“What can we do to prepare our children for baptism?” Ensign, Feb. 1979, 42–43
Neal S. Southwick, instructor in religion, Ricks College, and librarian, Upper Snake River Branch Genealogical Library About four and a half years ago our oldest child, nearly seven months before her eighth birthday, came to me and asked, “Daddy, I don’t think I am ready to be baptized yet. Will you help me get ready?” Of course I was pleased at this maturity displayed by a seven-year-old girl. However, I was also taken aback with the realization that as parents we hadn’t done as much as I thought we had been doing. We had not left this responsibility to the Junior Sunday School and Primary; and yet, from her point of view at least, we were not doing all that could be done at home.
My wife, Marilyn, and I discussed the situation. After reviewing D&C 68:25–28, which explains the great responsibility the Lord places on parents to prepare their children for baptism, we approached Angela with a program designed to meet her request. The plan called for a short monthly seminar between parents and daughter, wherein we would discuss the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. At the conclusion of each discussion, Angela’s goal would be to apply that particular principle for the next month. We also decided she could choose anything else to discuss that she felt would help her. Angela chose to memorize the Articles of Faith and to read as far as she could in the Book of Mormon.
We planned five seminars. The subjects were faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament. The format of the seminar went something like this: After an opening prayer, Mom or Dad would start the discussion by asking Angela questions to determine her knowledge and feelings on our subject. For example, in the seminar on faith, our questions went somewhat like this: Tell me your feelings about Jesus. Who is Jesus? What does faith mean to you?
Then, based on the answers, we began to discuss what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. We kept the discussions informal, inviting her freely to share her feelings and ask any questions she desired. Each seminar was limited to thirty minutes.
We closed with another prayer. It was important that the child offer one of the prayers.
Our seminars usually took place after the younger children were in bed and we could talk without interruption. (And we taped the discussions, primarily for my use later.)
Angela loved the seminars. She couldn’t wait for the next one and occasionally asked for another when only a day or two had passed. However, we felt that for our discussions to be most effective, a month should elapse between seminars, allowing for further discussion, follow-up on the goal, and preparation for the next seminar. We also felt it important for both parents to be involved, whether it be together in each seminar, taking turns in different seminars, or in the follow-up of each discussion. This would help display unity between parents and give the child an opportunity to feel both Mom and Dad’s testimony.
Helping Angela to understand the basic principles of the gospel also dispelled some fears and hesitations she had about being immersed in the water at baptism, sinning and repenting, and the Holy Ghost.
When the anticipated baptism date arrived, she was happy and excited about this great event. She not only had learned a great deal through our seminars, but she also had read several chapters in the Book of Mormon and had memorized all of the Articles of Faith.
My wife and I felt successful. Because of the seminars, this young, teachable child of God understood better what she was doing at baptism, why she was doing it, and what was expected of her because of it.
But Angela soon let us know that she didn’t want our seminars to end now that she was baptized. She was anxious to continue this kind of learning.
The enthusiasm spread to the other children. Our oldest son, Spencer, only eighteen months younger than Angela, began to ask when we could start his seminars and get him ready for baptism. We began the discussions about six months before his eighth birthday. My wife and I felt a little more confident this second time. However, we learned in our first discussion with him that because he was a different personality, adjustments had to be made to allow for his own personal inquisitiveness.
Again we felt good when it came time for his baptism. We felt that as parents we were experiencing more than just the normal kind of interaction between parent and child. If done right, each seminar could be a beautiful, spiritual experience for both.
This past March we baptized our second son, Boyd, using the same program. It is exciting to plan these discussions for each different child. We wouldn’t think of leaving any of our children out of this experience.
Our seminars would not have been successful if they had been part of family home evening with all the other children present. They required the privacy and closeness of a personal interview, with our entire attentions devoted to the one child. This made each child feel important and made it possible for us to meet the special needs of each.
Because of our success with the seminars on baptism, the children have been asking for seminars on other topics. In addition to the ones they request, we are planning to discuss preparing for the priesthood, for a mission, for marriage, for homemaking, for an occupation, etc. We are excited about this opportunity, because our children, though not exceptional learners and no more spiritually adept than other children their age, respond so well to this kind of positive attention.