An eighth birthday is special for children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as that is the age at which they are usually baptized. Members of the church, informally called Mormons, believe 8-year-old children are capable of understanding the commitment associated with the baptismal ceremony. Baptism is considered an essential part of salvation, and many Mormon children, who have been taught about Jesus Christ from a young age, are eager to take this step. Children are often baptized by their fathers at a small service surrounded by family and friends.
Age of Accountability
Unlike many other Christian churches, the Mormon Church does not practice infant baptism. Church doctrine teaches that children are born without sin and are not responsible for their actions until they turn 8 years old, which is considered an age of accountability. Parents and church leaders take care to teach young children about Christ and how to follow his example by being kind and loving to others, so they are prepared to keep the promises they willingly make at baptism. While 8 is the minimum age for baptism, converts are frequently baptized as teens or adults.
A Mormon baptismal service, which lasts about an hour, generally takes place in a church building. Family, church members and friends may attend the simple program that includes prayers, hymns, a brief welcome by a church leader and one or two short, spiritual talks about baptism and confirmation. The focal point of the program is the baptismal ceremony itself, followed by the confirmation. Occasionally, refreshments are served following the service. Some guests may choose to bring gifts for the child for this special day that sometimes coincides with the child's actual birthday, though this is not required.
The baptism ceremony usually takes place in a large baptismal font full of water at the chapel, though any body of water may be used if a font is not available. Guests watch from a nearby room as a man, who holds the priesthood, says a short prayer and baptizes the child by immersing him completely in the water. Both the man, who is often the child’s father, and the child wear white clothing for the ceremony. Baptism by immersion is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. It also indicates a new beginning and a commitment to follow Christ, who was also baptized.
Baptism by water is shortly followed by confirmation, where the child receives the gift of the Holy Ghost. One or more men holding the priesthood authority place their hands on the child’s head and say a prayer in which they confirm the child a member of the church and offer the gift of the Holy Ghost. Members of the church believe the Holy Ghost -- the third member of the Godhead -- can provide inspiration, guidance and protection as they strive to live Christian lives. The baptismal ceremony is not considered complete without the confirmation.
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