Imagine it is a warm summer’s day, and a group of boys has been outside in the backyard for hours playing the things boys play. The mother of one of the boys leans out the back door and yells, “Trevor, I have warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven for you. Would y’all like one?”
How do you suppose those boys respond to that? Yes, they drop everything and run in a dead sprint to the back door, jockeying to be the first one inside because they think that means they will get to choose the biggest cookie there.
What happens next? You guessed it. “Your hands are filthy! Go clean your hands up!” The boys have been through this drill before. They know where the soap is in the bathroom, and they crowd around the sink. Each takes a turn lathering up their hands with soap, washing free the bacteria, viruses, and visible dirt. The soap bubbles are brown from the dirt. Some have to wash longer and scrub harder than others to get clean. Once they have scrubbed enough, each boy puts his hands into the water and rinses away all of the dirt, revealing clean skin underneath. They dry their hands leaving the bathroom sparkling clean and the towel hanging straight, of course, and present them to Trevor’s mom for inspection.
[Why aren’t moms ever named in these types of stories? We’ll call her June, because mothers deserve respect and rarely get enough.]
June looks over the boys’ hands, declares them clean, and hands them a plate of warm, chocolate chip cookies. You know the kind – chocolate melting onto your hands which you can lick off afterward, still warm enough that they can’t be picked up by just one edge or they will crumble, and a careful balance between crunchy edges and cookie dough softness in the middle. The cookies are devoured by the pack of velociraptor predators, and the whole group stampedes outside again. As they leave, those with some manners mumble some word of thanks in between licking their hands clean. The rest are too busy licking and running out the door. June accepts their enjoyment as thanks, and begins wiping up the mess they made on the table.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the “Mormon” church) has a great, short list of “Articles of Faith” which sum up the basic beliefs and doctrines of the church. There are thirteen in all, and each is only a few lines long.
The Fourth Article of Faith reads, “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second,Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
These principles and ordinances follow a logical order, and lead to wonderful blessings. Let’s go back to the story for a minute. The boys wanted a reward – in this case, chocolate chip cookies. Once they got an idea of what they wanted, June explained how they could qualify for the reward – remove the dirt from their hands.
The boys understood the mechanics of the Fourth Article of Faith. First, they showed faith in the process needed to obtain the reward. Next, they followed the path shown them – they used the soap to scrub themselves clean, which is similar to the repentance process we go through to qualify us to have those sins symbolically washed clean through baptism. Similar to the water in the sink rinsing all of the germs and dirt down the drain to reveal clean hands, our baptism cleanses us of our sins. Lastly, they received a comforting, sweet, enjoyable, warm gift of a chocolate chip cookie together. Following baptism, we are granted the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which allows us to have the Holy Spirit with us as long as we remain worthy, and that Holy Spirit gives us feelings of peace, comfort, warmth, reassurance, and happiness (as well as warning us of dangers we may encounter). Following our experiences with the Holy Spirit, we remember those experiences for some time, and can enjoy the spiritual memory of the feelings we had during the spiritual experience, much like the boys were able to keep licking chocolate from their hands as they left the house again.
And in a nod to June, the parable also shows that it was the mother who prepared, taught, coached, and invited the boys to get that wonderful gift.
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart . . . . He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalms 24:3-4. Mormons are Christians, and we try to follow these steps in order to be found worthy to get to heaven someday.