(Started this study in Spanish.)
I am impressed that the contentions that had resulted were the cause of great sorrow for Mormon (see vs. 4). I’ve read this chapter many times, but I’ve never paid attention to the fact that there were contentions that resulted from false doctrine.
Mormon’s thought and action in response to both contention, and the false doctrines that caused the contentions, was to take the matter before the Lord. The Lord had clear and decisive instruction about the issue at hand. However, the word of the Lord (in vs. 8) did not address the issue of baptism of little children. Rather, the Lord explained the doctrines that would reasonably explain why there was no need for the baptism of little children: Children are alive in Christ; repentance is for those who need to be made whole and healed of their sins, etc., of which little children are not in that category.
Continuing on, I am somewhat caught off guard by the bold assertions that Mormon makes against those that would suppose little children were in need of baptism. He does not mince words, but then he says things like “for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.” (vs. 14)
Now perhaps its because I’m looking too much into this statement, but I have to wonder is this a statement of fact that if a wicked man dies (incomplete)
Moroni states that it is awful wickedness to suppose that a child would not be saved because they did not have baptism. But how could a small child ever be considered a candidate of hell when their entire disposition is to learn and grow and change? The attributes that qualify the soul for Heaven are so much a part of the nature of small children.
Here are hard questions that I have about this chapter:
- The way that Mormon talks about the purpose of baptism, being the fruit of repentance, for those who are old enough to repent.
- Now that leads me to consider the age of baptism at which we baptize in the Church today. At 8 years old, it is far more a ritual than an ordinance with deep meaning for children. (I don’t even recall my own baptism.) And I have had family members refuse to baptize their eight year old children because of this very thing.
- Yet in the scriptures, we have the commandment to baptize children at the age of 8. But I’m going to review this.
- Mormon refers to this as a dead work, the baptizing of little children.
Review of Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-31.
Several thoughts impress me:
- Teaching begins when they are eight years old, maybe before but more earnestly after that.
- The commandment is that little children should be baptized when eight years old.
- There are other things to be observed such as work ethic and the avoidance of idle pursuits.
(These verses highlight, no — “trigger” is the right word. These verses trigger a key flaw in my personality, perhaps inherited from generations past, that makes it very hard for me to successfully integrate this instruction into my own family life. There is a layer of discipleship or personal integrity that is not being realized.)
I have in my head this morning a sermon on prayer, sabbath day observance, and hard work generally. Then there are explanations of how prayer is hard work, sabbath day observance can seem like hard work. Goal setting helps us to realize hard work objectives. This is important because to connect with God is hard work. To bring others to God is even harder work.
The purpose of baptism is for repentance. It is a significant step in fulfilling or completing the commandments that God has given to qualify for a remission of sins. (See vs. 11) Mormon interjects repentance all over the place in this chapter. He uses repentance to explain the true purpose of baptism. He also explains the absolute necessity of repentance for those who have distorted the doctrines of Christ as they pertain to little children, calling it a “terrible iniquity.”
In verse 16, I get the feeling that Mormon understands the radical position that he is taking, and how this will be perceived of the natural man. I appreciate that he takes pains to spell this out by stating that he fears not man, and that he is filled with the love of God.
He then goes on to explain how that love is the catalyst for his understanding of the doctrines that impact little children.
There is a question in my heart that comes from wrestling with Mormon’s logic that has been here for a long time and I am spelling it out here so that I can wrestle with this question:
Why then preach the gospel to anyone, if it will bring them under condemnation?
Does the man on the remote island who never hears the gospel preached to him, suffer under that condemnation of the law if he has never heard the law preached to him? I think Mormon would say “no,” but I’m not sure of this. (This discussion is continued below.)
Ignorance, truly, is not bliss however. And the weight of responsibility from having knowledge is also carried by Christ, who is yoked side by side with us. But Mormon is stating that repentance is for those that are “under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.” (vs. 24)
Since asking the above question a couple of days ago, there have been touch points in my thoughts, studies and elsewhere that have illustrated the importance of teaching the Gospel. I am also being brought to understand the empowerment of education.
Jumping back to verse 19, I am struck by the references here to the mercy of God. Mormon states that “it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them.” Now the obvious is that even if man were to deny anything from God (and we do it all the time), it doesn’t negate the fact that God does still extend “pure mercy” to little children — constantly, continually.
So the real issue here is not the state of the children (which is fixed in Christ), but rather the changeable state of the man, who in a present state of wicked thoughts, is rejecting the mercies of Christ. “Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment… Listen unto [these words] and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.” (vs. 21)
(There is more that I want to understand here about the mercy of God towards the children.)
Mercy in the Old Testament has to do with loving kindness, and “blot[ting] out… transgressions” (Psalm 51:1)
I am contrasting the teachings of Jesus regarding little children, and in his assimilation of little children to the kingdom of God, verses the teachings of dead works that say small children must be baptized or they cannot be saved. Ultimately, the variable of difference between the two is Christ and his atonement and redemption, which makes possible growth through trial and error.
Discovery and learning and the excitement of this process is at the heart of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, if it is to be received as a little child, must be a place of curiosity, exploration, learning, making mistakes, rebounding quickly, growing, enrichment and development.
Contrary to this are dead works: acts which hold no meaning or purpose, acts which bring no understanding, no enrichment of the self or the community. One of the challenges here is that acts that are meant to be alive and meaningful (the ordinances of the gospel, for example), can become so routine or common that we fail to see them for their power.
Revisiting the islander analogy, I’m trying to think of where this comes from. I don’t think it’s doctrinal. And as I consider this further, if it were doctrinal, it would stand in the face of the doctrine of baptisms for the dead. “Else why are they baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?” We might as well ask, “Why are we baptized for the dead, if the dead never had the gospel preached to them in this life?” Are the dead not in need of redemption, as much as are the living?
Really then what does Mormon mean when he says “and also all they that are without the law [are alive in Christ]. 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–” (vs. 22)?
We are talking about those individuals, angels really, who are blessed to pass this mortal existence above the conditions of mortality to which the laws of God have no hold. Such are those that exists with Downs Syndrome or a host of other related abilities. Well might they sing continually the primary anthems of the children, for such are wrapped continually the love of God, and abound in his mercy.
(I was ready to move on, but then realized that I don’t have the answers yet to the understanding of those who are without the law.)
I am wanting to move on, but as I am returning back to this study, and interesting proposition comes before me for consideration: What if they that “are without the law” (vs. 22) is everyone who will not receive the law?
The verse goes on to say: “For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law;”
Futher, “wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing“
Is Christ’s atonement really that inclusive to claim those who won’t repent because they simply don’t believe? No. That is not what is meant here. A more plain explanation of what it means to be “without law” is found in the Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-10 (vs. 7-9 specifically elaborate upon this point).
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-9, Emphasis added.