In the scriptures, we read of many miracles that accompanied the faithful Saints – the holding up of the waters of the River Jordan, the 16 stones of the Brother of Jared, the missionary successes of the early Saints, to name just a few, and of course, the Saviour’s Resurrection. Do miracles still occur today, or has the day of miracles ceased?
“Miracles are . . . manifestations of divine or spiritual power . . . are a response to faith and . . . are a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary).
Modern miracles, equal in force and power to those in historical times, are evident in the lives of many faithful Church members today. Such was the experience of the Ogden family of the Prospect Ward in the Adelaide Australia Firle Stake.
Grant and Julie Ogden have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many years and when their son James turned eight, even though he wanted to be baptised, he couldn’t go through with it because of a debilitating fear of water, or aquaphobia. This occurs when a person has a persistent, unwarranted and irrational fear of water, and experiences high levels of anxiety or panic attacks at the thought of coming into contact with water. In James’ case, he had a great fear of water on his face and would avoid water at all costs, fearing he would drown.
Julie recalls, “I remember thinking, I hope he grows out of it or it will make for an interesting baptism!”
James’ desire to be baptised was strong. For two years he practiced putting water on his face and the sister missionaries spent several months with James preparing him for baptism. James, his parents and Bishop Andrew Clark discussed James’ baptism, showed him the font, and talked about how best to baptise James so that the ordinance could be completed correctly.
Finally, the 15th of April 2018 was set for James’ baptism. “The day came. How proud I felt of him and his efforts. How proud I felt to be able to finally take him to the waters of baptism”, reflected Grant. “We dressed in the clothes for baptism, had photos taken and entered the font. I held him as is custom and said the words required for this ordinance and proceeded to immerse him. Unfortunately, his fear took over and James resisted. We waited a moment to let him calm down and eventually, he said he was ready. We tried again, many times, the same result.”
Each time his father attempted to immerse James into the water, his body stiffened uncontrollably, even though he was centimetres from full immersion. After many attempts, Bishop Andrew Clark invited ward members and other guests to go into the Cultural Hall to enjoy the food that had been prepared to celebrate James’ baptism. Only the witnesses, immediate family and the sister missionaries remained, so James could have some privacy.
So began what we believe to be the longest baptism in history. For two hours, James and Grant stayed in the water, attempting many different ways to 'get him under'. Grant even went underwater himself a few times to show James he would be safe. James’ primary teacher, one of the witnesses, tried being in the font with James and Grant. Same result.
But James was determined to be baptised and said so, but his phobia would take over at the last second each time they tried.
After what seemed like an eternity, and after many silent prayers were offered, and seeing James determination but also feeling the stress that James was feeling, one last attempt was made. Grant and James’ primary teacher decided to hold James between them, on their interlocked hands, and all were immersed together.
James was finally baptised! James turned to his father and asked, “Did I nearly drown?” “No”, replied Grant, “but you did get baptised.” James was radiant, but exhausted, along with his long-suffering father. “It was such a relief and I felt happy after it was done”, said James. James received the Gift of the Holy Ghost that afternoon, and then the real miracle started to unfold.
In the following week, Sister Ogden was preparing for her regular swim at the local pool. James asked if he joins her. This was not unusual as he would often attend with her.
What happened next is nothing short of a miracle. James hopped into the deep end of the pool and proceeded to dive under the water, with no fear or sense of drowning. He now regularly goes swimming and loves to go under the water.
Grant, Julie and James Ogden are the recipients of a miracle in modern times. “The fact that James can now put his head underwater without fear of drowning is a miracle and is because he was baptised and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost,” testifies Grant. “The power that came to James as he was being confirmed is why the miracle for James has happened. We are so grateful for that.