My Baptism by Fire – The Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood – The Mighty Change
Growing up I was what some would call a “less active” mormon. My parents were baptized and became members of the LDS church when I was around 7 years old. I was baptized at 8 years old. I don’t remember much of the event other than it was my dad who baptized me and 3 of my cousins sang during the short program. Other than that, I don’t remember any of it.
I didn’t attend primary. I didn’t know the songs. I didn’t know the leadership names. I didn’t know the stories of the Book of Mormon. I only had brief moments of interaction with the LDS church until high-school. It was in high-school that I discovered my spirituality. Before that point and after that point I made choices that would prove to provide a small amount of immediate gratification in the short-term and a lot of guilt in the long term. Those choices developed into habits.
These habits were formed before high-school and they would turn into struggles from the point of discovering my spirituality tell being reborn through the baptism by fire.
My struggle, like so many others, was with pornography. Not a little bit. A lot. Not every so often. Almost every day.
I don’t share this as a confession. The place and time for confessions has long since gone. The crimson stains have been washed clean and that is why I want to share. I desire for you to know that rebirth is real. I desire for you to know that a mighty change can occur. For this reason I share this brief “story” of my baptism by fire.
Years before the experience I had confessed to my wife that I viewed/consumed pornography for years on a regular basis. I confessed that this happened before we knew each other, before we were married and after we were married. I was as honest as I knew how to be. It was crushing to her.
At the time of this first confession I thought I knew what repentance was. I had recognized my fault. I was aware of my sin. I had stopped with the resolve to never do it again. After making the choice to stop I had confessed to my local authority and subsequently confessed to my wife. I was doing all the things that I had understood repentance to be. If I was asked at the time if I had repented, I would have answered “yes” and believed it.
Today I have a different view. What I had done was change my behavior and confess my faults. No longer do I believe that is repentance.
After a year or so I had fallen back into my pornography consuming habit and behavior. I believe this step backwards was due to a major flaw in my approach to repentance. The flaw was that I had changed my behavior. I. Me. I needed more though. I needed someone else to do it. Someone capable of changing such a behavior. Someone capable of changing my being, my nature. And I am not the one capable of doing either.
There are three days in particular that I remember. Each time was during the evening. My wife had left the house each time, pursuing worthy activities. One night she was helping clean the chapel. One night she was attending the temple. Another night she was out visiting with friends and sharing messages of Christ. Each night I was giving into the magnetic pull and desires of my fallen nature.
It was on the morning following the third day. I was leaving to work, backing down our driveway, looking into the living room window of our home. There stood my wife with a baby in her arms and children standing in front of her. They looked out the window and waved at me, big smiles of love on their faces.
Something in that moment cracked within me. A beautiful woman in every sense of the word was looking at me with love, appreciation, adoration and a desire for me to safely come home soon. Children were looking at me as if I was a hero, faultless and with a trust so strong that they would not hesitate to put their lives in my hands.
They thought I was the coolest. I was the awesomest. I was a great husband, father and friend.
It was all I could do to hold together whatever it was that was cracking within me until I was out of their view. Once I was, the tears started flowing. I became totally aware that I was not who/what my greatest treasures thought I was. I had lied to them. I was not worthy of their trust. I was not worthy of their smiles. I was not worthy of their love. They deserved so much more. They deserved everything they thought they had.
I cried out to heaven, not knowing if I was even being heard. My cries turned to yells and screams. I cried out to heaven my strong disgust for who I was. I yelled to God every fault and guilt I carried and could remember. I confessed my fallen nature and my inability to change my being. I begged for my wife to have the husband she thought she had. I begged for my children to have the father they thought they had. At some point I begged to be removed from their lives, perhaps in a car accident on the way to work. I imagined a semi crossing over the median on the highway and hitting me head on. I didn’t have a desire of suicide, I just thought it would be aligned with heavens will. Why keep someone like me around people like them?
Then it got really quiet. A sliver of an idea was placed into my heart. What if I could be that person? What if I could be changed? Of course, this is what the gospel was supposed to provide.
“If it is possible, I would LOVE to be that person… but I know it will take changing my very nature…”
My drive to work was about 40 min. at the time. This exchange with heaven lasted awhile but not so long that I wasn’t able to calm down before walking into the office.
There was a type of comfort that came. I don’t remember any promises at the time. I don’t remember anything but a peace. It wasn’t a forgiveness… it was just a peace.
That day, out of nowhere, I stumbled across audio files of a few firesides that a guy by the name of John Pontius had given. I listened to all of the audio files that I could find. John spoke of miraculous blessings and interactions with heaven and Christ. John shared testimony that pulled at my heart strings and gave oxygen to a flame deep within my soul that I was unaware existed.
John has since died, but not before I was able to express my deep gratitude for his testimony.
Brother John Pontius, with as much sincerity as I can muster at this very moment I want you to know that the words the spirit is speaking to me when I read or listen to your testimony are changing me and thus changing my life. How I speak to my children… how I help with the dishes… how I pray. What I read. The music I listen too. The desires of my heart. I wish I had a way to show you. I wish I had a way to say thank you. I am deeply indebted to my savior for He makes all possible. But I feel as though I have a debt to you as well. Small in comparison… but deeply valuable nonetheless. Thank you. I know now what I am seeking for and that makes obedience desirable… and when I desire to be obedient the fruits of that obedience tastes so wonderfully good. I’m left wanting more.
John had a blog, UnBlogMySoul and has written a few books. One particular book I found to be very valuable on my journey was/is Following the Light of Christ into His Presence. Maybe you will find value there as well.
Shortly after discovering this new perspective of the gospel I was introduced to the concept and principle of “the mighty change” or “the baptism by fire”.
If someone is to study this topic they will probably come across a few questions with varying and sometimes contradictory answers. Personally I enjoy the contradictory answers. They might be discovered when asking the following questions:
- Is the baptism by fire something that happens during confirmation after baptism?
- Is the baptism by fire an event or a process?
- Can the baptism by fire occur multiple times to the same individual?
- Does an individual receive the holy ghost before or after the baptism by fire?
There are many more questions that don’t need to be listed here. There are also many answers to those questions that I don’t think need to be mentioned here at this time. What I would rather do is tell you my experience with the understanding that I believe it can happen differently for each individual.
After studying the principle of the baptism by fire for months, I finally gained knowledge through experience.
I was at a place where I would follow any idea or thought that came to my mind that would not cause harm to others. I was attempting to be absolutely obedient to every command but I wasn’t always sure which voice I was listening too. Usually I couldn’t tell the difference between my voice in my head and the voice of the spirit. I had to “test” them over and over until at some point I learned to distinguish the two.
I was also in a place of trying to obtain a change in my nature. I wanted to be made clean and free from my burden.
It was in the middle of the night. I was out in our living room, kneeling in front of a couch. My wife and children were sleeping. The living room was dark aside from that unique light from the moon which filled the room.
I was praying for heaven to do its part. You see, months before when I had discovered John’s firesides and when I had cracked on the way to work, that night while late at work I had knelt down and prayed. I had asked for blessings from heaven. Blessings I had never thought of before. During this prayer I received very clearly into my mind a list of things I had to do in order to receive. I was praying for heaven to provide these blessings because up to this point I believed I had done or was doing all that was asked.
I remember saying something to the effect of ‘Lord, I will do anything you ask. Please. I will do anything”. To which I received the response of “Tell her”. My response: “Anything but that”.
Up to this point I had not told my wife about my “relapse”. I don’t know what word to call it. My failure? My habit? My lie? My continued weakness? My pain? My pride? My disregard for her trust? If you are familiar with this, you know exactly what I mean. This behavior was a reflection of something with in me. It wasn’t just something I was doing. It was something I was. It was in my nature.
Sure, I was probably just as innocent as anyone can be at some point in my young life. But at 30 years old my nature had changed to one in which I had a thirst that was temporarily satisfied by pornography.
You know what, this post should be a bit more raw. This post is meant to be encouraging to those who haven’t received this blessing. This post is not meant for those who are clean and feel good about themselves. So, because of that I am not going to call it “pornography”. That’s the “appropriate” and polite way to say it. Pssh. Its “porn”. That is how I think of it… thats how I am going to say it.
I had not told my wife that I had looked at porn again since the first time I confessed to her. I thought that I could “repent” in secret and that the change could occur and she could be free to not have a broken heart over it again. So when I was told “tell her” I sunk in fear. I feared hurting her and I had thoughts of whether or not it was worth it.
I contemplated and finally resolved that I would “tell her”. I said okay to the command. I expressed my sorrow to have to do such a thing. This sucked! All the effort to be obedient, all the effort to do everything on the list I was given that night at work… and now I had to crush my wife.
I needed strength to do it. I asked for it… then it happened. I became conscious that everything that was good about me was because of him and everything that was bad about me was from me. I expressed my sadness for this and asked for the change to happen. In that moment my entire being began to shake and tremble. My body, my mind, my spirit. Every fiber… every cell. The parts of me that are in the past, the present and the future. The parts of me that are beyond time… they all trembled.
I don’t want this to be read as if I am exaggerating what happened or that I am sharing something abstract. This was a very real experience. Just as real as being born the first time. I felt the blood flowing in my veins and it felt as if it was boiling. I felt an electricity connecting each and every cell of my body. This had never happened before and it was something completely out of my control. I was subject to whatever was happening and it was totally consuming me. It was overwhelming and exhausting. It hurt.
At first I didn’t know what was happening. Then I realized “this is it – it is happening”. An excitement sparked within me and in an instant the consuming force was gone. I caught my breath and got up off the floor. I went to the kitchen to clean up a bit. I had snot and tears running down my face. I remember thinking that I could have woken my family and I didn’t want them to come out and think something was wrong. I also remember thinking “if that was it, if that was the mighty change then there is still more”. I had a moment to catch my breath and then I went back to praying.
I said something like “if that was a cleansing… your not done… there is more” and right then the force consumed me again. All the same sensations. Sensations so real and crossing multiple dimensions. So spiritual that it was physical. So physical that it was spiritual.
The same excitement began to emerge from my heart when I thought “this is the change – it is happening”. Then again, it stopped.
I expressed gratitude. I stood up and now had knowledge of direct interactions with heaven. I had answers to questions I had asked many times. I had knowledge through experience. Suddenly scriptures took on a different meaning. Things that were confusing now made sense. It was as if there were key words shared by those with experience, and only those with similar experience would recognize their true meaning. Light and intelligence flowed. The spirit seemed to pour out to me and my capacity to receive was expanded and still poured over.
I felt clean, every whit. I felt forgiven. I felt the weight of guilt no more.
It would be a few days before I realized that the pull of porn was gone. The external force it had was not only weak, it was nonexistent. My nature had no thirst for it. I had experienced a mighty change. The robes had been moved to the other shoulder. I didn’t know it at the time but it was now time to get up out of my chair and travel into the next room… to the next law… the next sphere.
That is my experience of receiving the second token of the Aaronic priesthood. That is my experience with having a contrite spirit and placing a broken heart on the alter. That is my experience of being forgiven and made clean.
Our very nature can be changed. I know because it happened to me.