"You'll Be the Cleanest Person in The Room!!!..."
I haven't heard it a million times, but I've heard it a lot at baptismal services in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most baptismal services, besides a couple of musical numbers, contain two talks--one person talks about the significance of baptism, and another person talks about the importance of the Holy Ghost.
Quite often, the person giving the talk about baptism says, looking directly at the child(ren) being baptized, something like the following: "Right after you get baptized, you will be the cleanest person in the room." And most everyone in the service finds great awe and inspiration over that statement. But you know what? That statement is at best misleading, and it is at worst flat out wrong.
It exhibits--and teaches--a profound misunderstanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It teaches guilt.
I distinctly remember personally misunderstanding the atonement right after my baptism 42 years ago. And I still wish someone had taught me the much more comforting reality. I remember distinctly being worried--and I've heard several other Mormons express the same worry--that I could only be clean for just a few minutes, until I began sinning again. I wish I'd known of this truth taught by Elder M Russell Ballard of the LDS Quorum of 12 Apostles:
[G]uilt is not a proper motivational technique for leaders and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always motivate through love and sincere appreciation, not by creating guilt.That trite phrase uttered by many an LDS baptismal service speaker is not a correct understanding of baptism or of the atonement. Baptism should really be understood as the beginning of a regular process instead of a one-time event. Elder D. Todd Christofferson says:
[Through baptism] we qualify for a remission of sins by the grace of Jesus Christ through the baptism of the Spirit (see 2 Nephi 31:17). [But just as important], the baptismal covenant applies prospectively as well as retrospectively: each time we truly repent, that covenant is reinvigorated and we once again qualify for a remission of sins.How do we know that we have received a remission of our sins, that we are clean? By our sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. President Henry B Eyring taught that
If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost during this day, or even this evening, you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life. For that reason and many others, you would do well to put yourself in places and in tasks that invite the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost works both ways: the Holy Ghost only dwells in a clean temple, and the reception of the Holy Ghost cleanses us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.So the next time you attend an LDS baptismal service, and if someone uses the "you'll be the cleanest person in the room" mantra again, take a look around the room and smile. Because in reality, due to the matchless Atonement of Jesus Christ, there are probably quite a number of cleanest people in that room.
The path to receiving the Holy Ghost is to exercise faith in Christ unto repentance. We can become clean through qualifying for the effects of the Savior’s Atonement. The covenants offered in baptism by authorized servants of God bring that cleansing. We renew our pledge to keep those covenants each time we partake of the sacrament. And the peace we all seek is the assurance that we have received forgiveness for our sins.