What to Teach Your Child Before Baptism
We’ve got many really great baptism gifts for children for their special day. But gifts are far from the most important thing about a baptism. The most important thing is the fact that, just as Christ was baptized, we are baptized too. It’s the first ordinance that we receive in order to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This usually happens at 8 years old. But it’s not as simple as jumping into the water. Parents and Church leaders must help them prepare for this important milestone before the child is baptized. So we’ve come up with eight great things to teach your child before he or she turns 8 years old.
1. The baptismal covenant
There is actually a very important covenant associated with baptism. It’s recorded in D&C 20:77-79, and we hear it every single week in the sacrament prayers. To put it simply, when we are baptized, we promise to remember Jesus Christ, to keep His commandments, and to take His name upon us. In return, God promises that if we keep those promises, we can be forgiven of our sins and the Spirit will always be with us.
2. Other responsibilities
Although they’re not specifically mentioned in the baptismal covenant, there are actually other responsibilities that are usually associated with baptism. They are recorded in Mosiah 18:8-10. It is our duty to stand as witnesses of God, mourn with and comfort others, and bear others’ burdens. If few do these things, we are told that we will be “redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, [and] … have eternal life.”
3. The necessity of confirmation
Baptism is a necessity. And we are taught that well. But children must also know that confirmation is equally important. Joseph Smith taught us, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done to get the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the Holy Ghost.”
4. Baptism is a choice
Yes, 8 years old is young. But the decision to be baptized is still their choice. We can encourage them and teach them, but in the end it’s up to them to follow Christ. D&C 20:37 says, “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 the priesthood
Let’s face it – the details of the priesthood are sometimes difficult for adults to understand; not to mention 8-year-olds. But kids should have at least a basic understanding of why we need to be baptized by one who holds the proper authority. The 5th Article of Faith may help them understand this principle: “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
Your child’s biggest worry might not have anything to do with what we’ve already mentioned! They might be worried about what’s going to happen that day. Tell them what to expect: how it will play out; what he or she will wear, both during baptism and after; how warm the water will be; how long they’ll be under the water; and if they can plug their nose. Yes, spiritual preparation is extremely important, but don’t overlook their other possible concerns too.
7. Responsibilities of Church members
Teach your child that after baptism, because he or she is now a member of the church, more will be expected of him or her. Teach about paying tithing and fasting. Teach about church callings and service assignments. Tell them what Cub Scouts or Activity Days looks like, and make sure they’re familiar with Faith in God.
8. The sacrament
Teach them that the sacrament is not just a snack during church. Teach them how important it is to think about and ponder what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Teach how it is a renewal of and a special reminder of our baptismal covenants. You might want to use Matthew 26:26-30 and D&C 20 as a great resource for teaching this principle.