It sounds as if congratulations are in order if you’re reading this blog post. Your baptism is the start of your journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you do your best to follow Christ, it will be a wonderful journey.
My goal in writing this article is to explain everything in detail that you could possibly want to know about your baptism day. I want you to not feel nervous or unsure at all, so that you can spend the day focusing on Jesus Christ and the blessing of forgiveness and the Holy Ghost that you are about to receive, rather than the nuts and bolts of a baptism.
What to Wear to Your Baptism (Including undergarments)
Baptisms are held in the church building, and there is a short church meeting as part of the baptism ceremony with a couple talks and songs. As such, you should wear regular Sunday church clothes to your baptism. Generally, that’ll be a white shirt and tie for men, or a dress for women. If you don’t have those clothes, no problem! Seriously, no one will care. I’ve been to many baptisms where the person being baptised wore jeans and a t-shirt because they hadn’t yet acquired typical church clothing–no problem. John the Baptist just wore camel fur and ate locusts before his baptism, so you’ll be fine.
Underneath your church clothes, you can wear typical undergarments.
Here’s what I’d bring with you:
- A small handbag or backpack with the following items in it
- An extra pair of your normal undergarments (since you’ll be getting wet, and you’ll want a dry pair after you get out)
- A towel
- For women, anything you’ll need to do your hair or makeup after getting wet.
- An empty plastic sack in that backpack is handy so you can put your wet underwear in it after getting baptized.
You’ll typically arrive to the baptism about 15 minutes early and the missionaries will show you to a closet in the church where there are many different sizes of baptismal clothing for you to put on. It’s just a thick white jumpsuit with a zipper down the middle. The white clothing symbolizes purity. This is what you’ll wear to get baptized in, but you put it on before the meeting begins and you’ll wear it into the little meeting before the actual baptism.
After you find a good size, you’ll take the jumpsuit into the private dressing room connected to the baptismal font. There is typically a women’s dressing room on one side of the baptismal font, and a men’s on the other side. Inside the bathroom, there will be a private stall for you to change.
You keep on your normal underwear and put on the white baptismal jumpsuit. You can keep your backpack and things in the bathroom stall during the baptism so it’s waiting there for you after the baptism.
You will come out of the dressing room wearing your white jumpsuit. Usually, you’ll just be barefoot but you could bring a white sock if you prefer.
You’ll go from the dressing room to the room where the meeting will be held. If there are multiple baptisms that day, it may be in the chapel, but usually, it will be in the same medium-sized room connected to the baptismal font.
Everyone else will be there. They’ll all be wearing regular church clothes, and you’ll be wearing the white jumpsuit, along with the person who will baptize you. You’ll usually sit on the front row.
When it’s time for you to be baptized, you’ll walk back into the dressing room. There’s usually a door that is connected to the font, so you walk down the few steps in the font to be baptized. After the baptism, you’ll go back up the stairs of the font into the dressing room and you can change.
It’s usually a good idea to squeeze out the water from your wet jumpsuit so you don’t drip too much, but it’s expected for the bathroom floor to get wet after a baptism. There is always a drain in the floor, so no problem.
Take off your jumpsuit and change back into your regular church clothes. This is where the extra pair of underwear comes in handy, because now you have a dry set.
For women, you can also take a moment to do your hair or makeup if you’d like, but it’s best to just throw it in a ponytail or something fast since people will be waiting for the rest of the baptism meeting.
What Happens at the Baptism Meeting?
Once you enter the church and get dressed, the baptism meeting will begin. Usually, the meeting is presided over by a member of the bishopric of your local ward (congregation). He’ll stand and start the meeting and welcome everyone.
Then, there is usually an opening song and prayer, and then one or two short 5-10 minute talks about baptism and the Holy Ghost.
Then, it’ll be time for the actual baptism. You’ll walk into the font and get baptized, then go to the private dressing room to change.
After you get ready and come back out, there will usually be a testimony by someone in attendance, a closing song, and a prayer.
After the baptism, people usually talk for a few minutes and then go home. The actual baptism ceremony is simple. It’s what happens between you and God over time that is miraculous.
Nuts and Bolts of the Actual Baptism
It’s normal for people being baptized to be a little nervous about the actual baptism. You have nothing to worry about. You’ll only be baptized once in your life, so nobody is a pro at it. Still, I’ll walk you through exactly what will happen so you don’t have to worry.
When the time of the meeting comes for the baptism, you’ll stand up and walk through your dressing room and down into the font. There are about four steps walking down into the water, with a good handrail. The water is usually warmed but can be just slightly chilly if the water has been sitting for a while.
The person baptizing you will usually go down into the font right before you. When you arrive, the person baptizing you will help you to get in the right position so you’re far enough away from the back wall to have space to bend back into the water, and so your hands are in an easy position to hold on.
You don’t need to worry about how the hands, go, but I’ll explain it anyway. You hold out your right arm and the person baptizing you will hold your wrist. Then you simply lay your right hand on his forearm so you can hold. You can just make a fist with your left hand or keep it open.
The position of the hands is really just to assist you in going down and up.
The person baptizing you will raise his right hand and say the baptismal blessing: “[Your full name], having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Then, you simply bend your knees and lower yourself back into the water. The water in the font is usually up very high, so you don’t have to bend much. You hold onto the person’s arm who is baptizing you, and he will support your back to help lift you up.
You have to be completely submerged in the water. If you accidentally poke up a foot, or your hair doesn’t quite go all the way down, the baptism is repeated until done completely. Jesus Christ showed us the importance of baptism by complete submersion in the water by being baptized in a river.
If you’re concerned about the actual nuts and bolts of the baptism, you could ask the person baptizing you to practice before the meeting by just getting your hands right so you’ll know what to do. But really, it’s the person baptizing you who needs to know what to do. You can just follow their lead and they will walk you through it.
A Guide for Women: Questions you may be nervous about asking
Sorry, I’m a guy so I’m not of much help here, so I’ll pass this section off to my wife, Emily Harmer.
Since you’ll be wearing white clothes, some women or teenage girls might be worried they will be on their period when the baptism date is set. There’s actually nothing to worry about. Just be sure to wear a tampon if you can. If you have heavier periods and need a tampon and a pad, then I suggest you have a pad with wings so that you can attach the pad to a pair of white underwear that you can wear into the water for the baptism.
The baptism is just a few seconds, so even if the pad is soaking wet and heavy, it’s not a problem. The jumpsuit you wear while being baptized is very loose and thick, so no one will notice anything unusual when you walk out of the font.
As soon as you walk out of the font, you will have some time to go directly to a bathroom where you can change out of your wet clothes and take care of any feminine needs. You can pack all of the things for wet clothes, a towel, hair, and makeup in a bag that you bring from home. You can leave your bag in the bathroom if you would like before the service begins and pick it up on your way home, or you can hold onto your bag the entire time.
After you change back into your church dress, you may take some time to brush through your hair and put on some quick makeup. If it were ME getting baptized as a woman, I’d probably wear at least some waterproof mascara just to make me more comfortable and then after the baptism, I’d quickly put on the rest of my usual makeup; but that’s just me. Since everyone attending the baptism will be waiting for you, it is best to put your hair into a braid or something you can fix up while your hair is still wet, unless you have short and thin hair that can be dried and styled in 5 minutes or so. A wet ponytail is a fine option too.
It is also okay to have a friend or sister missionary to help you in the bathroom if you need help zipping a dress, braiding your hair or anything else like that.
The baptism is for YOU, so no matter how long you take in the bathroom after being baptized, everyone will wait for you. While your friends, family, priesthood holders, etc. wait for you to return back to the room that you began in before the baptism, they will most likely sing or listen to some primary songs to pass the time.
Who Will Be There? Who Can Come?
Anyone is welcome to attend a baptism. You can invite friends, family, and others whether they are members of the church or not. The public is welcome. The missionaries will be there. There will also usually be a few members of the ward who want to be supportive.
A baptism can involve as few as four people (two witnesses, a person getting baptized, and the person performing the baptism), or as many as fit in the church 🙂 Generally, baptisms just have a dozen or so people in attendance.
Can You Pick Who Baptizes You?
The person being baptized can choose baptizes them. All worthy priesthood holders who hold the office of a Priest can perform a baptism. Basically, that means any male priesthood holder who is at least 16 years old, and who is worthy.
People who are converts to the church can select the elders who taught them, a friend, or a member of the local congregation.
Sometimes, but not always, you can also choose people who you’d like to give a talk or prayer or do a special musical number at the baptismal service. In the end, the meeting is under the direction of the member of the bishopric presiding, but typically the person being baptized is asked if they have anyone special they’d like to participate.
Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Confirmation)
We often talk about baptism as a standalone event. Baptism is when you are immersed in water for the remission of sins, but because of that obedience in repenting, you receive a gift from God. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I love seeing someone be baptized, but honestly, I feel the Spirit strongest when I witness someone receiving the Holy Ghost. Many times in my life I’ve had the privilege of standing in the circle as someone receives the Holy Ghost. The feeling of a power beyond our mortal experience is undeniable.
As you’re talking about your upcoming baptism, you may hear people talk about your “confirmation” or “getting confirmed.” This is the same thing as receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some people call it a confirmation because in the same blessing, you are confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and you also receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Sometimes, people receive the Holy Ghost right after being baptized–in the same meeting. Generally, for youth baptized at age 8, that is the case. However, for convert baptisms of teenagers or adults, the gift of the Holy Ghost is often given during sacrament meeting the next day (baptisms are not necessarily always on Saturdays, but they often are).
The reason that converts are usually given the gift of the Holy Ghost the following day during sacrament meeting is so that the entire congregation gets to be there for it and welcome a new member.
Whether during the baptism meeting or the next day in Sacrament meeting, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given the same way.
Men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can give the Holy Ghost. While a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood can baptize (at least age 16), the Melchizedek Priesthood is required for giving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Worthy men can receive the Melchizedek Priesthood at approximately age 18.
The person receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost comes forward and sits in a chair. You don’t have to do anything at all, so don’t worry. Just sit there and reflect on the blessing you are receiving.
The person giving you the gift of the Holy Ghost will stand behind you and gently place his hands on your head. Other Priesthood holders will also come and stand in a circle around you and lightly place their hands on your head as well.
Usually, the number of people in the circle when you are confirmed and receive the Holy Ghost is between 2 and 8 people. More than 8 and it starts to get crowded. It is okay for you to invite priesthood holders to stand in the circle who you would like to be there. They must worthily hold the Melchizedek Priesthood to participate (most adult men in the church fit that description). The missionaries and a member of the bishopric will typically participate as well.
The person speaking in the blessing will state your full name and that the people performing the blessing have God’s authority. They will then say that they confirm you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and then they say the words “Receive the Holy Ghost.” You will feel it. They will also bless you with other blessings the Lord wants you to receive.
During the blessing, you can simply bow your head and close your eyes as with any normal prayer. There is nothing you need to do. After the prayer, everyone will say “amen” and step back. It is customary for the person who received the holy ghost to shake the hands of those in the circle, then everyone can go back and sit down.
After the Baptism
You are now officially a member of the Lord’s church! But baptism is how we enter the Lord’s path. It’s the beginning of a journey, not a destination.
As a missionary, I sometimes saw that new members of the church would go through a difficult period a few weeks or a couple of months after their baptism. The “newness” of everything would wear off, and they may not feel as integrated into the congregation as they would like, they sometimes would struggle when asked to fulfill a calling in the church, to teach a lesson, or may feel unsure of what to do next, or even feel like they can’t get back to the close feeling to God that they had at baptism, etc. This is normal and happens to almost everyone.
The best thing you can do to make your journey successful is to spend time focused on growing spiritually every single day. It’s not optional. You couldn’t get fit without exercising, and you simply won’t have the spiritual strength you need every day without daily prayer and scripture study.
You won’t be perfect. Sometimes you’ll get busy and miss a day, or just read one or two verses out of obedience before falling asleep. That’s part of living in a mortal world. But show consistent effort to pray and read the scriptures each day, and the Lord will give you the blessing of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Remember, it’s about effort and not necessarily performance, so don’t be surprised when you aren’t perfect. God’s grace is sufficient.
You may or may not receive a calling after you are baptized. A calling is a responsibility in the ward to help out with something. For example, a calling to teach a class, or to play the piano in sacrament meeting (if you know how to play), etc. Everyone will understand that you’re a new member of the church, so they’ll explain anything you need to know and help you get started.
The only advice I’d offer you after baptism is to stay in the mainstream of the church. You’ll get offended, you’ll sometimes feel apathetic toward spiritual things for a season. At some point you’ll disagree with things you learn in church until you give the Spirit time to teach you. Things will go wrong.
You shouldn’t expect your discipleship to be perfect. However, if you commit yourself to staying in the flow of the river, you’ll keep moving toward where you want to go. Don’t allow yourself to wash to the sides of the “river” when you’re not feeling strong.
You can stay in the “middle of the river” by going to church even when you aren’t feeling it, reading your scriptures daily, praying, and following the commandments. Just keep doing your part, and you’ll find that over time you will make significant progress in your spiritual life.
I haven’t met you, but I’m excited for you. You are about to experience deep peace in your life and your family–a peace which passeth all understanding.