Sunday, December 16, 2012

LDS Church First Presidency Issues Statement Expressing Condolences In The Wake Of The Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre In Connecticut

The massacre of 28 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, including 20 children and six adults as well as the shooter's mother and the shooter himself, by suicide, has truly touched a raw nerve in America's psyche. Public reaction has been unusually passionate and even visceral at time, with some expressing bitter invective against those who don't want to compound this crime by using it as justification to weaken the right to bear arms in the United States. Perhaps it's the fact that all 20 children were younger than eight years old, considered the age of accountability in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that really hurts; their mortal probation was abruptly cut off even before it really began.

The horrific nature of this crime prompted the First Presidency of the LDS Church to issue the following statement of condolences on Friday December 14th, 2012, even before all of the facts had emerged:

"We are profoundly saddened by the events this morning at a school in Connecticut. We grieve with all those affected by this tragedy and especially for the families of these little children.

"In this hour of great sorrow we pray the Spirit of our Father in Heaven will provide comfort and peace to all."

For those interested in the details of the massacre, I suggest visiting this ABC News portal leading to numerous stories about the event and the aftermath.

While we as Latter-day Saints are just as grieved by the deaths of these young ones, LDS doctrine offers hope for their future. The reason eight years old is set as the age of accountability, the youngest at which one can become baptized into the Church, is because children who die before the age of eight die in the Lord and do not go to hell. They first go to paradise rather than spirit prison, then at the appointed time, will take up their bodies again and qualify for celestial glory, the highest of the three degrees of glory. This is set forth more precisely in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants. First, from Moroni 8:8-12 in the Book of Mormon:

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.

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.

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!

Then, from Doctrine & Covenants 29:46-47:

46 But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten;

47 Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;

And finally, Doctrine & Covenants 68:27 defines the age of accountability as eight, stating "And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands". This does not mean that all children will be baptized at the age of eight; it simply means that eight is the youngest age that one can be considered for baptism.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, who are not Mormons, sum it up well in this song:

This perspective is not going to suddenly take away the grief that the families and loved ones feel for the departed children. Grief is a natural part of the overall human experience; there is no prescribed way to grieve. Instead, it provides hope -- and a strategy to better manage and eventually recover from that grief. While no parent ever gets over the death of a child, the objective is to eventually come to terms with it and prevent it from permanently damaging the psyche of the bereaved.

We are not given all the answers to the mysteries of life while we are down here; that would diminish the spontaneity of the mortal experience. But we are given that which our Heavenly Father has deemed sufficient, and we can always access Him via prayer for more wisdom and comfort. Once our lives are complete, we will receive all the rest of the answers when we return to the spirit world, and we will see that these departed children will be entitled to experience everything they would have experienced had they tarried in the flesh -- to include marriage and parenthood. Their mortality may have been cut short, but they have eternity to make up for it.

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