Mormon 8 – ‘I love little children with a perfect love’ – LeGrand Baker

17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.

This passage is an appropriate followup to Mormon’s discussion of charity in Moroni 7. His statement that charity “is everlasting love” is also a perfect definition. It not only moves charity through this life’s experiences and into the eternities beyond; it also makes charity the defining characteristics of the righteous in the premortal world. Last week I wrote that charity was the almost-tangible light that defines who we are (or, the lack of it defines who we are not). Here Mormon’s simple definition tells us that has always been so, and will always be. Our eternal Self is the light/love that defines us.

Mormon 8 is one of my favorite chapters because it celebrates the perfect innocence of little children and answers with absolute clarity the question of whether little children need baptism. It begins by Mormon quoting a revelation he received from the Lord.

7 For immediately after I had learned these things of you I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:
8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into 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; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.

It is my belief that when babies are born they are not cut loose from the people they loved. Rather, I believe they come into this world with a knowledge of the premortal spirit world they just left, and that they are accompanied by a person or persons who loved them there. That belief is substantiated by experiences with my own children, their experiences with my grandchildren, and experiences my friends have related to me about their babies. I suspect that many or most of you who are parents believe that also because of what you felt and learned from your little ones.

In Section 93 the Lord explained that the innocence of little children is a blessing of the Atonement.

38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God (D&C 93:38).

I read that to say that we were innocent twice. Once when we were born spirit children of our Heavenly Parents, and the second time when we were born here in our “infant state.” That presupposes that we became un-innocent after we were born as spirits so that we had to repent and accept the blessings of the Atonement in order to become innocent again in preparation to our coming into this world.

The scriptures repeatedly testify that God’s laws do not change. In this world there are established covenants one must make, and ordinances one must perform in order to be qualified to accept the full blessings of the Atonement. That is also true in the next world. Consistency and continuity insist that also must have been true in the world from which we came.

That explains why and how the Savior’s Atonement could enable us to come here free from sin, without bringing any baggage with us from our premortal past.

I also believe that the “war in heaven” was not just about voting with the Savior on the issue of free agency. Everything I understand about the need for covenants, and their validating ordinances convinces me that the pattern is eternal. That the laws of justice demand continuity in all things and that it is the consistency of the covenants and ordinances that enable that continuity. If that is true in this world and the next, then it follows that it must have been true in the premortal spirit world. We must have made the covenants and received the ordinances that enabled us to receive the blessings of the Atonement in preparation for our coming here as innocent babies.

I believe we came here bringing only three things with us.

One is our agency. That is a given, without it we would not exist (D&C 93:30).

One is our personality. We have been working on that for eons, and it will not change now. Again, those of you who are parents can attest with me that the personality of a baby persists even through the experiences of childhood, teenage years, and beyond. Even if one lives in an environment that causes one to suppress his personality, it will assert itself again when that pressure is relaxed, and it remains the same throughout his lifetime and into the eternities.

The third is our integrity. It is our integrity that is challenged in this life. We all made the necessary covenants and accepted the ordinances that validated our premortal repentance so we could be innocent when we came here. However, then, as now, there is a long spectrum of reasons why one would obey and keep the commandments. On one end of that continuum is the love of God and his children that causes us to want to bless and receive blessings so we may all be saved. On the other end of that continuum is the awareness that advantage comes from obedience – from performing the right performances – so some obeyed in order to get those advantages. When they come here they work out the logical conclusions of those reasons (if there is not sufficient opportunity in this life, then there will be in the next). If one obeyed because he loved, he will still love. However, if one obeyed because he sought advantage then he will still seek advantage. But there is a difference. In our premortal spirit world it was apparent that advantage came through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. In this world we forget that, so we may seek to use other people in order to achieve the temporary advantages this world offers to us. Thereby we define ourselves more clearly than we ever could if we could remember the world from which we came. {1}

Agreeing to come here without the benefit of memory, requited a tremendous trust in the Savior. The promise was surely given then, as it is repeated in Mormon’s letter,

12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!

Because of the Savior’s Atonement we bring into this life no memory of our prior experiences. This is absolutely necessary. If we remembered now what our decisions were based on then, we would continue to act on the information we had then. If that were so, we would not be independent here to act for ourselves according to our basic nature. But because we forget, we are free.

The other blessing that comes from our forgetting is that this is an entirely fresh start, So if we obeyed for the wrong reasons there, there is nothing here that traps us in those earlier decisions. Here we can change and, again by virtue of the Atonement, we can become exactly what we choose to be and we will have sufficient opportunity to do that before judgement day.

The third advantage of coming here without memory of our past is that the healing blessings of the Atonement remain with us during our formative years. Little children cannot sin. Therefore, Mormon wrote,

19 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.
20 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.
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.

To the Prophet Joseph, the Lord gave very careful instructions about parents’ responsibilities to teach their children and when the children should be baptized. He said,

25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.
27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord (D&C 68:25-28).

Before we reach the age of accountability, the sights, sounds and events of this world crowd out the previous world from our memories. Those memories are replaced by the instructions and experiences we receive from our parents. So when we become capable of making our own decisions, those decisions are largely based on what we have been taught by our parents. Mormon is clear about that.

10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.

While it is true that little children cannot sin, it is equally true that adults can both sin themselves and impose the consequences of their sins upon the children. As my friend Scott Daniel says, “There must be a special place in the darkest corners of hell for people who corrupt the innocence of children.”

One of the most informative chapters in the scriptures that deal with our premortal existence is Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Much of what I have written today has been about verse 38, that says children are innocent because of the Atonement. But when we put that verse back in context, then it becomes an introduction and justification for the chiding the Lord was about to give to the leaders of the church. It says:

38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.

Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation; You have not taught your children light and truth….

Sidney Rigdon, … hath not kept the commandments concerning his children

Joseph Smith, Jun., … I will call you friends, for you are my friends, Your family must needs repent and forsake some things,

Newel K. Whitney … set in order his family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home (D&C 93:38-50).

It appears that the whole purpose of the explanation about our premortal life that is found in the beginning of Section 93 was to set the stage for explaining to those brethren why is was imperative that they “bring up your children in light and truth.” As such, it is another witness of the truthfulness and importance of Mormon’s letter to his son.
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FOOTNOTE

{1} Two scriptures that show that some people retain their evil intent after they come to this world are Moses 5:18-26 and Jude 1-6.

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