The meetinghouse was packed on a Saturday morning. Every child of record in the North Las Vegas Stake was there to be baptized, with their families and extended families and primary teachers and primary presidents and for one little girl the missionaries who had taught her, which was how I learned of this strange custom.
Her parents wanted to make sure she knew exactly what she was getting into by making the covenant of baptism, a reasonable desire, and when I transferred in she had been taught almost all of the standard lessons. We went to her baptism to show our support, I suppose, or our friendship or to support the ward, I'm not sure. It sounds cold to say we could have been using our time better during such a special moment in a young girl's life, but you must understand there was no shortage of special figures at that ceremony.
There were volunteers directing visitors, printed programs telling which ward was using the font at what time, and what room they would use briefly for the talks, which in that commotion would have been impossible to focus on for all but the most prodigious of the children. The girl was baptized by her father, her uncles standing by as witnesses, and confirmed in a corner of the cultural hall, which was being used for several other confirmations at the time, I can't recall how many.
Her father, grandfather, uncles, other men in their own ways special to her, were gathered around her folding chair, forming a tight circle. To my surprise we were invited in, and I squeezed in, arm outstretched to the mass of right hands over her head, left arm vertical to put my hand on a shoulder. My estimate at the time was over twenty priesthood holders, in a circle of an arm-length's radius.
I don't understand the purpose of performing ordinances with multiple priesthood holders, with the ignorance I share of what exactly goes in in the spiritual realm as we call on power; it's nothing so crass as simply overcharging the blessing, or we'd have two dozen priesthood holders for every blessing. It didn't feel altogether proper, and I've never been to anything similar since, so I wouldn't know how common such sights are at child of record baptisms.
Maybe it was just to stretch the blessing of having participated, even a young missionary not two weeks in the area, who wouldn't even remember her name. At the time of writing she would be fourteen, and certainly remembers nothing of me half a life later. It was a strange thing to witness, one I recall every time I see a ward with the kind of youth and vitality I saw in the middle-class wards of North Las Vegas, and so I wanted to write about what I have seen.