Mormon beliefs teach that baptism by immersion is a core practice for Christians. Even Jesus Christ, who had no sins, insisted on being baptized in order to fulfill the commandments and to set the example for his followers. Baptism is
performed after a person has gained a testimony of the gospel and has achieved the age of accountability, in which he is old enough to know right from wrong as far as he’s been taught.
For Mormons, the age of accountability is eight. Mormon children spend the first eight years of their lives preparing for the sacred ordinance of baptism. They are taught the doctrines of the Gospel and they learn how to apply them. More importantly, they are taught how to pray to God in order to find out for themselves if the teachings are true. This prepares them to make a decision about baptism when the time comes.
People may be baptized at any time after the age of eight. Converts are also expected to be baptized, even if they were previously baptized through another religion. Mormon beliefs teach that the baptism must be performed by one who holds the proper priesthood, and thus they must be baptized again. This is common in most religions, of course.
When a person approaches baptism properly prepared, it provides a remission of sins, meaning all previous sins are removed and the person is given a fresh start. He also makes covenants with God to take upon himself the name of Jesus Christ and to honor the commandments of God. It is a preparatory step to becoming a member of the Savior’s church, an action which occurs soon after the baptism.
Following are thoughts from Thomas S. Monson, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called Mormons. He speaks of his own baptism as a child, and then about the age of baptism.
Thomas S. Monson’s Baptism
I recall the time I approached baptism, when I was eight years of age. My mother talked with me about repentance and about the meaning of baptism; and then, on a Saturday in September of 1935, she took me on a streetcar to the Tabernacle baptistry which, until recently, was here in this building. At the time it was not as customary as it is now for fathers to baptize their children, since the ordinance was generally performed on a Saturday morning or afternoon, and many fathers were working at their daily professions or trades. I dressed in white and was baptized. I remember that day as though it were yesterday and the happiness I felt at having had this ordinance performed.
Over the years and particularly during the time I served as a bishop, I witnessed many other baptisms in the Tabernacle font. Each was a special and inspiring occasion, and each served to remind me of my own baptism.
Thomas S. Monson, “Tabernacle Memories,” Ensign, May 2007, 41–42
Long ago, the prophet Mormon counseled his son Moroni to 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.
“And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
“But little children are alive in Christ.” (Moro. 8:10–12.)
The Lord has provided a privileged period between birth and eight years of age, when accountability is attained and baptism is required.
Dr. Glenn Doman, a noted author, has written: “The newborn child is almost an exact duplicate of an empty computer, although superior to such a computer in almost every way. … What is placed in the child’s brain during the first eight years of life is probably there to stay.” (How to Teach Your Baby to Read, Philadelphia: The Better Baby Press, 1979, pp. 43, 45.)
The early life of a child is a time for foundation building. Build a foundation for the eternities, and it will withstand the tempests and trials of mortality.
Thomas S. Monson, “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, Jul 1984, 69