Monday, March 27, 2006

Speaking of contradictory commandments...

As long as we're on the subject, there is one thing that has bothered me about one tiny point of doctrine, and that is infant baptism. My question is, why don't we do baptisms for dead children? Now, before someone throws the book of Moroni at me, permit me to explain.

We currently don't need baptism before the age of accountability because before then we aren't, well, accountable. The BOM says that "little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them" and, "And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins." (see Moroni 8: 8, 11)

But is that the only reason for baptism? Nephi says: "Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments." and, "And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them."(see 2 Nephi 31, 7, 9) As missionaries we always taught that baptism served two purposes, one of which is for the remission of sins, and the other is our token that we are desirous to enter the kingdom of God- in effect baptism becomes our membership card we present at the gates. If you don't have the card, you can't get in.

Even Jesus, who was without sin and needed no repentance was baptized, and I presume it was for reason number two. So my question is: sure, little children need no repentance, but won't they eventually need to make the covenant of baptism in order to enter into the kingdom, just like Jesus did? And if so, why don't we do baptisms for dead children?

Am I missing something?


JonnyF said...

Two words: The Millenium.
I'm at work so I can't look up which general authority promised parents of dead infants that they would have the blessing of raising those infants during the millenium.
We are taught that there will still be baptisms for the dead going on in the millenium, as well as missionary work on earth. I think those children will be baptised during the millenium.
I'm at work so I can't be more rigorous, but perhaps this is a good topic for some research.

nick said...

Is there anything scriptural? I mean general authority comments are sometimes helpful, but on many issues they contradict each other and are ofte n just speculating, especially when you go back to the older ones like the Pratts and so forth...

Jared said...

Back up there, you two. First of all, Nick, there is nothing further in the scriptures beyond Moroni 8--that is the most extensive and authoritative treatise on infant baptism in the standard works, although D&C 137: 10 does shed a little more light on it. Second, remember that Ezra Taft Benson taught that "the living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works" (BYU Devotional Assembly, Tuesday, February 26, 1980).

However, that said, there is very little to be found about infant baptism in the Church Correlation-approved writings of general authorities. They pretty much just reiterate Moroni 8. In my non-official opinion, I think Jon is close to home. Because we know that children who die before reaching the age of 8 will be able to be raised by worthy parents in the Millenium (Joseph F. Smith in Gospel Doctrine, pp. 455-56, quoted by Bruce R. McConkie in Ensign, Apr. 1977, pp. 3-10) it may be that part of that raising would include receiving saving ordinances. However, I would never, ever, jamas, teach that to anyone. This is enormous speculation and we're treading on thin doctrinal ice.

Another likely explanation is that there simply is an exception to the commandment to be baptized. Such a hypothetical exception may not have applied to Jesus because he was past the age of accountability when he was baptized. Again, I don't know. And I'm pretty sure that's the safest answer. Whenever I'm teaching and the answer isn't clear, I give 'em Alma 37: 11.

It's a good question. The best understanding comes from searching the words of modern prophets on the topic. Merlin R. Lybbert gave a conference talk on it in April 1994, found in the May Ensign of that year. That article I referenced by Elder McConkie is good, too. I know, I know, peope shudder at the mention of McConkie, but do remember that the article had to pass over several other desks beside his before it got published. Church Correlation does a good job at keeping published doctrine sound.

nick said...

I re-read Moroni 8, and I noticed this line: "Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin..."

Maybe the reason Jesus was baptized and deceased children are not is that even Jesus was capable of committing sin, whereas little children are not. Could there be anything to that, or am I reading too much into the scripture?

Even if that is a correct reading of the scripture (I'm not sure it is), it still doesn't satisfy my curiosity of why the ordinances aren't done in the temple for them. My speculation is the same as yours however, that they will have a chance to "grow up" in the future and can choose to accept baptism then.

Jared said...

I think deciding whether or not to do proxy baptisms for dead children is sort of being stuck between a doctrinal rock and a hard place. If we did perform baptisms for dead children, we, or some other blog-savvy group, might be discussing the contradictory doctrines of how children need no baptism, and yet we do baptisms for them in the temple. There are lots of contradictory things in the Gospel, if you look for them. I'm pretty sure that you just started this as an academic question, though, and that your testimony isn't riding on revelation coming through Salsa Night.

And I liked what you read into the scripture. Sure, it might be too much, but it also might be a partial explanation. Might, maybe, could be, possibly, I think, etc., etc. In the end, I don't know.

nick said...

Don't worry, it really was just a "huh, I wonder if anyone else has thought of this before.." kind of thing and not a testimony shaking realization, though for any who are reading this who have now left the church, I sincerely apologize.