BCC Hive: Infant Salvation

Please help our man in Vienna:

Yesterday in priesthood meeting we had our lesson on baptism and we were sure to cover Moroni 8 and the solemn mockery of God that infant baptism represents. We also talked about baptism for the dead, of course, and the fact that infants don’t have this ordinance performed for them because 1) see above and 2) all children are saved in the celestial kingdom pursuant to D&C 137.

It occurred to me that if we view baptism as necessary for the remission of sins, full stop, then it makes sense not to require it of the sinless. But since we also view baptism an individual’s expression of “moralische Selbstständigkeit” once they have reached the age of accountability to follow Christ and chose salvation, and given the essential role of moral agency in the plan of salvation, am I missing something obvious about LDS soteriology in wondering how salvation, even for deceased infants, is possible under conditions where it seems the individual is not capable of exercising moral agency? Or is the pre-mortal decision to come to earth regarded as sufficient expression of free will to avoid the pitfalls inherent in Lucifer’s “one soul shall not be lost” plan?

Comments

  1. I have a firm conviction that the only consistent interpretation of the plan of salvation must include postmortal progress between kingdoms. This is the only consistent way to include the possiblity of continuing moral agency post-prison/paradise.

    Also, (you probably know that) you’ve stumbled into the distinction we LDS make between salvation and exaltation. The oft-omitted portion of the King Follett discourse makes clear one thing, however much it muddies others: children who die before the age of accountability are exalted as gods. They must therefore have chosen the upward path, and to take advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    The question that seems unanswerable under current Mormon orthodoxy is why someone can attain exaltation without baptism. Baptism must be, in some sense, an ordinance for this world; or a baptism is performed hereafter for those who died too young to receive it. I opt for the first, personally.

  2. Last Lemming says:

    The oft-omitted portion of the King Follett discourse makes clear one thing, however much it muddies others: children who die before the age of accountability are exalted as gods.

    Perhaps you could provide the quote that supports that view. I can’t find it quickly and don’t have time to search exhaustively.

    In the meantime, I am proceeding under the assumption that unbaptized children are saved in the sense that they will never have to suffer for their sins, but that their exaltation is not assured. I believe that no external constraints will be placed on their progression (unlike those in lower kingdoms) but they can choose to not progress in all the ways necessary to achieve exaltation.

  3. I’d write it rather differently today, but here are the major sources and chronological flow relating to child salvation.

  4. This paragraph is often edited to omit the final portion:
    “A question may be asked–“Will mothers have their children in eternity?” Yes! yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life; for their debt is paid. There is no damnation awaits them, for they are in the spirit. But as the child dies, so shall it rise from the dead, and be for ever living in the learning of God. It will never grow: it will still be the child, in the same precise form as it appeared before it died out of its mother’s arms, but possessing all the intelligence of a God. Children dwell in the mansions of glory and exercise power, but appear in the same form as when on earth. Eternity is full of thrones, upon which dwell thousands of children reigning on thrones of glory, with not one cubit added to their stature.”

  5. I’d always understood that there is a lot more to the agency we exercised in the premortal world than we understand generally here. Infants who die pre-baptism, then, can be presumed to have sufficiently exercised their agency in the premortal realm. I’ve been taught that in several contexts (seminary, institute, etc.) and now I’m killing myself that I have to be “that guy” without a source. :)

  6. #4 has got me very confused. I thought mothers would be able to raise their too-early dead children in the hereafter. If they will never grow up, that wouldn’t be possible. And I am pretty creeped out at the thought of eternal infants with the intelligence of adult gods. That sounds like a book called ‘Wild Talent’ which I read many years ago.

  7. Another thing that is interesting to consider is why age 8 and how firm is that age as the age of accountability and in determining the necessity of baptism for the dead?

    I’m guessing most would admit that some children are more self aware and accountable at age 8 than other children. Is it more about reaching a certain numerical age or is it about the reality of what’s going on inside the child when determining the need for baptism?

  8. PS, the end of that first paragraph should just read baptism, not necessarily just baptism for the dead.

  9. terradisienna says:

    #6: There are some ideas why the KFD paragraph says what it says: First, it was reconstructed from several different accounts, and so may not clearly represent what JS was expressing. That alone doesn’t disqualify it, but I think the take-away point is that children become gods, although I think there is good external evidence that they continue to grow until they reach their prime as resurrected beings.

  10. StillConfused says:

    I agree that #4 is very creepy. Lucky for me, I don’t take any of the afterlife discussions literally.

  11. “First, it was reconstructed from several different accounts, and so may not clearly represent what JS was expressing.”

    Yeah, there is that.

    The idea is comforting in the middle of the suffering. It’s just not logical outside the emotion of the suffering. My take away is that children are not damned without baptism, and that’s an important concept. Everything else is speculation, imo.

  12. Last Lemming says:

    Another thing that is interesting to consider is why age 8 and how firm is that age as the age of accountability and in determining the necessity of baptism for the dead?

    One’s eighth birthday seems to be a hard boundary in terms of temple work. In most cases, we have no way of knowing how accountable any of our dead ancestors (or, more precisely, children of our dead ancestors) were, so we do the work. Even when we do know something about their accountability, as with my 25 year old unbaptized son, age eight is still the cut-off. When he dies, his work will be done. That would not have been true had he died before his eight birthday.

    When I get home, I will look up and post a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith that supports my view that children are not automatically exalted. (I am aware of quotes from Bruce R. McConkie to the opposite effect. I just disagree with him.)

  13. Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

    Little children who pass away before they are accountable are redeemed.

    With little children who are taken away in infancy and innocence before they have reached the years of accountability, and are not capable of committing sin, the gospel reveals to us the fact that they are redeemed, and Satan has no power over them. Neither has death any power over them. They are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and they are saved just as surely as death has come into the world through the fall of our first parents. …

    … Our beloved friends who are now deprived of their little one, have great cause for joy and rejoicing, even in the midst of the deep sorrow that they feel at the loss of their little one for a time. They know he is all right; they have the assurance that their little one has passed away without sin. Such children are in the bosom of the Father. They will inherit their glory and their exaltation, and they will not be deprived of the blessings that belong to them; for, in the economy of heaven, and in the wisdom of the Father, who doeth all things well, those who are cut down as little children are without any responsibility for their taking off, they, themselves, not having the intelligence and wisdom to take care of themselves and to understand the laws of life; and, in the wisdom and mercy and economy of God our Heavenly Father, all that could have been obtained and enjoyed by them if they had been permitted to live in the flesh will be provided for them hereafter. They will lose nothing by being taken away from us in this way. …

    With these thoughts in my mind, I take consolation in the fact that I shall meet my children who have passed behind the veil; I have lost a number, and I have felt all that a parent can feel, I think, in the loss of my children. I have felt it keenly, for I love children, and I am particularly fond of the little ones, but I feel thankful to God for the knowledge of these principles, because now I have every confidence in his word and in his promise that I will possess in the future all that belongs to me, and my joy will be full. I will not be deprived of any privilege or any blessing that I am worthy of and that may be properly entrusted to me. But every gift, and every blessing that it is possible for me to become worthy of I shall possess, either in time or in eternity, and it will not matter, so that I acknowledge the hand of God in all these things, and say in my heart, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord” [see Job 1:21]. This is the way we should feel with regard to our children, or our relatives, or friends, or whatever vicissitudes we may be called to pass through. 4

    After the resurrection, a child’s body will grow to match the stature of the spirit.

    Would we be satisfied to see the children we bury in their infancy remain as children only, throughout the countless ages of eternity? No! Neither would the spirits that did possess the tabernacles of our children be satisfied to remain in that condition. But we know our children will not be compelled to remain as a child in stature always, for it was revealed from God, the fountain of truth, through Joseph Smith the prophet, in this dispensation, that in the resurrection of the dead the child that was buried in its infancy will come up in the form of the child that it was when it was laid down; then it will begin to develop. From the day of the resurrection, the body will develop until it reaches the full measure of the stature of its spirit, whether it be male or female. If the spirit possessed the intelligence of God and the aspirations of mortal souls, it could not be satisfied with anything less than this. You will remember we are told that the spirit of Jesus Christ visited one of the ancient prophets and revealed himself to him, and he declared his identity, that he was the same Son of God that was to come in the meridian of time. He said he would appear in the flesh just as he appeared to that prophet [see Ether 3:9, 16–17]. He was not an infant; he was a grown, developed spirit; possessing the form of man and the form of God, the same form as when he came and took upon him a tabernacle and developed it to the full stature of his spirit. 5

    Every spirit that comes to this earth to take upon it a tabernacle is a son or a daughter of God, and possesses all the intelligence and all the attributes that any son or daughter can enjoy, either in the spirit world, or in this world, except that in the spirit, and separated from the body, they lacked just the tabernacle of being like God the Father. It is said that God is a spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth [see John 4:24]. But he is a spirit possessing the tabernacle of flesh and bones, as tangible as a man’s and therefore to be like God and Jesus all men must have a body. It matters not whether these tabernacles mature in this world, or have to wait and mature in the world to come, according to the word of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the body will develop, either in time or in eternity, to the full stature of the spirit, and when the mother is deprived of the pleasure and joy of rearing her babe to manhood or to womanhood in this life, through the hand of death, that privilege will be renewed to her hereafter, and she will enjoy it to a fuller fruition than it would be possible for her to do here. When she does it there, it will be with the certain knowledge that the results will be without failure; whereas here, the results are unknown until after we have passed the test. 6

    The spirits of our children are immortal before they come to us, and their spirits, after bodily death, are like they were before they came. They are as they would have appeared if they had lived in the flesh, to grow to maturity, or to develop their physical bodies to the full stature of their spirits. If you see one of your children that has passed away it may appear to you in the form in which you would recognize it, the form of childhood; but if it came to you as a messenger bearing some important truth, it would perhaps come as the spirit of Bishop Edward Hunter’s son (who died when a little child) came to him, in the stature of full-grown manhood, and revealed himself to his father, and said: “I am your son.”

    Bishop Hunter did not understand it. He went to my father and said: “Hyrum, what does that mean? I buried my son when he was only a little boy, but he has come to me as a full-grown man—a noble, glorious, young man, and declared himself my son. What does it mean?”

    Father (Hyrum Smith, the Patriarch) told him that the Spirit of Jesus Christ was full-grown before he was born into the world; and so our children were full-grown and possessed their full stature in the spirit, before they entered mortality, the same stature that they will possess after they have passed away from mortality, and as they will also appear after the resurrection, when they shall have completed their mission.

    Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the infant child that was laid away in death would come up in the resurrection as a child; and, pointing to the mother of a lifeless child, he said to her: “You will have the joy, the pleasure, and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.” There is restitution, there is growth, there is development, after the resurrection from death. I love this truth. It speaks volumes of happiness, of joy and gratitude to my soul. Thank the Lord he has revealed these principles to us. 7

  14. LL, thank you!

  15. Bob Sheedy says:

    Handbook 2
    2.1.2
    Ordinances

    3rd Paragraph

    Some ordinances are required for exaltation in the celestial kingdom for all accountable persons. These ordinances include baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination (for men), the temple endowment, and temple sealing. Living members of the Church receive these saving and exalting ordinances themselves. Deceased persons may receive them vicariously. Vicarious ordinances become effective only when the deceased persons for whom the ordinances were performed accept them in the spirit world and honor the related covenants.

    “For all accountable persons” indicates to me that these ordinances are NOT required for those too young or others with limited mental capacity. I believe they have already proven themselves to be extremely valiant in the pre-earth life. They only come here to obtain their body. I feel that they were given a choice to tarry (one Apostle and three Disciples chose to tarry) for awhile if they chose to do so. Those that tarry help us to learn patience and pure love. Those who leave quickly teach us how Heavenly Father feels when he loses one of us.

  16. am I missing something obvious about LDS soteriology

    No.

    Rather, you have come across a glaring logical inconsistency in our teachings.

    My attitude about such internal theological contradictions is: Oh well. God can work things out on the other side.

  17. Eric Russell says:

    The solution must be one of the following:

    a. multiple mortal probations
    b. a spirit world that is significantly lengthier and involves significantly more room for growth than we generally imagine
    c. progression between kingdoms

    I will only accept, as authoritative, answers that come in either the form of the pronouncement from President Monson or a BCC poll.

  18. Last Lemming says:

    From Doctrines of Salvation, volume 2, page 54 (italics in original, bold emphasis mine):

    Little children who die before they reach the years of accountability will automatically inherit the celestial kingdom, but not the exaltation in that kingdom until they have complied with all the requirements of exaltation… We were all mature spirits before we were born, and the bodies of little children will grow after the resurrection to the full stature of the spirit, and all the blessings will be theirs through their obedience, the same as if they had lived to maturity and received them on the earth.

    Acknowledging that I am a shameless cherry-picker, these passages provide a way for me to make sense of the issue. By invoking obedience, JFSII (that’s the conventional abbreviation, isn’t it?) brings agency back into the picture, but only as it relates to exaltation. I do not agree with Geoff J’s characterization of this as a logical inconsistency.

    I am passionate on this subject because I have seen the perverse incentives that follow from the notion of automatic exaltation. When my mother ran a special needs mutual, parents occasionally declined to let their handicapped children participate on the grounds that they were already saved (apparently assuming that to encompass exaltation as well) and did not need to learn the gospel. This does a grave disservice to such people, particularly if you believe, as I do, that their exaltation is contingent upon their post-resurrection obedience. Their handicaps prevent them from sinning and thus, from being punished for such sin, but they also leave them behind in the progression towards exaltation. Everything they learn here is one less thing they have to learn later. Please do not assume they already have that knowledge.

  19. prometheus says:

    Also interesting is the number of children who have died before 8. From what I have been able to track down, there is no really clear percentage, but looking at current rates, one might suppose a historical 20-25% infant mortality rate and not be too far off the mark.

    When we push the agency of this life (to prove ourselves herewith) as a primary principle of life and exaltation, how do we reconcile that with the thought that a quarter of the human population (perhaps more) was denied the opportunity to use their agency?

    I have heard, as was mentioned in #15, that infant deaths come to those who are simply better spirits than all the rest of us. The problem that I see there is that if one asserts that God is sending spirits that selectively, then it opens up an easy avenue to insist that those who have [insert random mortal privilege here] were more valiant in the premortal life.

  20. Thanks for the DoS excerpt, Last Lemming.

  21. #17 Eric,

    I am of this same opinion. Reincarnation solves everything.

    There is one further possibility: God is merciless. If the process of making Gods is chaotic and difficult, if only a very few (narrow is the gate) that make in through this life into exaltation, then the terrestrial kingdom is the consolation prize of the rest of us while the handful of the saved go on to the crowns and thrones. Then the visions of infants on thrones does not really compute, or maybe that is their consolation prize, to sit on thrones.

    Anyway, why does theology have to be logical? It is a morality play, not an encyclopedia or a logic text. And, exactly, a BCC pole might as well be definitive.

  22. Sorry, poll. Was this a typo or an ignorant spelling error?

  23. Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men. –D&C 138

  24. Elder Moxley,
    Based on the blog linked to your name, you’re currently a full-time missionary. I’m pleased that you find this post worthy of your time, but I highly doubt that your Mission President feels the same way.

  25. My leadership is aware of what I do. Thank you.

  26. Elder Moxley, your leadership is aware of the fact that, instead of preaching the gospel to those who have not yet received it, you’re quoting scriptures to other Latter-day Saints? Gotcha.

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    When we push the agency of this life (to prove ourselves herewith) as a primary principle of life and exaltation, how do we reconcile that with the thought that a quarter of the human population (perhaps more) was denied the opportunity to use their agency?

    Do you feel that agency operated differently prior to life on earth? Given that a certain portion of the human family apparently exercised agency before this life in a manner that earned them an inheritance as a SoP (a challenging thing to achieve by exercising one’s agency here on earth), it seems like there was plenty of agency and consequence beforehand…

  28. it's a series of tubes says:

    My leadership is aware of what I do. Thank you.

    What, post snarky comments on blogs? *rolls eyes* Keep on building the kingdom, Elder.

  29. Eric Russell says:

    In what mission is Thursday a P-day?

  30. 29.–I believe Elder Moxley is something of an Internet missionary, working in conjunction with Mormon.org, etc…

    What’s not clear, however, is why Internet missionaries would spend time preaching to a bunch of Latter-day Saints.

  31. What’s not clear, however, is why Internet missionaries would spend time preaching to a bunch of Latter-day Saints.

    Perhaps BCC has been targeted as a particularly apostate group of Mormons. This is your first warning.

    Elder Moxley – I’m not sure if you realize this or not, but your comment 25 was curt, IMHO. I hope that your tone is a little more friendly when commenting to those who are not members. I sincerely hope that.

  32. I apologize. I really was not aware that my comment was so curt and thank you for letting me know. I know you are all genuinely concerned that missionaries like myself use the Lord’s time the best. I was hoping to quickly and gently reassure that concern while thanking you for it. Perhaps I was too quick. My earlier comment was not intended to preach. I just put in a scripture that came to mind.
    I hope I can clarify a few other things if that’s alright. As a result of a physical disability, I am part of an experimental mission that proselytes entirely online. Mormon.org chat is a focus of our mission, but we’ve been asked to branch out.
    Some of my leadership wanted me to get a better feel of who and what’s out there specifically among the members of the church online, in a little bit out down time between teaching lessons.

  33. Elder Moxley,
    Where do you live while you serve?

  34. Where do you live while you serve?

    creeeeeeeeeeeepy.

  35. Not having all the pieces to this puzzle is very frustrating. Hopefully some day the missing ones will be revealed and we will actually understand the picture..

  36. Steve Evans says:

    wowzer.

  37. mmiles.
    This post from Dr B is a good explanation for your question and a lot of other details like it.

    http://mormonmission.blogspot.com/2010/09/rc-missionaries-special-mtc-chatting.html

  38. Adam Greenwood says:

    “am I missing something obvious about LDS soteriology in wondering how salvation, even for deceased infants, is possible under conditions where it seems the individual is not capable of exercising moral agency?”

    Joseph F. Smith says that children who die are raised by their parents in the Millennium. I assume they would naturally be baptized as they reached the age of 8.

    The “Pioneer Children” post at this link is about that:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2007/08/from-the-archives-millennial-children/

  39. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE: 9

    There are some ideas why the KFD paragraph says what it says: First, it was reconstructed from several different accounts, and so may not clearly represent what JS was expressing.

    Usually, the Church has omitted that paragraph in more recent times, but the words

    Eternity is full of thrones upon which dwell thousands of children reigning on thrones of glory not one cubit added to their stature…

    are not a reconstruction from multiple sources. They come from Wilford Woodruff’s record of the talk.

    RE: 13

    It matters not whether these tabernacles mature in this world, or have to wait and mature in the world to come, according to the word of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the body will develop, either in time or in eternity, to the full stature of the spirit, and when the mother is deprived of the pleasure and joy of rearing her babe to manhood or to womanhood in this life, through the hand of death, that privilege will be renewed to her hereafter, and she will enjoy it to a fuller fruition than it would be possible for her to do here.

    Citing Joseph Smith as the source for this doctrine is interesting, because William Clayton recorded a conversation he had with Joseph on the subject in 1843: “I asked … wether children who die in infancy will grow. He answered ‘no, we shall receive them precisely in the same state as they died in no larger. They will have as much intelligence as we shall but shall always remain separate and single. They will have no increase….'”

    I suppose this does not specifically state that they will not get bigger, but I can’t imagine another explanation for why they will not be exalted––in the sense of enjoying eternal marriage and “increase”.

    If Joseph’s theology on the subject changed before his death, it must have changed in a hurry. Does anyone have any sources to suggest that?

  40. I want to apologize to Elder Moxley for the behavior of the people on this thread.

    I could be remembering wrong, but it seems like the members in my mission were a bit more welcoming. Even had us over for dinner and invited us in out of the rain. they didn’t ask us why we weren’t tracting more, they were just nice to us.

    Sorry for the rudeness here, Elder. The members in these parts apparently have no manners. Keep up the good work.

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