It was exactly three years ago that I decided I would be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This decision came as a result of praying to the Lord to know if the Church was true, and subsequently receiving a witness of its truth from the Holy Spirit. I knew for sure that it was true while I watched a video called Mountain of the Lord, which is about how early members built the Salt Lake Temple. But this was not the only witness that I received. My testimony about the power of covenants, and the importance of the baptismal covenant, is rooted in the meaning of both Passover and Easter.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Passover is a yearly celebration of the salvation of the Jewish people from the plague of death right before Moses led everyone out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert. A number of plagues had come to the Egyptian population beforehand, as a result of Pharaoh hardening his heart and failing to let Moses’ people go. The final plague was the death of the firstborn son of every household, unless they sacrificed a lamb and smeared its blood on the door of their homes. If the angel of death saw the blood, then the sacrifice stood in the stead of the firstborn son and the family was “passed over” from the plague. (Exodus 12)
I didn’t realize it before, but this entire thing is closely connected to Jesus Christ. When I first found the Church, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to read the Old Testament before I started reading the Book of Mormon. When I first read the passover story, I recognized it and didn’t think much of it. I heard it many years before from either my dad at bedtime, or my CCD instructor when I was still going to Catholic Sunday School. Or perhaps it was from Rugrats. Who knows? Regardless, I passed it over (heh), and kept reading. It wasn’t until I neared the Easter season, having finished the Old Testament, that I recognized the deep significance of this story. I always knew Easter was about Jesus dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, which enables all of us to rise from the dead and receive renewed, eternal bodies. I knew that His sacrifice was the means by which we are all cleansed of our sins. But I never recognized, until that particular Easter season, that the Last Supper was Passover, and that Jesus’ words of “this is my body…this is my blood…which will be given up for you…” (Luke 22) would have been particularly meaningful to the Jews with whom he was celebrating Passover Supper. Jesus became the Passover Lamb. His blood was the sacrifice, so that we all might be saved. He was the firstborn Son Who stood in our place, so that we do not suffer eternal death. Mind…blown.
But wait…there’s more! My personal realization didn’t stop there. Thinking about this analogy closely, I realized that both of these events depended upon the covenant that an individual entered into. If the Jewish family in Egypt did not sacrifice their lamb and smear the blood on the door as they were told in accordance with that particular law, this agreement of being passed over would be null and void. It requires an individual to enter into the covenant–to do his part. A covenant is a contract. It involves at least two parties promising something. The Lord promises that He will save us from our sins, if we enter a covenant with Him to follow the Commandments to the best of our ability, to mourn with those that mourn, who comfort those that stand in need of comfort…in other words, to be baptized. (Mosiah 18:8-10) Indeed, Jesus told us explicitly that we must be baptized by water and by fire and the Holy Spirit (confirmation) in order to live with Heavenly Father for eternity (John 3: 3-5). Otherwise, Jesus’ sacrifice is meaningless.
Framing both events in terms of a covenant helped me to move from the Protestant doctrine of Grace to the LDS doctrine of the Atonement. In the Protestant Faith, I was taught for several years that the concept of Grace meant that His sacrifice was already complete and that there was nothing I needed to do, other than acknowledge the sacrifice and turn my life over to Him. Baptism isn’t really necessary, according to many Protestants (not all believe that baptism is unnecessary). Some believe that as long as you are baptized as a baby in some other faith, re-baptism isn’t necessary. But the LDS Church says that baptism is a covenant. A covenant is a contract between two parties–not a one-sided agreement. Yes, we do very little for the Lord…compared to what He does for us, we do absolutely nothing. But our agreement is to give our all to the Lord. It is everything we have. We cannot think of ourselves as mere recipients. We must think of ourselves as active participants. The Atonement is available to any who want to partake, but they must actively participate. Grace, we believe, is the enabling power of the Atonement–the ability that the Atonement gives us to see things from an eternal perspective, which helps us to repent, love, serve, and forgive. Knowing the full breadth of spiritual power that comes from thinking of it this way, I could never go back to the Protestant doctrine of Grace.
The Lord loves all of us. He has touched my life deeply, and led me by the hand to where I am today. The Patriarch, before my Patriarchal Blessing, received a prompting that I would never leave the LDS Church. I believe that prompting. I know that I will face trials, but that the Maker of all things will stand at my side, and enable me through the Atonement to move forward. I humbly testify to you that if you enter into a covenant with Him, you will receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, that can comfort you, guide you, and love you. If you recognize Him as the Passover Lamb, and decide to covenant with Him, it will be a very good deal for you. You will find your mind and heart opened to a world of spirituality that you didn’t know existed. I say these things in the name of the King of Kings, even Jesus Christ, the Lord. Amen.