Baptism is the first ordinance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Children of record are eligible for baptism when they turn 8 years old, but parents and Church leaders should help them prepare for this important milestone before the child is baptized.
Here are eight things to teach your child before he or she turns 8 years old.
1. The baptismal covenant
Children should understand the covenant associated with the ordinance of baptism. That covenant is defined in the sacrament prayers, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 20:77-79. Simply stated, people who make the baptismal covenant promise to remember Jesus Christ, keep His commandments and take upon them His name. God promises that, if they keep the covenant, they will always have the Spirit with them, and they will be forgiven of sins.
2. Promises associated with baptism
Though not expressly outlined in the covenant, other promises commonly associated with baptism are recorded in Mosiah 18:8-10. These include bearing other’s burdens, mourning with and comforting others, and standing as witnesses of God. This scripture states that if Church members do these things, they will be “redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, [and] … have eternal life.”
3. The necessity of confirmation
Children in the Church are rightly taught the necessity of baptism, but parents and leaders should be sure to teach the equal importance of confirmation.
Joseph Smith taught, “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.”
4. The choice to be baptized
Though 8-year-old children are young, baptism is their choice. Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, which outlines the qualifications for baptism, reads: “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” (Emphasis added.)
5. The basics of priesthood authority
The details of priesthood authority might be difficult for 8-year-olds to grasp fully, but children should have a basic understanding of the need to be baptized by one holding the proper authority and by authorization of one with the proper priesthood keys. The fifth article of faith can be helpful in teaching this concept: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
6. What to expect
Some of a child’s greatest concerns might not be spiritual at all. Explain to your children what to expect on their baptism day, including what he or she will wear, what temperature the water will be and how long they will be under the water. Some kids wonder if they’ll be allowed to plug their nose. As important as spiritual preparation is, try not to overlook these questions.
7. Responsibilities of Church membership
After a child is baptized, he will have more expected of him as a member of the Church. Talk to your child about paying tithing, fasting and participating in service assignments. Make sure they know about Cub Scouts or Activity Days and are familiar with Faith in God for Boys and Faith in God for Girls.
8. The sacrament
The sacrament is a reminder of and a renewal of baptismal covenants. Use Doctrine and Covenants 20 and Matthew 26:26-30 as resources for teaching this principle.