Thus our children are not actually members of our church until after they turn eight. At that point, they can choose to be baptized and confirmed, or to not. You do not have to be a member to attend our meetings.
Jill turned eight in April, so leading up to her birthday, we had talked about baptism a lot, and she was very eager to be baptized. In fact, our bishop recounted a sweet story.
Before being baptized, candidates have an interview with the bishop (in some cases, other priesthood leaders like branch presidents or missionaries would perform the interview). So, it was Jill's time for her interview. The bishop asked her if she would like a parent to accompany her, and she, very assuredly, replied, "no." So Jeff waited outside.
They went through the normal questions and talking points, and at the end of the interview, the bishop told Jill that she could be baptized. The story goes that Jill then jumped out of her seat and yelled "yes!" The bishop told us he had never had a response quite that enthusiastic before.
Jill had her baptism all planned out. She asked her great-grandfather to say the benediction. Her maternal grandmother would speak about baptism. Her paternal grandmother would speak about the Holy Ghost. Her father would baptize her with her grandfathers as witnesses. Her father would confirm her a member with her grandfathers, great-grandfather, and bishop included in the confirmation circle. Her mother would sing a duet with her. We practiced her song every night.
The day before her baptism, Jill looked at me and asked if I would be sad if I didn't get to sing with her at her baptism. I told her, "of course not! It's your baptism. If you'd like to sing alone, I would love to hear you do that." And she decided to do that.
Her baptism began, and many people had come to her baptism. People from our first time living in Virginia, people from this time living in Virginia, family from out of state, and people we knew in Mexico were all gathered in this room to show love and support for Jill. Some of these showed up without Jill seeing, because she was sitting in the front row. So when she stood up to sing her song and faced the congregation, she was a little surprised to see how many people were there.
She was so brave. Even though she was scared, even though she had never sung alone before, even though she had never sung it with a piano before, she stood tall and sang her song, shared her testimony with all her heart. I was—I am—so proud of my Jill Bean, my Baby Jill.
Jill on her blessing day, May 2009, and on her baptism day, April 2017.
Jill recorded her song and testimony so her great-grandfather ("Big Grandpa") could hear it, and here it is to share with all of you as well.
I am so proud of you. I've seen you tackle obstacles and solve problems, and I'm just amazed by you. You're in second grade, and you've already attended four elementary schools. I've seen you turn strangers into friends. I've seen you smile when you're scared and walk forward when you want to cling to me behind.
I've seen you cry. I've heard you ask me if you could dye your hair dark, so you would look like everyone else. I've heard you learn new languages. I've heard you comfort friends, and I've seen you rush to the aid of your younger siblings.
I love you so much, and I am very happy with your decision to join our church. I hope that you find in its doctrine and traditions the same meaning, strength, and purpose that I have found.
I hope that when you move somewhere new, you remember your pioneer ancestors and Ruth who also left homes and moved to strange, new places.
I hope that when you see someone hurting, you remember the doctrines of Jesus Christ, and go to comfort and heal rather than judge.
I hope that when you're scared, you can remember Daniel and the Stripling Warriors who drew strength by being obedient to the commandments of God.
I especially hope you can remember Abish, who kept her faith even when living among those who didn't share her beliefs, who was willing to share her beliefs when the time seemed ripe, and who, even when she found herself in a group of angry people arguing and ready to kill, found bravery within and managed to take steps toward a solution even through her sorrow.
I love you.
Thank you all for how you've loved Jill.