By Lani Axman
Lately I’ve been pondering a lot on all of the things I need to teach my children before they grow up and leave the house (how to cook, how to sew, etc.). So, as I approached my scripture reading yesterday, I had the teaching of children in the forefront of my mind. Then my scriptures opened up to 1 Nephi, chapter 1. In that verse we know so well, I was reminded of how Nephi’s goodly parents taught him “in all the learning of [his] father.” A footnote then sent me to Enos 1:1 where I was reminded that Enos’s father also taught him, and Enos, grateful for those teachings, said, “blessed be the name of my God for it.” I sighed and thought with hope about how my children will praise God for my efforts some day. (A girl can dream, right?)
Eventually, the footnotes led me to Moses. And that’s where I had an epiphany. Moses 6:58 says: “Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: . . .” And that really got my attention because this is God commanding Adam and Eve (and all of us) to teach something specific to His precious children. OK, I thought, I’m listening! And then I read the following verse:
That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.
As soon as I started reading those words, the Holy Spirit flooded my mind and a handful of puzzle pieces fell into place beautifully. In that moment I understood, with delight, that God wasn’t just telling us to teach our children about the importance of the Atonement and baptism. God was also commanding us to teach our children that they were born in an incredibly symbolic way. God wants them and us to know that childbirth isn’t just an uncomfortable physical necessity standing between pregnancy and parenthood (as the world might have us believe). When we give birth to our children, we are allowing them to burst forth from their premortal state, bathed in pure water, life-giving blood, and the Spirit. These words and symbols are part of both childbirth and baptism for a reason. God wants us to teach our children those reasons!
When our babies emerge from our bodies, many might describe them as “messy.” But the reality is that in those moments immediately after birth most babies are as pure and clean and fresh as they will ever be in this life. Amniotic fluid and vernix actually have antimicrobial properties (see here). The water our babies are immersed in as they come forth into life is a cleansing, purifying protection for their bodies and their mothers whose hands and breasts and body become purified through their first embrace. The vernix’s antimicrobial properties linger, particularly if rubbed into baby’s skin rather than being wiped or washed away. What a beautiful testament to our Creator’s divine design and loving interest in the details.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the great gift of witnessing the baptism of my firstborn. After she emerged from those purifying waters, I had the privilege of being the first to ask her, “How do you feel?” She was positively radiant, smiling with all of her face, eyes, and soul. She said, “Really, really good!” I will never forget the feeling we shared in that moment. I don’t even have words for it.
How fitting it was that I, her mother, wrapped her in a towel and put my arms around her, rubbing her warm, my own hands and body becoming wet from the pure water dripping from her hair and body. Here was my first baby, born again, in my arms, fresh and new and clean.