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mommytobees

Question for LDS ladies......

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(delurking) 

 

I have a question and as always I love this forum for the ability to ask a question and hopefully get some answers!

 

I want to say, I have personal interest in the answers to my questions. This is something I truly need to know and if anyone wants to message me privately, feel free.

 

 

I have a close family member who is LDS (actually several, but one specifically). She and I do not talk religion or politics because she is the type of person who you either agree with or she is offended. There are several family members who don't talk either subjects with her. With this Dugger and Lena Dunham (sp?) stuff going on a few of the "unspoken rules" have flown out the door and we had a bit of a disagreement. So, now I am trying to understand the parts that I don't know, mainly meaning the LDS parts and figure out if this is a particular facet of this family member or if it is their religious leanings.

 

(Please feel free to correct anything I get wrong...I really am trying to learn.)

 

I understand that the age of reason in the LDS church is 7/8 years, which is when most kids get baptized.

 

Does that mean children are responsible for their actions at this age? Are they responsible for what happens to them at that age? Is there a difference between being baptized and unbaptized in the eyes of culpability to the LDS church?

 

 

(nonspecific)

An action (sin) is committed at the ages of 8 (past baptism) and 14, are they (the sin and doer) considered the same in the teachings of the LDS church? 

 

(specific and presume normal intelligence, not special needs)

A 7-year-old child molests a younger child. (a single one-time act)

A 14-year-old child molests a younger child. (a single one-time act)

A 7-year-old child molests a younger child. (multiple acts)

A 14-year-old child molests a younger child. (multiple acts)

 

Are each of these considered the same? Does the 7-year-old child hold the same culpability as the 14-year-old child in the eyes of the church?

 

Thanks!

Kris

 

 

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I will answer as I understand LDS doctrine.

 

Age 8 is the minimum age for baptism in the LDS church, and is sometimes referred to as the age of accountability. In my mind this means two things:

 

First, we see baptism as a sacred covenant with God. A child needs to be mature enough to understand the meaning of such a covenant (in an age-appropriate way) and eight years old is the accepted age at which children are expected to be capable of such understanding. This does not mean that an eight year old is expected to have the maturity or accountability of a fourteen year old or a thirty year old.

 

Second, a child who has not yet reached the age of accountability is seen as being fully covered by the atonement of Jesus Christ in the sense that they are not accountable to God for any misdeeds or sins, they are not seen as mature enough to bear such accountability. This does not mean they are incapable of doing wrong, but from a religious perspective they are not really capable of sin. I do not personally think that accountability for sin is like flipping on a switch when a child hits their 8th birthday, I do not think God works that way, I see understanding and accountability increasing gradually over time, even throughout life.. But around the age of 8 children are expected to be able to understand the concept of sin, and the related concepts of repentance and forgiveness. They then become responsible in a sense for their own relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior, and for seeking forgiveness through him for any sin that might distance them from God.

 

All of this applies only in a religious sense, and does not affect what might need to happen in any case of child molestation. In your example, the seven year old child would not be seen as needing forgiveness from God because they are not old enough to be accountable to God for sin; this does not mean they would not need counseling or other consequences for their actions, nor in fact that they would not be capable of understanding the wrongness of their actions. It merely means that from a religious perspective they are not seen as separated from God by sin as any wrongdoing on their part has already been fully covered by Christ's atonement.

 

The 14 year old is seen as mature enough to be accountable before God for their choices and actions, and therefore in need of personal repentance in order to obtain forgiveness from God for their sins. Again, this does not impact the need for appropriate civil or criminal actions, therapy, etc. From a religious perspective their situation differs from that of the seven year old in that sin on their part can separate them from God, and they must act in order to benefit fully from the Savior's atonement so as to be again reconciled with God.

 

I hope this helps, let me know if I can further clarify. And please be aware that my explanations are according to my own understanding and interpretation and are not official pronouncements of doctrine :)

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Darn! I thought you were going to ask how the Church handles those types of situations in actual practice.

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We believe a person grows "line upon line, precept upon precept." An 8yo's understanding is vastly different than a 14yo's. Yes, an 8yo can understand right and wrong in some instances. But a 14yo's understanding is going to be different. And an 18yo is going to be even more capable. And a 30yo is even more capable and understanding.

 

We also believe "where much is given, much is required." If you don't know the law, your culpability is different than someone who does.

 

And finally, we believe The Lord looks upon the heart. Only He knows what our intentions and capabilities are.

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I will answer as I understand LDS doctrine.

 

Age 8 is the minimum age for baptism in the LDS church, and is sometimes referred to as the age of accountability. In my mind this means two things:

 

First, we see baptism as a sacred covenant with God. A child needs to be mature enough to understand the meaning of such a covenant (in an age-appropriate way) and eight years old is the accepted age at which children are expected to be capable of such understanding. This does not mean that an eight year old is expected to have the maturity or accountability of a fourteen year old or a thirty year old.

 

Second, a child who has not yet reached the age of accountability is seen as being fully covered by the atonement of Jesus Christ in the sense that they are not accountable to God for any misdeeds or sins, they are not seen as mature enough to bear such accountability. This does not mean they are incapable of doing wrong, but from a religious perspective they are not really capable of sin. I do not personally think that accountability for sin is like flipping on a switch when a child hits their 8th birthday, I do not think God works that way, I see understanding and accountability increasing gradually over time, even throughout life.. But around the age of 8 children are expected to be able to understand the concept of sin, and the related concepts of repentance and forgiveness. They then become responsible in a sense for their own relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior, and for seeking forgiveness through him for any sin that might distance them from God.

 

All of this applies only in a religious sense, and does not affect what might need to happen in any case of child molestation. In your example, the seven year old child would not be seen as needing forgiveness from God because they are not old enough to be accountable to God for sin; this does not mean they would not need counseling or other consequences for their actions, nor in fact that they would not be capable of understanding the wrongness of their actions. It merely means that from a religious perspective they are not seen as separated from God by sin as any wrongdoing on their part has already been fully covered by Christ's atonement.

 

The 14 year old is seen as mature enough to be accountable before God for their choices and actions, and therefore in need of personal repentance in order to obtain forgiveness from God for their sins. Again, this does not impact the need for appropriate civil or criminal actions, therapy, etc. From a religious perspective their situation differs from that of the seven year old in that sin on their part can separate them from God, and they must act in order to benefit fully from the Savior's atonement so as to be again reconciled with God.

 

I hope this helps, let me know if I can further clarify. And please be aware that my explanations are according to my own understanding and interpretation and are not official pronouncements of doctrine :)

Phew! I've been trying to type out a coherent answer for a while now and failing miserably! :lol:

 

I would add, in regard to a baptized vs. non baptized member, yes the spiritual consequences would be different, as one has made a Covenant with God, and the other hasn't. Both have sinned, but one is a sin against a "greater light", so to speak. Not that the Church would bring the hammer down on a baptized 9 year old, but part of dealing with the sin would be a review of the baptismal covenant, and helping them understand why what they did was in violation of it. And this is just the Spiritual side of things. Like maize said, this would be separate from Secular counseling the child would hopefully also receive.

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Does that mean children are responsible for their actions at this age? Are they responsible for what happens to them at that age? Is there a difference between being baptized and unbaptized in the eyes of culpability to the LDS church?

 

Maize answered well.

 

But, I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by what happens TO them.  Do you mean would they have some sort of responsibility if they were molested?  If so, the answer is an emphatic NO.  Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and raped repeatedly.  She has NO responsibility at all.  That is all on the man who kidnapped her.

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Maize answered well.

 

But, I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by what happens TO them.  Do you mean would they have some sort of responsibility if they were molested?  If so, the answer is an emphatic NO.  Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and raped repeatedly.  She has NO responsibility at all.  That is all on the man who kidnapped her.

YES! And this has been mentioned several times by church leadership during General Conference, as well. Molestation victims are in no way responsible for what happened to them. They may still end up meeting with their bishop, but it'll be for spiritual counseling to help them heal from the abuse, NOT because they're in need of any sort of confession or church discipline. We believe the Atonement is to help us be cleansed from sin, AND to help us heal from the effects of other's sins.

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Maize answered well.

 

But, I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by what happens TO them.  Do you mean would they have some sort of responsibility if they were molested?  If so, the answer is an emphatic NO.  Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and raped repeatedly.  She has NO responsibility at all.  That is all on the man who kidnapped her.

 

Exactly.  Victims bear NO responsibility for what happened to them.   At all.

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Thank you so much! I do think you have helped me.

 

I guess I explained half of my questions well and the other half so no well, but it was answered anyway, LOL!

 

 

I very firmly believe that no matter the age, when a child is abused they are NOT at fault in any way shape or form.

 

However, this family member told me that the 7-year-old child was as responsible as the 14-year-old child. (She is a mother and has two adult children.) She continued on to imply that any victim was as responsible as the perpetrator. That's when the conversation ended, because I flushed and walked away. I couldn't be civil in my response, so I stopped.

 

 

 

I am struggling with the idea that this family member is doing victim blaming and saying all sin is the same, but is trying to hide it under the guise of religious doctrine. 

 

I don't believe that the 7yo child has the same culpability as the 14yo child simply because of the differences in their brain and cognitive development differences.

 

Anyway, thank you!
 

Kris

 

 

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Yes. What they said. I tried typing something up, but the above posters said it much better than my attempts.

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Darn! I thought you were going to ask how the Church handles those types of situations in actual practice.

 

LOL! I was actually considering asking that, but I wasn't sure if it was for genuine purposes or not. Do I really need to know that or am I asking because it's a piece of the train wreck on the side of the road?

 

Kris

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Thank you so much! I do think you have helped me.

 

I guess I explained half of my questions well and the other half so no well, but it was answered anyway, LOL!

 

 

I very firmly believe that no matter the age, when a child is abused they are NOT at fault in any way shape or form.

 

However, this family member told me that the 7-year-old child was as responsible as the 14-year-old child. (She is a mother and has two adult children.) She continued on to imply that any victim was as responsible as the perpetrator. That's when the conversation ended, because I flushed and walked away. I couldn't be civil in my response, so I stopped.

 

 

 

I am struggling with the idea that this family member is doing victim blaming and saying all sin is the same, but is trying to hide it under the guise of religious doctrine. 

 

I don't believe that the 7yo child has the same culpability as the 14yo child simply because of the differences in their brain and cognitive development differences.

 

Anyway, thank you!

 

Kris

 

OK, that is not in line with LDS doctrine in any way, shape or form.

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OK, that is not in line with LDS doctrine in any way, shape or form.

 

Yup.  Your family member is just flat out wrong.

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In your example, the seven year old child would not be seen as needing forgiveness from God because they are not old enough to be accountable to God for sin; this does not mean they would not need counseling or other consequences for their actions, nor in fact that they would not be capable of understanding the wrongness of their actions. It merely means that from a religious perspective they are not seen as separated from God by sin as any wrongdoing on their part has already been fully covered by Christ's atonement.

 

The 14 year old is seen as mature enough to be accountable before God for their choices and actions, and therefore in need of personal repentance in order to obtain forgiveness from God for their sins. Again, this does not impact the need for appropriate civil or criminal actions, therapy, etc. From a religious perspective their situation differs from that of the seven year old in that sin on their part can separate them from God, and they must act in order to benefit fully from the Savior's atonement so as to be again reconciled with God.

 

I hope this helps, let me know if I can further clarify. And please be aware that my explanations are according to my own understanding and interpretation and are not official pronouncements of doctrine :)

 

One more question, if you don't mind!:

 

If we move the age to 8, thus post-baptism, is the answer the same as the 7yo, in terms of religious doctrine? Is an 8yo more accountable because they can be held accountable? 

 

 

Also, I absolutely am not ignoring the need for anyone in these situations to need serious, long-term help. I am just trying to understand the religious doctrine views for who is held responsible for what.

 

Thanks so much!

Kris

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I very firmly believe that no matter the age, when a child is abused they are NOT at fault in any way shape or form.

 

However, this family member told me that the 7-year-old child was as responsible as the 14-year-old child. (She is a mother and has two adult children.) She continued on to imply that any victim was as responsible as the perpetrator. That's when the conversation ended, because I flushed and walked away. I couldn't be civil in my response, so I stopped.

 

I am struggling with the idea that this family member is doing victim blaming and saying all sin is the same, but is trying to hide it under the guise of religious doctrine.

 

I don't believe that the 7yo child has the same culpability as the 14yo child simply because of the differences in their brain and cognitive development differences.

 

 

I would venture to say that most LDS people would agree with you. Her ideas regarding victims/perpetrators are definitely NOT prevailing sentiments among the LDS people I know.

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LOL! I was actually considering asking that, but I wasn't sure if it was for genuine purposes or not. Do I really need to know that or am I asking because it's a piece of the train wreck on the side of the road?

 

Kris

It is probably just as well, because if I shared my experiences(yes, multiple, involving myself and several other family members across 40 years and 3 states and many bishops with an invariable response), it would be countered by all the lovely ladies here who would assure you that it couldn't possibly have happened that way, and was just coincidently mishandled in complete opposition to the way things are really supposed to be.

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One more question, if you don't mind!:

 

If we move the age to 8, thus post-baptism, is the answer the same as the 7yo, in terms of religious doctrine? Is an 8yo more accountable because they can be held accountable? 

 

 

Also, I absolutely am not ignoring the need for anyone in these situations to need serious, long-term help. I am just trying to understand the religious doctrine views for who is held responsible for what.

 

Thanks so much!

Kris

 

Not really.  Accountability is a continuum.  It's not a sudden thing where you hit a certain age.  An 8 year old who molests another child may not even understand what they are doing or that it is wrong.  There's a big difference between an 8 year old and a 14 year old.  An 8 year old might be more accountable than a 7 year old only insofar as the 8 year old might understand what they did wrong than a 7 year old.  I don't think I'm explaining this clearly.  We believe that ignorance makes a difference (using ignorant in the sense that you don't know or understand something).  It really would depend on if an 8 year old understood that what they did was wrong and to what extent they understand.  In most cases, I would say that an 8 year old molesting a child is not different than a 7 year old (but very different than a 14 year old).

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Not really. Accountability is a continuum. It's not a sudden thing where you hit a certain age. An 8 year old who molests another child may not even understand what they are doing or that it is wrong. There's a big difference between an 8 year old and a 14 year old. An 8 year old might be more accountable than a 7 year old only insofar as the 8 year old might understand what they did wrong than a 7 year old. I don't think I'm explaining this clearly. We believe that ignorance makes a difference (using ignorant in the sense that you don't know or understand something). It really would depend on if an 8 year old understood that what they did was wrong and to what extent they understand. In most cases, I would say that an 8 year old molesting a child is not different than a 7 year old (but very different than a 14 year old).

About the only difference I would see is a baptized 8yo would probably also get some counselling by the bishop on the steps of repentance.

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It is probably just as well, because if I shared my experiences(yes, multiple, involving myself and several other family members across 40 years and 3 states and many bishops with an invariable response), it would be countered by all the lovely ladies here who would assure you that it couldn't possibly have happened that way, and was just coincidently mishandled in complete opposition to the way things are really supposed to be.

 

Eh! I understand this totally!  I think this happened and happens in too many different areas and religions. The "covering-up" aspect of abuse isn't limited to the weirdos, it happens with the "normal" and good people too.

 

I was a volatile teenager and very confrontational when my own abuse came to light. I asked one of my family members, who it turned out not only knew but had witnessed an occasion, why the (beep) he didn't report it. His response was that (man) was a "good man" and this would ruin his reputation. I told him off and have had few conversations since. This uncle is a good man and was a great father. He simply got it wrong. He apologized several years later, when one of his kids told him off when she found out about it. She was able to put it into a perspective that I couldn't. 

 

Kris

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Not really.  Accountability is a continuum.  It's not a sudden thing where you hit a certain age.  An 8 year old who molests another child may not even understand what they are doing or that it is wrong.  There's a big difference between an 8 year old and a 14 year old.  An 8 year old might be more accountable than a 7 year old only insofar as the 8 year old might understand what they did wrong than a 7 year old.  I don't think I'm explaining this clearly.  We believe that ignorance makes a difference (using ignorant in the sense that you don't know or understand something).  It really would depend on if an 8 year old understood that what they did was wrong and to what extent they understand.  In most cases, I would say that an 8 year old molesting a child is not different than a 7 year old (but very different than a 14 year old).

 

Thank you, again!

 

I understand what you are saying. I also happen to agree with what you are saying. It is good to know that the LDS doctrines aren't too far off from what I would want those ideas to be.

 

Kris

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I have a close family member who is LDS (actually several, but one specifically). She and I do not talk religion or politics because she is the type of person who you either agree with or she is offended. There are several family members who don't talk either subjects with her.

I wonder if she is the kind of person who takes an opposing viewpoint just to be argumentative?

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It is probably just as well, because if I shared my experiences(yes, multiple, involving myself and several other family members across 40 years and 3 states and many bishops with an invariable response), it would be countered by all the lovely ladies here who would assure you that it couldn't possibly have happened that way, and was just coincidently mishandled in complete opposition to the way things are really supposed to be.

I don't disbelieve you. In past generations in my family similar issues were not handled well. I base what I've said in this thread on I've heard taught in Church over the past several years, what I've heard taught in General Conference, and my own family's personal experiences with similar issues. I do not deny that there is still very much room for improvement in making our actions match our teachings.

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I don't disbelieve you. In past generations in my family similar issues were not handled well. I base what I've said in this thread on I've heard taught in Church over the past several years, what I've heard taught in General Conference, and my own family's personal experiences with similar issues. I do not deny that there is still very much room for improvement in making our actions match our teachings.

 

LDS people also exist within the larger social framework of our communities. It seems to me that a better understanding of how to deal with matters of sexual abuse is just barely starting to emerge in the last 10-15 years in American culture at large. Sweeping things under the rug/minimizing/victim blaming are issues of society at large that have also presented themselves within LDS communities.

 

I do think things are improving in that regard. I am not aware of any doctrine that would have justified such practices now or in the past.

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One more question, if you don't mind!:

 

If we move the age to 8, thus post-baptism, is the answer the same as the 7yo, in terms of religious doctrine? Is an 8yo more accountable because they can be held accountable? 

 

 

Also, I absolutely am not ignoring the need for anyone in these situations to need serious, long-term help. I am just trying to understand the religious doctrine views for who is held responsible for what.

 

Thanks so much!

Kris

 

I think this has been largely answered, but want to respond the bolded. 

 

As I see it, a baptized 8 year old has more accountability before God both because of the slight difference in maturity (which in my opinion leads to only a slight difference in accountability) and because through baptism itself they have covenanted to keep God's commandments. As someone said upthread, they would likely receive counseling regarding the baptismal covenant and the process of repentance. 

 

I believe that their overall accountability remains more similar to that of the 7 year old than the 14 year old.

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 I am not aware of any doctrine that would have justified such practices now or in the past.

 

This is what I was looking for and an understanding.

 

Initially, I was very angry at the LDS religion at the idea that these ideas could be condoned (similar to my disgust at the ATI teachings). But, I'm glad that I can get a better understanding without judgement here. Thank you! I didn't want to believe that this was LDS teaching..........really, any more than I want to believe that this family member's ideas are "justified" in her mind. 

 

I don't like any of this and probably won't discuss it again with her.

 

Kris

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I think this has been largely answered, but want to respond the bolded. 

 

As I see it, a baptized 8 year old has more accountability before God both because of the slight difference in maturity (which in my opinion leads to only a slight difference in accountability) and because through baptism itself they have covenanted to keep God's commandments. As someone said upthread, they would likely receive counseling regarding the baptismal covenant and the process of repentance. 

 

I believe that their overall accountability remains more similar to that of the 7 year old than the 14 year old.

 

Thank you, that is what I thought, but I wanted to be very specific in my understanding.

 

Personally, I don't see a difference between the general 7 or 8 yo. But, a huge difference between a 7/8yo and a 14yo.

 

Thanks again,

Kris

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It is probably just as well, because if I shared my experiences(yes, multiple, involving myself and several other family members across 40 years and 3 states and many bishops with an invariable response), it would be countered by all the lovely ladies here who would assure you that it couldn't possibly have happened that way, and was just coincidently mishandled in complete opposition to the way things are really supposed to be.

Lawana, whatever it was that happened to you and your family members, I'm sorry, and I'm especially sorry that people who should have helped you didn't. It makes me angry to hear so many stories about people in authority siding with the criminal or brushing aside the very real needs of victims.

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I wonder if the family member had a loved one do something wrong and is defensive.

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Eh! I understand this totally! I think this happened and happens in too many different areas and religions. The "covering-up" aspect of abuse isn't limited to the weirdos, it happens with the "normal" and good people too.

 

I was a volatile teenager and very confrontational when my own abuse came to light. I asked one of my family members, who it turned out not only knew but had witnessed an occasion, why the (beep) he didn't report it. His response was that (man) was a "good man" and this would ruin his reputation. I told him off and have had few conversations since. This uncle is a good man and was a great father. He simply got it wrong. He apologized several years later, when one of his kids told him off when she found out about it. She was able to put it into a perspective that I couldn't.

 

Kris

Um, I would report both. Someone who witnesses and does nothing is just as bad to me. This infuriates me. So sorry that happened.

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I have a huge protective streak and no problem with scorched earth where scorched earth is due. I have a great deal of scorn for people or systems who rugsweep or blame victims to "keep the peace" or whatever other lame reason they have. I know many LDS folks who feel the same.

I will protect the small or abused first period. I couldn't be pals or civil, frankly, with a rugsweeper. I can imagine how OP feels.

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Another thing to consider, accountability can vary from person to person regardless of their age. Consider someone who has severe mental handicaps. Are they are as responsible for their actions as someone who is neurotypical? God knows us and understands us perfectly and therefore can judge perfectly in each incidence of sin. 

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Can I ask a question?  Would a 14 year old also be held more accountable, for lack of a better term, because he would be a priesthood holder in all likelihood? Does that contain another element of responsibility before God?

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Can I ask a question? Would a 14 year old also be held more accountable, for lack of a better term, because he would be a priesthood holder in all likelihood? Does that contain another element of responsibility before God?

As I understand things, having the priesthood does not of itself confer greater accountability. A 14 year old girl would have as much accountability as a 14 year old boy regardless of priesthood status. Perhaps some would disagree with that? I don't know.

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As I understand things, having the priesthood does not of itself confer greater accountability. A 14 year old girl would have as much accountability as a 14 year old boy regardless of priesthood status. Perhaps some would disagree with that? I don't know.

Well, he would likely be barred from performing any priesthood duties unless/until he'd dealt with his sin.

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Can I ask a question?  Would a 14 year old also be held more accountable, for lack of a better term, because he would be a priesthood holder in all likelihood? Does that contain another element of responsibility before God?

 

yes.

Well, he would likely be barred from performing any priesthood duties unless/until he'd dealt with his sin.

if it was so egregious that he was being barred from priesthood duties, he would also (same for a girl) be barred from partaking of the sacrament while working through the repentance process. 

 

with 14yo, I think it's a fine line, because otoh - they did something really wrong, but they're also still "young" in many respects.  we do believe those in charge of the situation will seek (are expected to seek) the guidance of the Holy Spirit for what is right in each case.  (think "mom gut") that the bishop has the duty to do so, and will act on inspiration that comes from God. (it does take work, and some are better able to "hear" and "hearken" than others.)

 

the repentance process isn't just a "oh, I'm so sorry, I'll never do it again".  it is a process, requires real remorse, with professional counseling if needed, (as well as law enforcement if applicable.) until the person has a true change of heart.    it is work and effort., and exposes the inner workings of their heart.

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