The Bitter Doctrine Is Not True
"Behold, I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell." (Moroni 8:14)
This verse used to bother me. It seemed pretty harsh toward Catholics and followers of other Protestant faiths that practice infant baptism. Was it saying that Mother Teresa had neither faith, hope, nor charity? That's hard to swallow.
But I don't think that's what it's saying at all. Mormon didn't write this letter to us. He wrote it to Moroni about 400 AD, referencing a specific contention that had arisen in the Church. This wasn't about the beliefs of individuals who have been taught to believe in infant baptism. It was about the creator of a doctrinal diversion after the people had understood the true nature of baptism and the innocence of children for centuries.
Mormon doesn't name names, but he seems to be speaking of a specific individual who is suddenly seeking to transform baptism from a covenant-making ordinance to an arbitrary ritual, that saves regardless of the penitence or intentions in the heart of the one being baptized. Who would introduce such an innovation? Apparently, someone who had come to believe in an arbitrary God who cared about outward performances instead of the thoughts and intents of His children's hearts. A God who was prepared to send to everlasting condemnation innocents who had never had the opportunity to receive an outward ordinance.
I believe that a believer's idea of the nature of God reveals a great deal about the believer's own heart. The closer we draw to Him, the more our hearts are softened, the more we believe in His mercy and grace. And the further we drift, the more likely we are to see Him as demanding, arbitrary, eager to punish and as one who must be appeased.
I also love how Mormon charts a course back for the troubled author of this man-made doctrine. It was repentance, leading to covenant baptism and the remission of sins.
"And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer" (Mormon 8:26).
I love that this chapter is not, in fact, about condemning believers in a false tradition. Instead, it's a treatise on the necessity of trusting in God's goodness and mercies. And I love that the fruit of true repentance is not a tendency toward harshness or superiority, but meekness and lowliness of heart which acquaints us with God's perfect love.