Have eight year old children fully reached the years of accountability?

 

In Section 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord commands parents to baptise their children when they are eight years old.

Is there anything about that which seems illogical to you? If not, perhaps you have never known an eight year old.

Why do Mormons Baptise Eight Year Olds?

In an article written by  in the Deseret News Kristine shared the  following question from a friend of her daughter that wondered why she was having her child baptized at the tender age of eight:

“A friend of my daughter recently said she could not understand why Mormons baptize children at such a young age, 8 years old. This got me thinking.We know from the scriptures the necessity of baptism by immersion and that Christ set the example for all to follow. We do not baptize infants or little children because, as taught in section 29 of the Doctrine and Covenants, “little children are redeemed” through Christ and “cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children until they begin to become accountable before me.”But why do we baptize at the young and tender age of 8?”

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I believe the question is a valid one.

I am of the opinion that virtually every eight year old that I have known, including myself, when I was eight, is much more accurately characterized as a “little child” than as an adult. I certainly have to question whether they have reached the full “years of accountability”. I would agree that some children are more sober minded and mature than others and some probably BEGIN to understand right and wrong at that age but I don’t think most children at that age understand the gospel or the atonement. (one the other hand, do any of us?)

It also seems a little strange that the decision is being made by the parents rather than the little child of eight years of age. where does agency come into this equation? Should the decision to be baptised be initiated by the one being baptized?

Furthermore, I believe the scriptures are congruent with the above suppositions.

The motivation of these Latter day Saint little children who are getting baptized at the age of eight, solely based on the fact that they have turned eight, seems to be in making their parents proud or getting a party or getting a fun baptismal present, etc.

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Notice the following snippet from Moroni 8 which speaks of the concept of accountability:

10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

The ability to be accountable in the above passage seems to be referring to parents, not their “little children”. Indeed, parents are to become like their “little children”, through the baptismal covenant, innocent and unable to commit sin.

Section 18 informs the witnesses to the Book of Mormon and the quorum of apostles that they were to choose, that they are to preach repentance unto the world, to those men, women, and “children” that have arrived at the “years of accountability”. From that we are informed that “children” do reach the years of accountability, but I am still having a hard time believing that eight is the magic number.

And you must preach unto the world, saying: You must repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ;
42 For all men must repent and be baptized, and not only men, but women, and children who have arrived at the years of accountability.
43 And now, after that you have received this, you must keep my commandments in all things;

In comparing the above passage in the Book of Mormon to the above passage in the D&C we note that the Book of Mormon is stating that parents are to become like their “little Children” through the process of baptism because their “little children” are not capable of sin. Yet the D&C is stating that both both men and women AND “children” are to be baptized.

Is there a contradiction between the two passages?

Not necessarily.

One passage is referring to “little children” who have not reached the years of accountability while the other is referring to “children” that have reached the years of accountability.

What is the defining and distinguishing differentiation between “children” that are accountable and “little children” who are not accountable?

The question is, at what point in time does a “little child” who is innocent, become a “child” that is accountable because they are fully capable of sinning and repenting?

What Makes a Child Accountable for their sins?

How do we know what the measuring yardstick is for determining if a child of any age can be accountable for their sins?

One parameter is given in section 29 which informs us that the child must be knowledgeable

46 But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten;
47 Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;
48 For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers.
49 And, again, I say unto you, that whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent?

From that we are informed that one must have knowledge in order to repent. How many eight year olds do you know that are truly knowledgeable about the atonement and the gospel of Jesus Christ?

In my opinion, most adult members of the modern corporate church are not very knowledgeable about the gospel of Christ. How can their eight year old children be knowledgeable?

In section 20 we are informed that a person has not arrived at the years of accountability unless they are “capable of repentance

How many eight year olds do you know that are truly capable of knowledgeable sincere repentance?

Another obvious parameter would seem to be that they need to be able to meet the requirements given in the divine baptismal protocol given by the Lord. We need to ask ourselves the simple question, does an eight year old child have the mental, emotional and spiritual maturity and capacity to fulfill the requirements of the baptismal protocol.

Section 20 gives the following protocol for baptism in to the Church of Christ:

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

Ok..

How many eight year olds do you know, that are capable of making a sincere and accurate public confession before the church that they have a broken heart and a contrite spirit and have truly repented of all their sins and have a determination to serve Christ to the end and have received the spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins?

Be honest about this. After all, this is the Watcher you are dealing with not your local Bishop. You can be totally honest with me. I won’t withhold your temple recommend if you tell how you honestly feel about some of the practices in the church that don’t make sense an  don’t appear to square with the foundational doctrines of the gospel.

If you grew up in the church, I would submit that as sincere as you may have been when you were baptised at the age of eight, you were pretty much clueless about the gospel and you probably would not have even understood the above requirements outlined in section 20 let alone been able to meet them .

(In previous posts we have covered the fact that the modern church neglects to follow the above protocol. They do not have those being baptized enter into the above baptismal oath by making a public declaration before the church. They have perverted the ordinance.)

The simple fact of the matter is that most, if not all eight year old children that I am aware of are incapable of meeting the baptismal requirements listed in section 20 which is why the the saints were probably not baptizing their eight year olds until section 68 was given some 2 1/2 years after the church was restored and section 20 was given.

So what am I saying?

Am I suggesting that section 68, which appears to be the ONLY scripture commanding parents to categorically baptize their children at the age of eight, is a false revelation?

No.

I am simply suggesting that section 68 was not a church wide commandment. It was being given exclusively to a designated special interest group that would be living in special circumstances.

Take a close look at the passage in question:

25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.
27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

Notice that the commandment to baptize children at the age of eight is only directed to a limited demographic, not to the whole church.

More on that later.

In the above passages the parents are commanded to teach their children about repentance. There is nothing about the children being required to testify before the church that they have repented or to follow the baptismal protocol given in section 20.

Clearly the protocol for child baptism is different in section 68 than the protocol for adults in section 20.

According to section 68 it appears that following the commandment to teach their children about repentance, parents are to categorically baptize their little children solely based on them arriving at the age of age of eight.

Again, there is nothing about the little eight years olds needing to fulfill the requirements mentioned in section 20.

Indeed, the eight year olds are just being taught about repentance and how to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord at the time they are being baptized because they would not have understood prior to that time.

An adult already needs to have knowledge and know how to walk uprightly before the Lord BEFORE they can repent and make the declarations listed in section 20.

Is that commandment to baptize little children at the age of eight in section 68 a true commandment or does it conflict with the protocol in section 20?

Does it make sense to categorically baptize children little eight year olds unto repentance  without them having to fulfill the requirement given in section 20?

Do you see a dilemma here?

Using the Prophetic Narrative to Demystify the dilemma

In a previous post I showed how an understanding of the prophetic narrative behind the 15 year ministry of Joseph Smith can provide answers to difficult doctrinal and historical dilemmas. It was demonstrated how the true narrative answers many difficult questions, such as why the witnesses of the book of Mormon waited nearly five years before obeying the commandment of the Lord to call the quorum of the Twelve and clarification regarding questions about priesthood.

general timeline 2 horizontal

In this post we will once again use the proper historical context contained in the prophetic narrative of Joseph Smith’s ministry to solve this doctrinal dilemma pertaining to baptising innocent eight year olds.

Only those living in Zion are to be baptized at the age of Eight!

As briefly mentioned earlier, section 68 was directed exclusively towards parents with children LIVING IN ZION OR IN AN ORGANIZED STAKE OF ZION!!!!

In other words, if you were a member of the church who was a parent with a child who was eight years years that was living outside of the designated gathering places of Zion at the time this revelation was given, (such as Jackson County or Kirtland), the commandment DID NOT APPLY TO YOU!

Ponder that little tidbit for a second and then ponder this-

Once the saints rejected the fulness of the gospel and were eventually rejected as a church with their dead in Nauvoo THERE HAVE BEEN NO PROPERLY ORGANIZED STAKES OF ZION FROM THAT TIME TO THE PRESENT.

This means that the commandment in section 68 to baptize eight year olds does not apply to anyone living today.

Notice that the protocol in section 20 was given to the Church of Christ in 1830 BEFORE the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Church of God was on the earth and BEFORE stakes of Zion were being established. Conversely, the commandment in section 68 was given to the Church of God, living in Zion and organized stakes of Zion, in 1831, shortly after the Melchizedek Priesthood had been restored at the Morley Farm. Once the Church was rejected with their dead and the saints once again had to flee from Nauvoo, no organized stakes existed after the saints fled from Nauvoo.

Incredible.

Without a contextual understanding of the prophetic narrative behind the LDS restoration, the following passages in section 20 and 68 would seem somewhat incongruent.

comparison

It is apparent that the commandment in section 68 for parents to categorically baptize their children is only referring to those of the church of God who are living in a Zion setting where little children are sheltered from the worldly. It is not for those of the church of Christ who are not being led by the higher priesthood and are not living in a sheltered Zion society. It appears as if children living in Zion will grow up without sin unto salvation and therefore can be baptized at age eight without having to meet the requirements set forth in section 20.

Based on the directives provided in scripture regarding children, accountability and baptismal requirements, I think it is safe to say that the Lord has not commanded parents to baptise their little eight year olds when they are not living in an organized stake of Zion and particularly when we are living during a time of full blown apostasy.

Having shown in previous posts that the modern corporate latter day church has changed the laws, perverted virtually every doctrine and broken the everlasting covenant, it makes perfect sense that they are involved in the erroneous practice of baptising little children at the age of eight even though there is no directive from the Lord to do so. Indeed we live in the prophesied of era when the Lords people can no longer endure sound doctrine.

Fortunately, we do not live when the fulness of the gospel is on the earth. We live during the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham and therefore, there is probably no-harm-no-foul. But when the fulness is ushered in, a great spiritual awakening must take place and we must begin to understand the scriptures and obey them.

 

[Editorial Note: Since writing this blog, one of my readers has brought it to my attention that the JST also says children become accountable at the age of eight. I think that having a second scriptural witness to the doctrine that accountability begins at the age of eight his significant.

I am not sure if the passage sheds more light on the issue of baptizing children other than to acknowledge that accountability takes place at eight. It may well be that being born to parents that are believers and under the baptismal covenant makes a huge difference regarding this doctrine.

It is still baffling to me that young children that cannot spiritually qualify to meet the requirements laid out in section 20 should be baptized, however, if it is a preparatory baptism, it makes sense to me.

Of course, the baptism being offered in modern day Mormonism can only be preparatory anyway.

Ultimately, whether or not it makes sense to me is secondary and frankly quite insignificant if the Lord has truly commanded it, and  if there are two independent scriptural sources that verify that the child becomes accountable at eight, then I accept that as fact.

11 And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know forever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.  ]

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