Continuing to add to the sacred record, Moroni included an epistle, or letter, he had received from his father, Mormon. In the epistle, Mormon recorded a revelation he had received about why little children do not need baptism. Mormon also taught about how we can prepare to dwell with God. He concluded his epistle by expressing concern about the Nephites’ wickedness and their impending destruction.
Suggestions for Teaching
Before class, display the picture Girl Being Baptized (Gospel Art Book , no. 104) or another picture of an eight-year-old child at his or her baptismal service. Write the following question on the board:
Why are children not baptized until they are eight years old?
As students arrive, invite them to look at the picture and ponder the question on the board.
When class begins, tell students that in a letter to his son Moroni, Mormon taught about the salvation of little children. Invite a student to read Moroni 8:4–6 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Mormon was concerned about. (You may need to explain that in verse 6, the word gross means serious, shameful, or grievous.)
After students report what they have found, invite them to read Moroni 8:7 silently and identify what Mormon did when he learned of this problem.
What can we learn from Mormon’s example?
Invite a student to read Moroni 8:8–9 aloud, and ask the class to look for the answer to Mormon’s prayer. As students report what they find, you may need to explain that the phrase “the curse of Adam” refers to Adam’s separation from God’s presence as a result of the Fall. Some people mistakenly believe that every child is born in a sinful condition because of the Fall. With this incorrect idea, they think that little children are unworthy to be in God’s presence if they die without having been baptized. As you explain this, you may want to have students recite the second article of faith. You might also suggest that they cross-reference Moroni 8:8–9 with Articles of Faith 1:2.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Repentance and baptism are necessary for all who are …
Ask students to read Moroni 8:10 silently, looking for words and phrases that complete the statement on the board. After students report their answers, complete the statement as follows: Repentance and baptism are necessary for all who are accountable and capable of committing sin. You may want to encourage students to mark phrases in Moroni 8:10 that teach this truth.
It may help to clarify that sin is “willful disobedience to God’s commandments” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Sin,” scriptures.lds.org). Read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We understand from our doctrine that before the age of accountability a child is ‘not capable of committing sin’ (Moro. 8:8). During that time, children can commit mistakes, even very serious and damaging ones that must be corrected, but their acts are not accounted as sins” (“Sins and Mistakes,” Ensign, Oct. 1996, 65).
Divide the class in half. Invite half of the students to read Moroni 8:11–18 silently and the other half to read Moroni 8:11, 19–24 silently. (You may want to write these references on the board.) Before they read, ask students in both groups to identify what Mormon taught about the baptism of little children. When students have had enough time to read, invite a few from each group to report what they have found. You might use some of the following questions to help students think further about Mormon’s teachings:
What do you think it means that little children are “alive in Christ”? (Moroni 8:12, 22). (They are redeemed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children. See also Moroni 8:10; D&C 29:46–47.)
What can we learn from these verses about how little children are saved? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: Little children are saved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Students may also point out that little children are alive in Christ, that God is not a partial God, and that God is unchangeable.)
Write the following examples on the board or provide them on a handout. Invite each student to choose one of them. Then ask students to choose one or two verses from Moroni 8:8–23 and explain how the truths in those verses address the concern expressed in the example they have chosen.
Example 1: As a missionary, you meet a husband and wife who are terribly sad because their two-month-old daughter has died. The leader of their church has told them that little children are born sinful because of Adam’s transgression. He says that because their daughter was not baptized before she died, she cannot be saved.
Example 2: You have a friend who has been meeting with the missionaries and attending church with you. She decides that she wants to join the Church, but she is hesitant to be baptized. “I was baptized when I was a baby,” she explains. “Isn’t that good enough?”
As students share their thoughts about the second example, you may need to remind them that repentance and baptism are for “those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:10). The Lord has said that children begin to become accountable before Him at age eight. Revelations on this truth are found in Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:11 (in the appendix of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible) and Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–27.
Explain that after Mormon taught Moroni about why little children do not need baptism, he taught about why baptism is needed for those who are accountable. Invite a student to read Moroni 8:25–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for blessings that come to people who exercise faith, repent, and are baptized.
What blessings did you see in these verses? (As students report what they have found, you may want to list their responses on the board. Answers may include that faith, repentance, and baptism lead to remission of sins, meekness and lowliness of heart, the visitation of the Holy Ghost, hope, perfect love, and, ultimately, the blessing of dwelling with God.)
As students list blessings they see in Moroni 8:25–26, you may want to ask these follow-up questions:
Why do you think receiving a remission of our sins leads to meekness and lowliness of heart?
How can being meek and lowly of heart invite the Holy Ghost into our lives?
Why does the Holy Ghost help us prepare to live with God?
Why do you think we need to be diligent and prayerful in order for perfect love to endure in our lives?
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Through faithful obedience to the commandments, we can receive the Holy Ghost, which prepares us to …
Invite students to identify a phrase from Moroni 8:25–26 that completes this principle: Through faithful obedience to the commandments, we can receive the Holy Ghost, which prepares us to dwell with God.
Invite a student to read Moroni 8:27 aloud, and ask the class to look for the result of the Nephites’ pride. Then ask students to review Moroni 8:26 and Moroni 8:27 silently, contrasting the results of meekness and lowliness of heart with the result of pride.
Invite another student to read Moroni 8:28 aloud. Point out that after Mormon expressed concern about the Nephites, he said, “Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them.” Remind students of the power that can come into people’s lives when others pray for them.
To conclude the lesson, invite students to share their feelings about the power of the Atonement to save little children and to save all of us as we strive to be faithful to our covenants.
Commentary and Background Information
Moroni 8:8. “The curse of Adam is taken from them in me”
Some people believe that because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, newborn babies come into the world tainted with sin. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that this teaching is false:
“All those who believe that man, yes, even newly born infants, are tainted with ‘original sin,’ (in other words the transgression of Adam,) deny the mercies of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The Bible (as well as our modern scripture) teaches that Jesus Christ is in very deed, the Redeemer of mankind from the fall. He paid the debt that mankind became heir to through Adam’s transgression. The mortgage upon our souls was fully paid. It left no hangover penalty which required some act by, or in behalf of, any living creature, to free him from ‘original sin.’ The doctrine that infants come into this world under the curse of ‘original sin,’ is an abominable doctrine in the sight of God, and denies the greatness and mercy of the atonement. (See Moroni Chapter 8.)” (Church History and Modern Revelation: A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 4 vols. , 4:99).
Moroni 8:10. Age of accountability
Repentance is for those who are accountable. “Little children cannot repent” (Moroni 8:19). Children younger than eight years old are not accountable before God (see D&C 68:25–27), so they have no need for repentance. Persons who have intellectual disabilities and cannot knowingly repent may also be considered as not accountable. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how children become accountable:
“Accountability does not burst full-bloom upon a child at any given moment in his life. Children become accountable gradually, over a number of years. Becoming accountable is a process, not a goal to be attained when a specified number of years, days, and hours have elapsed. In our revelation the Lord says, ‘They 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.) There comes a time, however, when accountability is real and actual and sin is attributed in the lives of those who develop normally. It is eight years of age, the age of baptism. (D&C 68:27.)” (“The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, 6).
Moroni 8:8–24. Infant baptism
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that little children do not need baptism:
“‘Do [we] believe in the baptism of infants?’ … No. … Because it is nowhere written in the Bible. … Baptism is for remission of sins. Children have no sins. … Children are all made alive in Christ, and those of riper years through faith and repentance” (History of the Church, 5:499).
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told of full-time missionaries who were able to comfort a mother who grieved at the death of her young son:
“Two missionaries were laboring in the mountains of the southern United States. One day, from a hilltop, they saw people gathering in a clearing far below. The missionaries did not often have many people to whom they might preach, so they made their way down to the clearing.
“A little boy had drowned, and there was to be a funeral. His parents had sent for the minister to ‘say words’ over their son. The missionaries stood back as the itinerant minister faced the grieving father and mother and began his sermon. If the parents expected to receive comfort from this man of the cloth, they would be disappointed.
“He scolded them severely for not having had the little boy baptized. They had put it off because of one thing or another, and now it was too late. He told them very bluntly that their little boy had gone to hell. It was their fault. They were to blame for his endless torment.
“After the sermon was over and the grave was covered, the elders approached the grieving parents. ‘We are servants of the Lord,’ they told the mother, ‘and we have come with a message for you.’ As the sobbing parents listened, the two elders read from the revelations and bore their testimony of the restoration of the keys for the redemption of both the living and the dead.
“I have some sympathy for that preacher. He was doing the best he could with such light and knowledge as he had. But there is more that he should have been able to offer. There is the fulness of the gospel.
“The elders came as comforters, as teachers, as servants of the Lord, as authorized ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“And a Little Child Shall Lead Them,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 7).