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Baby Baptism

Baptism is a sacred ceremony, or ordinance, through which a person promises to follow Jesus Christ. Although baptism is considered essential by most Christian churches, the method and timing of baptism vary.

Some religions christen babies with a sprinkling of water to offset the effects of original sin. Other churches feel that baptism should be a conscious decision, so it is performed once a person is old enough to be personally accountable for his or her choices and actions. Some churches perform baptism by immersion, which requires a person to be fully submerged; the act of going under water and coming up spiritually clean is symbolic of death, burial, and resurrection—baptism signifies the death of an old way of life and the birth of a new life committed to following Jesus Christ.

What did Jesus teach about baptism?

Baptism is a commandment

The Savior plainly taught that baptism is a commandment of God and necessary to “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Baptism or christening is performed to “wash away . . . sins” (Acts 22:16). Even though Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life, even He was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). By being baptized Jesus showed all of God’s children “that he would be obedient unto [the Father] in keeping his commandments” (2 Nephi 31:7). All those who choose to follow Jesus must similarly obey God’s commandment to be baptized.

Baptism must be performed by someone with proper authority

As a prophet of God, John the Baptist was ordained to the priesthood and had authority to perform Jesus Christ’s baptism. The Jewish people recognized John’s authority to baptize because he was a descendant of Aaron (see Hebrews 5:4), and people came from “all the region round about Jordan” to be baptized by him (see Matthew 3:5–6). Zacharias, John’s father, affirmed this authority and foretold John’s responsibility to preach to the people about Jesus and prepare the way for Him: “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest” (Luke 1:76). Jesus specifically went to John to be baptized. Likewise, baptisms today must be performed by one holding the proper authority from God.

Baptism requires repentance

At the time of Jesus’s baptism, many “were baptized of [John] in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). In order to be worthy for their baptism, John called people to “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Jesus Himself also often spoke about the need for repentance, including after His Resurrection when He taught people in ancient America: “I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name . . . or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (3 Nephi 11:38).

Baptism should be performed by immersion

The word baptism itself comes from the Greek baptizein meaning “dip” or “immerse.” When Jesus was baptized, Matthew records that He “went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). This full immersion in water represents cleansing from sin; the act of being buried and then coming up out of the water symbolizes the death of an old way of life and of being born again, clean and committed to following Jesus Christ and His gospel.

What did Jesus teach about little children?

Jesus loves little children

On several occasions, Jesus called little children to Him, both to bless them and to teach important principles through them. On one occasion, despite the fact that it had been a long day, Christ rebuked His disciples for keeping young ones away from Him, saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” (Mark 10:14). When Jesus visited the people in the Americas, He likewise “commanded that their little children should be brought . . . and Jesus stood in the midst” (3 Nephi 17: 11, 13).

Little children are pure and holy

Jesus reminded people that children are pure and innocent and that adults should try to be more like them in that way, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus also said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

What do the scriptures teach about baptizing babies and young children?

The New Testament doesn’t directly address the baptism or christening of babies. During Paul’s ministry, Lydia “and her household” (Acts 16:15) were baptized, as were a jailor “and all his” (Acts 16:33), which suggests the baptism of family members in various stages of life. But there is no direct mention of people’s ages, making the doctrine unclear.

Some denominations argue that christening an infant is essential to claim the covenant blessings promised to the family of Abraham; they believe it replaces the ordinance of circumcision for males at eight days old (see Genesis 17:10–13). Unfortunately, this doctrine is also not clarified in the Bible.

However, the Book of Mormon, which was written by prophets from another civilization of Jewish origin, provides further insights on baptism.

Little children are sinless before God

The Book of Mormon plainly declares, “Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:8). And in the New Testament, Jesus taught, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). In our day, the Lord has clearly said, “Children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old” (D&C 68:27). It is at that age that they can more fully understand and begin to be accountable for choosing right from wrong.

Baptism is for sinners

Baptism is for those who sin and need to repent. In the Book of Mormon we learn that the doctrine of Christ is “repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:10). Since little children are not capable of nor accountable for sinful acts, they don’t need baptism.

The Fall of Adam does not make little children guilty of sin at birth

All of God’s children feel the effects of the Fall—we are separated from God, we live in an imperfect world, and we are given the opportunity to choose between good and evil. However, God holds individuals accountable only for personal sin and not for Adam’s transgression (see Articles of Faith 1:2). So, again, because young children are sinless before God until they can be accountable for their actions, they have no cause to repent or to be baptized.

Little children are saved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

God is not a partial God; He is no respecter of persons. He is merciful, loving, and kind. The scriptures teach that “little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world” (Moroni 8:12). In fact, Jesus explained that we should strive for their purity, for “except ye . . . become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The scriptures further acknowledge that God could not be just if He denied children salvation without baptism, “for how many little children have died without baptism!” (Moroni 8:12).

It is mockery before God to baptize little children

To say that something is “mockery before God” (Moroni 8:9) is pretty strong language. But the scriptures emphasize that to perform a baptism on a young child who is not capable of sin denies God’s mercy “and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption” (Moroni 8:20). God loves little children. They are blameless and innocent before Him until they are able to understand and keep His commandments

Baptism is the “first fruits of repentance” (Moroni 8:25) and is necessary for everyone who has a desire to be free of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a requirement of all who, once accountable for their actions, choose to follow Jesus Christ. Because little children are blameless before God and not yet capable of sin because they are not yet mature enough to be accountable for their choices, they do not need baptism to be saved in the kingdom of God.

Want to learn more? Schedule a visit with the missionaries to ask your questions about baptism. 

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