Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world in Gethsemane and on the cross. However, most Christians believe that to access this atonement, other than the right to be resurrected from death, we must do certain things. They believe we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Most also believe baptism is required.
What happens to children who die without having completed these steps, either because no one baptized them, they were too young to make their own choice, or no one told them they needed to do it?
Some religions believe there is nothing that can be done for these children, that they simply cannot ever live with God now. Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do not believe these children are doomed. They believe the atonement of Jesus Christ protects them children from original sin and that it protects children who have not yet reached the age of accountability.
Mormons believe children under the age of eight cannot sin because they aren’t old enough to know right from wrong. For this reason, they don’t baptize children until they are eight years old. Before the age of eight, Mormon children are taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and learn how to pray to ask God for a personal testimony of the things they are learning.
Children who die before they are eight years old return home to God in a perfect state. They are guaranteed a place in God’s kingdom for eternity. For Mormon families, this is a great comfort because Mormons also believe that families are meant to be forever. Mormons marry in temples, where marriages are “sealed” for all eternity. This means that when the couple is dead, they will still be husband and wife. God made marriage a sacred event that was never meant to end in divorce—not even at death. The children born to these families remain theirs forever.
When a child dies, then, the parents know they will someday be with that child again and be able to continue the process of raising the child. While this doesn’t take away the loneliness, it helps bring a certain amount of peace and reassurance to the family, as well as a motivation to continue to be worthy of their own return to God.
Because families are forever, a child who goes home to Heaven early will find herself surrounded by other family members who love her and are prepared to look after her until her parents arrive. Our connections to our families travel back through time, making us all truly one family—God’s family.
What the Book of Mormon, which is a companion to the Bible, says about infant baptism:
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism. (Moroni 8)
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.