IT'S BEEN SAID that baseball is a game children can play but geniuses can never fully understand.

I feel that way about the gospel.

It's both amazingly profound, yet amazingly simple.

Take the teachings of baptism and the sacrament, for example.

Hundreds of books and talks have been written about baptism, but nobody fully understands it. Yet it can be as simple as a child would describe it.

Baptism is somebody getting a bath.

When you feel grimy and gritty on the outside, you hop in the water and wash off.

When you feel grimy and gritty on the inside, you hop in the waters of baptism and — symbolically — spiritually wash off.

Remember when Winnie the Pooh got his head caught in the honey jar? I can't think of a worse sensation — honey sticking to your neck, hair and face. I couldn't get to the water fast enough.

Sometimes I feel like that inside — sticky, gritty, unclean.

And I say, "Get me to the water."

Suiting me up in white and running me through the font each week wouldn't be practical, of course, so I'm given a "mini baptism" with the sacrament instead.

And that leads to the point I really wanted to make.

Kids know when they take a bath they aren't going to stay clean. They have to keep after it. Tomorrow's another dirty day.

By the same token, the sacrament isn't for the spotless and pure. It's for those who've gotten into some grime during the week and need a bath. It's for all us "honey heads" who need to wash up.

As the scripture says, " ... offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren and before the Lord" (D&C 59:12).

In his new book, "The Sacrament: Feasting at the Lord's Table," Truman Madsen quotes Elder Melvin J. Ballard:

"We should know that it is not our privilege to partake of the emblems of the flesh and blood of the Lord in sin."

But instead of moping and feeling despondent about that, Madsen says we should heave sighs of relief and repent. We have somebody who "has the right, the authority and the ability to deliver us."

The sacrament is for sinners.

Reach for it and you give yourself away — whether you sit at the back of the pews or high on the stand. We don't need to "renew" covenants we're keeping (how often do we renew marriage vows?). We renew promises that we struggle with. And we renew our baptism once a week.

And like baptism, the sacrament is a warm bath for children who've stumbled into the mud. It's a symbolic rewashing, a healing pool at Bethsaida.

Those who reach for it may have failings, but their eyes and hearts are high. They're willing to get a scrubbing.

Their heads may be sticky with honey, but their hope is in soap.

They're banking on cleanliness — week after week after week.

In fact, they're betting their lives on it.

Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in the Mormon Times section.

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