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In Doctrine and Covenants 68:27, the age of accountability is clearly defined as being eight years.

D&C 68:27

27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.

Section 68 was given November 1831, and is the earliest source for the age of eight as age of accountability that I am aware of. However it is clear from Doctrine and Covenants 18 and 20 (and the Book of Mormon), that the concept of "age of accountability" was known from the foundation of the church in 1830.

What was the "age of accountability" between April 1830 and November 1831, and what was it based upon (some scripture? (unrecorded) revelation?)?

  • 1
    @Flimzy The question is very restricted in scope, essentially we are dealing with less than 2 years of church history here. Section 68 was received November 1831. It was clear from the Book of Mormon (and D&C 20) that children should not be baptised, but a specific age was not given. What was the policy of the early church and did it have a source for the age (scriptural or revelation)? – kutschkem Dec 4 '14 at 15:14
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    @MattGutting By "early church", I mean the Latter-Day Saints between 1830 and 1832, in this case. Sorry if that wasn't clear. – kutschkem Dec 4 '14 at 15:28
  • @Flimzy The nature of an if statement is that only one argument will prove true, therefore, there is actually only one question. – fredsbend Dec 4 '14 at 19:34
  • @Flimzy It's either the first source or it's not. The question is asking to verify that it is. If it is not, then please tell what the first source is. There really is only the one question. – fredsbend Dec 5 '14 at 5:14
  • @Flimzy Ok, I will formulate it differently if that makes you happy. – kutschkem Dec 5 '14 at 13:51
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It is clearly taught in the Book of Mormon that baptism is only required for those who are accountable and capable of committing sin. Moroni Chapter 8 contains a letter of Mormon to his son expounding on the theology of the subject. (Especially verses 5-26). Mosiah 3:16-21 also contains teaching that "little children" are sinless and are redeemed by Christ. The passages mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants (18:42 and 20:71) also mention "the years of accountability" but are not more specific.

At this point in the history of the Church, (November 1831) there were no more than a few thousand members and whether someone was sufficiently accountable was most likely left to the judgement of the missionaries, parents, and the individuals involved. There were some young children among the newly baptized convert families, but only a few would have aged and matured enough for the question of when they should be be baptized to arise.

Joseph Smith taught (Genesis 17:11-12; Joseph Smith Translation) that the 8 year old age for accountability was connected to the 8 days of age for circumcision according to the law given to Abraham.

  • @PaulDraper: Notice that this refers to the Joseph Smith Translation. It does not mention baptism per se, but it does refer to the age of accountability. – Fred Larson Dec 8 '14 at 18:24
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There was no specified age.

"Little children" do not need to be baptized (Moroni 8), but until D&C 68 there wasn't a particular age at which someone became not a "little child".

And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.

Moroni 8:11

This isn't speculation as much as just a lack of further specification. I realize that's not very citable, other than to say Moroni 8 was simply the most detailed instruction available for those 18 months.

  • 1
    To expand on this answer a bit, the age of accountability has always been, simply, the age at which one becomes accountable to the choices they make. The minimum age of 8 was established by revelation as a matter of formality (and wisdom in the Lord, of course). But even today, the age of one's accountability is not necessarily 8. In some cases, individuals may not be accountable until later in their life, if ever, depending on mental handicaps or other similar circumstances. – Matt Dec 8 '14 at 6:43
  • @Matt, well said. Eight is the usual age, but not necessarily the universal one. – Paul Draper Dec 8 '14 at 7:27
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+1 for the well thought out question. As for the answer, I don't know but I do have some speculation. Disclaimer: This is not LDS doctrine.

1 Peter 3:20-21

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

My speculation comes from the phrase: eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. It would seem from these verses that the age of accountability reaches at least back to the New Testament times, perhaps further. Then again, it may not.

Edit: If you look at this question here: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/35116/what-is-the-significance-of-the-number-eight-in-relation-to-baptism in one of the comments, There is a different idea to what the same scripture means.

  • I see an eight in that verse, but how does it relate to age? – kutschkem Dec 4 '14 at 14:19
  • Speculation is not welcome in answers here. – Flimzy Dec 4 '14 at 17:17
  • you are right. I am sorry – staples Dec 4 '14 at 19:25
  • The "like figure" may also be referring to the immersion in water. Unfortunately there's no way to tell for sure. – Matt Dec 8 '14 at 6:36
  • Even though this doesn't completely answer the question, this is interesting – thanks! – Samuel Bradshaw Aug 3 '16 at 5:34

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