Tess Durbeyfield and infant baptism

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In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the main character, Tess, gave birth to a baby boy, who then grew sick only days later. Tess is young, still in her mid teens. She was also brought up Christian.

When she realized her son was going to die, she grew worried because he had never been baptized. She ended up baptizing him herself, using passages from the Bible as her text.

After I read it, I wondered if this had been an actual event, I wonder what God’s reaction would have been.

Would he view it as a gross error (Moro. 8:6)? Would he have seen her action as a mockery toward him (Moro 8:9)? Would he have viewed her as being “in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity” (Moro. 8:14)? Would he remove her faith and charity and cut her off (Moro. 8:14)? Would he consider her to be awfully wicked (Moro. 8:15)?

8 thoughts on “Tess Durbeyfield and infant baptism

  1. Nah. I think he’d hold her close and tell her how much he loves her and he’d gently explain that the baby actually is saved and really didn’t need to be baptized – but would express great love to her for the kindness she felt towards the baby.

    Maybe that other stuff is for people that know better?

  2. I have to agree 100% with you Dawn. Something done out of pure love from a mother to her child would never be a punishable act. One of my grandmothers did that exact thing just before her oldest died

  3. Do you think the sermon on infant baptism in Moroni might contain some forgiveable hyperbole?

  4. Context is always important.

    What is right in one context may not be right in another.

    Mormon is talking to his son and a people who should have know better. Following the visitation of the Savior these people enjoyed 200 years of peace and righteousness and a great portion of the gospel.

    They should have known better. It seems there were some disputations among this people regarding this issue. The people were moving from light to apostasy. I think their motives were most likely wicked.

    Tess’ motives though misguided were not informed by wickedness but motherly love. A different circumstance with likely a different response.

    I agree we should liken the scriptures to ourselves but as Joseph Smith once said, The way to interpret the Bible is to try and understand the question that illicited that particular response.

  5. I would like to hear from ANYONE who has ever been in a immediate emergency situation as Tess was and to be able to tell me that the first thing that went through their minds was scriptural references from the Bible.

  6. Sally,

    I agree and think it would be very unlikely if ANYONE ever worried about such trivial concerns as expressed in this blog in a situation such as Tess.

    That said I do not think it far fetched to have scriptural references come to us in times of trial.

    The Psalms and Proverbs are much loved in Christendom for words of solace and comfort. Isaiah is well know as are many New Testament teachings of Jesus and Paul.

    Not all scriptures are about hell, fire and damnation… there really is some good content in the scriptures, words of hope, comfort, consolation, wisdom… etc.

  7. Anonymous out of our 5 children, 3 of them were each in a life and death situation where we were told they would not make it through the night (1 from hemorrhaging from surgery, 1 from anaphylactic shock and 1 from being very very ill and organs shutting down). I can honestly tell you not one single scriptural reference came to my mind!!

  8. Maybe it depends on how deeply into your conscience scriptures are. I would imagine if someone knows a lot of scriptures they might come to mind.
    I’ve had a child die.
    I didn’t have any scriptures come to mind.
    As a matter of fact, in the heat of the moment, I wondered when I’d ever find comfort in the gospel through it all. People would say to me, “Aren’t you thankful for the comfort the gospel brings?” and I’d answer that I was…but inside I really wondered.

    Now that a couple years have passed though, I am not so numb and do find comfort.

    Oh, and in the heat of all those moment, I didn’t have scriptures coming to my mind either.

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