When Jesus was ready to start his ministry, he went to the Jordon River and asked his cousin, John, to baptize him. John was authorized to baptize people. John was startled, saying that he, John, needed to be baptized by Jesus. He wondered why Jesus, being the Son of God and perfect, needed to be baptized. Jesus responded: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15, KJV Bible).
Jesus was baptized because God has commanded everyone to be baptized by one who is in authority to do so. Even though Jesus had no sins to be forgiven of, He knew baptism was required. In addition, our baptisms are a time to make a covenant with our Father in Heaven.
Jesus was baptized by full immersion. John put him completely under water for just a moment.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed Mormons, follow the example of the Savior and are baptized by full immersion by a priesthood holder who has authority from God to perform baptisms. Today this happens when a child is at least eight years old, the age of accountability. People who join the Church at an older age are baptized just prior to becoming a member of the Church, even if they were previously baptized in another religion.
Children under the age of eight do not require baptism. They are incapable of sinning. Nor can they understand the process of repentance. While they may make mistakes, they are too young to be held accountable for what they do. The atonement of the Savior covers them, because our Heavenly Father, who loves us completely, does not punish us for the sins of others, including those of Adam and Eve. We are accountable only for what we ourselves do of our own free will. The Book of Mormon refers to infant baptism as an abomination committed by those who do not have faith in the saving power of the atonement.
Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.
Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing-
But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works (Moroni 8, Book of Mormon).
Children who die before they are eight years old are covered completely by the atonement and die in a state of perfection, returning to their Father in Heaven without judgment. Members of the Church trust God to be kind, loving, and fair, and this teaching is one demonstration of that great love. Those who do not reach a mental age of eight through disability are also not held accountable for their choices. Baptism is for those old enough to understand right from wrong when it’s taught to them.
In the same respect, those who do not have an opportunity to hear the gospel in this lifetime will not be held accountable for this. How could a loving God punish someone for not living what He didn’t even know he should live? These people will be given the opportunity to hear the gospel after they die, and to choose whether or not they want to accept and live it. People are held accountable only for what they had the opportunity to know.
What This Tells Us About God
These teachings on baptism are proof that God is a fair and loving Father. It also accepts our agency, the right to choose for ourselves when we’re able, how we want to live.
God knew that we would not be perfect, even after baptism. He created the ability for us to repent of our sins, continuing to renew our baptismal covenants throughout our lifetime.
When we’re baptized, we make a covenant. A covenant is a two way promise between ourselves and God. If we keep our part of the promise, God is bound to keep His part. Our part is a promise to live the gospel to the very best of our ability, to always remember Christ, and to take upon ourselves His name. His part is to then forgive us of our sins and to welcome us back into His kingdom when our life ends. These promises from God are contingent on our own efforts to keep the promise we made to God. The gospel requires us to do our part, and not to live any way we want, expecting God to do everything with no effort on our own part. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” the Savior taught. Our obedience is a measure of our love for the Savior. Our baptism is the first step to demonstrating that love.