Tuesday Afternoon Theological Poll: Christian Paradox Edition

Could Christ have sinned prior to the age of accountability?
Answer after the fold.

Post your reasons below.


  1. There is no sin without accountability, regardless of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

  2. You can come up with better questions than that, man.

  3. Nobody sins prior to the age of accountability. That’s sort of the whole point of the age of accountability doctrine.

  4. Is the suggestion here that Christ was somehow too enlightened to have experienced “naccountability” Otherwise, it seems like a no-brainer.

  5. Children are saved because Christ suffered for the sins of those who cannot repent. Christ was able to suffer for the sins of those who could not repent because he was a sinless person. Wouldn’t it be a little bit strange if Christ was “sinless” because he suffered for his own sins when he was a child?

  6. This question reminds me of a Sunstone cartoon, I believe entitled “The First Temptation of Christ”, showing the infant Jesus pondering whether to knock his bowl of porrage off the table. Also, it made me think of the pseudoepigraphal infancy gospels of Jesus, which portray him as a real brat who grew into an understanding of his powers.

    Be that as it may, the answer is a resounding NO, same as with you and me.

  7. #5: My understanding is that children (pre-8) are saved because they by definition cannot sin, not because of the Atonement. The choices they make are not done with a fully rational mind, therefore I don’t think they are subject to the same universal laws that govern “sin-making” (whatever those may be, I’m still trying to figure that out).

  8. clarkgoble says:

    The question is really about whether accountability is strictly a matter of age or if it has more to do with cognitive ability. (The assumption being that Christ prior to 8 was cognitively more advanced than normal — something I’m not sure I buy)

    I tend to think that while we make 8 a general point for accountability that it probably varies somewhat from person to person. (Much like hitting adolescence does) I suspect accountability is a mixture of physical cognitive ability (i.e. what’s developed in the brain) and information/training.

    I think many take Mos 3:16 as implying this. “…as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.” That is the age of accountability is a general measure of nature superseding accountability. Thus this scripture is frequently appealed to for explaining how those suffering mental retardation or mental illness are not accountable. (i.e. are as children)

  9. Is this one of those questions where you conjecture “Well, if he had sinned, he couldn’t be the Savior” ?

    Personally, I’d rather speculate on how He came to know who He was. At some point in His childhood, was He told by angels? Did His parents tell Him? Did He just … KNOW?

    BTW, I would like to say that the new poll looks verra nice!

    (And where are my handy BBS editing helpers? Or the preview pane?)

  10. This quote form D&C 93 seems pertinent:

    12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
    13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
    14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.

    Likely to be an indication that he was unaccountable as a child, just as all of us are.

  11. This is a silly question.

  12. So says the hymn: “But little lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”

  13. I think it is clear from the scripture that Jesus did not, sin ever. the reason little children are alive in Christ is because of the atonement, not because of some special 7 year-olds get off free law.

    Moses 6: 51-59

    It is because of the atonement that The sins of the parents cannot be answered on the heads of the children, thus the fall and it’s effects, the sins of those without law (including little children), are covered by the atonement.

    D&C 45:4 .

    To answer the question: he COULD have sinned, but it would have destroyed the atonement just as if he sinned when he was 33.

  14. No.
    No one can sin before age 8.

  15. “the sins of those without law (including little children), are covered by the atonement”


  16. Latter-day Guy says:

    No. By definition, neither he nor anyone else can sin before the age of accountability. However, I think he could commit an act which, had he been accountable, would have been a sin. A subtle distinction, but it makes all kinds of difference.

  17. I think I see what the question might be getting at. As cited in an earlier comment, Mosiah 3:16 states:

    “16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their _sins_.” (Emphasis added)

    The verse seems to imply that children are capable of committing sin, but Christ unconditionally atones for those sins. At the same time, in our modern usage (and maybe it’s no different than Book of Mormon usage), sin seems to imply some sort of guilty mind or intent (similar to the concept in criminal law of mens rea) – something that requires a certain mindset, or accountablity. In the church, we are taught that the “age of accountability” does not come until age 8.

    But what of the five-year-old who lies, who knows it is wrong to do so? What of the six-year-old who takes a sip of wine the week after a Sunday school lesson on the Word of Wisdom? Or much worse, what of the horrific case where a seven-year-old brutally murders his sister or a neighborhood child?

    Clearly, there is a difference between breaking the law of God (on its face) and sinning. If we are to use the old “transgression vs. sin” terminology, I would say that children are certainly capable of “transgressing” the law (not difficult to imagine for those with children), but not capable of _sinning_ (i.e., the requisite intent is not there).

    But on the other hand, did the angel (speaking to King Benjamin) mean that they are in fact capable of sinning, but that Christ covers those sins? And if so, what of Himself as a child? Would he have been capable of covering those “sins” (if any) as well?

    In short, I think I see what the question is getting at: if Christ covers the [fill in with sins/transgressions/mistakes/booboos] of little children, what of Himself as a child?

  18. daveonline says:

    Two reactions:
    Per # 10 and when Christ came to know who “I AM” as himself. I have liked to believe that as the pre-existent Christ, he inspired Isaiah with the passages on the Suffering Servant so that as a mortal child and adolescent, the Holy Ghost could witness to him “Thou art the man” or in this case, thou art the God. I have believed that much of Isaiah would have served as a “note to self” from his preexistent status.
    Suggestion for a deeper reflection. The atonement not only heals the effects of our own sins, it heals the effects of the sins of others unto us as “innocent” victims, whether as adults or as children. So in Christ’s case, as a child was he ever subject to abuse? Certainly physical is entirely speculative, but it is likely that questions about his birth and background may have led to social abuse. So in some sense his atonement may have “cleansed” him or eternally sealed him from the consequences that can occur when powerful adults exercise sinful agency on a child. Again, this is totally speculative, though I like pondering the possible implications

  19. No. Absolutely not.

    However, he could have made mistakes and done things we mistakenly call “sins” – when, in reality, they simply might have been a lack of control of His “natural man” (inherited from Mary) and not sins at all. We talk of Him becoming “as one of us”, and I am convinced that the idea of “he never got vexed when the game went wrong and he always told the truth” is an apostate denial of his humanity – since those are NOT “sins” for a child.

    I have no problem believing He, in fact, did get vexed and that he wasn’t totally honest **as a child** before He was accountable, since the Bible says he grew “from grace to grace and in favor with God AND man”. I think he overcame His natural man much more quickly than we do, but the idea that he was this perfectly sweet little angel who never did anything that would frustrate his parents or anyone else while flowers blossomed wherever he walked . . .

    Nope, not consistent with the totality of our theology, imo. After all, those who rejected his ministry the most comprehensively appear to have been those who knew him growing up – and there’s probably a reason for that. They probably had unrealistic expectations for their promised Messiah, just as we tend to have unrealistic, humanity-denying expectations of our Savior.

    I think we misapply “sin” now to lots of things that simply aren’t “sin”.

  20. D&C 93 teaches that Christ was not born omniscient or with a fullness. He had to go from grace to grace, receiving grace for grace until he achieved a fullness.

    So, a 6 year old Jesus could not have sinned. He would not have had the knowledge nor ability to sin in that early and innocent state.

    By the time he was 12, beyond the age of accountability, he was answering questions and asking intelligent questions in the temple. This suggests that he was accountable, at least to a certain level, by that time.

  21. I think an unbiased reading of Moroni 8 would allow for either interpretation. There’s plenty in there for both sides of this debate.

  22. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)

  23. Ill say no. Adam and Eve didnt sin in the garden, they transgressed. Yet, they needed to be redeemed of that transgression. Jesus niether sinned nor transgressed IMHO.

  24. I think an unbiased reading of Moroni 8 would allow for either interpretation. There’s plenty in there for both sides of this debate.

    I have to agree here. I was about to argue that it is certainly possible for little children to sin, because I see my own kid do stuff she knows darn well she’s not supposed to do–and does it anyway, often with malicious intent (she totally got that from her dad). ;) But the atonement of Christ covers the sins of children, and they are alive in Christ.

    However, after re-reading Moroni 8, I think there really is room for either interpretation.