Begin to become accountable

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While preparing for our nightly suppertime scripture study tonight, I came across this verse:

[Little children] cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me. (D&C 29:47)

If one can begin to become accountable, does that mean accountability is a process? That a child is fully unaccountable at 8 years old minus one day and fully accountable at 8 years old?

18 thoughts on “Begin to become accountable

  1. I should think accountability’s a process. I think of Romans 2.12: “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” And then imagine that the law is learned in pieces and so on.

    Also, if you look at church discipline, things for which a deacon is told to not take the sacrament for, an elder would get disfellowshipped. So, it seems we at least believe in degrees of accountability.

  2. Of course there’s no binary change on one’s eighth birthday. Baptising at eight just simplifies administrative matters for the church.

    I’m so annoyed when people quote 1 Peter 3:20 in support of the age eight baptism. It’s a form of reducing the gospel to numerology.

  3. Actually, most people I know quote D&C 68:27 in support of age eight baptism:

    [Their] children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.

  4. Kim,

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks baptism at 8 was never intended to be the ritual we’ve turned it into, but was rather meant as a minimum age for baptism to better assure a real choice is indeed being made.

    I have at a niece who got cold feet at her baptism when she went into the font, and a few relatives were upset that her dad didn’t just dunk her, totally clueless that her baptism would be meaningless if it wasn’t her choice. Things calmed down a bit when one of the witnesses explained to the gathering, after my niece and her dad had left the font, to please calm down because there was no way he would have validated a baptism performed under protest, and that had things proceeded, then they’d all be angry at him. The fact that someone had to make such a statement was an epiphany to me how shallow much of Mormondom is (not that we’re any different than other denominations). Baptism at 8 for many Mormon families is an empty ritual.

  5. I hope we weren’t performing an empty ritual when our daughter was baptised and confirmed just over a month ago.

    We tried to instill in her the importance of the ordinances.

    For the two years previous, we spent our FHE going over the basics of the gospel (I used the old missionary discussions when it was my lesson — I must have gone through them close to a dozen times).

    We encouraged her to make sure she received a spiritual confirmation for the decision to be baptised and confirmed. We tried to help her understand the reasons she chose to participate in the ordinances (at first, it was because her friends would be baptised or because she was turning eight).

    About a month or two before the baptism and confirmation, she shared with us at supper that she wasn’t sure she wanted to be baptised and confirmed or that the “church was true”. We tried to explain to her that we would do what we could to teach her what she needed to know, but that this was her decision, and it was something she needed to make on her own with prayer and reflection.

    Hopefully, ten years from now, if she’s exercising some cognitive dissonance, she can look back and understand that it was her decision; that she was never forced and that she knew what she was getting into.

    Then again, she is our first, and we have know idea if we went about it the right way.

  6. We tried to help her understand the reasons she chose to participate in the ordinances. . .

    I’m just curious, Kim, did you also spell out alternatives in the event that she chose not to participate?

  7. Because although we gave her the choice to either be baptised or not, we never taught her it was “perfectly alright if she never gets baptised.”

    We never taught her she was doomed to hell if she never got baptised, but we also didn’t teach her there was nothing wrong with not wanting to be baptised.

  8. So the choices were:

    a) be baptised like you’re supposed to, and the parents will be happy


    b) choose not to be baptised for right now, which is not what your parents prefer, and the parents may or may not be happy

    I’m not trying to be specifically contrary here, really. :)

    I just have a problem with an 8 year old being given a ‘choice’ which really isn’t much of a choice at all. Not to mention the fact that I don’t believe an 8 year old is quite old enough yet to have all of the relevant facts known or processed.

    I don’t mean to speak to your daughters baptism directly, I’m speaking in terms of the church policy in general; using your daughter’s baptism as an example.

  9. We taught her several reasons to be baptised (follow Jesus’s example, sign of baptismal covenants, symbolise our new life, etc), but making us happy was not one of the reasons. In fact, we tried explicitly to make sure she didn’t choose to be baptised for others (make us happy, because everyone’s doing it, etc).

    I should clarify, that when she had her doubts, we didn’t just say, “It’s up to you” and leave it. We tried to encourage her all along that this was her choice and she needed to come the decision through her own, but we didn’t just ignore her.

    Of course we gave her biased information. Of course we emphasised one side. Why wouldn’t we?

  10. You wouldn’t. It’s part of your faith (most faiths at that).

    The heartening part is that you both admit your bias and you at least attempted to be coercion free – which is more than can be said about 90% of the membership.

    I would also say that no matter how hard you try to remove the ‘making the parents happy’ component from the discussion, it’s always going to be there. It’s on in-group out-group dynamic which in a member-parent family would be pretty hard to nullify completely.

  11. I believe rick and I are coming from the same place. I believe 8 was meant to be a minimum age for baptism to best assure that it is an informed choice, and not the “dunk em at eight” ritual that we do in practice. Many, if not most, eight year olds just don’t realize what they’re doing. That’s not to say Kim’s daughter wasn’t ready at eight. I’m expressing my opinion in general.

  12. I would also say that no matter how hard you try to remove the ‘making the parents happy’ component from the discussion, it’s always going to be there.

    Perhaps. But we tried not to use it as a motivator.

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