Jesus taught that baptism is essential to enter the kingdom of heaven. Though many Christian churches do agree that baptism is important and necessary, what they teach about baptism varies a great deal. So, how should baptism be performed? And how old should you be when you get baptized?
The Savior plainly taught that baptism is a commandment of God and that it is necessary to “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Baptism is performed "for the remission of sins" for those who are repentant (see Mark 1:4). But even though Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life, He also was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). By being baptized, Jesus showed all of God’s children that “he would be obedient unto [the Father] in keeping his commandments” (2 Nephi 31:7). All those who choose to follow Jesus must similarly obey God’s commandment to be baptized.
As a prophet of God, John the Baptist was ordained to the priesthood and had authority to perform Jesus’s baptism. People came from “all the region round about Jordan” to be baptized by him (see Matthew 3:5–6). Since John the Baptist had the proper authority to do so, Jesus specifically went to him to be baptized. Likewise, baptisms today must be performed by one holding the proper authority from God.
John the Baptist called people to first “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” so they could be worthy to be baptized (Matthew 3:8). Jesus Himself also often spoke about the need for repentance, including after His Resurrection when He taught people in ancient America. “I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name . . . or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (3 Nephi 11:38).
Today, some religions perform baptism with a sprinkling of water. However, we learn from Jesus’s example that baptism ought to be done by immersion. When Jesus was baptized, Matthew records, He “went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). This full immersion in water symbolizes rebirth as an individual is buried in the water and rises up, clean and committed to following Jesus Christ and His gospel. In fact, the word baptism itself comes from the Greek baptizo meaning “to dip or immerse.”
On several occasions, Jesus called little children to Him to bless them. In one instance, Christ even rebuked His disciples for keeping children away from Him, saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” (Mark 10:14).
Jesus taught that children are pure and innocent and that adults should try to be more like them, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus also said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
In the New Testament, Jesus plainly taught that little children are inherently good and pure. The Book of Mormon further declares, “Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:8).
Jesus also said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). So if little children are not capable of sinning, do they have any need for baptism?
Baptism is for those who sin and need to repent. In the Book of Mormon, we learn that the doctrine of Christ is “repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:10). So since little children are not accountable for or capable of sinful acts, they don’t need baptism.
In our day, the Lord has revealed that “children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old” (Doctrine and Coveneants 68:27). At that age, they begin to be accountable for choosing right from wrong.
Many Christian religions believe that every child is innately sinful at birth due to the fall of Adam. However, God holds individuals accountable only for personal sin and not for Adam’s transgression (see Articles of Faith 1:2). Because young children are sinless before God, they have no cause to repent or to be baptized.
The scriptures teach that “little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world” (Moroni 8:12). God is merciful, loving, and kind. He wants all of His children to return to live with Him. He would not be the loving and just God that He is if He denied children salvation for not being baptized.
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