Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Baptismal interviews

It's been a while since my baptism at age eight, and I don't remember my baptismal interview. My oldest son, Dallin, recently turned eight and will be baptized this Saturday. As I talked to him about his upcoming baptismal interview, I anticipated that the bishop would ask him what baptism meant, why he wanted to be baptized, if he was choosing for himself, if he had a testimony of Jesus, and so forth. So I was quite surprised Sunday after his baptismal interview to hear that the bishop hadn't asked him any of these things. Instead, he asked him what the sacrament bread and water represented, talked to him a little bit about baptism, filled his pocket with candy, and sent him on his way.

Should the bishop be ensuring that eight-year-olds are deciding for themselves to be baptized, that they have a testimony of Jesus, and that they understand what baptism means? Or can he assume that because our family is active and Dallin has been attending primary regularly that he has these things down? Should I have expected something different? A couple of weeks before his interview with the bishop, Dallin had a talk with me in which I asked him those questions about his testimony, the meaning of baptism, and his decision to be baptized. Is that where the primary responsibility really lies: with the parents? If so, what role does the bishop really play in baptisms of children of record?


  1. I think it is primarily the parents' responsibility to teach their children about baptism / assess their "readiness". Using myself as an example growing up in the Church, I had some uncertainties about baptism (when I was eight). Do you really think an eight-year-old would ever really address “concerns” with the bishop at that age? Heck no! Talking to my parents was hard enough, let alone the bishop!

      [Comment originally posted by: Bob Caswell | Homepage | 04.27.04 - 1:28 pm]

  2. I agree that the parents have the primary responsibility to teach their children about baptism and assess their readiness. But then what is the purpose of the bishop's "interview"? I don't expect it to be a way for concerns to be resolved, but I did think the bishop was supposed to verify that the parents had done their duty in preparing the child for baptism.

     &nsp;[Comment originally posted by: Grasshopper | Homepage | 04.27.04 - 10:42 pm ]

  3. "I did think the bishop was supposed to verify that the parents had done their duty in preparing the child for baptism."

    Replace 'bishop' with 'DL/ZL,' 'parents' with 'missionaries,' and 'child' with 'investigator.' I think this may be a wider problem than you've identified.

    I suspect that part of it comes from our eagerness to baptize, not to mention our reluctance to offend. DLs/ZLs usually have been in a position of prodding the companionship in question to baptise, and view their own success more in terms of baptisms completed (as opposed to, say, unready investigators prevented from baptism). Likewise, the bishop faces several cross-cutting incentives, not least keeping harmony in the ward (almost any way I imagine a scene in which a Bishop tells active parents that their kid can't be baptised because the parents did a lousy job preparing him, it ends in a lot of trouble).

      [Comment originally posted by: BDemosthenes | Homepage | 04.28.04 - 9:29 pm]