayer.

"Elias. Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

And by immersion, Elias was baptized. Everyone was smiling. The spirit was there so strong. And the moment was so quick, but so great in the spectrum of eternal life.

"That was fast," said the one who baptized as they stepped out of the font.

Elias changed into dry clothes and he had tears in his eyes as everyone shook his hand. He had the privilege to bear his testimony.

"My brothers and sister, I just wish that my mother and my son were here today. They would love to see and join the fellowship of this church. This discussion is much past due. I am touched. The people here. They make me feel so big. I give my life to the Lord today. I give everything to him. Thank you so much."

The day following when he was confirmed, it was said in the blessing that his son would be well and that if he just prayed then his problems of employment would be solved. What an outstanding promise.

The Sister who got here was not there for the confirmation because she was sick. But she was thinking about him, and very proud of him.

Everyone is so excited for Elias to continue on his journey. All in the church knows that this is the greatest decision he has decided to make yet in his life. And the Sister that stayed is so grateful that Heavenly Father allowed her to teach Elias all the way to baptism, the first time she'd taught someone all the way to baptism ever. What an incredible blessing.

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