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Agency and children who die before the age of accountability


BBDD

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Wanted to bring up some thoughts and questions I've had about agency and predestination, in the hope that maybe some of you would have some insightful thoughts about this.

How do you reconcile our belief in agency with the belief that children who die before the age of eight are automatically saved?

Being saved without the ability to make our own choices was Lucifer's plan which everyone who was born rejected. Does God know his children well enough from pre-earth life that he knows some don't need to be tested at all knowing they would choose to follow him no matter what? How could they have been tested prior to receiving a body? Nevertheless being automatically saved sounds counter to the the principle of agency to me.

This would also mean that God would have predestined (or at least has complete control over) who will die as a child and who doesn't, as only those that God is 100% certain about could die before the age of accountability. 

How does this work with the agency of others? If someone decides to drop a bomb, or murder a child surely we don't believe it's God's will but the concious choice (sin) of the perpetrator. Otherwise why would it be a sin if God wants it to happen?Can God prevent all killings of "non-chosen" children without all events and therefore all people's actions being predestined?

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The same question applies to those born in the Millenium (since doctrine suggest children who die like that will be resurrected then as well). Perhaps the final release of Satan at the end of the Millenium qualifies. Why is it different from what we consider the norm? I have suspicions but nothing solid.

Edited by The Nehor
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My understanding is that those born during the millennium will still be accountable for their actions knowing good and evil, and that satan is "bound" only due to the righteous choices of people.

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11 minutes ago, BBDD said:

My understanding is that those born during the millennium will still be accountable for their actions knowing good and evil, and that satan is "bound" only due to the righteous choices of people.

I do not believe the doctrine about Satan being bound solely by the choices of the people. If that were the case temptation would cease for some now. Instead those who try the hardest seem to get the worst of it. There is a real binding. It also does not explain children. If children all choose to listen to Satan when young and that starts the problem what is to keep the children in the Millenium from doing the same?

If the earth is to receive its paradisiacal glory and become as it was before the Fall I suspect fundamental changes to reality. The descriptions make this likely with their talk of an end to disease, illness, and even death. I suspect that those that dwell on Earth at the end of the Millenium will have the choice to again fall to our level when the devil is loosed one last time.

Edited by The Nehor
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55 minutes ago, BBDD said:

Wanted to bring up some thoughts and questions I've had about agency and predestination, in the hope that maybe some of you would have some insightful thoughts about this.

How do you reconcile our belief in agency with the belief that children who die before the age of eight are automatically saved?

Being saved without the ability to make our own choices was Lucifer's plan which everyone who was born rejected. Does God know his children well enough from pre-earth life that he knows some don't need to be tested at all knowing they would choose to follow him no matter what? How could they have been tested prior to receiving a body? Nevertheless being automatically saved sounds counter to the the principle of agency to me.

This would also mean that God would have predestined (or at least has complete control over) who will die as a child and who doesn't, as only those that God is 100% certain about could die before the age of accountability. 

How does this work with the agency of others? If someone decides to drop a bomb, or murder a child surely we don't believe it's God's will but the concious choice (sin) of the perpetrator. Otherwise why would it be a sin if God wants it to happen?Can God prevent all killings of "non-chosen" children without all events and therefore all people's actions being predestined?

I think the basis for D&C 137 is, given the Atonement of Christ, we are all automatically saved in the celestial kingdom; we are all heirs. However, D&C 88:32 shows that we "return again to [our] own place, to enjoy that which [we] are willing to receive,"  The post-mortal spirits of little children are no different, they are willing to receive something according to the desires of the hearts, or their agency. The Lord "will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts." Those who seemingly worked little due to temporal disadvantages beyond their control still possess spiritual agency. They will have some perfecting to do in Christ before they progress to the point of realizing the full measure of salvation (obtaining the inheritance).

It is also possible that sometimes "celestial kingdom" simply meant a kingdom of glory or spirit paradise.

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1 hour ago, The Nehor said:

I do not believe the doctrine about Satan being bound solely by the choices of the people. If that were the case temptation would cease for some now. Instead those who try the hardest seem to get the worst of it. There is a real binding. It also does not explain children. If children all choose to listen to Satan when young and that starts the problem what is to keep the children in the Millenium from doing the same?

If the earth is to receive its paradisiacal glory and become as it was before the Fall I suspect fundamental changes to reality. The descriptions make this likely with their talk of an end to disease, illness, and even death. I suspect that those that dwell on Earth at the end of the Millenium will have the choice to again fall to our level when the devil is loosed one last time.

I doubt there would be much, if any, temptation in a society where everyone made righteous choices. 

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3 hours ago, BBDD said:

Wanted to bring up some thoughts and questions I've had about agency and predestination, in the hope that maybe some of you would have some insightful thoughts about this.

How do you reconcile our belief in agency with the belief that children who die before the age of eight are automatically saved?

Four scriptures come to mind. 

The first is 2 Nephi 2, which addresses a someone comparable conundrum arising out the the Garden of Eden narrative:

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21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

That last verse helps a bit.  "All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things."

The second passage is actually not a "scripture," but rather an excerpt from a talk given by Pres. Wilford Woodruff relating to the Manifesto and the cessation of polygamy (see here) :

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I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. …

The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.

The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice.

Consider that last paragraph.  "The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice ... all ordinances would be stopped ... confusion would reign ... many men would be made prisoners ... trouble would have come upon the whole Church ... we should have been compelled to stop the practice."

None of these things happened.  None of these things "showed" by the Lord to Pres. Woodruff "by vision and revelation" happened.  Instead, the "vision and revelation" was about an alternative future that "would have" happened had polygamy not stopped.

Put another way, the Lord showed Pres. Woodruff a hypothetical future course of events.  Events that never materialized, but would have if the Church had not ceased polygamy.  This suggests to me that God being "all-knowing" includes not only what has and will happen, but what could have happened.  Which brings me to the fourth passage, which is D&C 88:41:

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He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

See also this passage from D&C 137, which describes Joseph Smith's vision of the Celestial Kingdom:

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1 The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.
2 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;
3 Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
4 I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.
5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;
6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
10 And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.

Again, note the language employed in verse 7: "All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom..."

If the Lord can know not only everything that has or will happened, but also all that "would have" happened, then His judgment remains pristine and perfect.

This does not answer everything for me.  If anything, it elicits further questions.  If the Lord can truly see everything, including hypotheticals (what "would have" happened "if"...), why have any of us come to earth at all?  And since "children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven," can we assume that they "would have received" the Gospel "if they had been permitted to tarry?"  

I don't know the answers to these questions, except to say that "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things."

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Being saved without the ability to make our own choices was Lucifer's plan which everyone who was born rejected.

Yes.

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Does God know his children well enough from pre-earth life that he knows some don't need to be tested at all knowing they would choose to follow him no matter what?

That's a fair question.  I don't know.

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How could they have been tested prior to receiving a body?

Another fair question.  

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Nevertheless being automatically saved sounds counter to the the principle of agency to me.

I guess you'll need to define what you mean by "automatically saved."  D&C 137 does not seem to provide for "automatic" salvation for those who do not "tarry."  Rather, such persons are those who "would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry."

As for children who do not reach the age of accountability, I'm inclined to think that they too "would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry."

Only those who accept the Gospel are saved in the Celestial Kingdom.  Ipso facto, children who die before reaching the age of accountability have, or would have, received and accepted it.  We don't know the particulars, the how or the why, but we know the outcome.  And we know God is perfectly just and wise, such that we can take comfort in knowing that "none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God," and that "all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness."  (D&C 107:84)

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This would also mean that God would have predestined (or at least has complete control over) who will die as a child and who doesn't, as only those that God is 100% certain about could die before the age of accountability. 

I don't think we can or ought to reach that conclusion.  See here:

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the belief in predestination-that God predetermines the salvation or the damnation of every individual. The gospel teaches that genuine human freedom and genuine responsibility-individual agency in both thought and action-are crucial in both the development and the outcome of a person's life. Church doctrine rejects the strict dual option providing only heaven or hell as an outcome, since people vary widely in their levels of spiritual attainment. At the same time, Latter-day Saints recognize both the indispensable need for the grace of God manifested through Jesus Christ and the effective spiritual guidance that comes through divine foreordination.

The LDS position is based in part on the teachings of Paul that God "will render to every man according to his deeds" and that "there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:6, 11). These two principles provide a basis for understanding Paul's use of the term "predestination." The term apparently connoted "to be ordained beforehand for godly labor." In the sense that one's potential or calling has been recognized and declared, this interpretation conforms with the Greek term Paul used, proorizo, and does not denote an irreversible or irresistible predetermination.

Latter-day Saints are to "look unto God in every thought" (D&C 6:36), because no person can save himself. But neither can God redeem anyone without that person's effort and collaboration. All are free to accept or reject God's help and powers of redemption. It is clearly taught in scripture that with his help both justification and sanctification will be "just and true" (D&C 20:30). "But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; therefore let the church take heed, and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also" (D&C 20:32, 33).

That sounds about right.

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How does this work with the agency of others?

It doesn't.  The Church rejects the concept of predestination.

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If someone decides to drop a bomb, or murder a child surely we don't believe it's God's will but the concious choice (sin) of the perpetrator.  

Correct.

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Otherwise why would it be a sin if God wants it to happen?

I don't understand.  "God wants" what "to happen?"  What are you referencing here?

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Can God prevent all killings of "non-chosen" children

You seem to be using the phrase "'non-chosen' children" to denote some sort of predestination.  I don't think that's correct.  This is not a doctrine taught in or accepted by the Church.

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without all events and therefore all people's actions being predestined?

Again, we do not subscribe to the concept of predestination.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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I have a few comments but will make them one at a time.

 I invite you to ponder the extent to which God’s spirit children were tested in our premortal life.  Scripture teaches that “a third” of those spirits were cast out of heaven...irretrievably lost, beyond the reach of an infinite atonement.  What could those spirit children have done to merit such a fate?  What does your heart tell you about how much their Father wanted those spirit children to avoid that fate?

How definitive must the decisions and actions of those spirit children have been to result in such a irreversible fate?

Since it is clear that our premortal life presented opportunities for God’s spirit children to act in such a way to be irreversibly damned, I invite you to consider that our premortal life also presented opportunities for God’s spirit children to be irreversibly exalted.

Pondering on what the war in heaven must have been like and how hard we must have fought for our brothers and sisters who were ultimately irretrievably lost can result in a glimpse of how one could be so valiant as to be irreversibly exalted...such valiance is possible in mortality as well.

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5 minutes ago, let’s roll said:

I have a few comments but will make them one at a time.

 I invite you to ponder the extent to which God’s spirit children were tested in our premortal life.  Scripture teaches that “a third” of those spirits were cast out of heaven...irretrievably lost, beyond the reach of an infinite atonement.  What could those spirit children have done to merit such a fate?  What does your heart tell you about how much their Father wanted those spirit children to avoid that fate?

How definitive must the decisions and actions of those spirit children have been to result in such a irreversible fate?

Since it is clear that our premortal life presented opportunities for God’s spirit children to act in such a way to be irreversibly damned, I invite you to consider that our premortal life also presented opportunities for God’s spirit children to be irreversibly exalted.

Pondering on what the war in heaven must have been like and how hard we must have fought for our brothers and sisters who were ultimately irretrievably lost can result in a glimpse of how one could be so valiant as to be irreversibly exalted...such valiance is possible in mortality as well.

Alma 13:3 talks about a "preparatory redemption." I've thought a lot about what that might mean. I don't have any definitive answers, but it makes sense to me that we were tested before this earth life in such a way that a "preparatory redemption" was necessary before coming to earth. That might also have something to do with Christ being our redeemer before coming to mortality, as well. Some would have rejected that redemption, I'm sure.

Anyway, I like your thoughts here and have had similar thoughts.

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Thank you for the thoughtful answers. These have been very helpful. 

I think it makes sense that if some were deemed irreversibly lost during the pre-earth life some could have also been deemed irreversibly exalted.

Only those spirits should be allowed to die prior to reaching the age of accountability and no others, and while as Smac97 pointed out we don't believe in predetermination, God is able to control this without interfering with the agency of others though his omnipotent knowledge of what would happen in all situations and then changing the situations accordingly if need be.

Edited by BBDD
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46 minutes ago, BBDD said:

Thank you for the thoughtful answers. These have been very helpful. 

I think it makes sense that if some were deemed irreversibly lost during the pre-earth life some could have also been deemed irreversibly exalted.

Only those spirits should be allowed to die prior to reaching the age of accountability and no others, and while as Smac97 pointed out we don't believe in predetermination, God is able to control this without interfering with the agency of others though his omnipotent knowledge of what would happen in all situations and then changing the situations accordingly if need be.

God had yet to see if we would be obedient (Abraham 3:25), yet can also foresee many things about us, perhaps based on what we demonstrated from the moment we began to follow "the first." This choice, a spiritual birth in a sense, may well have been the dawn of the second "estate," prior to our conception in the womb (v. 26-28). It is often observed that the second estate includes the post-mortal spirit world, so why not the post-war-in-heaven premortal estate? If that is the case, then the meaning of "all things whatsoever... God shall command them" may differ between those who are proven before conception and/or the age of accountability and those proven after birth and the age of accountability. This would render the "age of accountability" more a policy for the temporal, mortal world than a fixed eternal law, and truly a God of miracles given all the people who are miraculously spared and rescued death before the age of accountability.

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If we are here to be tested , it isn't to show God what we are  , but to show ourselves what we are, and leave us without excuse. Some might say that, had they lived in Jesus' time, they would never have urged death upon him. Easy to say, hard to prove. 

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Continuing the thought above Posted 3 hours ago :

Alvin had lived past the age of accountability and had been proven by his second estate life after being born into this world in retrospect. Children who die before accountability must then be proven by their second estate life before being born into this world. That said, it does take (for me, anyway) a leap of faith / suspension of disbelief to believe that God spares and rescues those who surpass the age of accountability from an earlier death. But then again, is that not what we thank Him for every time we (paraphrasing) remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto us, from the beginning of our lives and all that has led to this since the days of Adam?

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On 11/13/2020 at 5:30 AM, BBDD said:

How do you reconcile our belief in agency with the belief that children who die before the age of eight are automatically saved?

By the fact that those who die before the age of accountability... and therefore have not committed any sin... are saved only because they have not committed any sin.  

It's automatic salvation only because it's an easy automatic answer as to what will happen to those who have not committed and are therefore not accountable for having committed any sin.  God doesn't send people with no sin to Hell.

 

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On 11/13/2020 at 12:04 PM, smac97 said:

Only those who accept the Gospel are saved in the Celestial Kingdom.  Ipso facto, children who die before reaching the age of accountability have, or would have, received and accepted it.

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni says:

"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
" (Moroni 8: 8 

What curse of Adam are little children cursed with that is taken away by Christ?

Edited by theplains
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28 minutes ago, theplains said:

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni says:

"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
" (Moroni 8: 8 

What curse of Adam are little children cursed with that is taken away by Christ?

Death, which is a separation; a separation of a spirit from a mortal body, and also a separation from God.

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On 11/19/2020 at 4:51 PM, Ahab said:

Death, which is a separation; a separation of a spirit from a mortal body, and also a separation from God.

Based on your answer showing two aspects, I would disagree.

Some little children (under the age of accountability) do physically die (separating spirit and body)
so the curse was not removed from them. Also, all little children are already separated from God's
presence the moment they are born. So this curse is not removed from them until a later time if
they obey all of God's commands.

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On 11/13/2020 at 12:47 PM, let’s roll said:

In a parable of the laborers sense, how does the fact that billions of our brothers and sisters come to earth only to gain a body and not to work out their salvation make us feel about them and about our sojourn in mortality?

That the alternative of not coming was much worse. Even the Telestial sphere is good by comparison.

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On 11/19/2020 at 3:19 PM, theplains said:

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni says:

"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
" (Moroni 8: 8 

What curse of Adam are little children cursed with that is taken away by Christ?

Without Christ children would not have a grace period of immunity to the temptations of the devil. All get it, whether you die before the age of accountability or not. Any sin they do perform is done in a state of innocence and it will not be held against them.

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20 hours ago, theplains said:

Based on your answer showing two aspects, I would disagree.

Some little children (under the age of accountability) do physically die (separating spirit and body)
so the curse was not removed from them. Also, all little children are already separated from God's
presence the moment they are born. So this curse is not removed from them until a later time if
they obey all of God's commands.

I think you've missed it. 

I guess you're thinking that the "curse removal" must involve not having the curse imposed in the first place? But for a curse to be removed it must first be imposed.

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On 11/19/2020 at 2:19 PM, theplains said:
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Only those who accept the Gospel are saved in the Celestial Kingdom.  Ipso facto, children who die before reaching the age of accountability have, or would have, received and accepted it.

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni says:

"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" (Moroni 8: 8 

What curse of Adam are little children cursed with that is taken away by Christ?

Perhaps it is a a reference to Adam's "transgression" (AoF 1:2).

Daniel K. Judd has this to say:

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“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” (Moroni 8:8). The “curse of Adam” that has been “taken from them” includes more than spiritual and physical death. Because of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, children are not subject to the temptations of the devil until they reach the age of accountability. Latter-day scripture teaches, “But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me” (D&C 29:46–47). The Lord revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith “that children are not accountable before me [God] until they are eight years old” (JST, Genesis 17:11). This revelation shows that children do not need to be baptized until they arrive at the age of accountability (see D&C 68:25–27).

The "curse" may be "spiritual and physical death," as well as being "subject to the temptations of the devil."

What are your thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 11/13/2020 at 10:01 AM, rchorse said:

I doubt there would be much, if any, temptation in a society where everyone made righteous choices. 

If you remember that those under the age of eight are not tempted by evil you realize there is still PLENTY of room for malice and mischief even without the devil present. Then again it is possible that the fundamental change to a terrestrial environment including the bodies of those who endure the day will mitigate the natural body and brain’s inclination towards evil.

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On 11/22/2020 at 12:55 PM, smac97 said:

The "curse" may be "spiritual and physical death," as well as being "subject to the temptations of the devil."

What are your thoughts?

I agree.  I would say the curse was spiritual and physical death.  About being subjected to, I would
add Alma 42:7

"And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the
presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will
."

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On 11/22/2020 at 12:55 PM, smac97 said:

Perhaps it is a a reference to Adam's "transgression" (AoF 1:2).

Daniel K. Judd has this to say:

The "curse" may be "spiritual and physical death," as well as being "subject to the temptations of the devil."

What are your thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

Here is an interesting quote from Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation 2:24

“The Lord will grant unto these children the privilege of all the sealing blessings which pertain to the exaltation. We were all mature spirits before we were born, and the bodies of little children will grow after the resurrection to the full stature of the spirit, and all the blessings will be theirs through their obediencethe same as if they had lived to maturity and received them on the earth. 

 

 

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