Children who pass away

The eternal fate of the child who passes away is a subject which many have considered. Before the Church was officially organized, the Saints received the teachings in the Book of Mormon, which declared that the child who dies is saved in Christ and that such individuals need not be baptized. As Mormon conceptions of cosmology, resurrection and exaltation developed beyond the binary eternities of the Book of Mormon, the simple words of Moroni were complicated in the expanded vision.

In early 1832, Joseph and Sidney received the revelation that we now number the 76th. This revelation was so controversial the Elders were asked to keep it quite and even Brigham Young put it on “the shelf” until he could deal with it (1). This revelation shows that all except those who commit the unpardonable sin receive a measure of grace and glory. There are three heavens and those that accept Christ and are baptized receive the celestial glory (the kingdom of the Father), taking part in the first resurrection.

We are not sure how or if the Saints tried to reconcile Moroni’s teachings and section 76, but Joseph was shocked by a vision in the Kirtland temple (1836) of his un-baptized brother in Celestial bliss:

The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept; And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins. (2)

The Lord responded to Joseph’s marvel with the knowledge that all those that would have received the gospel but didn’t have the opportunity would be judged as if they had. The Lord also showed Joseph “that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”

The Kirtland doctrines, like the Kirtland endowment, would yet face further expansion in the Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, Joseph revealed the concept that the Church now generally refers to as exaltation. Joseph also began to preach more explicitly on the details of the resurrection. On March 20th, 1842, Joseph the Seer, gathered some saints to preach on baptism, but as a child had passed away and the body was presented to the congregation, Joseph chose to speak on death and resurrection, perhaps reflecting his own experience with losing children (3).

He noted that it was then a time, unlike other times in the history of the world, that the Lord would take some of his most righteous spirits in their infancy to spare them the burden of mortality (4). This was also the first recorded instance of a doctrine that created significant controversy for many decades:

As Concerning the resurrection I will merly say that all men will come from the grave as they lie down, whether old or young. Their will not be added unto ther stature one cubit neither taken from it All being raised by the power of God having the spirit of God in their bodies & not Blood. Children will be enthroned in the presence of God & the Lamb with bodies of the same stature that were on earth. (5)

Joseph repeated this sentiment several times before his death. Perhaps most famously, in the King Follet Discourse, Joseph proclaimed:

A question[:] will Mothers have their children in Eternity yes, yes, you will have the children But as it falls so it will rise, It will never grow, It will be in its precise form as it fell in its mothers arms. Eternity is full of thrones upon which dwell thousands of children reigning on thrones of glory not one cubit added to their stature. (6)

It was believed by Joseph’s contemporaries that he meant that those who died as children would be resurrected in that form to remain for eternity. For example, Brigham Young once preached in 1854:

Little childeren can, after death, increase in all the wisdom, power, glory, gifts, and blessings that pertain to the Celestial kingdom. .. . Suppose the inhabitants of the eternal world should range from two to fifteen feet what matter of that. . . . This heavenly, beautiful, and glorious variety you discover in the works of God here below, will be seen in the resurrection. You will see the child of three, four, and five years old, possessing all the intelligence in them that makes them capable of enjoyment and duration. Resurrected bodies will be as diversified as the bodies of mortal flesh, for variety, beauty and extension…. The hight of my body, or its extension in width will make no difference to my enjoyments and blessings in the eternal worlds. (7)

Near the end of his life, Joseph F. Smith confessed that this doctrine made him uncomfortable, but that he never had the courage to speak against it (8). President Smith made an effort to find individuals who had heard Joseph Smith preach on the subject of the resurrection of children and was able to secure several affidavits. These witnesses attested that Joseph believed that the children would be resurrected and grow to fill the stature of their spirits. The 1896 affidavits of Joseph and M. Isabella Horne stated that the parents would receive them. Isabella also stated what is perhaps the seed from which the idea that mothers will raise their deceased children in the Millennium (though that detail doesn’t seem to have been advocated by Joseph F. Smith):

The idea that I got from what he said was that the children would grow and develop in the Millennium, and that the mothers would have the pleasure of training and caring for them, which they had been deprived of in this life. (9)

Perhaps the greatest aspect of Nauvoo era doctrine has yet to be fully considered by the Saints. In 1843, Joseph’s scribe William Clayton recorded:

I asked the President w[h]ether children who die in infancy will grow. He answered “no, we shall receive them precisely in the same state as they died i.e. no larger. They will have as much intelligence as we shall but shall always remain separate and single. They will have no increase. Children who are born dead will have full grown bodies being made up by the resurrection. (10)

Here the prophet couples deceased children with the doctrines of the newly revealed Temple rituals. Just two days before this incident, Joseph spent the night at Benjamin F. Johnson’s with William Clayton. William recorded the preaching of Joseph, which was later redacted for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants:

Before we retired the President gave Brother Johnson and wife some instructions on the priesthood. He put his hand on my knee and says “your life is hid with Christ in God, and so is many others.” Addressing Benjamin says he “nothing but the unpardonable sin can prevent him (me) from inheriting eternal glory for he is sealed up by the power of the priesthood unto eternal life having taken the step which is necessary for that purpose.” …He also said that in the celestial glory there was three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood and if he don’t he can’t obtain it. He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom he cannot have increase. (11)

The phrase, “separate and single,” was also used by the Prophet in the subsequent months (12) and then in section 132 to describe the eternal state of those who do not receive the ordinances of the temple. Most definitively, the prophet spoke the day after his King Follett Discourse:

When the House is done, Baptism font erected and finished & the worthy are washed, anointed, endowed & ordained kings & priests, which must be done in this life, when the place is prepared you must go through all the ordinances of the house of the Lord so that you who have any dead friends must go through all the ordinances for them the same as for yourselves; (13)

This principle relegates those souls who never reached age eight to never having the opportunity for exaltation. This conundrum is likely the impetus for the widely held idea that children that pass away will receive all the opportunities for ordinances during the Millennium. Regardless, the church has maintained a policy that the only ordinances that deceased children are to receive are sealings to parents. The enumerated policy in the temple from at least 1877 to 1902 were based on questions posed to and answered by Brigham Young:

3. Should children who die before they attain the age of eight years be baptized for. or receive any temple ordinance, other then being sealed to their parents? Nothing more than to be sealed to their parents.

4. Shall still born children who the mothers state have quickened have anything done for them? No: they are all right without having anything done for them.

7. How Young may a dead female be sealed to a husband? Not too young; say not less than ten or twelve Years. (14)

One practice that was relatively common among the early Saints was for Priesthood holders to ordain their children as young as eight days old to the high offices of the priesthood (15). In a meeting with the Councils of the Snow First Presidency and Twelve Apostles, it was resolved that babies that were ordained (because death was thought immanent, but they lived) should follow through with the regular ordinations in the Church (16).

After the repeal of the Law of Adoption in 1894, a degree of ambiguity was accepted by the Saints in their administration of Temple rites. This ambiguity coupled with popular notions of a Millennium where all loose ends will be tied has served to comfort the mourning families of the deceased and perplexed questioner alike.

__________________

  1. See Deseret News, Extra (14 September 1852) pg. 24:

    After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it.

  2. D&C 137:1,5-6
  3. Wilford Woodruff Journal, March 20 1842, vol 2, pg. 159:

    I have meditated upon the subject, & asked the question Why is it that infant innocent Children are taken away from us, esspe-cially those that seem to be most intelligent beings?

    Compare Woodruff journal to HC vol. 4, pg. 553-556.

  4. Ibid. vol 2, pg. 159:

    In the early ages of the world A richeous man & a man of God & intelligence had a better chance to do good to be received & believed than at the present day. But in these days such a man is much opposed & persecuted by most of the inhabitants of the earth & he has much sorrow to pass through. Hence the Lord takes many away even in infancy that they may escape the envy of man, the sorrows & evils of this present world & they were two pure & to lovly to live on Earth. Therefore if rightly considered we have, instead of morning we have reason to rejoice, as they are deliverd from evil & we shall soon have them again.

  5. Ibid. pg. 153.
  6. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 7 June 1844, vol 2, pg. 159. Compare to text of this discourse at notes 28 and 87, and the text after note 117 in Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 340-361.
  7. Discourse of Brigham Young, 19 February 1854, Brigham Young Collection, Church Archives as included in: Van Hale (1983)The King Follett Discourse: Textual History and Criticism. Sunstone no. 41. Compare to Brigham Young’s Sermon at the funeral for an infant son of Jesse C. Little:

    The question has often been asked, how it is with little children; will they grow or not after; Joseph once said they would, and then he said they would not, he never had any revelation upon the subject. I have no doctrine to give upon this subject. I believe in the great variety in the vast Creation of God. I do not believe that the Lord ever made two worlds alike, or two things alike in any world, nor that the human family has been alike in stature in the various ages of this world. The Lord has power to give a soul or spirit in a tabernacle two or three ft. high, as in a giant 8 or 10 ft. in height….My doctrine or belief is that we shall find all children and people at the resurrection of the same stature as when they died. (Journal History, 31 January 1861)

  8. Joseph F. Smith (1918) Improvement Era 21:567-574.

    I did not believe, never did believe that he was correctly reported or that those who died in infancy would remain as little children after the resurrection. Never had it entered my soul as a possibility that such could be the case; yet, I did not have the courage to say so, although I had been told this circumstance. I really did not care to mention it, because I knew the strong opinions that some people had in regard to little children being resurrected and, everlastingly and forever after to remain as little children.

  9. Transcripts for both affidavits were are included in footnote 7 of the March 20 1842 discourse in HC vol. 4, pg. 553-556.
  10. George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, p.104. Emphasis added.
  11. Ibid., pg. 101. Note that when Orson Pratt redacted the journal for inclusion in section 131, he inserted a bracketed note that the highest order of Priesthood of which the prophet spoke was temple marriage. Kevin Barney had a great post with a nice discussion here about the relative merits of that position.
  12. See Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 232. Franklin D. Richards diary account of a 16 July 1843 discourse at the temple stand:

    Those who keep no eternal Law in this life or make no eternal contract are single & alone in the eternal world (Luke 20-35) and are only made Angels to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation never becoming Sons of God having never kept the Law of God ie eternal Law.

  13. Wilford Woodruff Journal, Vol. 2, 1841-1845, pg. 388
  14. L. John Nuttall Journal, August 24, 1877. Typescript, BYU Special Collections Library. Compare to Manti Temple Historical Record, 24 Apr. 1902, as contained in David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness. pg. 129
  15. See for example the eighth day blessing of Joseph Woodruff, by his father:

    I ordain the to be a High Priest after the order of Melchisedic in the Church and kingdom of God and I seal upon thy head all the powers and blessings of this Priesthood that when thou shalt arive to years of accountability & discretion thou shalt have power to administer in the ordinances thereof. (Wilford Woodruff Journal vol. 2, pg. 584-586)

  16. Meeting minutes contained in the Scott Kenny Research Collection. MSS 2022 Box 10, Folder 1. University of Utah Special Collections Library

Comments

  1. You totally amaze me sometimes my friend. Excellent review.

  2. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Um, possible conflict here. If God does indeed take some children before the age of accountability to spare them the trials of mortal life*, then according to later statements about such children not progressing later, He’d be sentencing them to stagnation– or whatever you’d call it when they don’t grow. This doesn’t make sense.

    *I can somewhat accept the idea that some spirits had already progressed in the Pre-existance to the point where there wasn’t anything they needed to learn from mortality and all they needed to progress was a body. I cannot accept the idea that God would “spare” them mortality– if it’s that bad, then why would He have sent any of us? What is so special about them that they get a free pass while the rest of suffer?

  3. Maybe they progressed further than us in their last go at mortality?

  4. Matt Jacobsen says:

    Very interesting and great work, Jonathan.

    So am I correct that the ambiguity of today means you can take any of the quotes from the first 50 years of teachings and create whatever scenario brings you the most comfort? Seems like that’s what many of us do.

    While I consider myself a big questioner on this topic, I have vowed to be very careful about my questions around parents who have lost a child. This is one grey area with a lot of sensitivities.

  5. PDO Eve, I think the not growing part is in reference to their physical bodies.

    I confess that I’ve always had trouble with this particular doctrine because it seems really unfair. (To the rest of us.) It’s sort of like their fate has already been decided, in which case, what exactly are we doing here? (My apologies to any who have lost children – I mean no disrespect.)

    What’s interesting to me is Joseph’s vision of Alvin. Did Alvin not need a Judgment Day? I always thought there was a big Day at the end of the Millenium. Or are there Judgments going on all the time? (We need an LDS version of Left Behind, although Burned as Stubble would be a short book, I suppose.

  6. This is amazing. Good job on the top nothch research. J.Stapley, you need to put all these articles in one section for easy access.

  7. Thanks all! I tend to agree with Matt Jacobsen here. I have never lost a child and I can’t even consider the possibility. I can’t imagine what that must feel like. I know that this was very painful for Joseph. Personally, I think that his comments about why some die young is a bit of personal theodicy. I think he was likely trying to find a good reason for the horrible reality of infant mortality. Yes, I think the result is something along the lines of take whatever quote you want that brings you comfort…but there is no way I would say that to a mother or father that lost a child. If this is the case for any of our readers, I apologize for the sensitivity of the topic.

  8. Excellent post! I am wondering, if this is all true, then what does that mean for the rest of us? Does that imply that all of us will rise as we died? It seems to. IF we are old, we will rise old. I have yet to see good sources for us rising with some perfect body in the sense that the world would call perfect. Maybe that is the thing that is really folk doctrine.

  9. FHL, I have always believed that time is not so linear as we think of it. There are alot of theories related to time and physics regarding the deceased, which I wont get into, but I have found things make more sense if we disregard our notion of time. I (personally) don’t believe life-death-millenium-judgement is necessarily as linear as we think of it and teach it.

  10. I think this is the key quote on the subject (from footnote 7):

    Joseph once said they would, and then he said they would not, he never had any revelation upon the subject.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Lyndon Cook wrote a book all about Joseph’s doctrine of children in the resurrection (I forget the name of it). I know this, because it was close enough to publication that I actually ordered a copy. It was supposed to come out from Signature. But the book was never published. I don’t know the story behind that, but I always assumed that Lyndon decided it was just too hot to handle. (Most Saints have no idea of Joseph’s original understanding that children would rise to only to their final stature in the hereafter.)

    This strikes me as an example of grass roots development in doctrine. Joseph taught the idea that babies who die would for all eternity have their small baby bodies without further growth. The mothers of Zion simply didn’t buy that idea, and guess what? Our doctrine has assimilated to what most people find acceptable, that the children will grow to maturity. Joseph wasn’t always the final word in what people were willing to accept as doctrine.

  12. Wow, Kevin. I could imagine a chapter on the subject, but a whole book? I think Cook does all his stuff through Grandin, though. I’d be fascinated to hear some of the details, though. Off to scoure the internet…

    I do think that there is some flexibility in Joseph’s words. There is no question that many improtant figures interpreted him to mean that resurected children stayed small, but I think a reasonable interpretation is the one now commonly accepted. Frankly though, I’m not sure how much child rearing is necessary for an indavidual for whom the veil no longer exists. So, we are back to the theodicy and comfort of those who mourn.

  13. Rob Osborn says:

    I find it quite interesting that we have a doctrine where little children automatically get saved into the Celestial Kingdom. The logic of it is that if they are resurrected for the millenium, will they too get baptized as they grow up or will that of already been performed for them? Oh, wait- he he see there the logic of it- children do not need baptism who die before they are eight.

    That in and of itself is a paradox as baptism is the mode whereby mankind is resurrected from the dead but wheras little children do not need it, but then neither did Christ who was without sin but yet he needed it too! Maybe there is more to baptism than we realize!

    One other thing that has been humming away in my brain I would like to share- Children are those who by very definition are outside the law of the gospel of repentance and baptism. According to section 76 it classifies a couple different categories of people who inhabit the Terrestrial world. These are-

    1.those who have died without law. Because these are separate from those who go to spirit prison it stands to reason that it is speaking of children and mentally handicapped people. Because they are outside of the law they are incapable of sin and therefor do not go to the spirit prison.
    2. Those who went to spirit prison who died in their sins without a knowledge of the truth while in mortality but then accepted it in spirit prison.
    3. Those who went to spirit prison who knowingly rejected the gospel while in mortality but then accepted it in the spirit world.

    Now I do not care how one slices and dices these scriptures but it is clear that children who die before eight or the mentally handicapped will first have to pass through the Terrestrial Kingdom world (the state and period of the earth during Christ’s millenial reign) before they can inherit the Celestial Kingdom just as all the rest of us.

  14. Rob–
    I’ve never sliced and diced it that way, however jsut reading section 76 it appears to me the only way JS could accept the whole secton is if what Stapley’s essay is saying is true.

    Perhaps if we want a different perspective on section 76 we could ask Mark Butler to expound his understanding of the scriptures to us. (I would add a big yellow smiley face here—but I don’t even know how!)

  15. Rob Osborn says:

    I found the scripture as to where it talks of those who have no law check these out-

    72 Behold, these are they who died without law;

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 76:72)

    22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—

    (Book of Mormon | Moroni 8:22)

    These two scriptures define the same group of people.

  16. J., this is an excellent post and really fascinating to me. I’m going to think about this for awhile, but from first reading, I have to say the idea that little children would be kept separate and singly without increase is incredibly depressing. I just can’t believe that HF would do something that we see as so unjust.

  17. for whom the veil no longer exists

    I’ve been thinking about that.

    Lets assume you date back to the Ice Age. Only ten thousand years.

    Now, you need to sit down and visit with some people in their 70s and 80s. People who note that changing the sheets now seems to happen every half hour and who take a longer perspective than most of us.

    How many of the stories of people on the other side reflect that kind of perspective and personality?

    I’m not sure exactly how the veil fades or what it obscures, but there is a lot more going on than we tend to simplify things to.

  18. Interesting Post- I think Spencer W. Kimball resolved all of this when he was president of the Church though.

    He said:

    we promise you that insofar as eternity is concerned, no soul will be deprived of rich and high and eternal blessings for anything which that person could not help

  19. Matt, that is a great example and I think that it is representative of the current consensus among the heirarchy of the Church. The Saints, above all, believe in a God that we perseive good, fair and just. There is no doctrine or idea that is too sacred to be felled by this conception. The result is that the door that was opened a crack by the repeal of the Law of Adoption has swung open and the door fallen off its hinges. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but the natural result, without a revelatory clarification, is simply a giant mass of speculation.

  20. J.- Perhaps it is up to us to get our own revelatory clarification.

    I believe in what SWK said, but the question then becomes, “Why Temple Work for the Dead?” for this, I can only postulate theories, and I’m not prone to doing such.

  21. Steve Park says:

    I apologize if this sounds flippant, but if I or anyone else were to die in some catastrophic way that involved dismemberment, I think it’s fair to assume we’d be made whole somehow. It wouldn’t be an exact resurrection of the way we went down.

  22. I don’t believe I will get my child back at the age of two, which is the age he was when he died. It doesn’t make sense to me that his spirit is more exalted than mine (which I firmly believe), that he died 33 years ago, and when I die, will be greeted by his exalted adult spirit. Then whenever the resurrection comes, he will go back into that tiny body and start over?

    Joseph Smith said that the truth “tastes good.” You know it. I believe he wanted those things to be true, I believe there is an element of truth in them, but ultimately, he said a lot of things hoping to comfort mothers.

    And I don’t believe it. I think I lost my child forever. He’s now an adult spirit and will be resurrected as an adult.

    But wait, his body is small. Well, it will grow fast or something. I still think we haven’t hit on the truth of the situation.

  23. Is it perhaps worth quickly noting that Orson Pratt seems to have been the source for the idea, found in some of Joseph F. Smith’s affadavits, that children who died would grow to full adult stature after the resurrection. See discussion in Gary James Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, page 96. Pratt’s ideas on this subject — and his dismissal of Joseph Smith’s teachings as not informed by definitive revelation — are especially clear in this 1873 sermon (the relevant material begins a bit past half-way down the text).

    Orson Pratt’s various contributions to modern Mormon theological thought are generally under-appreciated.

  24. Excellent pull, JNS. My favorite quote from that discourse:

    Nephi says-“I ponder upon the things of God continually which he has revealed unto me,” and there is no harm for us to do the same. We should not get into that old sectarian notion, that we have no right to know anything about this, that or the other, and that we must not pry into this, that or the other. That is an old sectarian notion, which we have fought against all the day long, and we do not want it to creep into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    I still am uncertain as to who was the first real advocate for growth after the resurrection. I have not read all of Conflict in the Quorum, but Orson refers to others who say the Joseph received more light before he died but that he (Orson) didn’t know or not whether that was the case. Also he doesn’t get into the Millennium at all, which makes sense, but that seems to be a big portion of contemporary popular belief.

    I definitely do agree that Orson’s views are severely under-appreciated.

  25. J., you should perhaps take another look at Conflict in the Quorum regarding this topic. Pratt’s defense of the idea that children will be resurrected as they are and then grow into adulthood was one of his points of conflict with Brigham Young and the rest of the Twelve. He was censured by the other 14 Apostles over his teachings on this subject, which they called “baby resurrection.” That level of debate seems to give Pratt credit as the major public advocate of the doctrine; whether Joseph came to advocate it in private between the King Follett discourse and his death is, of course, undecideable.

  26. Well, you’ve convinced me to make a go of it. After I finish the BY Office Journal and appendices, with which Collier used to take a swipe at Bergera’s treatment I’ll go for Conflict in the Quorum in total.

  27. Jeffrey Royal says:

    The real problem with child salvation is justifying the Mormon theodicy. Typical theodicies justifying God’s allowance of evil to create a logically necessary greater good. This would involve the school of thought which believed the souls of men were being built through the experiences of life. Unfortunately, they fail to take into account God’s power of creation ex nihilo, allowing Him to create a perfect world where his creations have free will and perfect natures, never choosing to do wrong. Joseph circumvented this problem by redefining God’s omnipotence to not include creation ex nihilo. He suggests the existence of co-eternal realities with God, such as chaos, universal laws, and intelligences (primal persons). These co-eternal realities restricts God’s abilities to prevent evils which are (i) absolutely unpreventable, (ii) preventable, but not by God or (iii) necessary to create a greater good, namely in soul building. Hence, God is no longer responsible for mankind’s nature or its sins. Unfortunately, there’s a problem—how are the souls of little children (or those with mental handicaps) built who die so soon in coming to Earth? In the simple Book of Mormon eschatology with only the traditional Christian heaven and hell after a resurrection, it was easy to suggest they went to Heaven, for the alternative was unbearable. However, once a multi-layered eschatology was suggested, things became complicated for this doctrine. Where did little children lie now? Joseph’s 137 revelation still placed them in the celestial kingdom, but did not suggest there ability to progress infinitely in the highest degree. And it was a dangerous suggestion… How would such a case be fair? So prophets seemed to waffle in their opinions—do they grow? Do they progress? Are they double-veiled (they go to the spirit world, are super intelligent, and then re-enter into a body in the millennium and have a veil placed on them again? Or is it one continuous veil?)? No revelation or easy explanation was in place.

    Saying “they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth,” means absolutely nothing. For how are the souls of little children who die built by coming here? A doctrine commonly held is they don’t. Instead, they claim the need for a physical body as the reason for their advent, but it seems quite possible for children to receive bodies without coming to this wicked world.

    But even if they needed to come here to receive a body, they have not proved themselves to God to inherit the second estate. Children may be innocent, but they hardly demonstrate a moral rectitude, which mirrors God. Perhaps they have already achieved such a nature before this life. Does God then, as Kent P. Jackson has suggested, have to send celestial beings into all the infant bodies he foreknows will perish to remain impartial? Personally, I think this view of God’s foreknowledge is ridiculous, and so are any suggestions of absolute exhaustive specific foreknowledge. Libertarian free will is incompatible with such a view.

    But such a suggestion leads to more dangerous considerations. If such infants achieved perfection through divine acquisition before this life, what is the need for this world in the soul building process at all? If there was an easier way to achieve God’s eternal life, without the massive pains, evils, and sufferings of this world, would we not have avoided coming here? Perhaps we learn quicker here on earth, but statements differ on the matter. For instance, Joseph posited “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” From this view, earthly experience could imprint upon us a benefit in the next world. However, Brigham Young declared, “I shall not cease learning while I live, nor when I arrive in the spirit-world; but shall there learn with greater facility…” Under this system, it appears more beneficial to learn within the spirit world than through extended life on earth. Even if a specific type of knowledge is gained through the earthly experience, it is doubtful an infant could acquire it. It appears some are unjustly exposed to evil in the soul building process, while others circumvent the program altogether. Did Herod’s massacre of the infants at Bethlehem achieve more of the purposes of God than the work of hundreds of missionaries?

    To counter my argument, it may be a full scale revelation has not yet come, but this does not solve the philosophical problem. Perhaps, upon the principle of “line upon line, precept upon
    precept,” the doctrine of infant salvation will be filled out. An ancient pseudipigraphic document, the Apocalypse of Peter, describes a further understanding of child salvation. Clement of
    Alexandria’s explication of the text states:

    The children born out of due time… that would have been of the better part (i. e. would have received salvation) are delivered to a care-taking angel, that they may partake of knowledge and obtain the better abode, having suffered what they would have suffered had they been in the body. But the others (who would not received salvation, had they lived) shall only obtain salvation, as beings that have been injured and had mercy shown to them, and shall continue without torment, receiving that as a reward.

    Hence, this demonstrates how child salvation has been a difficult topic for Christianity and theism since its conception. I am personally of the opinion that the plan of salvation is dumbed down too much and over emphasis is placed on this world as a place of testing. If people think the next life is a world on heroine (full of joy and easy), I think they are wrong. The journey through eternity and the process towards exaltation is a long one, which will include many struggles with natural and moral evil, and requirements for personal growth. It is possible the Prophet Joseph Smith included the mentoring of deceased infants for exaltation when he expressed our need to work on our godhood and exaltation far beyond this life. My opinion of child salvation is that their early deaths will not hold them back from progressing into the celestial kingdom. But if they will progress forward, they will need all the necessary ordinances and experiences to move forward in their glory. But as it stands, without entering the realm of speculation, the doctrine of child salvation undermines soul building and the Mormon theodicy.

    Jeff

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