We have a 12-year-old son who is mentally handicapped. He functions on a 3- to 4-year-old level of understanding. He also has a speech problem and some hyperactivity. He is adopted, so a lot of what he has is unchanging. Now that he is 12 we are having trouble deciding whether to let him have the priesthood in the Mormon Church. I think he would love to serve on Sunday and that people would be honored to have him passing the sacrament. But my husband and our bishop are hesitant because he may not understand just why he is doing what he does. Any ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
As you undoubtedly know, those who are of a mental age below that of an 8-year-old are not accountable before the Lord for their actions. They are saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God through the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior. Thus, there is no need for them to baptized for the remission of sins. They are counted as members of the Mormon Church, and their membership records would show them as children of record.
The priesthood, as the authority to act in the name of God, goes far beyond the passing of the Sacrament, and would involve many activities beyond the capacity of a 3- or 4-year-old. Although it would be a nice thought to see him participate in passing the sacrament, there are undoubtedly a number of other things in which he could be involved that would not require the formalism of the priesthood. However, in all these things, the bishop, as presiding high priest and president of the Aaronic priesthood in the ward, would have the final decision in any of these matters; and whatever he decides would be the proper course to pursue.