“Clean,” Friend, Aug. 1999, 40
Alison touched her hair. Still wet, she thought, smiling. She gazed out the window of the car as it left the church parking lot. The Saturday afternoon looked brighter than usual. The trees seemed greener, the sky a deeper blue. I’ve done it! she told herself. I’ve been baptized.
She closed her eyes and relived the baptismal service in her mind. Dressed in white, she and her father sat on the front row of the chapel as the bishop spoke. “You will come out of the water cleansed from all your sins,” he said. “Then you can be confirmed a member of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you keep the commandments, the Holy Ghost will be your constant companion and help you choose the right.”
Later, Dad stood waiting in the baptismal font. He took her small hand in his large one and guided her down the steps. The water was warm and clear. She looked up and saw her family and friends watching reverently. Mom smiled. Alison grasped Dad’s wrist with her left hand while he held her right wrist and raised his right arm to the square. She listened carefully as he said the baptismal prayer. Then she held her nose and her breath as he placed his right hand in the middle of her back and immersed her gently but completely under the water.
Warmth and peace surrounded her a moment before she was brought up out of the water by her father. Streaming water dazzled her eyes like diamonds. Through the glistening drops, she saw blurry faces smiling at her, and she smiled back. She felt so good, so clean—like a new person. She looked up at Dad. He smiled and hugged her close. She wanted to feel like this always.
After Alison changed into dry clothes, the family met in a classroom with the bishop. He and Dad put their hands on her head, confirmed her a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and gave her the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now Alison felt not only new and clean but strong, too, as if she could always do what was right, no matter what.
“So how do you feel?” Dad asked, breaking into Alison’s daydream.
She opened her eyes and grinned. “I feel good. I’ve never felt this good in my whole life. I’m never going to do anything wrong again. I’m clean now, and I want to stay this way.”
“That’s a wonderful goal,” Dad said, “but I’m afraid that we all make mistakes.”
I won’t, Alison thought, settling back into her seat. I don’t ever want to lose this feeling.
A couple of weeks later, Alison sat on the couch, studying the baptismal certificate the bishop had given her.
Tyler climbed up beside her. “Let me see it!” he demanded, grabbing the paper.
Alison held him off with an elbow. “This isn’t a toy. This is important.”
Tyler laughed and grabbed the paper as Alison jerked it away. With an ugly ripping sound, the certificate tore in half.
Alison stared a long moment in disbelief. Then a furious anger gathered around her like a storm. How could he destroy this precious thing! Tyler’s eyes were wide with fear and dismay, and Alison had a strong feeling that she should walk away before she did something bad. But she didn’t want to walk away. She wanted to get even. She let the anger rush in, filling her to overflowing, and she gave Tyler a push.
He tumbled off the couch. Before he could even catch his breath to let out his first angry howl, she jumped up and gathered him into her arms. The anger was gone, replaced by remorse and a sick guilt. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.” Tears ran down her cheeks.
Mom and Dad came running in to see what was wrong. “I pushed Tyler on purpose,” Alison said. “I’ve only been baptized a couple of weeks, and I’ve spoiled it already.” She ran to her room, where she fell on her knees by her bed and prayed and cried a long time.
Finally the door opened and Tyler came in. “Don’t be sad, Alison,” he said. “I’m all right.”
Alison held him tightly. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I’ll try to do better. I’ll try to be a good sister. Will you forgive me?”
Tyler gave her a huge, wet kiss on the cheek and a big hug. “I forgive you this much.”
Mom and Dad came in and sat down on either side of her.
“Alison,” Mom said, “your certificate can be replaced. That is important, of course, but that isn’t what is upsetting you, is it?”
“No—it’s that this time I messed up big time.”
Dad nodded. “We all do. The important thing is that we repent.”
Alison brushed away a tear. “How do I know for sure that I’ve repented?”
“Heavenly Father made it pretty simple,” Dad said. “First we need to recognize that we’ve done wrong and feel sorry for it. I think you’ve already done that. Then we need to ask forgiveness from the person we’ve sinned against and from Heavenly Father.”
Alison sighed. “I’ve been doing that.”
“Then we must try to make up for the wrong we’ve done.”
“I’m going to do something nice for Tyler every day,” Alison said. “I don’t want him to ever be afraid of his own sister. Is that all?”
“There’s one more thing,” Dad said. “We must try as hard as we can not to do the wrong thing again.”
Alison put her head on Dad’s shoulder. “I think the Holy Ghost tried to tell me not to push Tyler, but I wouldn’t listen. If He ever talks to me again, I’m going to listen.”
“He’ll talk to you,” Dad assured her.
“And I’m going to write down some ways of controlling my temper better, and work on them every day.”
Dad hugged her. “Good for you. If you do all those things, the Lord will forgive you and the Holy Ghost will be your Companion. Heavenly Father has promised it.”
“But I’m not clean anymore, and I wanted to stay clean forever. Can I get baptized again?”
“Well, no, but you don’t need to. The Savior knew that we’d make mistakes even after baptism, so He provided a way for us to be clean again. It always starts with sincere repentance, followed by something we do each Sunday in the chapel. Do you know what it is?”
Alison thought for a moment. “The sacrament?”
Dad nodded. “Right. When we’re baptized, we make covenants, or mutual promises, with God. One promise is that we’ll keep His commandments. Each Sunday when we take the sacrament, we renew those covenants. If we’ve repented of our sins, we become clean again.”
“Just as clean as when we were baptized?”
“Just as clean.”
The next day, Alison eagerly waited for the sacrament. She had followed the steps of repentance faithfully. When the sacrament came, Alison quietly put a piece of bread in her mouth. When the water came, she drank it reverently. A sweet peace filled her heart. Dad was right. She felt good again. Clean again.
Smiling, Alison reached up and touched her hair. This time it wasn’t even damp. But that didn’t matter—she was clean.