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Guest mormonmusic

Conundrum Number 2 Regarding Priesthood Leadership

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Guest mormonmusic

You're a Mission President and it comes to your attention that a set of missionaries have been meeting with a woman who has Alzheimers disease, and her adult son.

The son wants to be baptized. The Alzheimers-stricken mother has sat in on the discussions and has also indicated she wants to be baptized. Her son, her only living relative, also wants her to be baptized. The missionaries aren't sure if this is the right thing or not, and have asked you how they should proceed.

The question is -- should she be baptized given her mental condition? Or is this irrelevant?

Edited by mormonmusic

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Depends on how far progressed the Alzheimer's is. Only the mission president could make this call, and only through revelation on the particular issue.

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Guest mormonmusic

Her Alzheimers was pretty advanced, if memory serves. I didn't actually teach this woman, but the missionaries involved told me she was pretty far along. I agree this is a "non-programmed" decision, and that this particular situation would not be clearly explained in any manual, although general guidelines might exist. I was never privvy to such guidelines, however, and our mission president said he'd have to "get back to us on that".

I know one thing, whether a person is accountable was a consideration....

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Those who are not accountable for their actions cannot be baptized. Baptism is a covenant, and only those capable of understanding the covenant and taking responsibility for themselves can make that covenant.

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Those who are not accountable for their actions cannot be baptized. Baptism is a covenant, and only those capable of understanding the covenant and taking responsibility for themselves can make that covenant.

I think the statement should be revised to "Those who are not accountable need not be baptized." Adjusting the statement this way brings it in harmony with the guidelines in the Church Handbook of Instructions.

This situation, however, doesn't fit nicely into the guidelines published by the Church. All of the guidelines are directed toward those people who have always had mental illnesses (or have otherwise been unaccountable). The Church addresses the situation in which an unaccountable person becomes accountable, but nowhere does it address the issue of an accountable person becoming unaccountable.

One of the odd things about this situation is that because she was, presumably accountable at some point, she will need the saving ordinances. So, if she isn't baptized now, she'll have to be baptized vicariously in the temple.

The guidance I would rely on is this: "Persons who have mental disabilities and cannot

knowingly repent may be considered by the bishop as not accountable. (CHI, 33)" If she could demonstrate a basic understanding of what repentance is and why it is needed, I would go ahead and recommend her for baptism.

This next part is me speaking personally, and I have nothing from the Church to support it. But if I felt she had deteriorated to the state that she didn't or couldn't consistently recollect the purpose and meaning of repentance, but both she and her son were persistently requesting that she be baptized, I would go ahead and recommend them. I don't believe in making an issue of things that don't really matter. And if she's baptized now, the worst side effect is that she doesn't have to be baptized by proxy. But that belief stems from my belief that the Savior wouldn't hold her accountable to any actions she made under advanced mental deterioration anyway.

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I think the statement should be revised to "Those who are not accountable need not be baptized." Adjusting the statement this way brings it in harmony with the guidelines in the Church Handbook of Instructions.

I agree with what you say, but in this case, it is a distinction without a difference. In his epistle to Moroni, Mormon made crystal clear the depravity inherent in baptizing those who do not need and are unable to make the covenant. Baptizing an infant is no baptism -- the infant cannot make the covenant. The same would be true of a person deeply in the throes of Alzheimer's.

This situation, however, doesn't fit nicely into the guidelines published by the Church. All of the guidelines are directed toward those people who have always had mental illnesses (or have otherwise been unaccountable). The Church addresses the situation in which an unaccountable person becomes accountable, but nowhere does it address the issue of an accountable person becoming unaccountable.

Not sure I agree. I think the situation is quite obviously addressed, based on what I said above. The woman in question is unable to make that covenant; therefore, she cannot be baptized.

One of the odd things about this situation is that because she was, presumably accountable at some point, she will need the saving ordinances. So, if she isn't baptized now, she'll have to be baptized vicariously in the temple.

That is my supposition, as well.

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I agree with what you say, but in this case, it is a distinction without a difference. In his epistle to Moroni, Mormon made crystal clear the depravity inherent in baptizing those who do not need and are unable to make the covenant. Baptizing an infant is no baptism -- the infant cannot make the covenant. The same would be true of a person deeply in the throes of Alzheimer's.

I think there is a distinction with a difference. Recall, Mormon did not object to baptizing children solely because they did not need the covenant, or that they could not make it. He denounced it because of the teaching that came with it, that little children could not be saved without baptism. It was the false doctrine that accompanied the practice that made it despicable.

In the present situation, even though the woman may not be accountable for her present actions, she still cannot be saved without baptism because she lived the majority of her life as an accountable person. The depravity assumption doesn't stick in this situation.

The big question is would it be more appropriate to baptize her in mortality, or to do it by proxy? My answer to the question was, "does it really matter?"

Not sure I agree. I think the situation is quite obviously addressed, based on what I said above. The woman in question is unable to make that covenant; therefore, she cannot be baptized.

But again, the difference is this woman cannot be saved without baptism, whereas the people addressed in the CHI could be.

That is my supposition, as well.

Well, at least we found common ground somewhere. :)

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I agree that this is an issue for the mission president. BUT (if the woman's condition is too far gone to establish that she is competent to make such a decision).....I might argue that if this son gets baptized he will most likely do the work for his mother after she passes. If proxy baptisms are only valid if the person accepts them in the spirit world, wouldn't it be ok if the woman were baptized for herself?

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Well, that's the thing we don't know, Halfers. Or at least it's in dispute. With Vort being in the camp of it does matter and me being in the camp that it doesn't. I'm not sure I can really say either is right or wrong.

Forgive me if I've misrepresented you, Vort.

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Sorry Moe. I didn't read your post as carefully as I should have.

Btw.....why are we deciding how lucid the woman is? It sometimes takes years for the disease to take over a person. And why are we being asked questions only a MP could answer?

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Guest mormonmusic

Interesting angles on this. I checked out my journal on how it was resolved.

The mission president said we should baptize the woman if that was what she wanted and if she could answer the baptismal interview questions. He gave these reasons:

1. She had committed sin in this life which needed to be remitted. So, in this respect I agree with MarginOfError who said this is a different situation from a baby who is not accountable and who NEVER was accountable. In the case of the baby, there is no sin to be remitted. In the case of the elder lady, there was sin due to the accountability she had experienced through most of her life.

2. She would have the Gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, something she would not have if she was not baptized.

3. He suggested there was accountability on the part of priesthood leaders -- they needed to be careful in denying baptism to someone who wanted it, as this woman did, and who could answer the baptismal interview questions properly.

Regarding the last question "why are we being asked questions only a MP could answer" -- I guess I should respond since I posed the question. Here are my reasons:

1. Learning. I learned something from a previous thread I started like this that brought my knowledge of priesthood administration up to date; so I did it again here. And this was in spite of knowing how the situation was resolved.

2. I enjoy following these discussions.

3. I thought others might find the discussion interesting.

4. I think people other than MP's could present angles to this question by applying the principles from the scriptures....which people seem to have done here.

And, I learned something again from MarginOfError and Vort about the contrast between a baby's non-accountability and salvation if they die before accountability hits, and the plight of people who are not accountable due to health or mental issues.

Edited by mormonmusic

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