I’ve been in primary for about the past ten years in every capacity. There’s a song we often sing for Baptisms:
I like to look for rainbows, whenever there is rain
And ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again.
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.
I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away,
And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day.
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.
Words & Music: Nita Dale Milner, 1952-2004; adapted. (c) 1989 IRI
As primary president back in Pocatello, Idaho, we were instructed by our stake presidency NOT to sing the second verse at 8-year-old baptisms because it says at baptism their “wrongs are washed away” and that’s not doctrine for 8 year olds; but it was appropriate for convert baptisms.
There was a primary blog published by a primary president who had lost a child as a baby and this was part of the sharing time that month. She had a post (that’s since been deleted ) about how not to sing that part and make sure to teach the primary children that before the age of accountability they do NOT have wrongs to was away. Nita Dale Milner’s son hopped on the blog to comment that both she and my stake president were doctrinally wrong: his mother’s song was carefully weighed and considered by the correlation committee word by word — they’d asked for other words to be change but specifically left those. And since it’s approved by correlation that it’s now doctrine of the church revealed in only his mother’s song:
Our 8 year olds have wrongs that are washed away at baptism; not “sins,” but wrongs
I have two questions:
- do you think this idea that 8 year olds’ wrongs are washed away at baptism could be true? Like it’s a transgression/sin differential thing? Obviously little children do things that are wrong on purpose sometimes. Do these need to be washed away?
- does it automatically make it doctrine by passing committee? does it count as scripture?
 She reposted the deleted blog post a year later, so mine and Milner’s comments aren’t there . . . but you can still take a look
Sin is the violation of gods law that has been taught and then administered by covenant. Without the teaching and covenant there is no sin. Sin can only exist after the understood law is broken. That is why those without the law are judged without the law. Gods grace applies equally to all those that have no law. “Wrongs” are the way to describe a behavior without it being classed as a sin, hence as an example, a “transgression” in the garden of eden as Adam and Eve couldnt sin until after they partook. Even though they had the law to avoid the fruit of that tree, in their innocence they didnt understand it, hence the earth was cursed for their sake, not them. Because their bodies were from the dust of the earth, that curse indirectly fell to them and is the cause of their physical death.
Having said that, I think the 8 year baptism thing is a general recommendation to show us that we are born without need of repentance and therefore come to a very slow and progressive understanding of the truth. Baptism could probably be any year after 8, ie. Jesus was baptised in his thirties.
I wanted to say one more thing about baptism.
Jesus said baptism was to “fulfill all righteousness” and that a man must be born of the spirit or he cannot enter heaven. Baptism is a symbolic token of being born again, it is a physical washing that represents a spiritual rebirth. Baptism is a euphamism for washing away sins but it must be emphasized that sins are truly only washed away by the saviors grace of which the spirit manifests when it dwells in you. The baptism is the ordinance that the power of godliness is manifest through, not the other way around.
As for me, having pondered my baptism, I now see why it has been said that the weekly sacrament is the most important ordinance the church performs. It is by our remembrance of him “that we may always have his spirit to be with us” because it is that spirit that witnesses our sins are forgiven, not baptism. Hence as joseph smith said, the only diference between us and others is that confirmation of the gift of the holy ghost that follows baptism.
How can we subject our precious little tyrants to the idea that something they’ve done might be wrong? Overprotective parenting meets oversensitive doctrinal orthodoxy. The most sane thing I’ve heard recently about raising children came from Brene Brown’s beautiful TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”:
“Children are hardwired for struggle when then get here. When we hold those perfect little babies in our hand, our job is not to say “Look at her, she’s perfect, I just need to make sure she stays perfect, makes the tennis team by 5th grade and Yale by 7th grade! That’s not our job. Our job is to look at that child and say, “you know what, you’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Children are imperfect. Whether or not you want to call their behaviour “sinful” is a matter of doctrinal semantics. They are in the process of becoming conscious of evil. That consciousness doesn’t suddenly appear on their 8th birthday.
There is no sin without a covenant (see Temple Endowment). Period. Our existence, pre-mortal or otherwise, is composed of many instances of making covenants. That’s why He is the Savior for ALL mankind because all mankind made a covenant in their First Estate. That is why we are “Born Again” at baptism. The veil does not relieve us of our covenant we made before we were born.
The Atonement is Infinite. It applies to infinity of time before our earth life and after our earth life. It is part of Eternal Life. Hence, even children before the age of eight need the Atonement. The requirement for Baptism as a saving ordinance is the only thing that is not required of 8 year olds, the Atonement still applies to them. Children before the age of 8 sinned before they were born, as we all did, and they will sin after they die because few are perfect like unto The Father and The Son.
If I am wrong it is because, like most of us, am still progressing in my understanding of the Gospel.
hoggbegone, I’d be interested to know where you get the idea that sinfulness comes from before birth as the result of covenants we are supposedly to have made in other realms, but now forgotten. I sort of like the idea that there is no sin without covenants. But I also believe there is no sin without knowledge. And if that knowledge has been forgotten, (like alzheimer’s patients), can one be held responsible for it?
I don’t understand why people think that the 8th birthday is this magical number where all of the sudden kids have an understanding of sin and therefore can sin. It is an age that was picked to be a general rule. I would say that many children are capable of sin before 8 and many aren’t capable of sin until well after their 8th birthday. Luckily, it’s not part of the Church’s job to decide when each individual child matures and is capable of sin.
In reality, if we say that at an 8 year old child could not have sinned until their baptism, but could after that, we’re really saying that children become capable of sin on the first Saturday of the month after they turn 8 unless that’s a conference weekend (that’s how it works here in Utah anyway). That is just ridiculous. I wasn’t baptized until 3 months after my 8th birthday due to scheduling conflicts. So did I sin because I was 8 and 3 months? What about the little girl I taught on my mission who was baptized at 9. Did she sin?
As to your question of whether or not Primary Songs are always doctrine because they have passed the correlation committee I give that a resounding no. As exhibit A I submit the following lines of primary songs that I can’t imagine anyone would say is church doctrine:
“I have to be hinges, or else I would crack!”
“No one likes a frowning face.”
“When we really try, the Lord won’t let us fail.”
“Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam.”
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
I think the whole idea of baptism washing away our sins is probably in error. My reading of the scriptures indicates that the actual cleansing of our sins comes when we receive the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 31:17, but really the entire chapter, as well as chapter 32 shed light on this). Our baptism is an outward display of our acceptance of God’s covenant and our desire to be a new person. First Century Christians took a new name after they were baptized, which I think helps understand that aspect of the ordinance.
Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
So, I think we do our children a disservice when we tell them baptism washes away their sins and now, once they’ve been confirmed, they have some special access to the Holy Ghost that non-members don’t have. All we tell them to do is to **receive** the Holy Ghost, which is an invitation to actually obtain the remission of sins through the baptism of fire.
Just my $0.02.
So I agree with the few posters here that the concept of “accountability” is actually a process that we all reach at a different time – I can totally be on board with the fact that some kids are accountable earlier than others. So with that interpretation I get that the verse works.
I guess I just feel a little unsettled by the fact that this isn’t taught anywhere else by our scriptures or leaders. I thought doctrine had to be something that was consistently taught by many leaders over a long time. It seems strange to me that correlation approves a new doctrine/doctrinal understanding this way. I pushed back on Bro. Milner in the original blog post because he drew a line in the sand that if it came through committee it’s 100% true no matter what.
Doctrine is proclaimed by the apostles and confirmed by the Law of Witnesses. I don’t believe any of us have raised our arm to the square to sustain the nameless, faceless corrolation committee, which increasingly resembles the Big Brother of 1984.
Thanks to David McKay’s records, as recorded by his secretary Claire Middlemiss and biographer George Prince, we have pretty strong evidence that on a number of issues the prophet and apostles disagree. In their disagreement, some speak their opinion while others hold back out of caution. Joseph F Smith publicly preached against revelation while McKay remained silent, worried that his word on the issue would be considered revelation. There was also disagreement on whether the priesthood ban was a doctrine or policy. Even McKay, who said the ban was not doctrinal, believed a revelation would be required to undo it. Meanwhile the correlation committee continually produces manuals, song books, and instruction materials given the best of their knowledge, at times filling in gaps where there is no actual revelation.
Is it doctrine? If it is doctrine is it necessarily true? If we later gain new conflicting understanding, how do adjust our understanding of something that was once taught as doctrine, but was based on incomplete knowledge?
Trying to define what is doctrine and what isn’t is a bit like splitting hairs. In the case of children singing a song, I try to think about what they will learn from it, which is hopefully something like this:
1. I’m pretty innocent right now
2. I make mistakes, too
3. I can try to fix my mistakes
4. Jesus will do the part that I can’t do.
Oh my Gosh I made a big error there. Joseph F Smith preached against Evolution. Not revelation.
I don’t like the idea of defining doctrine as anything that’s passed correlation. Exhibit A – the unequivocal declaration of April 6th as the Savior’s birthday in the “old” NT manual vs. the “new” NT manual describing his time of birth as something unknown.
Understanding baptism (and baptismal covenants) as part of repentance is important (for the future, if nothing else). I wonder if people who insist on not singing that second verse would also insist on children younger than 8 not partaking of the sacrament.
Julia Sweeney shares the story of finding out her birthday was a month later than she had always thought, a trick her mother did to get her into school a year earlier. She had been taught as a Catholic child that she couldn’t sin until a certain age (was it 7 or 8?), and suddenly, she was very upset that she had missed out on an entire month of free sinning! Do kids under the age of 8 sin? As a mother, I’m going to vote yes.
Here’s a link to Julia Sweeney’s TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/julia_sweeney_on_letting_go_of_god?language=en
I think when we strain at marking boundaries, we miss the point. Children don’t suddenly become accountable on their 8th birthdays. The law of chastity isn’t suddenly violated when genitals come together. Humans don’t suddenly come into being either at conception or upon drawing their first breaths. All of these things happen gradually, with a transition.
I think the notion of washing away sin comes from Acts 22:16. Most of the information on the official church website speaks more to symbolism, covenants, etc.
“hoggbegone, I’d be interested to know where you get the idea that sinfulness comes from before birth as the result of covenants we are supposedly to have made in other realms, but now forgotten. I sort of like the idea that there is no sin without covenants. But I also believe there is no sin without knowledge. And if that knowledge has been forgotten, (like alzheimer’s patients), can one be held responsible for it?”
Lucifer sinned and so did a third of the host of Heaven by not keeping their First Estate. Read the book “Infinite Atonement” to understand what Infinite means. Pay attention during the Temple Endowment. Read the scriptures. Prayer. Study. etc. These are some of the sources I get my current understanding.
Forgetfulness does nor relieve anyone from a covenant. Period. What God judges, God will judge. For me, I try not to judge and give some people, not all, the benefit of the doubt (i’m not perfect, either). What happens to an Alzheimer’s patient in the hereafter is none of my business although some will speculate.
With regards to baptism washing away sins or not by other posters, it’s just Gospel semantics. There are more important things to fuss over. Sins are washed away by our repentance and the enabling power of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. Period. However, if we carry over the image of washing to help those young in the Gospel to understand, what is wrong with that?
Two points which I am always surprised that some folks don’t seem to understand.
1. Forgiveness of sins comes through repentance. If it were through Baptism, then we’d have to be baptized just about everyday. The new convert or 8 year needs to understand that the act of baptism is a symbol of their covenant to follow the Savior and live the gospel. It is a symbol of the washing away of past sins prior to repentance, in their past life and the re-birth of their new life in Christ. Spiritual re-birth is a process which begins as stated in the 4th Article of Faith.
2. Children prior to baptism are not accountable for their sins. No one ever said they did not sin or do wrong things. Anyone who is a parent realizes that! The age of 8 has been established as the age of accountability. Is is doctrinal, historical, practical, who knows! It’s the age chosen by Church leaders at the time. I think it could have easily been 9 or 10.
We live in a day and age, where accountability at any age is under question.