NOTE: This is the first post for a new Guest Author – The Faithful Dissident. We look forward to many more to come.
Growing up with younger siblings, I always had a hard time believing that Satan couldn’t possess kids under the age of eight. And that goes for myself too, since if what my parents have said is true, I was a bit of a devil child. But, in all seriousness, I have some questions that make it hard for me to not see conflicts between the doctrine of the Age of Accountability and other Church doctrine.
“From latter-day revelation, we know that little children are redeemed through the mercy of Jesus Christ. The Lord said, “They cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me” (see D&C 29:46–47). They are not to be baptized until they reach the age of accountability, which the Lord has revealed to be eight years of age (see D&C 68:27; Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:11). Anyone who claims that little children need baptism “denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption” (Moroni 8:20; see also verses 8–19, 21–24).” (LDS.org, Topic Definition, Little Children And Baptism)
I’ve always wondered, then, why some kids under the age of eight can do bad things — really bad things — like commit murder, sexual assault, etc. Although such occurrences are rare, they have happened and I wonder how the doctrine of the Age of Accountability and the power of Satan can explain them.
We believe that God can only influence us to do good and Satan can only influence us to do bad. But since “power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before (God),” how are they even capable of doing bad things? That children are influenced by adults and the world around them is certain. Those children under the age of eight who do commit crimes are clearly under the influence of someone or something, but I’m not exactly sure what it is.
A seven year-old who stabs his playmate or displays sexual aggression is not accountable for what he has done and is not guilty of sin in the eyes of God. I understand that. But what is the power driving a child to commit such a crime? If someone is not forcing him to do it, what is influencing him, if not Satan?
I’ve also wondered about how the Age of Accountability applies to matters of homosexuality and gender confusion. From as far as I can remember (which is about age 4 or 5), I have known that I was attracted to boys (I am female). I was too young to know what a heterosexual was or that I was one. I simply knew that I wanted to chase boys. Many homosexuals and transgenders report much the same thing: that they knew from a very young age that they were either attracted to the same sex, or perhaps felt that their physical gender was in conflict with their mental/emotional gender. Even if they were too young to understand the technicalities or significance of these feelings, they were at least able to recognize the feelings in themselves.
So, getting back to how this applies to children under eight and how Satan cannot influence them, it seems to me that in order for this doctrine of the Age of Accountability to be true, homosexual or gender conflict cannot be categorized as “temptation.” And if it’s not a temptation, then how can it be from Satan? If the homosexual feelings or gender confusion (not acts, but desires) are temptations coming from Satan, enticing them to engage in homosexual behaviour or making them desire a gender reassignment operation (both of which are potentially grounds for excommunication among adults), then how could a little child under the age of eight ever be capable of experiencing them? If Satan has no power over them, then they can’t come from him. But to say they come from God would be blasphemous in the eyes of many. God can only encourage us to go good, while Satan can only entice us to do evil.
So, in conclusion, I have two questions:
1.) How are some children under the age of eight capable of committing heinous crimes, without being forced into it by anyone, if Satan has no power over them?
2.) How can a child under the age of eight experience homosexual desire and/or gender conflict if such thoughts and feelings are to be classified as temptations from the adversary?