Sweet Thought…Sloppy Doctrine

I had the good fortune of attending the Stake baptism service today to watch a lovely little girl and nine other kids enter the waters of baptism.  It is always a sweet thing.
After a talk on baptism, those children went up to the stand, with their little brothers and sisters in tow. They sang the song “When I am Baptized”.
I like to look for rainbows, whenever there is rain
and ponder on the beauty of the 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.
–So far, so good…then…
I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away.
–Wait.  Hold on just a second.  These are kids who are barely eight or younger. They don’t have sins to wash away. That is not why they are there to get baptized at all!
When a child is baptized at eight, the purpose is not to wash away sin. It is for that child to enter into the covenant with God so that the child can repent of future sins.
It bothers me.  It really bothers Mormon:
“Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came unto the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin;…”  (Moroni 8:8) In fact, Mormon wrote his son Moroni an entire epistle about this issue which can be found in Moroni chapter 8.
So why do we hear 3-7 year old singing in Primary about having their sins washed away?  Good question. You might be thinking “Relax MMM, not a big deal.”  Perhaps, but I do know that whenever I interviewed a child about being baptized, I would always ask the same question:  “Why do you want to be baptized?”  About half the time a child would respond “To have my sins washed away.”  (t would have been fun to have kept a buzzer on my desk and shouted “Wrong answer!”)
Then, I would have a wonderful conversation with a pure and innocent child about the importance of the baptismal covenants and what it means for their future regarding sin and repentance. Some children had this concept down cold before they came in, to others, it was all new.
So, what about the song?  Should we still sing it in Primary?  Absolutely. It is a sweet song. But, I’d skip the second verse, and save it for converts to the church – because to them, the washing away of sin is one of the greatest miracles of the atonement.

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  1. Which is why we much teach our kids to understand how the sacrament is a continuation of the baptismal covenants! Great thought, MMM!

  2. Sorry to dig up an old post, but Isn’t the reason we wait until they are 8 BECAUSE they are then capable of sin. At this point they are capable and so they need to be baptized. I think Mormon was specifically referring to little children not being capable of sin and so they don’t need to be baptized. Little children in our dispensation has been defined as children less than 8 years old. These children need to be baptized precisely because they *are* capable of sin and have done so (as we all have).

    If they were not capable of sin, then there would be no need to baptize them, which is precisely what Mormon is saying.

    1. If a kid wakes up on the morning of his 8th birthday, and trundles off to the church to be baptized, I don’t believe he is washing away any sins. I think, in that case, the purpose served is to establish the covenant so the child can repent for the inevitable future sins. That said, I do know some kids that have plenty of sins under their belts before they are 8 years + one week!

  3. I took our twins to Great2B8 on Sunday and guess what the closing song was? I thought of this post thw whole time we were singing it.

  4. Why would “wrongs” need to be washed away if a child is unaccountable for them?

    Boyd K. Packer: “Only when a child reaches that age of accountability, set by the Lord at eight years of age, is their baptism essential. Before that age, they are innocent.”

  5. hmmmm…I don’t read the song as saying “sins” are washed away, but rather “wrongs are washed away.” Perhaps the songwriter was thinking on a higher level.

  6. BTW — we sang this song at the baptism of one of my sons. As we talked about it at home, we spoke about the sacrament’s power to help us renew that baptismal covenant and become clean again. Doesn’t quit fit the words to the song, but it fits the doctrine better.

  7. MMM, you’ve touched on a favorite issue for me. I remember closing a baptism as bishop where the “baptism” talk said that the 8-year olds’ sins had been washed away. I did not read Moroni, but I did point out that those children are already pretty sinless. (Presumably, there’s not a lot a sin going on between birthday and baptismal day…) Save the washing of sins for the converts.

    (I’ll also mention (parenthetically, see?) that although under-8’s may make mistakes, those mistakes are not sin as they are not accountable for them. Sinless does not necessarily mean perfect.)

  8. Did you hear about the kid the cops had to pepper spray to calm him down while he threatened his teacher and classmates with a piece of sharp wood (after throwing desks, chairs and a TV) and yelling, “come and get me, *f-word*!!”

    He’s in second grade. Yup, 8 years old.

    I’m thinking he might have some sins to wash away.

    Just sayin.

    Other than that, I hadn’t thought of that but that is a good point. Maybe they were thinking more of teaching the doctrine of baptism rather than the innocence of children under 8?? Maybe??

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