This morning I attended a baptismal service for Bro. Jojo N. Riguera, more known to me as AA Fernandez' boyfriend and Sister Mary Lee another single adult. I have met Jojo previously on many occasions and at Church so I promised that I will be attending his baptism. I was assigned as the speaker and eventhough I was very tired and busy with the preparation for my mom's 61st birthday celebration later this afternoon, I gladly accepted the assignment. The topic that was given to me was Baptism and Gift of the Holy Ghost. I made my talk really personalized and based on a talk given by Pres. James E. Faust on the same subject.
My dear brothers, sisters, and friends, speaking to all of you at this special occasion for Jojo and Mary Lee is a matter of great excitement for me. Baptism always brings back great memories and thoughts about my own baptism.
My baptism into this Church was one of the highlights of my life. I was 12 years of age then. I saw the missionaries at our neighbor’s house and I thought they were story tellers and so I asked them how much it would cost me to be told stories. Wise as they were, they answered and said that the story is for free if my whole family would listen to the same story. I found that an easy condition because my parents and siblings love me and would do everything for me. After several weeks of teaching, about 27 in our family including my aunts and uncles’ families were baptized into the Church 22 years ago.
I remember the day of my baptism very vividly. I was baptized along with my six younger brothers and cousins in the baptismal font in Caloocan Chapel. We put on white coveralls and one by one were gently taken down the steps into the water. One of my cousins was not totally immersed, and so the ordinance was repeated. This was necessary because, as the scriptures indicate, “baptism symbolizes death, burial, and resurrection, and can only be done by immersion.” 1 It also follows the pattern set by the Savior, who was baptized in the river Jordan, where there was much water. As Matthew records, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.”
Even though I was only 12 years of age, the words of the baptismal prayer penetrated deeply into my heart. After repeating my name, Elder De Guzman, who baptized me, said, “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.”
Today, Jojo and Mary Lee, you will be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a similar manner and by the same authority.
The Savior taught us that all men and women must be born again. Nicodemus, one of the rulers among the Jews, came surreptitiously to the Savior by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus was bewildered and asked: “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
Jesus explained that He was talking about being born spiritually. He said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
All of us need to be born spiritually, from 8 to 80—or even 90. Our first birth takes place when we are born into mortality. To my dear mom, that took place today 61 years ago. (Happy Birthday Mami!).
Our second birth begins when we are baptized by water by one holding the priesthood of God and is completed when we are confirmed, and “then cometh a remission of [our] sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” 8 To Jojo and Mary Lee, their second birth will happen in a little while. (So to both of you, Happy Birthday!)
Because it is my mom’s birthday celebration today, we prepared gifts for her. And since it is also Jojo and Mary Lee’s birthday, they will also receive gift after their baptism (tomorrow in Sacarament Meeting) and – that is the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Baptism by immersion in water is “the introductory ordinance of the gospel, and must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete.” Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
The transcendent gift of the Holy Ghost, along with membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is bestowed by confirmation, by the laying on of hands by those having priesthood authority.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Jojo and Mary Lee and many outside the Church have received revelation (manifestation) by the power of the Holy Ghost, convincing them of the truth of the gospel. Through this power sincere investigators like Jojo and Mary Lee acquire a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the principles of the gospel before baptism. However, administrations of the Holy Ghost are limited without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Let me give an example: I saw AA driving the car of Jojo the other Sunday. Because they are in a relationship, Jojo likes AA to drive his car. But Jojo at the end of the day will get back the car from AA, since it is not hers. It is different if it is AA’s birthday (or their wedding day) and Jojo gave the car as a gift. AA become thus an owner of the car and can do anything with it. The same, with the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Those who possess the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism and confirmation can receive more light and testimony. This is because the gift of the Holy Ghost is “a permanent witness and higher endowment than the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” 21 It is the higher endowment because the gift of the Holy Ghost can act as “a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin.”
As Nephi said, baptism is the gate, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” 16 The baptismal gate opens the way for additional covenants and blessings through priesthood and temple blessings.
When we are baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are spiritually born of God and are entitled to receive His image in our countenances. 10 We should experience a mighty change of heart 11 so that we can “become new creatures” 12 and exercise faith in the redemption of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in order to maintain our standards of worthiness. The personal standards of worthiness to be baptized into this Church are plain:
“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.”
The full benefit of forgiveness of sin through the Savior’s Atonement begins with repentance and baptism and then expands upon receiving the Holy Ghost.
If worthy, those possessing this spiritual gift can come to enjoy greater understanding and enrichment and guidance in all of life’s activities, both spiritual and temporal. The Holy Ghost bears witness to us of the truth and impresses upon our souls the reality of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, so surely that no earthly power or authority can separate us from that knowledge. Indeed, not having the gift of the Holy Ghost is somewhat like having a body without an immune system.
I witness that we cannot be fully converted until we “walk in newness of life” and are at heart a new person, “purged from [our] old sins.” 27 This can only come about by being born again of the water and of the Spirit through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. In this way we receive divine forgiveness, by which we can know in our hearts that our sins are remitted. 28
I know this to be true and so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.