Not long ago a Utah newspaper, the Utah Valley 360 published an article titled “Eight is great: 8 things to teach your child before baptism”. In the article the author lists 8 things Mormon parents need to teach their children about baptism before they turn eight.
In this article I’d like to cover these “tips” given to Mormon parents, offer a Christian perspective to this practice, and share my experience on this matter.
- The baptismal covenant
The article starts off by stating that baptism is a covenant between the individual, and God. Mormons believe that baptism is just one of the many ordinances members of the church are to participate in throughout their lives. Completely missing the Biblical definition of covenant, the article defines the baptismal covenant as
“people who make the baptismal covenant promise to remember Jesus Christ, keep His commandments and take upon them His name. God promises that, if they keep the covenant, they will always have the Spirit with them, and they will be forgiven of sins.”
When I hear Mormons use the word covenant so loosely as they do here I find myself asking “where’s the blood”? In the Bible we learn that it’s through blood that God makes His covenants with His people. In the Old Testament this involved animal sacrifices (Genesis 8:20, 15:9-10). In the New Testament Jesus was the sacrifice for sins (Matthew 26:28), and He created a new covenant, one that is permanent and unchanging (Hebrews 9::15).
- Promises associated with baptism
The next point lists the promises an individual receives after becoming a member of the Mormon Church through baptism, as stated in Mosiah 18:8-10. These promises include: bearing the burdens of other church members, mourning and comforting them, and above all standing as a witness of God. I’m not really sure what those promises have to do with baptism.
Verse 10 goes on to say “that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— “.
Now for a Christian, baptism isn’t a requirement for salvation, it’s an act of obedience. There are only two ordinances followers of Jesus Christ are to participate in, and they are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. By requiring more than just repentance, and faith in Jesus for salvation, Mormons turn baptism into a “work” which adds to the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, and dilutes the grace He has given us.
- The necessity of confirmation
This point is about the Holy Spirit. Quoting Joseph Smith-
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
Mormons are taught that they are the only ones who have the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to be with them. To receive the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost one must be baptized into the Church, once that happens you are confirmed a member of the Church, and receive “the gift of the Holy Ghost” by the priesthood placing their hands upon your head.
The Mormon Bible Dictionary states-
“The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost. For those who receive this gift, the Holy Ghost acts as a cleansing agent to purify them and sanctify them from all sin.”
Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that once we become followers of Jesus Christ we have the Holy Spirit with us. One of the passages of scripture that I clung to after I left the Mormon Church is Ephesians 1:13-14 it reads –
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest do our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
As a Mormon I was taught that I had to keep myself worthy in order to have the Holy Ghost with me, and if I messed up the Holy Ghost would leave me until I made whatever I did wrong right again. This verse was very comforting to me; it gave me peace to know that even when I sin God is still with me.
- The choice to be baptized
When I saw this I had to chuckle at little because this article is instructing parents on how to teach their children about baptism, knowing that an 8-year-old Mormon child really has no choice in regards to whether, or not they’re baptized.
Mormon parents have a huge burden on their shoulders to make sure each of their children are baptized at the age of 8. If they don’t they face ridicule (either spoken or unspoken) from their church leaders and other members of the church. Doctrine & Covenants section 68 gives Mormon parents a stern warning when to comes to making sure they have their children baptized.
Verse 25 states that “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach 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.” (emphasis mine)
If that doesn’t motivate a Mormon parent to have their child baptized at the age of 8 nothing will.
- The basics of priesthood authority
“The details of priesthood authority might be difficult for 8-year-olds to grasp fully, but children should have a basic understanding of the need to be baptized by one holding the proper authority and by authorization of one with the proper priesthood key.”
As you may know, Mormons are big on “authority”. Everything done in Mormonism has to be done with the proper priesthood authority. Yet when we look in the bible God has said nothing to that effect. Followers of Jesus Christ have the authority at act in his name, and to baptize those who have repented, and put their trust in Him. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus speaks of the Great Commission commanding His followers to share the gospel, and to baptize.
- What to expect
This section refers to the fears and concerns a child may have when getting baptized.
- Responsibilities of Church membership
“After a child is baptized, he will have more expected of him as a member of the Church.”
What a frightening statement! So what are these expectations? Well, keeping in mind we’re talking about an 8-year-old, they’re to: partake of the sacrament worthily, learn to pay tithe, do their best to live “the gospel”, try to develop talents, serve others, boys are to prepare to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, and girls are to prepare to join Young Women’s. (Faith in God for Boys, Faith in God for Girls)
After reading that I think we call can say a collective, “YIKES!”
- The sacrament
“The sacrament is a reminder of and a renewal of baptismal covenants.”
The sacrament, or communion consists of bread with leaven, and tap water. Sacrament is taken by all worthy baptized members of the Church each week. When members listen to the sacramental prayers they are told to partake of the bread (again with leaven) in remembrance of the body of Jesus, and to drink the (tap) water in remembrance of His blood. (Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-84).
The fact that they use bread with yeast in it is appalling to me now as a Christian. As a Mormon I didn’t know any better, I didn’t know that in the Old Testament God used leaven in bread as a symbol of sin.
At the Passover Jesus held up the matzah (the unleavened bread) and said“Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)
In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Paul states –
“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
(As a side note to this topic I thought I should add that parents often let their little children, toddlers partake of the sacrament.)
Pray for them!
In closing I want to offer up a prayer for these parents who are preparing their little ones to become members of the Church. I know the pressure they’re under, I was there twice. My oldest children were baptized into the Mormon Church, not because I think they really wanted to be, but because they felt like they had to be. I know they were influenced and encouraged by their teachers at church and by us, their parents to take the steps toward baptism.
Mormonism teaches that anyone who truly wishes to follow Jesus Christ will do all that’s required of them by the Church. If they aren’t willing to surrender all they are (their ability to think, and reason for themselves) to the Church they really don’t want to become followers of Jesus.
It’s truly sad how much of a hold a religion can have on people, but those of us who have the truth, also have the authority given to us by God to share true gospel of Jesus Christ with them. I pray that each of us will have the words to speak when the time comes.
Melissa Grimes (firstname.lastname@example.org)