It might seem peculiar to other religions, the idea of waiting to baptize a child until eight years old. To fully understand this concept we must take into account two scriptures, both revealed to the LDS prophet, Joseph Smith.
One such scripture can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, verse 25:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her 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.”
This revelation was given through Joseph Smith in November of 1831. It is not, however, the first time the crucial age of eight was recorded. Unfortunately with various translations of the Bible, this principle was lost.
When commanded by the Lord to work on translating inaccurate passages of the Bible, verse 11 of Genesis chapter 17 took on a whole new meaning which we can read in the Joseph Smith Translation:
“And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be thy covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.”
What does this mean?
Up until the age of eight children cannot be held accountable for any wrong decisions they make. Their sins are wiped clean. What a wonderful thought, especially for those of us who lose children before eight years old. I myself had a baby who lived barely over an hour, and there is no doubt in my mind he is not lost to me in sin.
For parents, however, this time must be spent in the dedicated teaching of our children. As they near the age of accountability Satan’s efforts to sway them will increase. They will be tried and tested.
Several months before my daughter turned eight the two of us set a goal to read as much of the Book of Mormon as possible. Though we only made it to Mosiah I later realized the goal had been inspired, as my daughter found herself struggling to know what do to in some rather stressful situations.
Her moral character was being tested even before the age of accountability. If we hadn’t been reading the scriptures she would not have had that extra spiritual ‘shield’ to help her make the right decisions. I also would not have been as close to the spirit, so that I might help guide her.
Take heart in the knowledge our children are saved until the age of accountability, but do not slack off. Use those eight years to start them on the right path, so that when it is time for them to be baptized they’ll be spiritually ready to take that step.