I do not understand why those who die before 8 receive a free ticket into the highest degree of celestial glory. The only reason I can fathom (and I think I was told this) is it’s because they are souls who are too good and too pure for this dark telestial world. Still, it seems… rather unfair that they get to skip this period of testing and basically get free eventual godhood. But, if that is the only reason, I accept it. I know I’ll understand later.
Wherein do you presume that it is a “free ticket”? Does that actually make sense? Would a God who is perfectly just in all things be unfair?
It also strikes me that referring to a child who suffers and dies from cancer is a little…well…unfair.
Should we suppose it is a good thing for children to suffer and die young? Life is precious. It is a gift from God. It is tragic when children die young. It is tragic when anyone dies. We take comfort in the fact that we will live on, and comfort in the Atonement that will bring resurrection to all and mercy to all who repent. We take comfort in the fact that the Atonement allows that little children will live again as well and will be heirs of God’s kingdom. Picking at this idea from an “is it fair” perspective seems backwards to me. Should we not glory in God’s mercy rather than question His justice?
What you have suggested concerning, “too good and too pure” is certainly part of the equation, as taught by Joseph Smith:
“In my leisure moments I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us, especially those that seem to be the most intelligent and interesting. The strongest reasons that present themselves to my mind are these: This world is a very wicked world; and it is a proverb that the “world grows weaker and wiser;” if that is the case, the world grows more wicked and corrupt…. The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again.” (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4:553)
There are other factors to take into consideration however. Bruce R. McConkie taught:
“We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows the end from the beginning, and he provides for each of us the testings and trials which he knows we need. President Joseph Fielding Smith once told me that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall be taken in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. This accords with Joseph Smith’s statement: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.” (Teachings, pp. 196–97.) It is implicit in the whole scheme of things that those of us who have arrived at the years of accountability need the tests and trials to which we are subject and that our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.”
He also said:
Will children ever be tested?
Absolutely not! Any idea that they will be tested in paradise or during the millennium or after the millennium is pure fantasy. Why would a resurrected being, who has already come forth from the grave with a celestial body and whose salvation is guaranteed, be tested? Would the Lord test someone who cannot fail the test and whose exaltation is guaranteed? For that matter, all those billions of people who will be born during the millennium, when Satan is bound, “shall grow up without sin unto salvation” (D&C 45:58) and therefore will not be tested. “Satan cannot tempt little children in this life, nor in the spirit world, nor after their resurrection. Little children who die before reaching the years of accountability will not be tempted.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:56–57.) Such is the emphatic language of President Joseph Fielding Smith.”
We also learn from Joseph Fielding Smith:
“During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 50–51).
In the Joseph Fielding Smith Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual in the lesson on baptism we also read:
In the 29th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says this (verses 46–47):
“But, behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten;
“Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me.”
Now that sounds good. “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world.” What does He mean by that? It means that before the foundation of this earth was laid, this plan of redemption, the plan of salvation which we are supposed to follow in this mortal life, was all prepared, and God, knowing the end from the beginning, made provisions for the redemption of little children through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
And from David O. McKay:
“From this revelation [Abraham 3:23], we may infer two things: first, that there were among those spirits [in premortal life] different degrees of intelligence, varying grades of achievement, retarded and advanced spiritual attainment;…
“…Now if none of these spirits were permitted to enter mortality until they all were good and great and had become leaders, then the diversity of conditions among the children of men as we see them today would certainly seem to indicate discrimination and injustice. …
“… Our place in this world would then be determined by our own advancement or condition in the pre-mortal state, just as our place in our future existence will be determined by what we do here in mortality.
“When, therefore, the Creator said to Abraham, and to others of his attainment, ‘You I will make my rulers,’ there could exist no feeling of envy or jealousy among the million other spirits, for those who were ‘good and great’ were but receiving their just reward” (David O. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 228–30).
What can we understand from these teachings? How do our pre-mortal choices play into our lives here? We do not know all the answers, of course, but we can certainly trust that the Lord, above all, is just. We often equate justice with harshness and condemnation. But that is only part of justice. Justice is also fairness. The Lord’s perfect justice means that the Lord is perfectly fair.
Moreover, I think it is probably less useful to worry about these things. We can take comfort in the fact that our children who have died before the age of accountability will be saved, deprived of nothing that would have been theirs otherwise. We can take comfort in the Lord’s justice, and we can take comfort in the Lord’s mercy. We don’t always understand how the Lord is just. But we know that He is.