Posted by: Jay | June 5, 2007

Is eight years old too young?

In the LDS faith the youngest age that someone can qualify for baptism is eight. In fact, LDS members are commanded to baptize their children by this age or the child’s sins will be on their head (D&C 68:25). The reason given is that is the age (in LDS theology), which a child can distinguish right from wrong (i.e. they can sin).

I was baptized at the age of eight. While I barely remember the event, I do know it was not defining moment in my life. That came much later when I obtained a testimony for myself. Baptism was something I did because it was expected and because the anticipation was something like waiting for your birthday to arrive. I sometimes wish that I could have waited until later in life, when I had gained a testimony of Christ as my Savior. I think it would have meant much more to me then.

That said I have to admit that the age is arbitrary because different people will come to this understanding at different ages. Maybe someone who’s eight can have a deep appreciation for Christ. Surely this is a better approach than some religions that baptize infants who have no idea what is going on, but perhaps others who require that the convert be conversant in their doctrine and active for some time, would be the best. I think there are pluses and minuses to all these approaches. The Bible gives little enlightenment on the subject of age when it comes to baptism. If we believe that the Savior was the supreme example to be followed I suppose we should at least acknowledge that persons being baptized should at least be aware of what they are doing and why. What do you think?

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Responses

  1. I think baptism is an outward act related to an inward response. Anybody can get dunked but it doesn’t really mean anything until that age/time when your heart is actually baptized. Without a transformed heart baptism is just a vain and shallow religious act no more significant than walking on coals or dancing with a dead chicken around your neck.

    I also think that means that someone can be right with God without the physical act.

  2. I agree with Dando. I think people will/should be judged by the intention of their heart, not by how many ordinances they participated in or by how many rules they obeyed.

    That said, I also agree that having a minimum age (in this case 8) is much better than infant baptism. The problem I have is that when kids turn 8 they to thru with the ordinance out of duty or because it is expected of them. There is alot of pressure to get baptised at that age. The kid is not honestly given a choice.

    The way it should be handled (IMO) is at the age of 8 the child should be told that he is now old enough to make up his mind about baptism and that when/if he/she is ready, to take that step, it is available to them.

  3. funny how if you use the number 8 followed by ) it gives a smiley.

    What I meant to say above was:

    … (in this case eight) …

  4. 8) – teh kewl smiley

    8 is only too young if god is limited in scope and power.

    that said i agree that asigning any age really is arbitrary. it is between the individual and god and only when those two hash it out is it legit, regardless of what man says

  5. Dando, how do you interpret Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus in the NT (i.e. “except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”? Or when Christ says, “He that believeth, and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It seems pretty clear (in my mind) that Jesus is saying to be saved you must be baptized in addition to just believing.

    Rick, while I was baptized because it was expected I didn’t feel pressured to do so. I was actually excited to do it because all my friends had done it and they build up to that big day in primary. I wouldn’t say that I was force or pressured in any way.
    I do agree with you that I think a child should be told they could now be baptized when reaching 8 and then be allowed to make their own decision. This is what they do for 8-year-old converts, why not with member converts? No one ever asks them if they actually want to be baptized. Not that I think anyone would make them be baptized if they said no, just that they should be given both options.

    – That eight) thing is kind of cool!

    brahnamin, Amen!

  6. The fact that Jesus, who was without sin, was baptized and said it was to fulfill all righteousness and then later says it is necessary makes me know it is. But I also believe it is necessary for it to be performed by one who has the authority to do so. Jesus was baptized by John, who had the authority to perform that ordinance. In Acts authority was passed by the laying on of hands by those with the authority who got it from Christ. But the Apostles got separated and killed off just as was prophesied… anyone who rejects them, rejects the one who sent them and Jesus said He had to be rejected of that generation. Well, He was. Hence the need for the Restoration.

    There was nothing new about baptism in Jewish culture… the only thing the Scribes and Pharisees asked about is by what AUTHORITY John baptized.

    If one is Mormon and believes the D&C is God speaking to us, then Christ Himself is the one who says 8. If Jesus says 8, then it’s 8. I understand the notion of questioning something as to *why*, but to pretend to know better than He is just beyond me. Keep in mind these are the general rules and I know there are exceptions which can be determined by the ones in authority. But if parents raise their children in the Church, they know right and wrong by that age. By the age of 8 almost all children are capable of realizing the difference between right and wrong. And children do have a choice. If parents force their children to be baptized, well then I presume that will be on their heads as well. D&C 121:35-46… Compulsion is not of God. But at age 8 the child should be given the option and should know by their parents teaching how important it is.

    That said, there’s also the issue of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost which cannot happen prior to or without baptism. I can’t help but think that having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost helps children.

    In a perfect world, there would be no need for any of this. But this isn’t a perfect world and we need to realize that while rules are given, so is free agency and people are human, and therefore nothing is perfect. 8)

    😯 is My personal fave in the WordPress smilie collection.

    Sorry if this is somewhat disjointed, but my head hurts.

    I’m thinking that while I like to know the *why* of things and always ask, if I don’t know the why I simply obey until I come to know the why. I really think a lot of things are simply about obedience and faith.

    Deut 8:2
    Psalm 11:5
    Ether 12:6

    God just wants to know if we will obey whether or not we understand it. The real question is: DO WE TRUST HIM? If we do, then the *why* isn’t nearly as important as the obedience. Ether says we receive no witness until after a trial of our faith. Because when it’s a *know* thing, it’s no longer a *faith* thing. And faith must come first.

  7. Jayleen, I agree that no one should force their child to be baptised, but I do think that parents baptise their children without giving them the “choice” of yes or no. Parents are afraid of having their children’s sins on their heads (D&C 68:25).

  8. I think many (if not most) people are not even aware of D&C 68:25. I think they baptise their kids because it is expected and are concerned about what people will think. And believe me, the people will think something.

    Setting a minimum age of 8 is fine. That’s not the issue (at least not mine). The issue is making 8 THE age, not the minimum age.

    I was baptised at 16 and I must say, I had a better grasp of the HG before I recieved it officially.

  9. If you want to talk about issues related to LDS conceptions of baptism, something that might be interesting to get into are the rebaptisms of members practiced during the Mormon reformation of the 1850’s. I think that raises more questions about the role of the ordinance then the current age of Baptism does. Remember that there use to be no standard age, Joseph F. Smith was in his mid-teens when he was finally baptized. I think the age of eight was adopted for standardization purposes, and because by that age most children would have a basic understanding of what was going on, if arguably little choice in the matter.

  10. Rick, I find it hard to believe that people don’t know about D&C 68:25. Bishops are very much aware when members’ children turn 8 years old. I’m sure many parents get this read to them if they are unaware of it. However, anyone that has attended gospel principles class has heard the scripture.

    Nate, I can’t get on lds.org right now for some reason, but when did section 68 become canonized by the LDS Church? I thought it was a revelation given to Joseph Smith. I have to say this is news to me. I’d like to know more about how 8 became the age of baptism.

  11. Jay,

    I think you are basing your opinion on whether people are made aware of D&C 68:25 on your own experience. (to be fair, so am I)

    I have had 2 children go thru this process under 2 different bishoprics and this scripture was not given to me. I think sometimes it is taken for granted that you already know.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t section 68 have been cannonized in 1830 with the first published version of the D&C?

  12. You are right Jay and Bish, Section 68 does say that children are to be baptized at the age of eight (and this dates back to 1831). I’m embarrassed, I don’t know how I could have gotten that one wrong, maybe I was typing to late. I suppose my confusion comes from the changes in the ages for ordination to the various aaronic priesthood offices. I am fairly certain about the Joseph F. Smith baptism story however, I think its in his Teaching of the Prophets lesson manual of a few years back, perhaps his late baptism was an aberration. I would still think that the age of eight was selected (even by God) for standardization purposes. Maybe some youth aren’t really ready for baptism and age eight, maybe some are ready years before that, its simply much easier administratively to have them baptized at the same point, rather then try to determine each individuals prepared statues, especially when dealing with young children. I believe most Mormons think that God simply fudges the numbers a little bit to make this work.

  13. Hi Jay,

    I believe baptism to be important, but not necessary.

    Contextually it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching that outward religious acts don’t mean anything, but instead that it’s the heart that God is concerned with. Then at the same time he says that God can’t accept someone who doesn’t have an outward religious act performed. It doesn’t jive with the rest of his teaching.

    Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise that very day. But the thief was not baptized. I know that LDS get around these non-baptized salvations by claiming baptism for the dead to be the solution. But nothing in early church writing (scriptural or not) seems to illustrate that baptism for the dead was wide spread or important (and certainly not to the extent the LDS church says that it is). We’re not even sure if baptism for the dead was by proxy or if the Corinthians were actually baptizing dead bodies.

    As far as Nicodemus. I would encourage you to read this passage in a modern translation rather than KJV. In the context of the conversation Jesus is saying that a spiritual birth is required. “Born of water” in this conversation is about a man’s physical and literal birth which Jesus contrast against a spiritual re-birth.

    It’s interesting that LDS choose to look at one part of this passage in an extreme literal way, but don’t pick up the “you must be born again” language with the same tenacity.

    I think the LDS church teaches baptism in a way that emphasizes it’s own exclusivity and power to control who gets into the Kingdom in ways that are inappropriate. “You MUST be baptized and ONLY our baptism counts.” Even the Catholic church (which also claims to be the one, true church) recognizes the baptisms of Orthodox and Protestants.

  14. I have done some research on Baptism for the Dead and everything I have found points to ancient christians baptising dead bodies, not baptising by proxy.

    There are also many scholars that contend that Jesus was baptised to “fullfil all righteousness” that is to say fulfill prophecy and the law of Moses, not to set an example for future generations.

    Dando,

    I think the LDS do pick up the “born again” part. It is just interpreted differently. LDS believe that being born again is to be born of the Spirit – thru the gift of the holy ghost, and LDS are quite tenacious about this.

  15. Rick, in Sunday School every 4th year the LDS Church studies D&C. And every time I’ve heard D&C 68:25 talk about and discussed. That is the experience I’ve had in many wards over my many years in the church. That is why it is surprising to me that someone could be active and not hear about that, but I admit that it could be possible.

    I admittedly have done little to no research on baptisms for the dead (maybe I will for a future post), but the LDS interpretation of Paul speaking to the Corinthians seems pretty parsimonious to me. I don’t think any mental wrestling is needed. I think if they were baptizing dead bodies Paul would have had a lot more to say on the subject.

    Dando, Are you saying that you accept that Jesus said you must be baptized to be saved, but that you just don’t believe it?
    LDS do not believe that the thief was “saved” as in going to heaven, but that he was going to the part of the spirit world referred to as paradise by Christ and not spirit prison to wait for the resurrection. So Christ saying he would see him in paradise doesn’t require that he be baptized. However, to live with God again he would have to be baptized by proxy, according to LDS theology.

    Good point about the Catholics accepting other baptisms. That is very interesting, but it does seem like the bible supports the idea that a baptism must be performed by someone that is authorized. Therefore if you claim to be the one and true church and that you alone hold the authority to baptize, it stands to reason that people must be baptized in your church.

  16. I don’t think any mental wrestling is needed. I think if they were baptizing dead bodies Paul would have had a lot more to say on the subject.

    And I would contend that if proxy baptism was necessary Paul would have had a lot more to say about it in all of his writing.

    I believe a baptism of the heart (or spiritual rebirth) is absolutely necessary. I believe that actually pushing someone under water is just a symbol of that spiritual rebirth and is not necessary.

  17. That is a good point, but why do you think he mentions it at all? It would be helpful if Paul made what he meant clear. The way it is written leaves the subject open to interpretation. I have to admit my ease with which I accept this doctrine is most likely due to my LDS upbringing (it just fits so nicely into LDS theology), but I am interested in what you said. Thank you for giving another point of view.

  18. I have to agree with Dando.
    Being pushed under water (as Dando put it) proves nothing other than you were willing to be pushed under water.

    The only thing that should matter is what is in your heart, not what you are willing to do in front of men.

  19. An interesting bit of info:

    When the LDS church was led to SLC by Brigham Young, most members were rebaptised upon arrival to recommit themselves to the church and to living a Christ-like life.

    On the contrary, JS Jr. and Emma Hale Smith stated that rebaptism was not necessary as they stayed behind with those comprising what is now the Church of Christ.

    There are those that point to this saying that this signifies that the LDS church (as led by Brigham Young) is the splinter group, and the Church of Christ is the remnant of the original group.

    Just a tidbit of info for your enjoyment.

  20. I actually do think 8 is too young for baptism. I was baptized as 8, and it was a spur of the moment thing. I was doing what was expected, there was no spiritual or emotional commitment or connection. There was not even really a choice.

    At 34 I was baptized again (not as a Mormon) and it meant the world to me. I agree with Dando that it is an outward expression of an inward response. I savored every second of my baptism, it was a personal moment between myself and God.

  21. Hey Dando – So did John *push* Jesus under water? Why did Jesus get baptized?

    Yes it is an outward act of what should be inside as well, but it is an ordinance that is necessary. Baptism without faith won’t do much good, but faith without baptism is a bit contradictory when you realize that Jesus told us to do it. At the end of Mark (28: 19,20) saying ” Go ye into all the nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have COMMANDED you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
    Emphasis mine obviously.

    And as a Mormon, if the Lord says to baptize at 8, then there is a really good reason for why. I don’t know that reason for sure. I’ll do some research on it though. The parents have the responsibility to teach their children the Gospel and they should know by that age. But I’ll say again they should not be forced to be baptized. Nor do I think the Church teaches to force them. For those children who just go through the motions it may simply be a spiritual seed that is sown into a child’s heart. It is something the child participates in when he/she is old enough to know right from wrong and I can’t help but think they remember it even if it didn’t *seem* to mean something at the time.

    I was baptized shortly after my initial conversion to Christianity 23+ years ago and I know it must have meant something because my faith was very strong and I loved God… but for the life of me I don’t remember it. I only know it happened because I found my baptismal certificate while going through some papers last year and that gave me a vague recollection of it. It was one of those ‘oh wow’ moments. I was 24 at the time I was baptized.

    I do remember my baptism performed 3 1/2 years ago though. I can only think I forgot the first one because the churches I was attending placed little to no importance on it.

  22. My daughter is about to turn 7. She considers herself an absolute Christian. She loves God, she loves Jesus (she does not always love going to church ;). What child who has been taught about God and Jesus would not? Children are very magical. They believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. My daughter told me a few weeks ago that she believes in everything magical, even Leprechauns. Please do not misinterpret. I am not saying God is magical, it is not my intention to be disrespectful. I am merely stating the mind frame of most children within that age range.

    I remember my baptism at 8. I was too young to take that covenant. So the choice will be my daughters. She will be baptized when she approaches me with the desire to do so. I want her to cherish her baptism as I did. In the meantime I will continue to nurture her faith. As a parent, that is my responsibility to her. I believe her heart in sincere, you should see her light up when she talks about her faith. But I would never presume to dictate the age of her *external* expression to her *internal* commitment.

    As a side note, how many 8 year olds would presume to tell their parents their desire not to be baptized? It absolutely breaks my daughters heart when she does anything that could or would disappoint us.

    These are just my thoughts. I am not presuming to be an authority on this, I am just pulling from my own experiences.

  23. Here is a different twist. Don’t crucify me for this. Just throwing this on the table.

    Jews have long had a tradition of complete emersion under water (called Mikvah) as a cleansing ordinance similar to baptism, but not an exact parallel.

    They would engage in this ordinance in preparation as a new convert to Judaism, or to enter the temple, or to cleanse themselves after being/touching something unclean.

    It is possible that JtB was performing this on unclean Jews as he did protest the need for Jesus to be emersed.

    Jesus may have wanted the ordinance in preparation for his mission, even though JtB knew there was no other reason for the need, since he was not a convert, and was not unclean.

    Just a thought.

  24. Rick,
    Very interesting. I’ve never heard about this before. Thank you for mentioning Mikvah. I’m going to have to do some more studying:0

    Hearing about this kind of stuff is one of the reason I love this blog!

  25. The Mikvah is what I was speaking of in my post at 11:14 saying the Jews weren’t surprised John was baptizing, just asking him by what authority he was doing it.

    Most Christian churches (the ones I attended) didn’t even realize that baptism is something that has been around since the beginning after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden. They seem to think it was a new thing that started with John.

    The main difference between the Mikvah and what we do is that when the Jews go under water, they also lift their feet so that the water completely surrounds them.

    If you read Matt 3:1-11 it is clear John knew he was baptizing people unto repentence. They were confessing their sins to him. He also knew Jesus had no sins to confess and that is why he hesitated. It is telling just how important baptism is that Jesus had the ordinance performed even though sinless. And notice the Holy Ghost came upon him immediately after this and Father spoke from heaven.

    And this was the beginning of His earthly ministry.

  26. This is another thing that has bothered me.

    Are you saying (I know its not you, but the bible) that Jesus did not have the HG prior to his baptism?

    Sidenote: He was approx. 30 btw, not 8. If we are follow Jesus example, we would wait until we are 30 to get baptised, or wait until we go on a mission, or something.

  27. You could also imply from the Bible that Jesus needed baptism, but he didn’t. He was at an age of awareness. I think this can be different for everyone. His experience only serves as an example for us.

  28. Yes, I believe that it is too young.


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