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? Why not wait until they are older and, as some would argue, more competent to make such a momentous decision. There are, perhaps, myriad reasons, but let me suggest three.The first becomes clearer to us as we read D&C section 68, wherein the Lord commands to baptize at age 8, but not without first extending a stern warning to parents. He tells them of their responsibility before baptism to teach their children the essential principles of Christ's gospel. And if a parent "teach(es) 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." Whoa! It is not enough to simply baptize children at age 8. We are first commanded to prepare them for baptism by teaching them about the Savior Jesus Christ, how to repent of sin, about the blessings that come through baptism, and the blessings available through the gift of the Holy Ghost.In the home, in church meetings and functions, this is what we are to do. Then, after being thus prepared, "their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of hands." The scriptures remind that teaching the basic doctrine of Christ's gospel, teaching right from wrong, is fundamental to establishing accountability at age 8 — and then they are to be baptized.Is this enough to explain to my daughter's friend why we baptize at age 8? I would suggest no, there is much more to this doctrine. Baptism also allows the baptized individual, at age 8 or 80, to make an eternal covenant with God. What a great blessing this is! A baptized individual enters into a covenant relationship with God that is binding in this life and the life to come, allowing entry into God's kingdom if the individual is worthy.But for me, a certain favorite scripture, associated with the practice of baptizing, not only illuminates the value of 8-year-old baptism but also illustrates the confidence and profound love the Lord has for his children.In First Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, Nephi sees in vision, "the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord ... and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory." Contemplate for a moment what the Lord does for an 8-year-old child who is baptized and enters into a covenant relationship with Christ. The Savior arms that child "with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory." One way this is so is they can have the CONSTANT companionship of the Holy Ghost, whose role and responsibility is to:
- Bear witness of the Father and the Son, thereby strengthening personal testimony.
- "Show unto you all thing (that you) should do" — guide you in decisions and protect you from physical and spiritual danger.
- Introduce you to gifts of the Spirit that will benefit you and others.
- Console you when you are in need of comfort.
- Justify your actions before God — approve that which you do before God when you act righteously.
- Sanctify or purify you as you obey the commandments and abide by the covenants you make.
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