Sunday, March 15, 2009

Herbert Herring's Baptism of Fire. The Unforgettable Baptism of Cloverdale's Newest Mormon

Herbert Herring in his new Confirmation Suit. He is Not a Happy Boy.
Apparently Water and Tight Collars are Not His Thing.

Hello Folks,
Another letter from Cloverdale. I’m hoping this finds all of you well and in good spirits this Sunday. The weather here in Cloverdale is good. Temperatures are what you’d expect for a mid March day.
I’d like to tell you about a young LDS boy here in our small Branch in the Confederacy of Dunces. His name is Herbert Herring, son of Kyle and Harriot Herring, good neighbors and new converts to the Church.

Herbert Herring is the eight year old older brother of six year old Hal Herring (remember Hal, the cronic runaway - see my letter postmarked January 25, 2009). Herbert turned eight three weeks ago. Herbert, like all other Mormon eight year olds, was expected to be baptized into our little Branch. His baptism was schedule for the Sunday after his birthday at Cloverdale’s Seventh Day Adventist Church but was postponed until last night because of an odd quirk in Herbert’s personality. Herbert is afraid of water. You can see how that could affect a baptism. Yes.......... Houston, we have a problem!

I should explain, our LDS branch meets in the Seventh Day Assembly Church because we are too small to have a building of our own. The Adventists go to church on Saturdays, leaving their building empty on Sundays. It works nicely for them because we pay a fee to use the building. The only problem we have with the Adventist building is the large cross hanging in the chapel. There are also anti-Mormon pamphlets outside the Pastor’s Office but we hide them during our meetings. No one is the wiser.

I spoke to Kyle and Harriot about Herbert's problem before his birthday. Kyle asked if we could avoid the immersion part of baptism and do a quick sprinkle on the forehead. “It works for the Catholics,” he said. Kyle is still pretty green when it comes to Mormonism. I do my best to explain but he is the kind of man that listens and then hears only what he wants to hear. After a small debate I convinced him that immersion was one of those things the Church wouldn’t compromise. Herbert needed to go under. It was as simple as that.
“How does he bathe,” I asked his mother one Sunday after church.
“Herbert takes showers. He is OK with showers. Herbert’s problem is getting into water, not water pouring over him,” she clarified.

The Herrings invited me over for supper to help them explain the necessity of immersion to Herbert. After supper we sat in the parlor to talk. Hal ran around the room making a nuisance of himself. Hal was jealous of the attention Herbert was getting and sought ways to insert himself into the conversation.
“Hal!” Harriot Shouted. “Stop that at once.”
“No,” he shouted back. I cringed. Hal was one stubborn boy. Spankings didn’t seem have any affect on him. Time out worked as long as you locked him in his room.
“Im getting the key to your room,” Harriot said rising from the sofa. Hal knew his mother was serious and ran out the front door and into the front yard.
“Is he running away again?” I asked watching him run around the hedge, onto the sidewalk, and down the street.
“Yes, he does that.,” Harriot said, seemingly unconcerned about the distance Hal was putting between her and himself. “He won’t go far. He’ll run to the end of the sidewalk and stop at the street. Hal is afraid to cross the street without one of us thanks to a new DVD we ordered from the Ministry of Health and Asylums on how to prevent your child from running away.”
“Interesting,” I replied. “Is it intended for parents?”
“Well, you’re suppose to watch it as a family. We all sat down together to watch it for Home Evening. One viewing and Hal was cured of his running problem.”
“Remarkable,” I said. “What educational approach did it take?”

It’s graphic but the experts say tough love is the cure for a disobedient child. The DVD starts by showing a runaway child laying in a hospital bed. You see tubes inserted everywhere in his body. Then a doctor comes in with this enormous needle. He smiles as he walks toward the poor child. Then you see the child’s face as the needle finds its mark in his arm. The boy’s screams were so loud we had to mute the sound.” Harriot seemed excited to describe this unique educational film put out by the Ministry.
“Oh, that wasn’t the best part,” Kyle inserted into the graphic description Harriot was providing. “Before you see the child in the hospital you see a reenactment of the accident done with computer graphics. The boy is running away from home. The mother is crying in her front yard begging him to return. The dad gets into his car to chase the boy down. Suddenly the boy runs into the street. A car comes out of nowhere and hits the boy. The boy flies through the air for several feet and lands on his head. Blood starts flowing from his nose, ears and eyes. Oh, I almost forgot the broken legs all twisted up behind him.”

I was ready to request a conversation adjustment but was cut off in mid sentence as Kyle continued the blow by blow description of the film. “The car that hit the boy is driven by an old grandma. She gets out of the car and faints dead away with a heart attack. You see, the kids watching the DVD see the consequences of running away.”
“Hal was so upset after seeing it that he stayed home from school for three days. I drive him now. It’s the only way we can get him to go.” Harriot added.

A few minutes later I was able to redirect the conversation to Herbert and his approaching baptism.
“Herbert,” I asked. “Do you see why you must be dunked under the water to be baptized?”
“Because Jesus was dunked,” he answered.
“That’s right. If Jesus was dunked then so should we,” I said in what I thought was an iron clad defense of baptism by immersion.
“Was Jesus scared of water?” Herbert blurted out. I felt defeat coming on. That eight year old was clever in his reasoning. He smiled. He knew the argument was his.
“Herbert, we are all afraid of something. You must learn to face your fears. You must learn to trust water. Water is good. Your body is made mostly of water. You drink water. Water is everywhere. Why are you afraid of WATER!?” I was shouting at the end. My blood pressure was reaching dangerous levels.
“Our teacher showed us a movie about the dangers of water. We saw a girl drown. She was floating down a river with her face in the water, then she went over a waterfall and hit the rocks. Water isn’t always a good thing,” Herbert countered.
“Don’t tell me,” I asked Kyle and Harriot. “That was another Ministry of Health and Asylum educational film?” They both nodded their heads.

After an hour of debate both sides went to their respective corners for deliberation. Herbert was in the kitchen making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kyle, Harriot and I were in the parlor discussing our next move. Ten minutes later the battle was engaged. We would use our heavier guns.

“Herbert,” Kyle said to his son. “What would it take to get you to be baptized in the water?” Herbert’s eyes grew large when he realized they had reached the point in the debate when parents resort to bribes to get their kids to do things they don't want to do. Thirty minutes later the list of toys was finished. Herbert went to bed after placing his signature on the baptismal contract. Kyle and Harriot were exhausted. I stood to go home, got in my car and drove away.

As I rounded the corner to pull into Elm Avenue I saw Hal standing on the corner staring blanking to the other side of the street remembering the days when he once roamed free. He looked at me with the eyes of a caged animal. I waved and accelerated toward home.

Herbert was baptized last night in a nearly dignified ceremony. He was good until he reached the top of the stairs leading down into the water. Kyle had his hand and starting pulling him toward the water. He resisted. Kyle pulled. Each step was an exercise in patience. Herbert's tears flowed down his face. His nose was running profusely.
Herbert stopped and would go no further when the water reached his knees.
“I’ll pee in the water. I’ll pee in the water!” Herbert shouted. It was his last argument to stop the proceedings. Half the congregation laughed. The other half were appalled at the disrespect this young boy was giving such a sacred ceremony.

Kyle made a quick decision. He grabbed Herbert by both hands, quickly said the prayer, and pulled the boy from the steps into the water. The boy lost his footing and went straight in. Both witnesses quickly nodded their heads in agreement that he had gone completely under. Herbert came out of the water without sin. His pure state lasted until he caught his breath and let his father know what he thought of him. The curtain was drawn to to shield those gathered from Herbert’s displeasure.

Herbert’s confirmation was postponed until Today. We are all hoping Herbert is in a forgiving mood.

Well, that’s all from me today. The show must go on.

Mr. Williamson

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