There is a woman in my church congregation who recently shared with me the story of her conversion. Selba was raised a member of the Catholic Church but when she had her first child, a son, she was not comfortable with the idea of infant baptism. In her heart she knew that her precious baby had no sin. She delayed getting her son baptized, yet still taught him the prayers of her family’s faith and hoped that one day she would be able to resolve the confusion.
Eight years later the LDS missionaries knocked on her door. At their very first meeting the missionaries began to teach about the error of infant baptism as found in Moroni 8:8:
Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, 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 the law of circumcision is done away in me.
She was astonished that the missionaries answered her question when they knew nothing of her dilemma. Later that night as her husband worked in the basement she read the scripture to him from a Book of Mormon the missionaries left with her. Luis immediately stopped what he was doing and asked her to read it again. After listening carefully to the verse he told her that she should keep the book.
Later, Selba asked that young missionary why he taught her about infant baptism at their very first meeting. The missionary told her that it was his very first day as a missionary and he was very nervous. He opened his scriptures and read those verses that morning and knew that it was what he was supposed to teach. Selba felt that God knew her desires to do what was right for her son and blessed her through the missionaries.
The missionaries came back many times, often late at night when Luis got home from work. As they taught the couple and their son about the gospel, their faith grew. Selba and Luis were baptized soon after, along with their son who was nine years old. Because Selba’s son had then passed his eighth birthday he was eligible for baptism.
Boyd K. Packer, one of the twelve apostles explains why children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wait until the age of eight to be baptized:
“Only when a child reaches that age of accountability, set by the Lord at eight years of age (see D&C 68:27), is their baptism essential. Before that age, they are innocent.”
We believe that children are not fully responsible for their own actions before the age of eight. Until that time they do not understand the concepts necessary for independent behavior, and they are pure and innocent through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Parents are responsible to teach their children the principles of the gospel so that by eight years of age they understand the basic principles of the gospel. They are then capable of making choices congruent with their knowledge using their personal agency.
An eight-year-old child is first interviewed by their priesthood leader, to determine if they know and understand the covenant they will make with God through baptism. They are also asked if they want to be baptized, as no one is forced into baptism. It is a sacred ordinance only to be entered into willingly.
The baptism itself is one of total immersion in water, while dressed in white, which is wonderfully symbolic and consistent with the teachings of the holy scriptures (Romans 6:4, 3 Nephi 11:22-26). After immersion in water the baptism is made complete through a blessing wherein the person receives the Holy Ghost through sacred priesthood power. We believe that baptism is not complete without receiving the Holy Ghost. The special blessing to have the Holy Ghost always with us helps us keep the commandments and remember the covenant we have made with God at baptism. (A of F 4)
My own children were also baptized when they were eight years old. It was a special occasion that we celebrated as a family and congregation, along with Selba, Luis, and their son. My friend and her family remain strong and devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, actively serving in our congregation.
I am thankful for the restored truths of the gospel that help me fully understand baptism and its purpose. It is a wonderful thing that our Savior, Jesus Christ was the perfect example for us- showing us the way back to our Heavenly Father through baptism (Matt 3:13-17, John 3:5). I am grateful for the restoration of the priesthood that gives authority for baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is comforting to know that God has a plan for us, one that is as merciful and loving as it is exact and perfect.