There is a doctrine of the Church that many members may have heard of, but that is seldom taught or explored. This doctrine answers the question, “If my child passed away early in life, what will become of that child in the Resurrection?”
Will he/she be resurrected as a full-grown adult, the same form their spirit would take in the world of spirits?
Not quite. Take a look at this quote from the manual Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church, reported: “Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the infant child that was laid away in death would come up in the resurrection as a child; and, pointing to the mother of a lifeless child, he said to her: ‘You will have the joy, the pleasure and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.’ …
What a comfort it is to know that the death of a child is only a temporary impediment to the raising of that child. The manual continues:
“In 1854, I met with my aunt [Agnes Smith], the wife of my uncle, Don Carlos Smith, who was the mother of that little girl [Sophronia] that Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was speaking about, when he told the mother that she should have the joy, the pleasure, and the satisfaction of rearing that child, after the resurrection, until it reached the full stature of its spirit; and that it would be a far greater joy than she could possibly have in mortality, because she would be free from the sorrow and fear and disabilities of mortal life, and she would know more than she could know in this life. I met that widow, the mother of that child, and she told me this circumstance and bore testimony to me that this was what the Prophet Joseph Smith said when he was speaking at the funeral of her little daughter.”
Emma Smith’s dream
Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma, had an incredible experience a few days before her death in 1879. After Emma’s death, her nurse, Elizabeth Revel, gave the following account to Alexander Hale Smith (Emma’s son):
“Well, a short time before she died she had a vision which she related to me. She said your father came to her and said to her, ‘Emma, come with me, it is time for you to come with me.’ And as she related it she said, ‘I put on my bonnet and my shawl and went with him; I did not think that it was anything unusual.
I went with him into a mansion, a beautiful mansion, and he showed me through the different apartments of that beautiful mansion. And one room was the nursery. In that nursery was a babe in the cradle. She said, ‘I knew my babe, my Don Carlos that was taken away from me.’ She sprang forward, caught the child up in her arms, and wept with joy over the child.
When she recovered herself sufficient, she turned to Joseph and said, ‘Joseph, where are the rest of my children?’ He said to her, ‘Emma, be patient, and you shall have all of your children.’ Then she saw standing by his side a personage of light, even the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What comfort this personalized vision must have brought to Emma! The gospel of Jesus Christ does it again—bringing joy and hope to those who seek it.
And don’t forget that little children are saved
This doctrine is taught much more frequently, and you’re surely familiar with it. The ordinance of baptism is an essential step on the pathway to salvation, but children who die without baptism (before reaching the age of accountability at eight years old) are saved.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said it clearly:
“Little children shall be saved. They are alive in Christ and shall have eternal life. For them the family unit will continue, and the fulness of exaltation is theirs. No blessing shall be withheld. They shall rise in immortal glory, grow to full maturity, and live forever in the highest heaven of the celestial kingdom.”