Mormons teach their children—and their adults—that God is kind and loving. Their doctrine backs that up as more than simply a nice thing to say. In Mormon theology, God really is kind and loving and fair—all the things a good father should be.
There are some unique features to Mormonism that strengthen the Mormon view that God is loving and kind. Often, they answer questions people have been debating for centuries, questions that begin with, “How could a loving God…?”
One doctrine that reinforces this concept is that of what happens to babies or young children that die without baptism? For centuries, theologians and ordinary people have struggled to reconcile the Bible’s requirement for baptism with the reality that some children die before baptism is possible or before they can choose for themselves. Mormons don’t have to struggle with this at all. They teach that the atonement of Jesus Christ covers little children. Mormon theology teaches that we are accountable for our own sins only, not for the sins of Adam or anyone else. This means the doctrine of original sin has no place in Mormon theology. The choices of Adam and Eve, which Mormons consider a transgression, not a sin, brought death into the world and brought about other challenges, but those are the natural consequences of their choices that hand down from generation to generation. Eternal punishments are not meted out to their descendants as a result of their choices. Children who die under the age of accountability—age eight—are considered unable to sin and therefore die perfect. They return directly to God’s presence forever. This is the only possible answer to how a loving God deals with the deaths of young children.
What happens to someone older than eight who dies without the real opportunity to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ, to accept Him as his Savior, and to choose baptism? Again, the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Mormons has an answer for that one. We are accountable only for what we know and have control over. A nine-year-old whose parents never taught him about Jesus Christ, a person who lived before Jesus was even born, or a person living in a country where religion is forbidden is not accountable for not having chosen what they had no possibility of choosing. In addition to these types of people, some who heard of Jesus Christ never received a testimony of His divinity from the Holy Ghost for one reason or another. Some never learned which church was the true church of Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Ghost can testify of truth in an undeniable way and only God knows who had a true and fair opportunity.
For this reason, if a person dies who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the actual name of the church Mormons attend), Mormons make certain they are not destined to an eternity without a chance at exaltation. Baptism requires a body and can only be done on Earth. Mormons build temples in which they perform baptism and other ordinances for their ancestors who died without them. Since we can’t know who received a witness of the Holy Ghost, we don’t presume to judge that and do it for all our ancestors. Mormons may only perform these ordinances for direct ancestors and when they submit a name, a list of rules appears they agree to.
These ordinances do not make them Mormons automatically. Obviously, if it were not a valid ordinance, God would ignore it. If the person does not accept the ordinance, it is as if it never happened. It is valid only if the recipient, who has been schooled in truth during the year following death, accepts it. Free will is an essential part of Mormonism. These people are not counted as Mormons on church records since there is no way to know what decision was made. It merely offers them a choice, just as they would have had on earth had they had the opportunity. No one should ever be deprived of the right to choose to accept or reject decisions that have eternal consequences. This is the only way a loving God would operate.
Another aspect of Mormon theology that demonstrates a loving God also happens in temples. Mormons believe that God considers families an essential part of His plan. He gave Adam a family very soon after creation and taught us to make our families a priority. He placed in our hearts the ability to love our spouses and children with an intensity not found anywhere else. He also taught that divorce was an abomination to him. Jesus, asked about divorce, said that in the beginning, divorce was not permitted—it has never been part of God’s plan and was allowed only because of the hardness of man’s heart. Why, then, would He not only divorce couples forcibly against their will, but take their children from them? He would not, of course. If Heaven is meant to be a place we will be happier than we can ever imagine, we will need to have our families with us as our families. Most of us are never entirely happy unless the whole family is together. The ability to choose to have an eternal family is one of the great kindnesses God has created for us—and is without question proof of His love.
Mormonism answers all the questions people have about why a loving God would do something. The God of Mormonism is kind and loving and Mormons have no doubt of their place in His heart.
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.